Junkyard Find: 1991 Ford Escort LX 4-Door Hatchback

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The Ford Escort began life in 1955, in Britain (just a year after World War II-era food rationing finally ended), as a cheapified version of the Ford Squire wagon. After the pinnacle of rear-wheel-drive Escort action on that side of the Atlantic, a front-wheel-drive version appeared over there; a not-so-closely-related North American cousin showed up as a 1981 model.

junkyard find 1991 ford escort lx 4 door hatchback

Fast-forward a decade and Dearborn had just the ticket for the second-generation of Escort: a sibling to the Mazda 323/ Protegé, which debuted as a 1991 model. Here's one of those first-year Mazdafied Escorts, found in a Denver-area car graveyard.

The early 1990s were interesting times for Ford designs, with the demise of the boxy LTD Crown Victoria and the introduction of the new Taurus and Crown Victoria with this distinctive grille treatment.

Though the second-generation North American Escort was a Mazda Protegé under the skin, Ford held onto the good old UK-developed CVH straight-four engine, a crypto-OHC design that displaced 1.9 liters in this application.

The Escort GT for 1991 got a Mazda DOHC 1.8-liter engine, from the same family that powered the Mazda Miata and Mercury Capri. If you got the regular Escort that year, though, you got the cam-in-head CVH with 88 horsepower and 108 pound-feet. That's what's in this car.

A five-speed manual transmission was base equipment, even in the cheapskate Escort Pony, but the original purchaser of this automobile sprang for an extra $732 ($1,662 in 2023 dollars) for this four-speed overdrive automatic.

The LX was the top trim level for the 1991 Escort sedan, and the MSRP on this one was $9,095 (around $20,656 after inflation).

It looks like a sedan, but that "trunk" is really a hatch.

Did you get air conditioning as standard equipment in the 1991 Escort? No, you did not! The refrigerated air in this car added $744 to the out-the-door price, or about $1,690 in today's money.

Cars of a few decades ago seem cheap by today's standards, but note that the automatic transmission and A/C—which come at no extra cost in nearly all the most miserable 2023 econoboxes—added the 2023 equivalent of $3,352 to the bottom-line cost of this car.

You did get an AM/FM radio at no extra cost in the '91 Escort LX, but adding the ability to play cassettes cost another $155 ($352 now). Hey, if you wanted to listen to your new Jane's Addiction tape in 1991, you had to pay.

This one just squeaked past the 175,000-mile mark during its life.

Remember these hateful automatic seat belts? In the early 1990s, US-market new cars without airbags had to have automatic belts.

Mr. Import is now Mr. Escort (though he's still driving a Mazda).

Wishing for style and performance in a small car? Start experience.

[Images: The author]

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3 of 40 comments
  • Mark Mark on Sep 06, 2023

    I still drive my '91 Escort. Never fails to start. 5-speed, a/c (still runs on freon), cassette deck. Fun to drive.

  • Conundrum Conundrum on Sep 10, 2023

    I think we were lucky to get the Mazda as an Escort here in North America. The real Ford Mk 2 FWD Escort made in Europe was no winner. Knew several people who had these disguised Mazdas and they weren't bad at all. The CVH engine was a nasty throbber, but the 1.8 DOHC Mazda in the GT was a very nice little spinner indeed.

  • Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
  • Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
  • Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
  • Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
  • Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )