See also Ford Escort (Europe).
The Ford Escort is a compact car that was manufactured by the Ford Motor Company. The North American Escort adopted both the badge and the general design of a redesigned European model, and the name has been applied to several different designs in North America since its introduction as Ford's first successful world car. The Escort was Ford's first front-wheel-drive car built in North America.
The Ford Escort was based on the Mazda B-platform since 1991. It replaced the dated Ford Pinto subcompact car (1971-80) with a modern front-wheel drive design popularized by the successful introduction of the Volkswagen Rabbit. It also effectively replaced the smaller Ford Fiesta, which was imported from Europe from 1978-80. Though mechanically sophisticated, the Fiesta was too small, even for a Pinto replacement.
The Escort was one of Ford's most successful models in the 1980s, earning a much better reputation than the Pinto, which faced widely-publicized safety issues. In fact, the Escort was the single best-selling car in its second year in the United States and during most of that decade.
Introduced in 1981, the first American Escort was intended to share common components with the European Mk III (as with its sister, the Mercury Lynx), and was launched as a 2-door hatchback and as a 4-door station wagon, with the 4-door hatchback following a year later. It had considerably more chrome than the model sold elsewhere. The car was freshened in 1983.
Although the basic silhouette was the same, it was almost completely different from the European version, apart from the Ford CVH engine. There was a 1.6L engine, a 4-speed MTX-2 and a 5-speed MTX-3 manual transmission that were standard with a 3-speed ATX/FLC automatic transmission optional. A 1.3L engine was designed and prototyped but did not see production due to lack of power. Also, in 1983 and 1984, there was the option of the turbocharged 1.6 L 4-cylinder rated at 120 hp and matching torque, a fairly sporty package, considering that the Mustang GT of that period was only rated at 175 hp, and was much heavier. The sport targeted Ford EXP was essentially a two-seat hatch with lower roofline based on the Escort, but was not as successful as other body styles.
- 1981-1985 1.6 L CVH I4, 68hp (51kW)
- 1984-1985 2.0L RF diesel I4, 52hp (39kW)
- 1983-1985 1.6 L turbocharged CVH I4, 120 hp (90 kW)
There was a second facelift (less chrome, restyled taillamps, flush headlights, 1.9L engine) as a 1986 model. The Lynx was retired for 1987, but was replaced by the Mazda 323-derived Tracer model in 1988. [That Mazda platform was revamped in 1990 and debuted as the 1990 Mazda Protege. The updated platform would form the basis for the next generation (1991-1996) Escort/Tracer.]
The Escort saw another minor facelift in mid 1988, which smoothed out the front and rear fascias. New plastic bumpers, larger rear side windows, a more rounded rear-end design and larger (14" versus 13") wheels modernized the look of the cars. The engine was also updated with a slightly revised camshaft, and roller lifters. The new design is commonly referred to as the "88.5" year, and existed until the end of the 1990 model year.
Finding some popularity during the final three years of this generation was the Pony model, which was the least-expensive U.S.-built Ford at the time. Pony models utilized plainer interior trim with greater use of vinyl and plastic instead of cloth, and a four-speed manual transaxle was standard, although buyers could opt for the five-speed found in LX models or the three-speed ATX automatic. The list of available options was very limited, to the extent that such luxuries as power steering and factory-installed air conditioning were not offered (a dealer-installed A/C system was available). Given their lighter weight, Pony models were known for their ability to deliver excellent fuel economy -- mileage upwards of 40 mpg in highway driving was not uncommon.
- 1985-1988 1.9L CVH I4, 86hp (64kW)
- 1988.5-1990 1.9L CVH I4, 90hp (67kW)
- 1985-1988 1.9L CVH High Output I4, 108hp (81kW)
- 1988.5-1990 1.9L CVH High Output I4, 110hp (82kW)
- 1985-1987 2.0L RF diesel I4, 52hp (39kW)
In 1991, the Escort and the Mercury Tracer were replaced by models based on the Mazda B platform, which was also used by the Mazda 323. Ford, which owned a 25% stake in Mazda, already sold a version of the 323 in Asia and Australasia, called the Ford Laser, which replaced the old rear-wheel drive Escort there.
The Escort a decade earlier used localized engines. The Escort for the 1990s, however, would be almost identical worldwide, differing only in appearance.
The Mazda-based model sold sluggishly in America at first, since only hatchback models were offered in 1991, but became popular later in 1992, when they introduced the sedan, available in either LX or LX-E trim levels. From 1993 to 1995 Ford offered it on a "one price" basis, with the same price for a three or five-door hatchback, a sedan or a wagon. The LX-E, equipped with the same sporting equipment as the GT (4-wheel disc brakes, sport suspension, sport interior, 1.8 L Mazda inline 4), lasted only until 1993. The Pony departed in 1992, replaced by the Standard trim level.
The 1991 Ford Escort was one of the first Ford automobiles to feature, on the 1.9 L engine, distributorless ignition (known as EDIS, Electronic Distributorless Ignition System). It also featured a new electronically-controlled 4-speed automatic transmission, as well as an independent rear suspension, both (at the time) relatively uncommon in cars in this class.
Trim levels were LX, Pony and GT: the GT was the North American equivalent of the European XR3i version. Like its European counterpart, it was a three-door hatchback only, but whereas the European car had a 1.8 L Ford engine, the North American market got a 1.8 L Mazda engine. The LX and Standard or Pony were equipped with the 1.9 L overhead cam CVH inline 4. The Pony or Standard was the base trim level, with options like power steering or a radio. The LX was the upscale trim level, and a Sport package could equip it to look like a GT. Subtle differences can be noticed in all 3 Escort models (sedan, hatchback and wagon) from 1991 to 1996. In 1994, the grill oval hall around the "Ford" emblem became a little larger in order to allow more air into the engine, and also the rim size was changed from 13" to 14".
- 1991-1996 1.9L (1859cc) CVH I4, 88hp (66 kW) 108ft·lbf (146Nm)
- 1991-1996 1.8L (1839cc) Mazda BP I4, 127hp (95 kW) 114ft·lbf (154Nm) LX-E and GT
The 1997 restyle dropped the hatchbacks and added a new sporty coupe for 1998, the Escort ZX2. It replaced the Ford Probe as Ford's sport compact car. A much lower-slung and rakish car than either the sedan and wagon, it was aimed squarely at the youth market as a replacement for the Escort GT (although lacking the latter's rear disc brake setup) and was built exclusively at Ford's Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico assembly plant. The interior was refreshed for 1999, and the model was retired after 2003.
The 1998 Escort ZX2 featured the 2.0L, 130hp (97kW) Zetec DOHC four-cylinder engine as standard equipment, an option unavailable on the sedan or wagon. Intended for use as the base engine in the larger European Ford Mondeo and its American cousins, the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique, the Zetec gave the ZX2 more-than-respectable performance, running 0-60 in 7.4 seconds.
The 1999 and 2000 model years offered a limited performance edition ZX2 S/R which further enhanced the cars performance in every aspect.
Subtle differences can be noticed in the Escort sedan from 1997 to 2002. The trim lines of 1997 were base and the LX, 1998 to 2002 offered the LX and SE. In 1999, the reverse lights were moved into the same piece as the tail lamps; they were previously below the tail lamp on the body.
A very rare trim package could be found with chrome 14 inch (356mm) wheel covers and other features. It was offered in 1999.
The Escort was offered in a Sport package as well. The Mercury Tracer's version was called the Trio or Sport depending on the year. A basketweave type of wheel was put on the Tracer Trio while a flower petal pattern was used on the Tracer Sport. The Sport/Trio package included aluminum wheels, sport exhaust tip, a tachometer, and a rear decklid spoiler.
The Escort wagon largely retained the same body style, gaining only the new interior, front end & fascia, side-view mirrors, door handles, badging, and slightly restyled taillamps & reflectors. The black window frames on the doors of some models became body-colored.
Both the Escort wagon and the Mercury Tracer were discontinued after 1999. The Escort sedan was discontinued in 2002, and was replaced by the Ford Focus. The last ZX2 was built in 2003. In Mexico, it was replaced by the smaller Ford Ikon.
- 1997-2002 2.0L (1986cc) CVH SPI2000, SOHC I4, 110hp (82kW) @ 5000 rpm, 125ft·lbf (170Nm) @ 3750 rpm, redline 5500 rpm Sedan and Wagon
- 1998-2003 2.0L (1989cc) Zetec, DOHC I4, 130hp (97kW) @ 5750 rpm, 127ft·lbf (172Nm) @ 4250 rpm, redline 6500 rpm ZX2
- 1999-2000 2.0L (1989cc) Zetec, DOHC I4, 143hp (107kW), 146ft·lbf (198Nm) ZX2 S/R
For 2001, the sedan was limited to fleet sales only and the Escort moniker on the Escort ZX2 was quietly dropped, making the car officially just ZX2.
The writing was on the wall that year with the North American debut of the Ford Focus. Though not without its fans, both then and now, and still fairly well-represented in the automotive aftermarket, the ZX2 was replaced by the Focus ZX3, ZX4 and ZX5. Though the two cars shared the same Zetec engine, there were a few differences. The Focus lacked the exhaust-side VCT, and contained less aggressive camshafts that pushed the power band down a few hundred RPM. They both shared the same block, but due to the different camshafts and the different cylinder head, the torque output for the Focus was bumped up by 8ft-lb (10.8N·m). Thanks to better gearing and less weight the ZX2 continued to outperform the Focus. The ZX2 continued with little more than 15 in (381 mm) alloy wheels and a rear defroster now offered as standard equipment, and for 2003, a revised front fascia. Production ceased at the end of the 2003 model year.
The increased presence and success of tuner models from overseas in the late 90s caused Ford to create their own performance model, the ZX2 S/R. Meant to compete with cheap factory performance compacts such as the Honda Civic Si or the Dodge Neon ACR, Ford created the ZX2 S/R to show that they had plenty to bring to the table. Its initial debut was at SEMA's Import Auto Salon in Pomona in 1999. The ZX2 S/R was the first product jointly developed by Ford Racing and Ford Motor Company's Small Vehicle Center Product Development.
Ford's final limited production count was 2,110 units, consisting of 110 yellow S/Rs in 1999, the first two of which were sold in Columbus, Ohio, and the other 108 in southern California, and in 2000, 500 black, 500 red and 1,000 yellow S/Rs for an upgrade price of $1,500 both years. It is believed that only 35 of those 2000 S/Rs were sold in Canada, making it a very rare trim there. The ZX2 S/R also led to inspiration in the British sector of Ford and was laterally built in Europe as the Ford Puma, Top Gear's car of the year in 2002.
The optional S/R package adds stiffer suspension parts (Eibach springs (M-5560-Z2), Tokico struts (M-18000-Z2) and Energy Suspension brand polyurethane suspension bushings), more power (through a Ford Racing PCM (M-12650-Z2)), more efficient intake (Rousch and Iceman), rear disc brakes (M-2300-Z2), a stronger clutch (Centerforce dual friction (M-7560-Z2), a short-throw B&M manual-transmission shifter (M-7210-Z2), an S/R-unique shift knob (M-7213-Z2) and boot (M-7277-Z2), upgraded seats, a unique blue valve cover, a different speed cluster that goes up to 150mph (240km/h) and a unique tire/wheel package. Engine power was increased 10 percent over the base Zetec engine used in the ZX2 to 143 bhp, courtesy of a recommended premium fuel re-calibration, new air inlet system, the performance PCM, improved Borla muffler and pipe (M-5230-Z2). All ZX2 S/R have a special "S/R" badge on the back, either silver (on a red car) or red (on a yellow or black car). Some S/R went out of the assembly plant without some of the performance items (mostly missing the Centerforce clutch). The suspension bushings were not installed at the factory but instead packaged with the car for installation at the dealership. This also led to many cars leaving the showroom without the full complement of S/R parts.