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For the European counterpart, see Ford Escort (Europe).
Ford Escort (North America)
[[File:1997–1999 Ford Escort wagon|frameless|upright=1.25|alt=]]
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Production 1981–2003
Predecessor Ford Pinto
Successor Ford Focus
Class Compact
Layout FF layout

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, replacing the dated Ford Pinto subcompact car (1971–80) with a modern front-wheel drive design popularized by 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.[citation needed]

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.

First generation (1981–1990)

First generation
1986–1987 Ford Escort GL 3-door
Production 1981–1990
Assembly Edison, New Jersey, United States
Wayne, Michigan, United States
Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Body style(s) 3-door hatchback
4-door station wagon
5-door hatchback
Platform Ford CE14 platform
Engine(s) 1.6 L CVH I4
1.9 L CVH I4
2.0 L Mazda RF diesel I4
Transmission(s) 4-speed MTX-II manual
5-speed MTX-III
3-speed ATX/FLC automatic
Wheelbase 94.2 in (2,393 mm)
Length 169.4 in (4,303 mm)
GT: 169.0 in (4,293 mm)
Width 65.9 in (1,674 mm)
Height Hatchbacks: 53.7 in (1,364 mm)
Sedan: 53.4 in (1,356 mm)
Related Ford EXP
Ford Tempo
Mercury LN7
Mercury Lynx
Mercury Topaz

Introduced in 1981, the first American Escort was intended to share common components with the European Mk III Escort (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. 1981 models never had the Blue Oval logo. The car was freshened in 1982, and added Ford's Blue Oval logo for the first time along with a newer grille. Other facelifts were in 1984, 1986 & 1988. There was also the Ford EXP, and sister version Mercury LN7, targeting the sports car market, essentially a two-seat hatch with lower roofline which was not as successful as other body styles.

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 1.6 L 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 1.3 L engine was designed and prototyped but did not see production due to lack of power. Beginning in 1983 a GT model offered a multi-port EFI version of the 1.6 L 4-cylinder that increased power by 20hp over the base carbureted version. It also came with a 5-speed transmission, TRX handling package, front and rear spoilers, metric-sized alloy wheels and fog lights. Also beginning in 1983 the Ford EXP had the option of the turbocharged 1.6 litre four-cylinder rated at 120 hp (89 kW) and matching torque, a fairly sporty package, considering that the Mustang GT of that period was only rated at 175 hp (130 kW) and was much heavier.


  • 1981–1985 1.6 L CVH I4, 68 hp (51 kW)
  • 1983–1985 1.6 L EFI CVH I4, 88 hp (66 kW)
  • 1983–1985 1.6 L turbocharged CVH I4, 120 hp (89 kW)
  • 1984–1985 2.0 L RF diesel I4, 52 hp (39 kW)


There was a second facelift (less chrome, restyled taillamps, flush headlights, 1.9 L engine) as a 1985½ 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 inch versus 13 inch) 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 used plainer interior trim with greater use of vinyl and plastic instead of cloth, and a 4-speed manual transaxle was standard, although buyers could opt for the 5-speed found in LX models or the 3-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-US (5.9 L/100 km/48 mpg-imp) in highway driving was not uncommon.[citation needed]


  • 1986–1988 1.9 L CVH I4, 86 hp (64 kW)
  • 1988.5–1990 1.9 L CVH I4, 90 hp (67 kW)
  • 1986–1988 1.9 L CVH High Output I4, 108 hp (81 kW)
  • 1988.5–1990 1.9 L CVH High Output I4, 110 hp (82 kW)
  • 1986–1987 2.0 L RF diesel I4, 52 hp (39 kW)

Second generation (1991–1996)

Second generation
1995–1996 Ford Escort LX sedan
Production 1991–1996
Assembly Wayne, Michigan, United States
Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
Body style(s) 3-door hatchback
4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
5-door hatchback
Platform Mazda B platform
Engine(s) 1.8 L BP I4
1.9 L CVH I4
Transmission(s) 5-speed IB5 manual
4-speed F-4EAT automatic
Wheelbase 98.4 in (2,499 mm)
Length 170.0 in (4,318 mm)
Wagon: 171.3 in (4,351 mm)
1992 & 1995–96 Sedan: 170.9 in (4,341 mm)
Width 66.7 in (1,694 mm)
Height Sedan: 52.7 in (1,339 mm)
Hatchbacks: 52.5 in (1,334 mm)
Wagon: 53.6 in (1,361 mm)
Curb weight 3-Door Hatchback – 2355 lbs (1068 kg)
5-Door Hatchback – 2385 lbs (1082 kg)
4-Door Sedan – 2404 lbs (1090 kg)
4-Door Wagon – 2491 lbs (1130 kg)
Related Ford Laser
Mazda 323
Mazda Protegé
Mercury Tracer

In 1991, the Escort and the Mercury Tracer were replaced by models based on the Mazda B platform (BG), which was also used by the Mazda 323 and Protegé. Ford, which owned a 25% stake in Mazda, already sold a version of the 323/Familia in Asia and Australasia, called the Ford Laser, which had replaced the old rear-wheel drive Escort there.

The Escort a decade earlier used localized engines and shared some elements of design with the European model. The Escort for the 1990s, however, would be almost identical to the Mazda Familia and its derivatives, differing only in appearance.

This generation of the 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.

The Mazda-based model sold sluggishly in America at first, since only hatchback models were offered in 1991, but became popular later in 1992, after the sedan was introduced, available in either LX or LX-E trim levels.

From 1993–1995, Ford offered the Escort on a "one price" basis, with the same price for a three- or five-door hatchback, a sedan or a wagon when equipped with the most popular options (3-doors quickly added alloy wheels to the "one price" specification). The LX-E, equipped with the same sporting equipment as the GT (four-wheel disc brakes, sport suspension, sport interior, 1.8 L Mazda inline four), lasted only until 1993. The Pony departed in 1992, replaced by the Standard trim level.

Trim levels were originally Pony, LX, 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 later Standard was the base trim level, lacking most features like power steering or a radio. The LX was the upscale trim level, and a Sport package could be added to make it look like a GT. Subtle differences can be noticed in all three Escort models (sedan, hatchback and wagon) from 1991–1996. In 1993, the grill oval hall around the "Ford" emblem became a little larger in order to allow more air into the engine, and in 1994 the wheel size was changed from 13 inches to 14 inches.


  • 1991–1996 1.9 L (1,859 cc) CVH I4, 88 hp (66 kW) 108 ft·lbf (146 N·m)
  • 1991–1996 1.8 L (1,839 cc) Mazda BP I4, 127 hp (95 kW) 114 ft·lbf (155 N·m) LX-E and GT

Third generation (1997–2002)

Third generation
Ford Escort sedan
Production 1997–2002
Assembly Wayne, Michigan, United States
Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
Body style(s) 4-door sedan
4-door station wagon
Platform Mazda B platform
Engine(s) 2.0 L SPI2000 SOHC I4
Transmission(s) 5-speed IB5 manual
4-speed F-4EAT automatic
Wheelbase 98.4 in (2,499 mm)
Length Wagon: 172.7 in (4,390 mm)
Sedan: 174.7 in (4,440 mm)
Width 67.0 in (1,700 mm)
Height Sedan: 53.3 in (1,354 mm)
Wagon: 53.9 in (1,369 mm)
Curb weight 2,468 lb (1,119 kg)
Fuel capacity 12.7 US gal (48 L/11 imp gal)
Related Mazda Protegé
Mercury Tracer

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. It had a completely redesigned dashboard, and included a panel that unified the heat and radio controls, similar to that of the third generation Ford Taurus.

The 1998 Escort ZX2 coupe featured the 2.0 L, 130 hp (97 kW) 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.

The Escort sedan and wagon used the lower powered CVH SPI2000 engine with 110 hp (82 kW). Subtle differences can be noticed in the Escort sedan from 1997–2002. The trim lines of 1997 were base and the LX, 1998–2002 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 in (36 cm) wheel covers and other features. It was offered in 1999.

Ford Escort LX wagon

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 already replaced by the Ford Focus. The last ZX2 was built in 2003. In Mexico, it was replaced by the smaller Ford Ikon.


  • 1997–2002 2.0 L (1986 cc) CVH SPI2000, SOHC I4, 110 hp (82 kW) @ 5000 rpm, 125 ft·lbf (169 N·m) @ 3750 rpm, redline 5500 rpm Sedan and Wagon
  • 1998–2003 2.0 L (1989 cc) Zetec, DOHC I4, 130 hp (97 kW) @ 5750 rpm, 127 ft·lbf (172 N·m) @ 4250 rpm, redline 6500 rpm, 7200 Rpm rev cut ZX2
  • 1999–2000 2.0 L (1989 cc) Zetec, DOHC I4, 143 hp (107 kW), 146 ft·lbf (198 N·m) ZX2 S/R


1998–2002 Ford Escort ZX2
Also called Ford Escort ZX2
Production 1998–2003 (USA)
1998–2000 (Canada & Mexico)[citation needed]
Predecessor Ford Probe
Class Sport compact
Body style(s) 2-door coupe
Platform Mazda B platform
Engine(s) 2.0 L Zetec DOHC I4
Transmission(s) 5-speed G5M manual
4-speed F-4EAT automatic
Wheelbase 98.4 in (2,500 mm)
Length 175.2 in (4,450 mm)
Width 67.4 in (1,710 mm)
Height 52.3 in (1,330 mm)
Curb weight 2,478 lb (1,124 kg)
Fuel capacity 12.7 US gal ({{rnd/bExpression error: Unexpected < operator.|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.|(Expression error: Unexpected < operator.)|Expression error: Unexpected < operator.}} L/10.6 imp gal)
Related Mazda Protegé
Mercury Tracer

2003 Ford ZX2

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 Ford Focus debuted in 2001 and was produced concurrently with the ZX2. 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 8 ft·lbf (11 N·m). Thanks to better gearing and less weight the ZX2 continued to outperform the Focus. The ZX2 continued with little more than 15 in (38 cm) 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 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 (Roush 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 150 mph (240 km/h) and a unique tire/wheel package. Engine power was increased 10% over the base Zetec engine used in the ZX2 to 143 bhp (107 kW/145 PS), 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 mods(example: 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.


Calendar Year American sales
1999[1] 260,486
2000 110,736
2001[2] 90,503
2002[3] 51,857
2003 (ZX2 only) 25,473
2004[4] (ZX2 only) 1,210

See also


  1. "Ford Motor Company Sets New Full Year U.S. Sales Record". Retrieved on 2009-04-28.
  2. "Ford Motor Company's December U.S. Sales Climb 8.2 Percent". Ford Motor Company. Archived from the original on 2011-04-30.
  3. "Ford's F-Series Truck Caps 22nd Year in a Row as America's Best-Selling Vehicle With a December Sales Record". (2004-11-17). Retrieved on 2009-04-28.
  4. "Ford Achieves First Car Sales Increase Since 1999". (2004-11-17). Retrieved on 2009-04-28.

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