Pity the poor EXP. During Ford’s renaissance in the 80s, there were some hits, some bunts, and a few strikeouts. The ’83 T-Bird, Mustang 5.0 and Taurus were in the first category. The Tempo and LTD II and LTD/CV in the second. But the poor EXP was a dud; even in a decade when small two-seaters— Honda CR-X, MR-2, Fiero—were all the rage. But the EXP had at least two strikes against it: it was too tall, due to sharing the cowl with its Escort donor, and it lacked a proper engine. Who wants a tall and dull sporty coupe, never mind with an ugly face?
The first generation EXP (full CC here) arrived in 1982 with a face only its mother of Fords could love. And to further sour the EXPerience, performance was at least as ugly, Although weighing 200 lbs more than the Escort, it had the same asthmatic 70 hp 1.6 L CVH four. And its suspension tuning was little or no better than the initial Escort’s klutzy handling. But it cost a substantial amount more. It must have seemed like a good idea to someone at Ford, but it just didn’t deliver the goods. At the end of the 1985 model year the plug was pulled, after just three years of weak sales.
A crude turbo-version did nothing to boost sales, and finding one now would be quite a catch. As would a Mercury LN7, which only lasted two years, during which all of 40k were sold.
As the story is told, a group of employees at the plant where the EXP and Escort were built hated to see it go, pulled an EXP off the line and grafted on the newly-revised Escort’s front end, thus cobbling up their idea of what a gen2 EXP could look like, all in the hopes of keeping it alive. Ford CEO Donald Petersen was shown this, had pity, and approved it for production as a 1985.5 model. And thus after a half year’s hiatus, the gen2 EXP stormed back out into the market to do battle with the CRX and such, wearing an Escort’s front clip.
Well, Honda had done it right, with a unique and lower body for its little sportster, and some sporty engines to match. The EXP by this time was blessed with the Escort’s bigger 1.9 L engine and a better sorted-out suspension, but it still didn’t ignite any real interest.
By the late 80s, Ford was committed to the Mazda 626-based Probe, and the EXP had no more future; not that it ever had much of a past either. 1988 was the last year, and the EXP became one of the few blotches on an otherwise dynamic decade for Ford.