Top 10 Obscure Special Editions and Forgotten Limited-Run Models: Ford Edition, Part I

ford pinto rallye cruising wagon

(first posted 12/7/2015)    Today, the Blue Oval brand gets its turn in the Special Edition and Limited-Run Model spotlight. Fair warning: you will not find any Mustangs here and you will find only one F-Series. Those two long-running lines have seen more than their fair share of special editions but very few of those could be considered obscure or forgotten. The following cars definitely are.

1987 ford tempo awd brochure

Ford Tempo AWD Coupe

Years produced: 1987

Total production: 6000?

While all-wheel-drive, two-door coupes have been offered somewhat regularly by mainstream brands, these have almost always been sporty offerings like the Toyota Celica All-Trac. What about AWD coupes with zero sporting aspirations? That narrows the field down to the AMC Eagle and early Subaru Impreza. Even the Subaru GL was not available as an AWD coupe in North America, unless you went for the sporty turbo model. With such a reluctance from automakers to even bother with this most narrowest of niches, it’s rather surprising that Ford offered an all-wheel-drive Tempo coupe. What isn’t surprising is that it lasted only one year.

The all-wheel-drive Tempo was released in 1987 as either a sedan or a coupe. The Tempo range was available in GL, Sport GL and LX trims, and the AWD models corresponded with the range-topping LX trim and thus came equipped with power mirrors, AM/FM stereo and full instrumentation. All-wheel-drive commanded a $600-700 premium over the regular LX, so the MSRP of the AWD coupe was $9,984 (around $300 more than a Chevy Corsica V6). A driver’s airbag was optional on all 1987 Tempos bar the AWD models and the GL Sport.

The Tempo’s all-wheel-drive was a shift-on-the-fly system, activated via a switch next to the instrument panel. The only powertrain was the “high output” version of the HSC 2.3 four-cylinder, with 100 hp and 125 lb-ft, mated to a three-speed automatic.

ford tempo awd coupe

One of these turned up recently on the Minneapolis Craigslist site, but unfortunately the listing expired before I could obtain more than this one picture. The seller claimed a 6000 production number figure for the 1987 AWD coupe. Even with almost 300,000 Tempos being manufactured that year, that 6000 figure seems almost too high. 

1980 ford pinto rallye cruising

Ford Pinto Rallye Cruising Wagon

Years produced: 1980

Total production: ?

It’s safe to say Ford was the only automaker who sold a subcompact wagon with porthole rear windows, garish decals and blackout trim. This curious melange of visual elements came about in the Pinto’s final season. A “Cruising Wagon” with tape stripes and porthole rear side windows had been launched in 1977 as a little companion for the full-size Cruising Van, to further cash in on the customized van trend. The Pinto Rallye hatchback debuted at the Pinto’s 1979 facelift, offering bold Rallye decals, unique wheels, firmer suspension and full instrumentation. For 1980, Ford mashed those two option packages together.

The only engine available on the 1980 Pinto was the 2.3 four-cylinder, as Ford joined GM in axing up-level engine options in their 1980 subcompacts for CAFE purposes. The 2.3 could be had with either a 4-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic. The Rallye Cruising Wagon retained the full instrumentation, decals and wheels of the Rallye hatch, but added black roof racks that matched the black rear window louvers and other blackout trim.

1980 ford pinto range

This picture from the 1980 Pinto brochure shows how Ford was still trying to keep its aging Pinto relevant right until the end. You can spy the featured Rallye Cruising Wagon, as well as the regular Cruising Wagon, Squire, ESS (European Sport Sedan), Rallye and the humble Pinto Pony. Pinto production reached an all-time high in the throes of the fuel crisis, reaching 544,000 units in 1974. By 1980 and despite a rather handsome facelift, sales had sunk to 185,054 units. It was time for Ford to move on. They would never again offer a subcompact wagon with porthole rear windows, garish decals and blackout trim.

ford escort zx2 sr

Ford Escort ZX2 S/R

Years produced: 1999-2000

Total production: 2,110

The Escort ZX2 was a late addition to the Escort line, arriving in 1998. It served as a de facto replacement for the Probe, which died for 1999, as well as the Escort GT hatch discontinued ahead of the revised ’96 Escort’s launch. The first Escort-based coupe since the 1988 EXP, the ZX2 was intended to rival coupe versions of the Dodge Neon, Honda Civic and Chevrolet Cavalier. For 2000, Ford introduced a special performance-tuned model to rival the Neon ACR and Civic Si. This was known as the ZX2 S/R, or “Street Racer”.

2000 ford escort zx2 sr 1

Photos courtesy of kovy88 on CarDomain

ZX2 performance was already quite good, as the only powertrain was a 2.0 Zetec four-cylinder engine with 130 hp and 127 lb-ft of torque; Escort sedans and wagons had a less powerful 2.0 CVH four. Handling was also quite competitive, owing to its Mazda mechanicals. For an extra $1,500, the S/R added a multitude of performance upgrades. Power was bumped up to 143 hp, making the S/R good for a 0-60 time of around 7.5 seconds, while the only transmission available was a 5-speed manual with a short-throw shifter.

2000 ford escort zx2 sr 2

Rear disc brakes replaced the rear drums. There were also stiffer Eibach springs, Tokico struts, different suspension bushings, a new intake and a Borla exhaust. Visual changes were limited to a silver-trimmed gauge cluster, new seats, exterior decals and a leather shift boot; there were also unique 15-inch alloy wheels, which seem rather quaint now. The only colors were zinc yellow, red and black.

2000 ford escort zx2 sr 3

Only 110 S/Rs were sold in 1999 and they were exclusive to the Californian market; for 2000, they were sold nationwide. Although a neat experiment, the S/R didn’t survive beyond 2000. Ford was investing effort in marketing its new compact, the 2000 Focus, which would receive sport variants of its own. However, to keep compact coupe buyers in the fold, the ZX2 was offered until 2003. There would eventually be a Focus coupe, sold from 2008-10, but it was more a two-door sedan and was not aimed at the Civic Si crowd. The performance flame would be reignited with the racy 2014 Focus ST (and the 2014 Fiesta ST); the wild Focus RS is also arriving shortly. Once again, Ford’s pocket rockets are hatchbacks.

ford thunderbird 007 2

Ford Thunderbird Limited Edition 007

Years produced: 2003

Total production: 700

Die Another Day was one of the poorer Bond films if not the worst (in my humble opinion, Diamonds Are Forever is the absolute nadir of the franchise) and it was easily the worst of Pierce Brosnan’s Bonds. However, as per tradition, Bond’s 2002 outing featured some distinctive cars. One was an all-new Aston Martin Vanquish, driven by Agent 007 himself. The other belonged to Halle Berry’s badass Bond girl Jinx: the new-for-2002, retro-styled Ford Thunderbird. In 2003, Ford introduced a limited edition Thunderbird to commemorate its role in the film.

ford thunderbird 007 5

Every 007 edition was painted in the Coral of Jinx’s Thunderbird, albeit with a white top instead of the Coral top of the movie car. Like the movie car though, there were striking chrome wheels. Inside, there were “Performance White” leather seats. Although these were available in other Thunderbirds, the Coral paint was exclusive to the 007 and was not only an homage to Thunderbirds of the 1950s, but also a matching shade to Jinx’s bikini. Each 007 also received a small badge on the instrument panel and a numbered, commemorative plaque in the glove compartment.

ford thunderbird 007 1

Curiously, Ford didn’t offer as many special editions of this final Thunderbird as it did the Mustang. This could have helped maintain interest. As it stood, everyone who really wanted this niche product bought one at the start and sales dropped each year until the line was retired after 2005.

ford expedition fmf 1

Ford Expedition Funkmaster Flex Edition

Years produced: 2008

Total production: 650

Ford decided to embrace the customized truck trend by launching a truck that was already customized. Go figure.

Just 650 regular-length Expedition Limited trucks left the Wayne, Michigan factory bearing the name of the famous DJ, rapper and producer and outfitted with a 3d Carbon bodykit. A shame they didn’t wait until 2010, and launch a Funkmaster Flex Flex.

2008 ford expedition fmf interior

By customized truck standards, the 20-inch wheels were really quite small. After all, 20-inch wheels were becoming available on cars like the Lincoln MKS. What was authentically aftermarket was the bold color scheme: two-tone black and Colorado Red paint with orange pinstriping. The theme was carried over to the interior, with black leather seats featuring red piping and headrests – heated and cooled in the front – and a Colorado Red instrument panel. As befitting its namesake, the FMF also had a 340-watt Audiophile sound system. Total price? $40,910, with options limited to just a few items like satellite navigation.

2008 ford expedition fmf 3

Although the FMF Edition was to herald the start of a collaboration between the artist and Ford, there would be no future Expeditions bearing his name. The SUV boom time was ending quite abruptly in 2008, as sales of the Expedition skidded by almost 50% and fell further for 2009. Although sales levelled off the year after, they have stayed consistently at that level. It seems the full-size SUV has mostly returned to being the domain of its original buyers: boat-owners, rural residents and government fleets.

Being a full-line, everyman brand, Ford has always offered a wide variety of cars and trucks. We’ve seen a subcompact, two compact coupes, a luxury convertible, and a full-size SUV today. Next week, we will look at 5 more unique and very different Fords.

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