Junkyard Classic: 1984 Ford Escort GL Wagon – Alone In A Crowd


Ah, the Escort.  Player on the world stage.  Ready for anything.  But at the end of the night, left alone here in the yard.  Ford made a splash with the supposed “World Car” Escort, although in reality it shared precious little with its namesake across the pond.  Over here we really only ever got neutered, “safe and sane” examples.  Even the GT versions weren’t anything overly hot, more show than go.  The Turbo GT?  How many ever left the showroom or even entered it? However, as a basic commuter or run-around car for a budget conscious shopper that for some reason didn’t have a Toyota, Nissan, or Honda showroom nearby, this was still a big improvement relative to what came before.

While the whole Escort range in these early ’80’s years wasn’t unattractive and featured generally modern styling reminiscent of the Euro version, the wagon especially managed to look good, solid, and like a decent proposition.  Even with a modicum of US-market gingerbread, it didn’t go overboard with it.

No, I shan’t tease you any longer, once again we have a vehicle with a red interior that looks almost showroom fresh.  Actually that’s not just red, it’s “Canyon Red” in Ford-speak, paired with Oxford White as the exterior color like any contractor grade F-150 or Ford van.

This here is a GL trim level, the Escort was available as an L, GL, LX, GT and Turbo GT, although the latter two were not available in wagon form.  In fact I don’t believe I’ve seen an Escort Turbo GT although it exists in the brochure.  The GL though has many of the basic creature comforts included and was a decent middle of the road option.  The GL was also the only trim level that was available with a “Squire” option, a decidedly non-euro woodgrain exterior trim package.

Instead, this one sports optional mirrors in body color. According to the brochure “bright”. i.e. chrome are standard and there is an option for “racing” mirrors and yet another option for “sport” mirrors.  The “racing” version apparently comes with a convex one on the right side, the “sport” one doesn’t specify. Does the average Escort wagon purchaser really need three mirror options on one trim level?  I spent way too much time looking at the brochure, just astounded (and jealous, frankly) at all the ways you could option your cheap wagon back in the day.

The seat upholstery looks wonderfully durable and actually comfortable in the way that many fabrics of yesteryear were.  There’s a whole lotta red goin’ on here, folks, but at least the shifter gets a mini console around it as opposed to the Fairmont we saw a few weeks ago where it just kind of poked out of the floor.  The steering wheel contains the Ford “Fingertip Speed Control” buttons, there’s space for oddments on top of the dash and also fairly plush looking carpets.

However, fairly sad-sack instrumentation remains a hallmark of the domestic budget class. As is fairly common on European cars at least, the speedometer seems to have little markings on it that may indicate the shift points for maximum economy but they look a bit weird here, with perhaps a range at 10-15, another at 35-40 and another around 75mph which seems somewhat odd.  The first two also have two dots each, the last has one dot.

But perhaps it’s for something different as these cars also had an upshift indicator light that came standard with the manual equipped 1.6l cars   Not much excitement overall but at least it’d be hard to run out of gas, that gauge is a tough one to overlook.

Unfortunately we can’t figure out the true mileage from this odometer…

The center stack has all kinds of goodness, the buyer here went all out.  First, an AM/FM and Cassette stereo unit.  And then they sprung for the A/C as well.  And this car has a 5-speed, still not always standard in this class at the time.  The cigarette lighter is buried all the way at the bottom just like in the Fairmont.

And up above, next to the piece of clear tape covering up a minor wound, is the upper console, with date and time displays as well as map/reading lights, all with a red surround.  This is the kind of stuff that costs a manufacturer money, stocking all these little optional parts in various colors, no wonder we only have two interior colors nowadays and something like this would just as likely come in black or be engineered into the headliner to avoid the colored surround trim piece altogether.

It’s pretty snug back here, but the seat folds 50/50. No cupholders, lap belts only.  At least the windows roll down, albeit manually.

Even the messy cargo area has plush-ish carpet on the hatch as well and there’s a cargo cover, not currently deployed with what looks like a full size spare under the floor area.  Ford advertised a total of 58 cu. ft. of cargo space back here, presumably with the rear seats folded.

Remember the 5-speed?  That denotes this engine as being the High Output 1.6l for high-altitude states as the regular 1.6 CVH four wasn’t offered with the 5-speed.  So this engine produced 80hp as opposed to between 65- 70 for the standard one.  There was a fuel-injected version available but you had to step up the at least the LX trim level for that.

Lots of rock chips but that’s nothing unusual here in Colorado.  The passenger side headlight trim looks a little askew but that’s because it was laying on the ground before I propped it back up there for the pictures.  Overall this looks in fine shape.

Purchased at Dave Taylor Ford in Longmont, CO, this one then appears to have spent time in Laramie at UW, and then there’s also an Indiana University sticker.  The body looks in pretty good shape so I’m guessing a quick grad school program in Indiana.  Much longer there and this wouldn’t have made it back without a few holes in it based on the stories I hear from the Indiana CC Field Office.

I kind of like it.  I don’t know if I would actually like owning it but it looks like a generally well taken care of car with a lot of utility and a decent number of frills for a 35-year old car.  What goes wrong on these?  Or is it just another case of can’t-find-anyone-that-wants-a-stick-shift-wagon-with-a-red-interior? It even has a roof rack!

This ad’s from the year before but still basically the same car.  Apparently nine out of ten buyers liked it so much they’d buy it again according to an unnamed survey.  The “FS” engine is the “Fuel Saver” engine, mated to an extremely high 3.04 axle ratio (as opposed to 3.73 on our example and only available with a 4-speed but not in California or High Altitude areas and absolutely certainly positively not in the higher altitude areas of California itself.

Assembled in Wayne, Michigan.  Sadly, not much demand for this particular Escort’s services.  Or parts.  This one’s been sitting here for a couple of months now and not much has changed beyond the rear badges having been pried off and one of the windows mysteriously breaking.  At least we get to enjoy the pleasure of its company on our screens for a few minutes.

Related Reading:

Carlsberg66’s COAL on his 1985 Escort

PN’s CC on the entire 1981-1990 Escort generation in the U.S.