Junkyard Classic: 1995 Ford Aspire – Killed In Action By Conscientious, Professional Maintenance?

Ah, the humble Ford Aspire.  It’s been well documented that I can generally find something redeeming in most vehicles, but some do make the task a bit harder.  The Aspire, built by Kia for Ford, replaced the Festiva in Ford’s North American lineup as their entry level car.  Priced about 20% below an Escort, they were a moderate success but are rarely seen anymore.  Time was generally not kind to them and the owners ever less so, which made this one all the more surprising as it had high-mileage “survivor” stamped all over it until I noticed something fairly alarming.  But you’ll have to read on to find out all about that.  Do it.  Do it.  Doooo iiiiiit….

The Aspire in fact gets so little respect that its direct Wikipedia entry only consists of three lines of text that contains a total of two facts, one of which happens to be wrong.  It was not a badge applied to the Ford Festiva in the U.S. (it replaced the Festiva model.)

Ford Aspire India

But Wiki did clue me in that there IS currently a new Ford Aspire offered in India (!) as a rebadge of a four door Ford Figo sedan and it actually looks vaguely interesting and is offered in a lot of different versions and trims according to the English-language website.  I never would have guessed that the Aspire nameplate would carry on.  Anyway, time to get out of that rabbit hole and back to Ford’s past aspirations instead of its present ones.

So, if while still on Wikipedia, you then go to the Ford Festiva entry, you for some reason find one paragraph on the Aspire there, which actually does contain a couple of purported facts but that’s it.  So I suppose Curbside will have to carry the torch for this little gleam in Henry’s eye.

The Aspire was in fact sold here from the 1994 to the 1997 model years and offered in both 3-door and 5-door models.  Our example hails from the second year of the run in 1995 and is obviously a 3-door model.  It is a base version as it doesn’t sport a rear wiper or alloys but I’m sure the oh-so-’90s sport decal package added something to the sticker.

The front end seems to have seen some damage a long time ago as the color doesn’t even remotely match the Teal Clearcoat Metallic paint on the rest of the car.  It’s most likely that the front was just donated from a blue Aspire, perhaps from this same junkyard a long time ago.  Other colors available (besides the teal) were silver, white, red, iris (a light purple), blue, and green with everything but the white and red being metallics.  No black or gray besides the silver!)  I do distinctly remember seeing these (can’t un-see it) in that horrific metallic flesh color but that was apparently a different model year.

The Ford logo has been sandblasted clean or perhaps the color just fell off, the same affliction seems to plague Saabs as well as some BMWs.  And other Fords too, most mid-to-late 2000’s era F-150s I see seem to have the blue missing as well.  At least it still wears its assumed name proudly, the Koreans must use good tape or fasteners.  But lets see what’s lurking behind this badge under the hood.

Yes, from little 1.3 liter acorns did eventually mighty 3.8 liter Kia Telluride engines descend.  According to the factory brochure this little 4-cylinder 8-valve mill put out 63 horsepower at 5000rpm along with 74 lb-ft of torque at 3000rpm on a good day.  Equipped as this one is with a 5-speed manual and in the superleggera bodystyle it was good for an advertised 36mpg city and 42 highway in 1995.  The optional automatic sapped an astounding 7-8mpg from those figures so back then it really paid to not pay any more for that.  Doing the math based on this car’s odometer reading and using an average mpg figure of 39mpg for a manual and 32 for an automatic indicates that buying the manual version saved its owner the cost of purchasing 1,437 gallons of gasoline over its lifetime (and an additional 144 trips to the gas station based on the tank size).

Acceleration was likely a struggle at sea level and compounded at altitude, but with that mpg rating at least the 10-gallon tank would get you decent range and not break the bank when the time came to refill it.  The little sticker on the back left of the firewall quietly declares “Made in Korea”.

The tire size is 175/70-13, which has to be getting harder to find these days and actually is already wider than the 165 section tires that were standard on this car when new.  I assumed the GT Champiro VP1 tires fitted to this car were a Chinese budget tire, however it turns out the company is based in Singapore and even has a production facility in South Carolina.  The tires on this car date from 2014 so are less aged than those on a lot of other cars in here.

This car also still carries all four of its hubcaps without any sign of zip-ties holding them on, so clearly a well designed fastening system and a durable plastic material.

The brakes had power assist with ABS as an optional extra but the only way to get power steering was as an option on the 5door base model and then only with the automatic.  Interestingly the automatic was ONLY available on the base model, if you went for the upper spec SE in either door format you were forced into a stick shift which seems bizarre for an American badged car in 1995.

The rear decklid sports a little spoiler that is perhaps one of the most attractive pieces of the car (along with the flush mounted glass on the rear hatch) and wouldn’t look out of place on the back of a BMW M5 or Audi S4.  In this case it likely is good for an extra mpg or two and was fitted to all of these as far as I am aware.  Below you can see the smallest diameter tailpipe this side of a VW Beetle peeking out from under the bumper.  A rear defroster was also not standard but available as a standalone option, presumably that would depend on which dealer spec’d out the lot models, good luck custom ordering that option.

Opening the hatch reveals two working hatch struts, and a decently shaped luggage space.  The contents were a bit of a shambles and I didn’t really want to reach in to rearrange everything for you.  Just imagine that masonite board on top of the tire and the rug on top of that.  The rear seat folds down, albeit as one piece, no split arrangement at the budget end of the range, you’d have to step up to the SE trim for that or get the convenience package.

Apparently the Aspire was the first in its class to include dual front airbags and was the lowest price car in America to do so but the upholstery doesn’t look particularly stain resistant.  It does however look extremely durable.  Every 1995 Aspire had the same Opal Gray color as the interior color.

Peeking into the backseat reveals more of the same, durable fabric, lots of stains and the expected sea of plastic (mostly hard but durable I presume).  Diagonal stitching on the seats is the one concession to style or fashion or design or whatever but it actually does not look too uncomfortable.

Here’s what faces the driver every morning.  It’s hard to imagine it as clean but if it was I suppose it’d be okay.  The seats look to have various adjustments and there’s no console between them to rob space.  See what I meant above?  Just like even a blind squirrel will find an acorn at some time, I too can find something positive to say here.

256,165 miles!  I have to say I am very impressed, this is a great achievement for a car that was likely beat like a rented mule every day of its life and given zero respect by the public when it roamed the roads.  But that wasn’t the most astounding part that I referenced in the title.

That’s the sticker of the place that presumably did the oil changes every, oh, let’s say 5000 miles.  If they do in fact remind one to come back 5000 miles after every change, then that means that according to the odometer this car traveled exactly eight miles since the oil was changed.  Or was it really?  Could it be that someone forgot to fill the oil or left the drain plug loose?  Eight miles seems like a reasonable distance for a car to travel without any oil in it beyond the remnants left after the lube place lets it drain for a couple of minutes.  If this is what occurred, it’s a shame, this car was probably someone’s sole means of transport and while not in the best physical condition, seemed to be just fine mechanically.

This car seems to have lived its entire life a mile high here in Denver.  Lots of low oxygen, trafficky commutes, mixed with snow and ice part of the year and high heat for another part.  At least the humidity levels are pretty low here.  Colorado isn’t really easy on cars, and we have plenty of transplants.

Kia and Hyundai (but not Daewoo) for some reason seem to put the exact build date on their cars and this one being built on December 14th of 1994 means I had missed its 25th birthday party by five days when I visited.  In fact it celebrated that day with the other condemned inmates here according to the inventory sticker on its flank.  But I looked that date up and it turns out that this is a “Wednesday Car”, perhaps that is the reason it lasted so long.  Maybe there really is something to that theory…

For some reason I feel something for this car, it seems to have been felled before its time.  It’s kind of like a plucky little mouse in a rainstorm rushing around across a road trying to find shelter when a semi-truck comes and squashes it.  Hopefully its spirit will continue and somebody will get the longest lasting and hardest working new dishwasher made this year.

Related Reading:

Jim Grey finds and posts Curbside’s first Aspire

Jim Grey finds and posts Curbside’s second Aspire

Xequar also finds one and does a CC Lite on it