COAL: 1985 1/2 Ford Escort – A Survivor

(Please enjoy this latest COAL, submitted by Denise Lima-Laskiewicz)

A survivor!   My 1985 ½ Ford Escort is referred to that whenever I participate in a car show.  The vehicles are rare.   In the past when these vehicles were produced, they were seen everywhere.

The Ford Company implemented a change in 1985 that created the 1985 ½ model.  It was a marked improvement over its predecessor.  Originally, I did not like the body style of the new Ford Escort.  I was not impressed because a friend of mine owned a 1983 model at the time.  However, I saw a sand beige car on the Ford dealer’s showroom floor and fell in love with it.  My mother encouraged me to buy it.  The more that I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.

The website says, “Ford released a revision of the first-generation Escort.  While much of the body shell was carried over the front fascia saw extensive aerodynamic revisions. With designers fitting a smaller grill and flush-mounted aerodynamics head lamps.”  The engine was upgraded to a 1.9 L CVH that included a 2bbl. Carb.  It had 16 more torque and 86 horsepower.

In the 1980’s the public preferred vehicles that were economical on gas.  The Ford Company took up the challenge. The Ford Escort replaced the Ford Pinto in 1981.  The cars of the earlier model were equipped with a 1.6-liter engine.  Information on the website www.escort/ indicates “The first Escort, and Mercury’s version called the Lynx, was powered by a carburetor that produced a 2-barrel carburetor that produced 69 horsepower.  The engines were SOHC (single overhead com) designs and called the CVH, which stood for “Command Angle Hemispherical’ combustion chamber.”   The Escort was economical on gasoline which made it very popular.  It got 30 miles per gallon in the city and 43 miles per gallon on the highway.

I was 22 years old when I purchased the car.  The Escort was the first brand new car that I bought.  The car provided many first-time experiences for me as I look back over the past 37 years.

When the car was a year old, I worked full time at McDonalds as a swing manager. The McDonalds Corporation was updating its portfolio of the company and I worked in a building that had only a drive-through.  The McDonalds publicity department had photographers come to the restaurant to take pictures of the building. They asked the crew if anyone would like to have pictures of their cars put in the portfolio.  I volunteered mine.  The photographer asked about the condition of my car.  I said that it was new.  I parked the car next to the drive-through window.  The picture was taken and included in the portfolio.  I received a copy of it in the mail.  This was just a beginning of my car’s legacy in pictures.

Ten years later I began a new journey with my car because that is when the rust set in.  On Monday nights I enrolled in an autobody repair class to learn the basic techniques of autobody repair.  During that time, I repaired surface rot as well as the interior rot.  The rear quarter panels and the rear floor rotted out.  I dismantled the panels, the rear seat and lifted the carpet to repair the damage.  I replaced the quarter panels with quarter panels from a donor car and the rear floor panels were replaced with sheet metal that I pop riveted in.  I reassembled the interior of the car when the job was completed.  My neighbor was amazed on how the vehicle looked because he saw it when the interior was empty.

During the restoration I used the Escort as my daily car. It traveled to Pennsylvania during the summer on a weekly basis and too work.

Another first for me was visiting junkyards.   Over time, the junkyards became my best friend. The 1981-1989 models had interchangeable parts that I used for my car.  I visited the junkyards at least once a month during the first 10 years that I owned the car.  During the year that the interior was dismantled I went to a pick and pull junkyard that had several Escorts in stock.  I took some lunch bags and removed each nut and bolt from inside the vehicle.  Each bag was labeled to indicate where I got the items.  Another time my transmission was acting up.  The mechanic said that it was the kick-down bar, but he was not able to locate one.  My husband and I went to the pick and pull junkyard, where there were five Escorts lined up in a row. I scored 5 kick-down bars.  Today I have a collection of rare spare parts.  My collection consists of a hatch for the back of the car, rear taillights, kick down bars, window cranks, nuts and bolts and an interior light.

When the car was 15 years old, the engine threw a rod in the block, the new engine came from the Ford Factory in Wayne, N.J. with a three-year warranty. The new engine provided an opportunity for me to continue too enjoy the car.  However, in 2003 the front end required major work.  I stored the car in my garage until I could gather the money to restore it. During that time, I sanded the car down to repaint it. In 2008 it received a new paint job and front-end work.

The following year the car participated in car shows.  I was so proud of this car, but I was intimidated at the same time.  The Escort didn’t belong alongside classic cars because it looked new.  I never thought that I could win trophies.  At different car shows the Escort was turned away because it did not fit the criteria of a classic car. At one show, I told the event coordinator that it was 25 years old, and the car could enter the competition.  Another time New Jersey held a car swap meet where you sold items related to cars and showed your vehicle.  The show had the option to pre-register the car by mail, but I chose not to do it. I arrived at the gate to register but was turned away.  I explained to the guard at the gate that the car was 25 years old.  He let me in, but I was warned that he would keep an eye on me.  I love taking my car to the shows because of the different reactions that I get.

When the car was 25 years old, I wrote an article for the Poconos News.   Information on the website indicates, “Whenever the Escort is shown at local shows, spectators giggle with surprise looks on their faces.  Several participants commented that this car is a survivor, that is a true statement because there are not many left…”

The car continued to gain notoriety over the next 15 years.  The Escort was photographed at different car shows.  The pictures were posted on several car related websites: such as Hotrod and car club Facebook pages.   Spectators enjoyed looking at my car because it was unusual.  Information on the website indicates “… the car brings a nostalgic feeling of all the memories and adventures we had in it.”

The license plate on the Escort has “QQ Thump” on it. The spectators asked, what does it stand for?  I explained that it was the shorten version of “Thumper”.  When they asked why it was called that I told them that during the first month that I had the car I drove it in Staten Island.  There were so many potholes that the car was jumping up and down.  It reminded me of a rabbit. I gave the Escort the nickname “Thumper”.   Now the spectators call the car by its name when they see it.

Throughout the years, I have had other vehicles, but the Ford Escort is my favorite.  These cars were not built to last, which makes them rare.   The Escort had a tremendous amount of damage throughout the years.   My car survived through my effort and dedication.  Vehicles that still exist today when they should have gone to the junkyard are in a class by itself.  That is why “Thumper” is a survivor.

Further reading:

Curbside Classic: 1985 Ford Escort – Worthy Of Love

Curbside Classic: 1981 Ford Escort – You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A Good First Impression