COAL: 1998 Ford Escort Wagon – Instant Family


You may remember from my last post that I inherited an instant family, so to speak, and with it came a perfectly sensible family car.  A white Escort wagon with a thrifty four cylinder, automatic transmission and not much else – but it didn’t really need anything else.  On the surface it was a bland, boring little car that I thought I’d hate – bringing back memories of the CRX (can you tell I didn’t like that car??) – but in the end, I appreciated its “just the facts, ma’am!” approach: rock solid sensibility and thriftiness.

As a single mom with two kids, I’ll be honest – this car was an excellent choice for her.  It consistently pulled mid- to- high 20s (24 with AC, 28 without) in the city, and 30s on the highway for mileage, and just about everything for it was cheap.  I only had to fix a few minor things on it, and one major item – an exhaust manifold gasket – but I was pretty surprised just how cheap parts were and how easy it was to work on it.  A shop had told her that the manifold gasket would be more expensive than what the car was worth to fix; well twenty bucks and a afternoon with an impact wrench in the driveway proved them wrong.

A bike.. fits???

A bike.. fits???

Interior wise it probably offered less passenger space than my MX-6, but had the super handy utility of a wagon.  For two young kids it was not only handy but also comfortable for longer trips, as I found out about six months into dating my now-wife.  A death in the family called for a trip eight hours south, so I offered to come with.  About seven hours into the eight hour trip I realized I was not only seven hours from home, but about to meet her entire family in one fell swoop.  If you couldn’t tell, sometimes my impeccable judgement has lapses – but in the end it turned out great; my fears were completely unfounded and it further solidified my plans to marry her.

Of course when the time came for another child, the Escort wouldn’t be big enough for all three kids – so my wife got a pretty substantial upgrade.  I took over the Escort shortly after starting a new job as it offered not only room to transport my bikes in a pinch, but also a substantial upgrade for me in the fuel economy department for when I needed to drive across town for work.  Instead of mileage reimbursements being a net loss with the F-150, they made sense with the Escort.

It was definitely NOT a sports car, in fact it may even be considered the anti-sports car.  Equipped with a mighty 2.0L four cylinder pumping out 110 horsepower it did just fine in normal driving and on the highway thanks to a 2600-ish pound curb weight.  Pushing it, though, didn’t yield much more other than noise.. a noise of which did not rival throaty fours in sports coupes.  It rivaled the sound of explosions and critical failures, so I never really pushed it much.  And it was just fine with that.

Big man in a llliiiitttlllee car...

Big man in a llliiiitttlllee car…

Sensible, reliable, and economical all while being cheap enough to not worry about leaving at work.  What could be better!?  My main, or only, gripe was that with my 6 foot 2, then-350 pound frame it didn’t leave much in the way of spaciousness. And let’s face it, I looked goofy driving the thing.  Through the year it was my main ride, I kept looking around for something that would do the job of both truck and car, yet finding everything was way out of my price range.

Sure enough, life happened in such a manner that a replacement literally fell into my lap and proved to be a perfect stopgap.  While the Escort took us to our wedding, and took a very panicked me home to take my wife to the hospital to deliver my youngest son, it was time to put it up for sale.  While selling a pickup during the high gas prices of 2008 was nearly impossible, with the Escort I had a line of really weird people from Craigslist waiting to try it for the $2,400 asking price.  It took about two days, and it was off to live sensibly with someone else.

And in its place.. another car I thought I wouldn’t really like, but came to appreciate.  Another one that was also shockingly reliable, even somewhat frugal, and quite comfortable which of course lived at work while I continued my cycling madness.  Not to spoil it completely, but it was even another white Ford.. but what?