What was the single greatest Deadly Sin that all of the formerly-Big Three committed over and over and over and over…?
Releasing new cars that were half baked.
Here’s just a few of the worst sinners:
1953 Studebaker Coupes
1957 Chrysler Corp. Cars
1976 Volare & Aspen
1980 GM X-Bodies
1981 Ford Escort
Let’s stop there, for now, as the list would get mighty long, and our featured car is an Escort. But in each of these cases the cars were either not properly developed before production, or the production quality was just abysmal, or all-too commonly, both. We could spend a lot of time (and we have) on all of these cars and more. And although these are some of the worst up to 1981, almost without fail, first (and often second year) versions of a new domestic car was inevitably something of a crap shoot. There’s a very good reason why it’s much harder to find first and often second year versions of old cars still on the street. And the later in the model run, the more likely one is to still see them.
Of course, this was essentially never the case with Japanese cars. They invariably are as good from day one to the end of a given series. This was really the single biggest key factor that determined the rise of the Japanese brands and the fall of domestic brands. Wait long enough, and the domestics usually got to be reasonably reliable and mostly fleshed out. Like this 1987 Escort.
The Escort arrived in 1981 more like semi-raw than even half baked. In the Escort’s case, it wasn’t any single one fatal flaw, just all-round mediocrity. It felt like a crude prototype cobbled up two years before production was to begin. The suspension and its overall handling were grossly lacking any refinement, aplomb, balance or composure. It dipped and bobbed and slewed its way down the highway and around curves. Its 69 hp 1.6 L four buzzed and whined and bleated, and never delivered the slightest sense of enthusiasm or pleasure.
In addition to its inherent feebleness, the engine was teamed up to a manual transmission that was hell-bent on destroying any sense of performance: a three-speed plus overdrive. Ford called it a four-speed, but its gear ratios (3.58, 2.05, 1.23, 0.81) were clearly those of a three-speed OD transmission. Yes, it was 1981 and squeezing out every bit of gas mileage was an obsession, but a three-speed plus overdrive was a cruel trick to play on the unsuspecting. Which is what I was, when I rented one for a week in the Rocky Mountains. It was a painful driving experience, never mind the cheap interior materials and general tinny quality it exuded.
From Colorado, we flew out to Baltimore. And what was sitting in the garage, where the ’73 Coronet wagon used to be? My mom’s new Escort wagon. In this case, it had the automatic. The early (1981 – 1985) FLC ATX was a torque-split automatic, meaning that a percentage of the engine torque bypassed the torque converter, in the pursuit of that ever-important EPA number. It felt oddly like an old original Hydramatic: very mechanical, with abrupt and jerky shifts, and lots of gear whine. In an unpleasant way, all round.
This is all just a brief version of my full 1981 Escort CC, titled “You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A Good First Impression”.
But some years later, when my youngest brother bought an Escort of similar vintage as our featured one, as his first car, I had a fairly short drive in it, and lo! It was quite considerably improved. Under the hood there was a 1.9 L version of the CVH four, making a mighty 90 hp. And the five speed manual transmission’s gearing was now quite normal. And its handling was…about what it should have been back in 1981.
Just to be clear: it was no Honda Civic, by a long shot. And we had reason to know, having had two of them a couple of years earlier. The 1981 couldn’t hold a candle to the gen2 Civic. All new Civics generations were arriving every four years back then, and the exceptional gen3 that had arrived in 1984 made even this somewhat improved Escort feel sadly obsolete. But it gets worse: this generation of Escort was built all the way through 1990, by which time the gen4 Civic was already three years old, and would be replaced by the next one in 1991. The gen1 Escort’s lifespan covered three generations of Civic, meaning it just fell further and further behind, even though it was somewhat improved from its 1981 beginnings.
So who bought Escorts despite their initial shortcomings? Plenty of folks, but undoubtedly their concentration was much greater away from the coasts, where the Japanese inroads were much deeper already. And they sold on price; thanks to the ill-conceived Voluntary Import Restrictions, Honda dealers were fleecing their desperate customers. An Escort might well be had for one to two thousand dollars less. That’s precisely why my youngest brother bought one.
This price gap between Japanese and American small cars was by now deeply entrenched, and was the reason the Big Three couldn’t make any profits on their small cars. Which is why they kept not investing in them and cutting corners on them: a self fulfilling prophecy.
Ford still had a good rep in California in the ’80s; Californians snapped up Taurii like sushi. But unlike the Escort, the Taurus did arrive fully baked. And it went on to be a huge and highly profitable franchise for Ford. There’s no doubt that if the ’81 Escort had arrived as fully baked as the Taurus did, its trajectory would have been quite different.
As it is, the gen2 Escort managed to redeem itself, thanks to it being essentially a Mazda 323 with a Ford engine. It did quite well on the West Coast, and was clearly the most competitive small car from Detroit. Thank you, Mazda!
Gen1 Escorts seem to all have evaporated very suddenly a few years back. Global warming? Which made finding this nicely kept 5-door across the alley from my favorite free plumbing advice shop/plumbers if I really need one (The Plumbing Works) a pleasant surprise.
I’d been digging a 2 ½’ deep hole to repair a broken water line to one of my rentals, and needed some advice as to the best way to fix this properly, as I bodged this splice when I first made it twenty years ago. At the time, I had already glued up the 3/4″ PVC line to the house when I realized I’d forgotten to glue in a line to a spigot in the back yard. So I cut the line and used this compression splice to add a 1/2″ riser for the spigot. I didn’t like the feel of that compression splice; it just felt a bit flimsy, and…half baked. I should have used something better and more durable, but didn’t feel like digging it up more. It was a quick and easy fix.
It worked ok until the summer of 2017, when the utility informed the tenants that their water meter was spinning out of control. I dug down in the concrete-hard dirt and found the fitting. It was hard enough just finding it and digging it that far. I put on some adjustable pliers and tightened the two ends. And that ended the leak; for now. Yesterday, the tenants got the same notice from the utility.
This time, I’m going to do it right, and use a glue-on slip fitting. This is how it looked before I quit for lunch. I was tired and beat. I didn’t want to deal with any more. I went to The Plumbing Works and made an appointment for them to do it next Tuesday. And then went on a hike. And afterwards, late in the afternoon, I got a surge of energy and dug a much bigger hole (no picture), big enough so tomorrow morning (Friday), I’ll install that fitting.
Yes, I digressed. But the moral of the story is the same for both the Escort and my pipe: if they had been thought out and executed properly the first time, there wouldn’t have been all this wasted energy fixing it twice (more often, in the case of the Escort). Do it right the first time. The Japanese figured that out a long time ago. Us dumb Americans are still struggling with that.
Related: CC 1981 Ford Escort: You Never Get A Second Chance To Make A Good First Impression
It’s strange the 1st Gen US Escort was considered a failure, while the Euro Escort was considered a success despite being based on the same “world car” platform. What did the Americans do wrong?
Interestingly, the Escort name lives on in China
Not sure how deep it goes, but the two share very little externally other than a general look. Compare the side-on view (bottom photo) with this side on of a 1981 European Escort: https://uploads.carandclassic.co.uk/uploads/cars/ford/2053428.jpg
Note how there’s a slight ledge along the bottom of the windows that extends unbroken to the rear ‘bustle’ tail whereas the US model is flush where the rear pillar meets the waist (and joins with a curve rather than an angle). Also the door handles are below the crease on the US version, bisecting the crease on the Euro one. The rear fuel filler is round and flush on the Euro, under a square flap on th US version. The door lines are clearly different too; I doubt if there are any of the external panels that are the same, which begs the question as to what they did have in common to make them a ‘World Car’?
Back in the day, I recall one of the buff books stating that the water pump was the ONLY common part between the two Escorts.
That sounds ridiculous on the face of it, but I’ve owned an ’87 Merkur Scorpio (Euro Ford) and worked on many US Fords. The Scorpio interior parts and switch gear were of European design and sourced from local suppliers, with no commonality with US components. The same would be true of the Escort.
Quite a contrast with the European Chrysler Horizon and US Plymouth Horizon & Dodge Omni – they look almost identical (down to those chunky wheelarches) but have quite a lot of differences underneath and inside. With these 1981 Escorts the two don’t even look the same on the outside and it’s harder to believe there’s much commonality in the bits you don’t see.
I can only surmise the design differences were to give design continuity with the outgoing Pinto and other contemporary NA Ford products, the flush rear pillar in particular(heaven forbid the design regresses!) but these details are so subtle it really makes you scratch your head. A little American tarting up of the Euro design hardpoints wouldn’t have been that out of step with domestic design themes, and the cost saved should have been used to make it better out of the box
I recall with fuzzy memory that the Escort was planned to be a true world car. But Ford of Europe and and Ford of NA were pretty ambivalent toward each other’s design and pretty much went their separate ways back then. They did get their act together with the 1st gen. Focus, of course then lost their way again until Mulally came along.
Makes sense, it’s just crazy the level of pettiness involved to make such extensive changes that really don’t actually change the look that much. If you showed pictures of a EU Escort and an NA Escort to your average person all they’d notice being different would be the front end and taillight lenses, not the completely different sheetmetal. I never noticed how different the whole exterior was until a few months ago
I don’t know that anyone considered the US Escort a failure. As flawed and feeble as they were, they sold very well. The funny thing is that the substantial differences were because the US had safety and emissions standards long before Europe did.
The Vega sold well too. And the Citation was a huge seller. And…
Sales are not a good indicator of vehicle quality.
The difference in regulations did not require the US Escort to have a poorly sorted out suspension (unlike the Euro version). Nor did it require an OD three speed transmission. And…
My Mom and Dad bought one brand new and owned it for a very short period of time due to some literal mechanical failure (water pump I think my Dad said). And that was their last straw with it anyway. They never returned to a subcompact Ford product until 2010 when my Mom swapped her Quest for a new Focus. Between that time, and through my entire childhood they only drove imports
This is that same car thanks for the post. 180k no check engine light. Purrs like a kitten
Just before it was painted
What was wrong with the ’60 valiant ?
I remember my dad telling me that the ’60 Ford falcon had week front suspension problems early on as they used undersized components
the unibody Valiant was vastly superior to the Falcon in virtually every way, but there were some teething probs – especially w/ the aluminum engine
the Valiant had an alternator, the new slant six and torqueflite plus torsion bar suspension
it also had quirky styling
the Falcon was just a smaller Ford, very slow and poor handling, it was an engineering tour de nothing
the Falcon sold exceedingly well, but mostly cannibalized other Ford commerce
davis is certainly right about all the innovations the Valiant introduced, but the execution was crap. Paul may be referring to the quirky styling and toilet seat trunk that didn’t win the buyers the Falcon did, even if the Falcon cannibalized sales of the full-sizers — the Valiant couldn’t even do that.
When I was 3, our family bought a new 1961 Valiant V100 as our family car. I remember it the same way Paul remembers the Fairlane. We kept this car until 1968 (my dad was determined to make it as a small-time farmer in north Arkansas, and there were some lean years in there, so we kept the Valiant practically forever). I remember the Valiant mostly for its POS qualities. It got a new warranty paint-job very early on. The paint just started pitting, less than a year out. Interior door handles all fell off in a few years, but since at least at least one of the doors wouldn’t open anyway… Random rust issues, with holes in the floorboards. Mechanically, you couldn’t drive it down a dirt road without the distributor drowning every time it hit a puddle. Rattles, interior trim falling off, etc. Granted, the slant six never had a lot of internal mechanical issues, but the electrical and cooling were unreliable to the point you never were sure it would start. The engine may have been great, but it was everything it was attached to that was the problem.
This car created my skepticism (if not disdain) for Chrysler products that continues to this day. Granted, that was helped along by driving dozens of Aspen/Volare/K-Car/Omni/Horizon government fleet cars in the ’80’s and ’90’s. They were mostly junk too. I will admit that the Ram Laramie 1500 and Grand Cherokee I’ve rented recently were really nice, but I still wouldn’t buy an FCA vehicle.
I know the Falcon had to be beefed up to make it in Australia and Argentina and the 4-bearing 144 was supposed to be crap, but these things had a reputation in the 60’s and 70’s for never quitting, and any idiot could keep them going with a screwdriver, a crescent wrench, and a hammer. Kind of the American Lada. Poor folks drove these things for years.
I’m sure somebody out there had a difference experience with their first gen Valiant/Lancer. I would love to read about it.
Way, way back in 1971, my folks found for me a ’62 Valiant station wagon with the 170 and automatic. The best mileage I ever got was about 17 mpg. The car was allergic to rain; summer thunderstorms fill low spots pretty quickly, and I had to learn alternate routes because the ignition was so touchy about moisture. Eventually someone failed to yield at an intersection and took out the front end. Dad found a ’61 Lancer and transplanted the engine into it. The Lancer had the 3-on-the-floor. Of course, the ignition headaches followed into the Lancer. We also found plenty of rust in the floor pan; the car had always been in Tucson, so the rust was a bit of a mystery.
The Valiant was not the base model; the Lancer was. Both of them, however, came off as cheaply-built and trimmed. And that is what I saw in far, far too many Chrysler products over the years.
> the Falcon cannibalized sales of the full-sizers — the Valiant couldn’t even do that.
The Valiant *did* cannibalize sales of full-size Plymouths, something that was especially glaringly obvious because in 1960 only* Valiant was a separate marque and not a Plymouth, and thus not included in Plymouth production totals (unlike the Falcon and Corvair which were branded a Ford and Chevy respectively).
* in Canada, Valiant was a separate marque through 1966; the early Barricuda was a Valiant, not a Plymouth
The primary issue was that the build quality was terrible. Poor fitting body panels and poor assembly. Agree that the design was vastly superior. Car reviews of the day show the Valiant got high marks for handling, ride, comfort and performance relative to all of its competitors, including the Corvair.
That’s it: poor build quality. Leaks and other issues. Its whole development from the day the program was started to the day the first ones came off the line was some 18 months.
All cars rusted in those days but the original Valiants rusted fast and furious. I remember every one of those toilet seat covers on the trunk had rust around them in less than a year. Body panel gaps were very noticeable and the doors creaked and groaned. Sort of a repeat of Chrysler 1957.
The original Falcons were very durable and reasonably well put together. We had two new 61s and a used 60 Ranchero. They were all good cars, albeit underpowered and nothing special in the ride and handling departments.
So true about the 1949 and 1957 Fords. We had one of each and the build quality was terrible. The original Vega was by far the worst car I’ve ever experienced. A long week-end trip in a friend’s brand new one was instructive – parts were literally flying off the car and the seats and carpets coming apart by Sunday night.
The ’60 Valiant was quite well engineered, but it was carelessly thrown together. Not quite so sloppily as the ’57-’59 Mopar cars, but that’s a really low bar. Build quality improved somewhat for ’62, then improved radically for ’63 in conjunction with the restyle and Chrysler’s new 5/50 warranty.
As an owner of a new ’86 Escort GT, I fully endorse it as a Deadly Sin. Mine looked great – all refrigerator white, body skirts, asymmetrical grill, 5 spd, 1.9 litre HO engine…
The A/C went out in the first year, then the brakes acted up, then the engine fan broke, then it just died one day. It spent as much time at the Service Dept as in my driveway…
I sold it as soon as I could – the guy I sold it to said the wiring harness went out 2 weeks after I sold it to him.
It was assembled at Ford’s Wayne Assembly Plant – or should I say partially assembled.
I went back to Japanese cars and didn’t even look at a US model until 1999. Jim.
Great write-up. I would have added the 1983 Pontiac Fiero.
By the time GM pulled the plug, with the correct options, it was arguably a serious drivers car. The difference of those six model years was HUGE!
As to the Escort GT, I was car shopping in late 1986, looking at a Mustang 5.0 or a VW GTI. 200hp vs 100hp. My first car, exciting time!
Anyway, I’m a Ford store, and I see, not one, but TWO 85 VW GTIs, and I’m thinking, “OMG, these people traded VWs for Fords, for goodness’ sake, and they’re just a year old, yikes!!!!”
So a salesman and I took a Mustang for a test drive. Great car, fun he drove it harder and faster than I did. We get back, talk price, and then I asked about the two used GTIs.
“Oh no, they’re not used. One of them is mine”
I said, “but you sell Fords! Why not drive an Escort GT?” (I had driven one at another store–it was zippy, with the 1.9, but crude and coarse compared to the VW)
He laughed. “No way! The way I drive, it would fall apart”
He must have had your experience in mind. Maybe he knew you–were you in Clearwater, FL?
He a gave me a good price too, it was less than $500 dearer than the best GTI price I had. But his comment put the VW over the top and I bought the GTI from another dealer.
My father had a blue sedan. All I remember is him constantly fiddling with the defroster, turning it on and off. You could either have defrost or engine power – but not both at the same time.
I remember taking a short drive in a new 81 Mercury Lynx. I remember getting the impression that it was not as substantial feeling of a car as the 1980 Horizon my mother was driving at the time. I wonder how many Escorts and Lynx’s were sold because of Chrysler’s 300k unit capacity constraint caused by the engine block supply agreement with VW.
I agree that the American companies have done this over and over. I would add the 1961-63 Buick/Oldsmobile aluminum 215 V8 to that list, an engine that GM gave up on before it got sorted out. That was the car that cemented the “never buy a car in its first year” attitude in my Mom.
Our 1962 Buick Special, which we had from ’66 to ’85, was dead nuts reliable. That 215 was fully sorted when it left the factory.
Right now Ford (Europe) is moving the production to Turkey. This isn’t only a deadly sin, it’s deadly suicide. And nobody knows why. I mean the european Fords were really good cars. I had a Mondeo wagon (a true world car) made in Belgium and it was brilliant. Some of them are more than 20 years old right now and are still in use as daily driver.
Why is moving production to Turkey a deadly sin? They do if for labor costs. The manufacturer makes more money, and the customer saves a FEW pennies, and odds are Turks in Turkey are happy to work for fraction of what that same Turk’s labor would cost in Europe.
In autos and parts, Turkey is to the EU what Mexico/China is the US.
As long as the engineering/design is up to par, and the manufacturing process is robust and proper, Turkish assembled vehicles should be just as good as Belgian, English, or even German ones.
Also, many of the blue collar workers in Germany are migrant workers—and many of the migrants are from Turkey.
I haven’t heard any complaints of poor build quality in the Turkish-built Ford Transit Connect. They seem to have been acquitting themselves quite well. Same with the Ram ProMaster City. What leads you to distrust or dislike Turkish assembly?
The first generation Transit Connects have serious transmission issues. Probably has nothing to do with the fact that it was assembled in Turkey.
Second gens have a good reputation.
Ironically, the ’81 Escort was the launch vehicle for the “Quality is Job 1” advertising push.
In 1984, the rear end of my brand new Mustang GT blew up at 10,000 miles. The first loaner they gave me was a new Ford Tempo. Not great, but it was at least comfortable. As the repairs on my Mustang languished for weeks and weeks, they made me bring back the Tempo, and gave me the keys to the most basic, buzzy Escort they could find on the lot. It was as if they were punishing me for breaking my Mustang. The public humiliation was intense.
Let’s just delete a meaningful 4th gear and keep those MPGs high for those Readers’ Digest ads. Let’s not offer one like Toyata’s Sport Ratio 5 speeds on Tercels. I think a 240D would pass em. That 1 to 1 ratio gets one up the mountains.
My buddy had the early auto shift one…. I thought the bands were shot. Didn’t know it was built like that. Shuddering slow tipsy mess of a car.
I test drove one very similar to this one as a young junior enlisted Marine when I went to look at the Gen 2. They tried to down sell me when I learned Mazda/Fords were not cheap.. I thought it was pretty bad after sitting in the new version.. Happy though to see the survivor, with lemonade out of lemons rims.
Well yes, as I’ve commented elsewhere I’d had a friend who got a 1981 Escort automatic as her first car. It was truly vile to drive, especially compared to my father’s 5-speed Subaru.
I am amused that this little Escort is sporting the same aftermarket rims that my Mustang came with. Not my favorite rim design..
My son bought for his first car, a used gen (3?) 1998 Escort. It had a 5 speed manual if I recall correctly, and it had a lot of get up and go. It would never be mistaken for a Mustang, but it had a good amount of distemper about. By the time the A/C system failed on it, he had already replaced it with a Civic, but the net cost of ownership was only a few hundred bucks for more than four years of ownership.
I knew someone who had one of these Mazda based Escorts. It was over a decade old by the time he got it. It also had non functioning AC and a dash lit up like a Christmas tree, but the car ran impressively long considering he never changed the oil or did any maintenance other than adding gas. Made it more than 5 years before the engine exploded. Tough little car.
I see in the pictures that this Escort is equipped with the ultra rare Crown Royal shift boot.
It makes for velvet smooth shifts.
If there’s proof, I’d give it a shot.
You’ll improve in a fifth of the time.
I totally missed that….
I love the use, but would be concerned about giving The Man an impression of my propensities. Hence the same reason I don’t use Felony Forest’s line of air fresheners lol.
101 uses for Crown Royal sacks. The best I saw was a quilt.
I kept my marbles in one.
My mother had an 84 Escort which she got new. I also bought my fiancee a used, very cheap, 84 Lynx. These were very crude and unpleasant cars to drive. The 1.6 was buzzy and really moaned and groaned when called on for any type of “brisk” acceleration. There were problems with the cylinder heads on these, which as I remember were part of a factory recall. Aside from the head issue ours were quite reliable.
One redeeming feature they had was excellent snow traction. I would guess it was due to a heavy front end and narrow tires. They were much better in deep snow than my 89 CRX which we owned at the same time.
I was driving a first-gen Ford Fiesta when the Escort was launched. The tech intrigued me, especially the CVH engine which promised an interesting advance over the cross flow Kent 1600 fitted to US market Fiestas. Not to mention the Escort name, though that attraction was based on drifting RWD rally cars. So I test drive one. Worst. Car. Ever. Everything that was mediocre about the Fiesta was worse on the Escort: massive torque steer and even wider gaps between gears. But with none of the chuckability, simple spacious-feeling interior or clean styling. I ended up buying a Civic.
Five years later, in 1986, while shopping for a new vehicle, I test drove an Escort GT along with an 5.0 Mustang GT and remember finding them both quite nice. But I wanted a new truck and bought my Ranger. Those late ‘80’s were definitely peak Ford in California, with the Taurus, Ranger, Escort and aero TBird everywhere on the roads. Even Bronco II’s.
There wasn’t time to do it right, but there was time to do it over.
Escorts were terrific when compared to the Gremlin, Vega and Pinto.
They were FWD, fuel efficient, space efficient, and better than what came before them.
That is why they sold well.
Well its an Escort I guess but not as we know it Escort as a badge showed up as a rebodied Ford Anglia in 68 by Ford out of Dagenham UK, popular little cars and the hot models had a lot of sporting success which rubbed off on the basic models, they changed the shape in 76 and made it bigger and heavier and possibly better and various markets specced and assembled their own versions I had an Aussie 76 it was crap but it was also old and well worn next came the FWD versions the down under markets didnt get as Ford assembled Mazdas with some minor alterations instead the next model made it to New zealand but not Aussie and they have quite a mixed rep and very few survive then the Focus took over, the Mazda with Mazda engine is good at least out here they were lots still on the road.
The Japanese learned the hard way but they learned quick dont send cars to your biggest customer untried so they send them elsewhere first evaluate the results redesign if required then the US gets them the wide body Camry was done that way including a redesigned engine and different axle ratio and it was a huge success, the British did similar sending their stuff to Africa for testing before inflicting it on their customers in their former colonies but success was wasnt so long lived.
Is it me or are those Mercury Lynx taillights? I had an ’87 2-door, 5-speed, and its taillights had three parallel horizontal elements (and amber turn signals if I’m not mistaken). It was a great car if you didn’t expect much of the build quality; it only ever needed wear items and a timing belt (my fault for neglecting that!).
Based on some quick checks, your memory of the Escort tail lights is correct, and later Lynxes did use four horizontal elements (early models dived into six elements), so I agree.
The attached image is from an online junkyard parts locator, for a ’86 Lynx tail light
Yeah, I spotted that as well, and like Dave, surmised the owner scored the lenses from a junkyard.
What seems odd is that this person found lenses from a Lynx rather than an Escort. The Ford sold in far greater numbers than its Mercury sibling.
Regarding the transmission gearing, it would be important to know the gear ratio of the final drive. An 0.89:1 top gear might not be so ridiculous if the final drive is 4.10:1.
It really comes down to the number of gears, especially with small engines with less torque. Even Japanese small cars only had 4 gears in base models in 1981.
When I bought my ’89 COAL Omni, I also considered an Escort. Even though the Omni was still on its first (only) generation in 1989, it was still better than the 2G Escort.
I’m quite aware of that. Final drive on these varied, between 3.20 and 3.50. I wouldn’t have called it what I did if it wasn’t what it was, a genuine overdrive fourth gear. Meaning it was useless in the Rockies except for long straights on level ground (or downhill).
Lots of small cars, actually all of them until the introduction of five speeds in the late ’70s or early ’80s, had 4 speeds. That’s all there was. But they were never laid out with a true overdrive fourth gear. The one exception was the Vega, whose 3 speed manual came with such a low numerical axle ratio that it was effectively a 2 speed and OD!
To echo your sentiments, Paul: “Baby take your time, do it right, we can do it baby….” Just had to throw some music lyrics in there for the fun of it. Oh, and as you stated, the Big 3 continued doing as they had always done, which not only enabled the import brands to get a foothold, but to grow and flourish. As much as we like the old Detroit iron, the Big 3 leadership sure took their good old time to react to and eventually make the effort to truly compete with Honda, Toyota and all the others. Deeply entrenched thinking, attitudes and modus operandi are truly difficult to surmount at times.
One thing I have never understood is why there were so many differences between the European and North American Escorts. I can understand the re-engineering for emissions and bumper laws, but all of those bodyshell differences just seem so pointless. The money wasted could have been put to much better use getting the engineering right.
Please see my comment above.
A high school friend’s parents inflicted an Escort Pony (or possibly the equivalent Bobcat penalty box on him), it was pretty dire, especially compared to the 77 Accord we had. While the Honda was starting to rust it was still quick, eager, fn to drive and niceley detailed inside. The Escort was only slightly less punitive than a Chevette.
I’m glad I missed that generation and a half of Escort and only had a 1995 LX hatchback.
My poor secretary had the misfortune of buying a 1981 Ford Escort new and it was a miserable unreliable lemon of a car with all sorts of leaks and electrical problems in addition to just being an unpleasant thing to drive. She ended up trading it for a used 1980 Honda Civic, which was everything that the Escort was not. She loved that Civic and drove it for many years. She and her family went on to buy many more Hondas, as did I.
“ill-conceived Voluntary Import Restrictions”. That depends on where one lived in the early 1980s and how they earned a living, and where they live today.
The quotas helped the US automakers survive.
The quotas also incentivized the Japanese to build plants in the US to get around the quotas, economically helping the areas, mostly in the south, that got the plants.
The Reagan Administration also slapped a tariff (25% I think) on big Japanese bikes, to help Harley-Davidson survive.
As a general rule, Japanese companies did not always play “by the rules”. The US found that the Japanese did in fact sell TVs below cost, in the 1970s, helping decimate the US TV industry.
Japanese manufacturers did not contend with the same level of regulation as American firms.
This 87 just showed up around here about two weeks ago. It’s a daily as far as I can tell.