Curbside Classic: 1990 Ford Escort LX – Still Going Places, But Not Really


Believe it or not, this is one of my favorite types of cars.

My reasons for liking it have nothing to do with size, color, make, or anything of that nature.  This Escort is truly remarkable because of what has been learned about its history.  Not just a partial history, but it’s entire history since new.  That certainly does not happen very often.

Brett is an engineer and a co-worker.  In October I began a six month assignment where Brett works.  We have known each other for years and worked briefly together in the late ’90s during my first tour of Jefferson City.

During that two year period, Brett drove this Escort, but it was just another late model Escort at that time.  Seeing the Escort again in October, a bit more faded and worn than what I remembered, prompted a strong desire to learn more.  A good opportunity arose a few weeks ago.

Dropping into his office to talk about such stimulating topics as micro-devals, F- and t-testing, and flakiness indexes, I asked him what year his Escort was.  That was a much livelier and longer lasting conversation.


Brett purchased this Escort new in February 1990.  He had just started his career a few months prior and was happily driving an early to mid-’80’s Escort.  His father had been able to purchase that Escort from his employer’s fleet and it had served Brett beautifully while he was in college.  Upon his graduation, Brett avoided the frequent temptation of purchasing a new car, instead putting a little money into his current ride for various maintenance needs and enjoying the extra cash from having no car payment.

His plan didn’t work for long.

Visiting his girlfriend (now wife) in the St. Louis area, Brett was sitting at a stop light.  Suddenly, he felt a hit from behind; a kid in a ’66 Ford Galaxie had rear-ended him.  Brett almost chuckled with this remembrance, adding he had driven the Escort back home whereas the Galaxie needed to be towed.  It seems the angle of the hit was just right for Brett’s rear bumper to harpoon the radiator and engine block of the Galaxie.  Sadly, while the Escort was able to be driven, it was damaged to the point where it was not financially feasible to repair it.

That is when Brett purchased this Escort.


He purchased his Escort here in Jefferson City.  In fact, the Ford dealer is the white building in the background of this picture.  So it has stayed close to home.


While this is the upper level LX for 1990, there was one item Brett specifically wanted: a manual transmission, as they tend to have a more harmonious relationship with four-banger engines.  Brett’s wife has never mastered the art of using a clutch, so she has never driven his Escort.

Brett and his wife have three boys, two of which are of driving age.  Neither of them have ever driven this Escort.  Brett said they have always had the Escort as a second vehicle and he wanted his sons to learn how to drive in something more substantial.  Their primary ride has been a minivan, which fit his requirement quite well.

When asked who the last person was to drive it, other than him, Brett had to think.  After he asked if mechanics counted due to servicing, and being told they did not in this context, Brett had to think deeper.  He even had to take his glasses off and rub his temples.  While he suspects it may have been his father, he simply cannot think of the last time anyone but him drove the Escort.

It has been that way for nearly a quarter century.


Early in its life, the Escort did make a few trips to see Brett’s family in St. Louis.  Other than that, it has been his commuting car, a roundtrip distance of around ten to twelve miles.  Brett could not remember the last time it even ventured outside the city limits.  He said he gets fuel about once per month but the age of the Escort is starting to become an issue, so he has to go by mileage; when the gauge hits around half, the needle starts to jump too much to have an accurate idea of fuel level.

It is still routinely returning 30 to 32 miles per gallon, depending upon the ambient temperature.  The odometer has accumulated about 115,000 miles so far.

Brett said he drives the car home and it goes in the garage.  It has never been wrecked, but it has not escaped the wrath of his boys.


The front bumper cover is cracked from one of the older boys climbing onto the bumper so he could tackle a younger brother.  He was successful but he got on his father’s bad side in doing so.


Brett said he cracked the rear bumper when climbing onto it to measure the height of a basketball hoop.  I won’t repeat what Brett told me he said when he heard the cracking sound under his feet.


Sadly, a little bit of tin-worm is starting to rear its ugly head.  This is on the driver’s side and it’s a pretty close match to the other side.

It has been stated you only get once chance to make a first impression (First Generation Escort CC here); this is very true and it appears it certainly made a good impression on its only owner.  While this Escort blended into the background twenty years ago, it has certainly defied the odds.  Seriously, what is the survival rate of first generation Escort’s?  Given a little time and a little care, this otherwise humble Escort has definitely risen above many of its contemporaries.

Brett is still too young to be thinking about retirement, but it’s likely gaining in size on his radar.  For some reason, I suspect Brett will still be driving this Escort long after that day arrives.

Who knows?  He might even wear out those Hawaiian seat covers by then.