If ever an ad were untruthful, it would be this spot for the 1981 Escort. Quoting European publications which were evaluating an almost completely different machine, we can see how much license was taken in marketing Dearborn’s duplicate effort. Four-cylinder hating Jason Shafer may not care for the Focus he rented but while I feel very differently, his criticism helps explain why Ford felt the need to revise the European Mk3 Escort so extensively. With added chrome, ’70s lounge-style interior trim and soft chassis calibration, Americans got a subcompact car meant to make the transition from a Maverick painless. Calling it a world car was more than a stretch, but what I’d really like to know is what exactly a “destiny car” is.
I remember reading something way back then where they discussed how difficult it was to design and produce the hatch with the glass all the way down to the leading edge of the hatch. People take that for granted, but back then a considerable amount of development had to take place to make it viable.
What’s interesting to me is that Car and Driver, in particular, did NOT like the first 1981 Escort it tested. So the featured quote from that magazine was either taken out of context, or the one good thing that they said about the car.
Ford did make almost immediate improvements in the Escort, beginning with the 1982 model year, and the magazine did recognize that effort.
As I recall, they didn’t think too much of the engine, which was rather underpowered on the early U.S. cars. The CVH engine was also roasted pretty thoroughly by the British press for being thrashy at higher engine speeds; in that sense, the American version probably fared better just because with automatic, the transmission would upshift by then anyway.
I’m not seeing how it is so untruthful. The quotes are equally split between US and overseas media and they specifically note that “Both American and overseas versions are winning accolades from automotive experts in their countries” On second thought I guess that is a lie since they are calling automotive journalists, automotive experts. So while they aren’t specifically saying that the euro ones are not the same as the US ones they certainly imply it.
The main point of the ad was to show small car buyers that the new Escort was nothing at all like the Pinto.
And yeah, pics of early 1st Gen Focus prototypes were called ‘the new Escort” by AutoWeek and C&D.
As I recall, the press was surprised that Ford chose to dump the Escort name (particularly in Europe, where it went back a long ways and had quite a history). When the first images started showing up of the Mk1 Focus, the automotive press assumed it was the next-generation Escort, which it was in principle if not in fact.
We could wonder what if Ford had continued to use the Escort nameplate instead of the Focus of the current car?
This “destiny car…” Something got lost in translation from German into English I guess, I’m pretty sure the Germans didn’t call it this “Schicksal Pkw”. It wasn’t that bad…..
My second car, after the melt-down of the complete interior of my 1982 Renault 5 in 1990, was a 1987 Escort. It had a 1.4 liter engine with a carb and manual choke. A simple, reliable, practical and well-built grocery getter. And I must say that its paint quality was better than the paint on the Escort I bought new in 1995. The 1995 Escort had the 1.8 liter 16v 105 hp Zetec engine.
My mom’s boyfriend in the early 90s inherited his parents’ white 4 speed manual 1987 Escort wagon, and she dubbed it “The Grocery Getter” as well. It was the car I learned to drive on when I was 11, so I was rather fond of it, despite not liking Fords in general. This one was fuel injected, pretty nice car despite its lack of options. The body held up much better than my mom’s 1987 Buick Somerset that she had at that time and eventually became my first car. Paint was typical chalky Ford non-clearcoat paint, but it stayed on and the body stayed solid with minimal rust.
Another chapter in the saga of the Big 3 giving away a big chunk of the market to the Japanese with mediocre product designed to appeal to middle-aged housewives in Nebraska. The only reason to buy this dog versus the Accord, Rabbit or even Corolla was national chauvinism, and Detroit milked that fast-buck and cynical approach for decades.
Saying the Escort was the most technically advanced Ford ever isn’t a stretch, when you remember how low the bar was in 81.
The 1st Escort was vastly better than many in the segment. It was in the ballpark with the Accord, Rabbit , also new in 81 GLC and Omnirizon. You could go down another step to the Civic/Colt/Tercel/F10, but the big sellers in the segment, besides the Pinto and Chevette, were the Corolla and Datsun 210, all rear drive/live axle 60s tech.
Actually, I wouldn’t mind having an early 80s Escort for a beater.
Although the European Granada by that point had fuel injection, independent rear suspension, and I think four-wheel discs, so it’s one of those things that merits some qualification.
It’s not a matter of architecture, it’s a matter of finesse, fine tuning and quality. In that sense, it was far from being in the same league as an 81 GLC.
it was far from being in the same league as an 81 GLC.
I drove an 81 GLC 5spd sedan and an 81 Escort 4 spd wagon back to back when they were new. The Mazda had a better shifter and better shock control. I thought the Escort engine smoother. The Mazda was a bit quicker.
Neither of them had the suspension control, rigid body or seat comfort of my Renault R5
Over the long haul, the Mazda had a better reliability record. When i replaced the Renault in 85, I went with a GLC.
The GLC was tuned more for a sport feeling while the Escort was tuned for a softer ride for sure but under those vastly different bodies there were a number of shared parts. A lot of the internal and some external manual transaxle parts for example though the GLC got a final drive ratio that gave a little quicker acceleration while the Escort was set up for a lower cruising rpm.
A friend of mine bought a blue one brand new in 1981, with a tax refund as his down payment. He loved it, but I to this day have no idea why. It was cramped, slow, and after seeing one hit by a 1980 Camaro, I doubt it was very safe either. He had the Escort for a long time, since it was in Las Vegas and Phoenix. It only got retired when, on it’s second motor and transmission, the dash had a short in it, and it burned for a while before the fire dept was able to get it out. He bought a well used Ranger for his next vehicle, and complained about it endlessly.
One of my friends bought one of these right after it came out in 1981…complete stripper, without even a radio, he bought the wagon. Back then the interest rates on cars was through the roof (one other friend had a 24% loan on his used car…I bought a used car that year and felt lucky to get a 16% loan on it) and I think he went new to get a lower interest rate…with a young family he wanted as good a deal as he could get. His preceeding car was a ’74 Audi Fox sedan, which rusted so badly that the front seat caved into the floor, so he needed a replacement. I rode in it several times, it seemed OK, but I preferred my carpool buddy’s ’78 Ford Fiesta…funny thing I was in a carpool with 2 other people, and all of us had 2 door (well, 3 door hatchbacks), not a 4 door in the bunch back then. (but the Escort was a 5 door wagon)
Blandmobiles certainly have been our destiny. I think the ad is spot on.
The Escort came out at a time where small cars were considered the domain of the following:
1. Spare car/2nd car
2. Car for the kids
3. Car for folks that want a new car but cannot afford most new cars
4. Car for cheapskate
I had a 1990 Escort and I liked the thing. It was not fast and not pretty looking but it never let me down.
Here is an article I remember seeing years ago when the The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety did a test to see how much a minor accident cost to fix.
The cheapest repairs were for a 81 Escort
I was disgusted with my American iron to that point. I tried to finagle a close-out Ford Fiesta but waiting too long and the sharp one I had my eye one got sold I then test drove various bottom feeders, including the new Escort.
I ran to the Japanese for the first time.