Remember the “technical Tidbits” article R&T did on the not-yet-released Escort?
Now read a Road Test of the finished product, from 1981 January issue:
The only thing I remember about these was back in the 80’s or early 90’s Bill Kurtis was doing a documentary on the CIA ( from the traditionally liberal view point of who was watching the watchers) and was showing some declassified footage of a American giving info to a russian spy. On the video and in the audio being played the CIA field agent on the radio was saying ” they’re in a gray lynx, a gray mercury lynx”. Guess the Russians weren’t paying quite as well as most people think. And in the video, the driver almost hits another car too.
Is it my imagination, or does R&T only have the “accommodation” block on their data panel when the car in question has adequate headroom, as does this Lynx at 38″?
Seems that when the car in question is a sporty model, thus likely to have inadequate headroom, like the VW Scirocco posted a while back, they do not show the accommodation information.
Another data point of the commercial car mags declining to mention negative aspects of a model?
I suspect that if you’d have asked them, they would’ve said something about people not expecting room in a sports car.
I always liked the fancier version of the Ford Escort! Here’s a nice pic of the Lynx 5-door hatchback.
Was getting the dreaded “Error 404” when I clicked
on this notification earlier this week.
Nice trip back to the Escort twin!
Interesting transmission gear ratios on the 4 spd manual…..3rd is not quite direct drive with a 1.23 ratio while 4th is an overdrive with a .80
My Uncle had an 81 Escort wagon with the 4 speed manual and I remember him having to keep it in third on the hilly interstates and 4th was good primarily on level ground.
I wonder if these ratios stuck around on the later base and LX 4 speeds with the 2.85 final drive ratio. It was done to achieve high EPA MPG and there were similar trick models of Sentra, Civic, and Cavalier. I think only the Escort trick lasted more than a year or two. With the 2.85 ratio, the four speed got much higher EPA numbers than the five speed.
$3B in 1980 inflation adjusts to $8.6b today. For a mediocre compact car that was average in some ways, slightly below average in most, and well below average in a few. And 9 model years later it would be replaced by a clone of the competition’s successor (Mazda GLC begat the 323/Protege and thus the gen 2 Escort and Tracer).
Are there period specific metrics I’m not taking into account here, or was the Escort/Lynx actually this huge a boondoggle? I realize the Escort was a world car and that total is partially spread over worldwide production, but the NA and Euro escorts diverged heavily after just a few model years and split entirely for gen 2.
If I’m taking the numbers abd hindsight correct on their face, wow.
The GM J platform isn’t looking so bad anymore.
I’m guessing that program cost is why they kept them in production here and abroad until they were beyond obsolete. The car that replaced it in Europe was actually even less ambitious than the 1981 Escort, having given up its independent rear suspension. I suspect Ford amortized some of the cost of the Escort by spreading its chassis design to the tippy Tempo and Topaz.
Ford did just fine with the original FWD Escort project. People seem to forget it was the best selling car in the US until the Taurus came along and it took the title of best selling car in the world too. Add in the Tempaz which was a strong seller too and they had sufffecient volume to amortize the development costs and make some profit.
There was no amortizing 3 billion dollars at the time. The long production run after sales had fallen is the evidence that they screwed up. GM did the same thing with Saturn. They spent far more than they could ever hope to recoup while the car was competitive enough to sell at a profit, so they never had a competitive follow up. GM claimed Saturn was profitable most years by taking a several billion dollar write down one year and claiming millions in profits other years. It doesn’t work.
One of my sisters had a Lynx wagon, an 83 I think. Her’s had the front seats seen in these pictures while the rear seat was completely vinyl.
Having driven several 80s Escorts when they were 5 to 10 years old, they were okay cars but compared to a VW Rabbit or Honda Civic they were a poor runner-up. An Escort compared to a J-car? Like comparing a mid 80s Ranger to a mid 80s El Camino.
I’m not a fan of the J-car, nor do I believe they really hold any sort of durability distinction relative to average imports, but there were early(single square headlight) J-cars in use for a couple years longer than there were early Escorts where I lived. Both were practically extinct by about 1991.
A friend’s father had an ’84 Escort wagon. It was much better than the early production cars. The interior was much improved and it was actually screwed together pretty well. When the cars were facelifted for 1985.5, people I knew stopped buying them. I knew many people that bought them when they came out, and quite a few that bought early ones as two to four year old used cars as high school commuters, but they just weren’t selling to the same demographics after the facelift. I think they were improved, but they were too far behind the competition at that point.
So the GLC has a notchy shift I drove one for a couple of months before it sold and never noticed, sure glad I found that out, or is it these muppets really cant drive a manual as this seems to be a common complaint?
So the GLC has a notchy shift I drove one for a couple of months before it sold and never noticed,
As I posted some time before, my mom bought an 81 first gen front drive GLC, instead of an Escort, because the Mazda 5 speed’s shifter was vastly more precise than the Escort’s.
I drove an 85 (first gen front drive) GLC for 12 years and the shifter worked better than the shifter in the 98 Civic that replaced it.
This “Muppet” drove an MGB before & knows perfectly well how to drive stick; the Escort’s was permanently notchy unlike the 323/GLC, which according to reviewers, disappeared after break-in.
I know American Bashing has been an Anglo pastime ever since Frances Trollope at least, but please leave that to us since we’re better informed. Same reason ethnic humor is best left to insiders.
You wrote the review did you?
I owned an Escort for 7 yrs; I believe it was R&T which said the GLC’s notchiness was temporary. In any case, I don’t know how bad shifting could cause that, it’s a completely different issue.
And I know what weak synchros feel like, too.
You can tell how serious Mercury was to give the RS a sporty feel. 165/80 tires.
vs the 175/70 shoes my “Luxury” GLC LX wore.
165×80-13 tires….a “classic” example of Detroit’s penny pinching. And they probably gave the Escort/Lynx a false feeling of (added) steering ease.
I’m not the typical Detroit defender, but plenty of competitive cars from other countries came with 155R13 or 145R12 tires at the time. The standard tire when the Rabbit was introduced was 155R13, and there were no upgrade options from VW.
+1 I’m surprised that the Lynx RS came from the factory with fancy Michelin tires – tires that Michelin had spent good money creating artwork and English television commercials for:
Absent power-steering & power-brakes, I got a workout driving my Escort with its 155 tires.
Those vinyl/cloth seat covers were a nice cheap way to dress up an interior. Durable too, I wish they hadn’t gone out of style.
My mother had an 82 Lynx in the lighter medium blue metallic. She loved it and with proper tires it was an amazing car in the snow. We were leaving Holyoke Mall (in MA) and the drive out was uphill and icy. No one’s gigantic station wagon could make it out. My mother backed up, gave it the gas and the Lynx made it up over the top without ever losing its grip.
It also had the butt-and-thigh-searing black vinyl seats for your summer enjoyment.
Smooth vinyl, or the Ford “woven vinyl” that was like 20 grit sandpaper? Aunt Betty’s ’83 Escort wagon had the latter (at least it was light blue though).
There were alot of yearly changes on the first-gen Escort/Lynx, some to address the concerns expressed in this article. The 5-door hatch (a.k.a. the “Missing Lynx”) finally arrived for ’82, but there were several other more subtle changes to the suspension tuning, pedal placement, clutch takeup, and such. Car and Driver tested an ’82 Lynx and was floored at how many fixes were instituted for the second year’s production. See the incredibly sloppily finished luggage area in the R&T photos? For year two the ill-fitting carpeting on the sidewalls was replaced with molded plastic that fit well; a couple of years later the rear-seat mechanism was changed to allow the seat cushion to flip forward berore the seatback was lowered, allowing a perfectly flat floor instead of the substantial step-up shown here. At the same time a 50/50 split folding seat became available. Lots of improvements of this sort, including a more powerful 1.9L engine found their way into the Escort in later years, yet it never seemed to be at the head of its class. The RS was replaced by an XR3 model in 1983 that had true sporty credentials, including multiport EFI, pseudo-Recaro seats, extra gauges in the console, and low-profile rubber. It was a reasonable alternative to the VW GTI, though still not quite as speedy.
One of the stranger mysteries of this era at Ford was how different US and European-market cars were even when they looked alike. Despite being developed simultaneously, the Euro Escort shared only a few parts with its North American counterpart, for no obvious reason. (Over in Moparville, a similar situation inflicted the Talbot Horizon that looked exactly like the Plymouth version but was almost entirely different under the skin. Likewise again with the Vauxhaul versions of the Chevette and Cavalier. I guess global communications weren’t well developed in the ’70s and ’80s).
“Brittle” best describes these cars. Brittle and cheap in every way.
Certainly some of the interior trim was brittle; the top rear shelves began disintegrating into crumbs after a couple years. I’ve never seen plastic degrade like that before.
“Half-baked” is my summary of the US Escort, the more galling because other makers like Mazda & VW managed to Federalize their “world cars” much better.
While shopping for a new car in ’81 I decided to give this version of Ford’s global car a try. It couldn’t hold a candle to the driving and unified ‘feel’ of the Honda, Toyota or even the VW. I was disappointed…
Today’s Focus, however, is truly world class…
10,000 mile oil and filter changes ? Was that a typo ?
I had an ’82 Lynx LS wagon (“4-door liftgate”) for a while. Like most all LS models, it was two-toned, in my base silver/navy blue metallics with aluminum wheels. It was pretty loaded, including a sunroof (very odd for a FoMoCo wagon in those days). The interior was full of thick shag carpet, velour upholstery and (fake) burled walnut. It was a very reliable, but not very powerful, car that could easily obtain 30+ MPG with the automatic and CA emissions. My one dislike of the car: when accelerating up a hill caused a downshift, the whole front end would shimmy during the 2-3 shift before it took off and settled back down. The transaxle never gave any service trouble, though.
Having owned an 87 GL and an 88 1/2 GT I can say there wasn’t anything terribly wrong with them – the 87 was a nice simple car that never gave me any problems; the GT was problematic early on (due to dealer incompetence, but another dealer fixed everything).
These were competent cars during their time. Judged by today’s standards, they were not so good, however. That assessment does not make them bad cars at all in their day.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Copyright 2011 - 2021 Curbside Classics. All Rights Reserved.