Eight Escorts?! Ohio collector stokes the flame of this “throwaway” Ford

1985 Escort GT Turbo (left) with its Escort SS predecessor. Courtesy Danny Farcas

Danny Farcas has eight first-generation Ford Escorts. Eight.

There’s more to it but, seriously, that’s what you need to know about this 29-year-old Ohio father of two. Farcas has become a rescuer, preserver, and historian for a four-decade-old Ford that, to many, is a throwaway car.

As the images shown here indicate, we are talking about the U.S.-built Escort—not Ford’s rear-drive rally champ that Europeans got from 1967–1980. The American Escort did have some connection to the Continent, however, being developed in conjunction with Ford of Europe’s front-drive, third-generation version. The initial plan was to share resources and spread out development costs. Along the way, however, the two cars diverged and ultimately shared only a new four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. Despite a similar appearance, every body panel was different.

Ford nevertheless touted the American-market Escort as a “world car,” and stuck a little globe badge on the front fenders of the debut 1981 models. The Escort became this country’s best-selling car in its second year, with hefty rebates helping to boost sales. Its best year was 1985, with about 440,000 Escorts finding homes.

Given how infrequently an Escort appears on U.S. roadways today, many of these cars met their end at the crusher. Not these eight.

Danny Farcas with 83 Escort Squire
Courtesy Danny Farcas

Farcas added his latest Escort this past September, a 1983 wagon with the Squire fake wood trim option and a Hollywood history. He bought it two hours from his home in Niles, Ohio, and says it had been rented out for films and TV. He was told the car was used in the upcoming Tom Hanks film, A Man Called Otto, due out in December. Before that, it appeared in the Netflix series, Archive 81.

Before we unravel how Farcas found himself surrounded by Ford Escorts, let’s set the wayback machine to the Malaisey days of fall 1980.

Replacing the troubled Pinto

Ford launched the Escort in October 1980 with a starting price of about $5500. It was a replacement for the Pinto, which had been making headlines for its propensity to explode in rear-end collisions. The Escort was a leap over the Pinto in many ways. It was smaller but roomier, thanks to front-wheel drive. With four-wheel independent suspension, the Escort rode and handled better than the Pinto, too.

The Escort arrived as a two-door hatchback and a four-door wagon for its first year, joined by a four-door hatch for 1982. Trim levels mirrored the L, GL, and GLX badges of the contemporary Mustang, a naming scheme picked up from European Fords. There was also a properly sporty 1982 Escort SS which was in fact not a cheesy, dealer-applied decal package. Mercury sold a version of the Escort as the Lynx, featuring more upscale interior touches.

1981 Escort SS advertisement
This couple thought SS stood for “super sexy.” Ford

The early Escorts gave 65 horsepower and 85 lb-ft of torque from a new 1.6-liter SOHC four-banger. Ford dubbed the engine “CVH,” for its “Compound Valve-angle Hemispherical” combustion chamber. So, yeah, that thing’s (technically) got a hemi, but performance was lacking. Original transmission choices included a four-speed manual (fourth gear was overdrive) and the three-speed ATX automatic. This was basic transportation, Eighties style, but with a long option list to enhance comfort and convenience.

Ford claimed up to 44 mpg on the highway for a four-speed Escort, which translates to 32 mpg using the more accurate current EPA rating system. An 80-hp “H.O.” engine was available for 1982 in the Escort GT (renamed from the Escort SS), and 1983 brought electronic fuel injection and a five-speed manual to the GT. For 1984, Ford covered both ends of the spectrum with a 52-horsepower Mazda 2.0-liter diesel option for max fuel economy and a 120-hp turbo option for top performance in the GT. The diesel gave an impressive 47 mpg highway with the current EPA formula.

Affordable, usable, fun

The Escort was not Farcas’ first automotive love. That would be the Chevy “square-body” pickup introduced for 1973. He remembers being able to pick up a “relatively rust-free” one-ton for $500. “Those trucks are about 18 grand today, and the parts are impossible for me to afford now that I have a family and a house,” he tells Hagerty.

He confesses an admiration for oddball cars, as if the octo-Escort situation wasn’t clear enough. “I remember as a kid, my brother had an Escort. It just stuck in my head. I always thought it was a good-looking little car.”

Farcas got his first Escort in early 2019—an ’85 two-door with just 30,000 miles. He bought from an original, proverbial “little old lady” owner in West Virginia. “That one got me into it,” he says. “I loved the body style, and I saw that parts were insanely cheap.”

Danny’s first Escort was this 1985 model with 30,000 miles that he bought in West Virginia. Jim Koscs

Next came a diesel Escort, another West Virginia car. “It was a super clean four-door five-speed. A young kid had it and was destroying it,” Danny says. “I took it off his hands before he could do any more damage. I did some work to the engine and one time got almost 70 miles per gallon on a long trip.”

He traded the diesel to a friend for a Mercury Lynx. Others landed in his lap via social media.

Farcas, who works as a tech for lawn, garden, and tree service equipment, learned to fix cars while growing up in an automotive family. “My dad did body work his entire life, and I was into the mechanical side of things,” he recalls.

Half of his Escorts are currently in running order. He uses those four to commute 50 miles to his job in Akron and take the family on outings. The others are works in progress, but Farcas aims to get all of them back on the road by next year.

Which brings up that funky Escort SS, again.

1981 Escort SS
Yes, Ford really made an Escort SS. Danny says he’ll never sell this one. Courtesy Danny Farcas

Escort SS saga

It may seem unfathomable today, but 40+ years ago, Ford product planners either didn’t know or didn’t care that “SS” was already a Chevy thing. They cooked up an Escort SS package that gave the car blackout trim, “Special Handling Suspension” with P-metric radials, and 8-inch rear drum brakes in place of the standard 7-inch brakes. It wore striping and “SS” decals and used the standard 1.6-liter engine good for 65 hp.

The Marti Report Danny ordered confirmed Ford made 6842 SS package Escorts for 1981. Danny figures that few are left. He found his by accident.

“I did a Facebook post looking for a Turbo GT, and somebody posted a photo of the SS. I paid $1000 for it,” he says. “The seller was in Minnesota, and he trailered it to Illinois and left it with a friend. I picked it up with a buddy.”

The SS cost $7641 new. For some reason, the AM/FM stereo and air conditioning were added as dealer-installed options. Danny knows at least some of the car’s history, including that the seller had acquired it from “Mr. Good Pliers,” a YouTuber who chronicles large barn-find collections. Mr. Good Pliers had purchased the car in Kansas and stored it for 20 years.

1981 Escort SS trailered
Danny’s Escort SS was owned and stored for 20 years by YouTuber “Mr. Good Pliers.” Courtesy Danny Farcas

“Basically, he saved the car,” Danny says. “It’s about 98 percent rust free. The paint had no sheen when I bought it. I got it shining again. The interior is in good shape, aside from the seats. The covers have a weird pattern that I can’t find. I’d like to find the original pattern or have someone make it. I never plan on getting rid of this car, even if I must sell the rest of them.”

Farcas would especially like to find an Escort SS wagon like the one shown in Ford’s ads. He traced one to a scrapyard in Spokane, Washington only to learn it had been sold. “Then it fell off the face of the Earth,” he says. He also wants to find a Lynx RS wagon.

SS to GT

What prompted the change from Escort SS to GT? You may recall that Ford had apparently planned to use the SS badge on the 1982 V-8 performance Mustang, as well. If you have any car magazines from spring and summer 1981, you might see photos of a preproduction test car wearing an SS trunk badge. Ford probably received a cease-and-desist letter from GM’s lawyers, because the V-8 Mustang had GT badges in 1982. As previously mentioned, the Escort SS was dropped and forgotten, replaced by a GT with the 80-hp engine.

For 1984, the GT Turbo’s engine, which did not use an intercooler, had 30 ponies over the Volkswagen GTI and 10 hp more than that year’s Dodge Omni GLH. Its 9-second 0-60 run and 16.8-second quarter mile put it a few tenths behind the GLH, which would get a turbo the following year. The Escort GT Turbo clobbered the VW’s 10.6 / 17.7-second times.

“The Turbo GT was fun, but unreliable,” Farcas says, adding that he believes Ford might have made just about 1000 examples in 1985.

1985 Escort GT Turbo rear
1985 Escort GT Turbo with 1980s-fashionable rear louvers. Courtesy Danny Farcas

The Escort engines had other issues. “They were known for dropping valve seats,” Farcas says. “It’s an interference motor. The timing belts were only good for about 30,000 miles if you were lucky. Then they’d break, trashing the motor.”

The GT models had Michelin TRX wheels and tires, a feature Ford offered on Mustang and Thunderbird, as well. (Ferrari used TRX tires, too.) Michelin made the 165/70 R365mm TRX specifically for the Escort GT and Lynx RS. They’re no longer available, but Danny managed to find a couple of used sets. Coker stocks NOS tires it sells “for display purposes only” due to their age. They’re about $100 per tire in this size.

The Farcas Collection

Escort GT Turbos
Danny’s little boy greets new arrivals. Courtesy Danny Farcas

Farcas collects only the 1981–1985 Escort models, preferring them over the 1985-1/2 design update with its more aerodynamic nose. He is also partial to the interior in the 1981–1983 models, which features a squared-off dash rather than the rounded look in later models. He plans to spend more time in the coming months and year getting more of his cars road ready.

His current fleet:

  • 1981 Escort GL two-door. Highly optioned car with 85,000 miles.
  • 1981 Escort SS four-speed.
  • 1981 Mercury Lynx base model, four-speed. “It’s rusty and beat up but still a cool car. It’s got a header and a cam.”
  • 1982 Escort four-speed wagon with low miles. “I got this in upstate New York from the original owner. Her son gave it to me for free. They wanted the car to go to someone who would care for it. It was basically spotless underneath.”
  • 1983 Escort Squire wagon movie car, automatic.
  • 1983 Mercury Lynx RS, EFI five-speed. This car has the Ford Premium Sound option that included a bass-boost button on the floor. Danny notes that it used different headrests, gauges, and door panels from the Escort GT.
  • 1984 Escort GT Turbo (blue car in photos): Showing just 19,000 miles, this car had been parked since 1988 and does not run. “I assume it needs a cylinder head,” Danny says, citing a common failure point for all Escort 1.6-liter engines, not just turbos. He blames this problem for causing many owners to simply park or get rid of their cars, since the repair could cost over $1000.
  • 1985 Escort GT Turbo (red car in photos): “This is a low-mile modified car from out West,” he says. “Someone did things to it that I wouldn’t have done. It’s got a bigger turbo, injectors, and throttle body. I’ve got the boost at 20 psi. I think stock was 8 or 10.”

Save the Escorts!

Farcas acknowledges that the Ford Escort does not have much of a following. He reports limited support for the pre-1985 cars. “If I have any performance problems or need troubleshooting help, I’m on my own,” he says. “There’s a guy in North Carolina I go to for help with fuel injection stuff.”

In addition to preserving Escorts for himself, Farcas has saved others left for dead. “I like to place them in homes where they won’t get destroyed,” he says, adding that he keeps a small stash of critical parts. “If someone is in dire need of something, I’ll sell it.” he adds.

That is the spirit that helps keep “throwaway” cars from going extinct. When it comes to niche machines like this, a labor of love is what it takes.

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    Yeah Danny’s quite the collector now, he’s had other Escorts too and secured another just recently haha

    I’ve only had 4 Escorts (3 currently) but do boast one of the larger Ford EXP collections reaching 10 in total. However only one is as nice as any of Danny’s, he’s always got me beat with quality over quantity haha

    Danny is a good dude and a great asset to the Escort community. I enjoy seeing his cars and his comments on the Ford Escort Owners Association (FEOA) page on Facebook.

    Had several early Escorts. The first ’81 4 sp. was bought new in Canada. It made a few trips to MN.
    A couple fills up averaged 44 mpg. It was brown.
    Bought new a ’94 for our daghters 16th birthday. It was green
    Two wagons. bought used and used mostly for traveling to work. Not sure what years, probably ’85 to ’90. they were both like a metalic red.
    All these 4 Escorts were manuals.
    I believe I only replaced a belt on the green ’94 and maybe one of the red wagons.
    I don’t recall woking on or replacing parts on any of the fine cars.
    Loved all three.
    I have many stories about these cars if anyone is interested. Title subjet “Escorts” so I don’t delete.

    I now have a 2006 Focus wagon 5 sp. A nice practicle car with avg 33 mph; got 38 mph on a couple long trips. I bought it used with 80K miles, now has 130 K.
    Bought new a 2002 Focus 5sp. got hit by another car in 2011 and was totaled.

    I bought my 1994 Escort LX February 4, 1994. Still have it. It’s a 5 speed with a/c. Dealer took 10.5 for it. Listed for 11.7. Has 127K on it now. Gets over 40 MPG on hiway, 35 MPG in town. Had to replace timing belt, alternator and rear springs on account of road salt gathers in the bottom spring chambers without a hole for drainage. It still looks new and is a head Turner and Conversation starter. It has a permanent place in my garage.

    Stories like this make my day. God bless Danny and all his enthusiasm to save these cars! They were everywhere when we were teenagers – and then they all disappeared. I saw one of the later GTs in a pick-a-part a few months ago and just had to stop and soak it in for a bit.

    I LOVE this story. As a four eyed Fox GT fan, I always thought of the Escort as their economy minded little brother. When I owned my 84 Mustang GT, I was on the prowl for an 84 Escort GT Turbo to serve as its daily companion. Unfortunately, they’re rarer then hen’s teeth. I can’t believe the owner in this story found two! My only foray into Escort land was an 86 GT an ex-girlfriend owned, and a 91 GT that I owned for a couple of years. Both fun little cars. I’m glad to see there’s someone out there who appreciates these and is willing to preserve them.

    Great story…I drove a “Jalapeno Red” coupe and later a blue wagon. My sister had a Lynx.
    The Ford EXP was also a pretty cool car!

    Sorry to be well, disapointed, but the real Ford Escorts were the Mk1 Escort, and Mk2 Escort, both rear wheel drive, and the first front wheel drive, the Mk3.
    None of these cars where ever exported to the US.
    These Escorts are all Mk4, which were basically Mazda badge engineered with restyled bodywork.
    They were not well received in the UK, as they were poorly finished, and well known for harsh suspension, and a rather gutless performance.
    I have owned a total of four Mk 1, 2, and 3 Escorts, and still own a rare Ford Escort Mk1 Twincam Escort (with original Lotus twin cam 1600). This car is probably the most fun I have ever had on four wheels !
    Nothing good ever came of the association between Ford and Mazda. They ruined a famous name by badge engineering a restyled Mazda 323 as a Ford Escort. The only good thing that came along after that was the Ford Escort RS which was basically an Escort Mk4 shell fitted with a Cosworth Turbo engine driving all four wheels – nice piece of kit, and obscenely fast.

    These were not Mazda-based cars. Those came later. The first American Escort was developed with the British Mk. III, as explained in the story. Not every car has to be a rally winner. (Author)

    I currently own a garage kept 1989 Ford Escort GT I purchased new in Oct 1988. Runs perfectly & in excellent condition!
    I may sell it at some point, however I have taken it to many car shows with cash offers but have not accepted any.

    I own a 1981 ford escort ss. With 90000 km. Ontario Canada. Little rough when it comes to the paint. In the works right now of restoring.

    Got me beat, I’ve had 4, a ’94, a ’95 and 2 ’96’s. Still own 3, though the ’94 is now a parts car. Like Danny I’ve laid in a lot of parts. About the Pinto. One of my first jobs was delivery boy for a printing house and my car of preference was a regular, not the flaming hatchback, ’74 Pinto with the 1.9 liter sohc Lima engine with the air pump removed. That car was hot, and compared to most of its competition, was a decent handler despite its overweight body.

    My first car, 83 Escort GT. I have pics somewhere. I received it in 86 my Jr. year in HS. Mine was identical to Danny’s 83 Lynx in color. Silver with orange badges and the EFI 5-speed badge behind the front wheel wells. Mine had the steel wheels. Faux Recaro’s, and installed a faux Alpine head unit. Remember Alpine’s 6 square green buttons of the time? Man, I loved that Car. Treated it poorly and she was gone by 90-91 due to suspension issues. Still ran great, can’t believe I never went through a timing belt over all those years. So happy to come across the article.

    I still have a nice ’91 GT manual ,might finally sell it off soon, but has been super reliable for 22 years for me

    I’ve been a Lynx enthusiast for 30 years, well before I could even drive, when we got an ‘84 2-door Lynx L with a 4-speed. It needed a lot of work as previous owners had abused it, but once it was fixed up it served us well. My favourite Lynx however is the 1981-82 base model 2-door in medium blue metallic with a medium wedgewood blue interior and a 4-speed. A fellow with family in my old building once brought along a Lynx fitting that description which I stood outside gawking at in light rain. As far as I know its only option was the instrument cluster.

    I’ve only had a couple Escorts (an ill-fated ’87 GT was my first car and a wrecked ’89 i got from an ex with all intention to repair, but lost my storage and sold it, also my parents bought an 85.5 new), but I’ve owned many of the Escort’s sedan counterparts, the Tempo. I’ve had one from every year and with every version of every engine, save for the diesel. I really miss my 1992 Tempo LX V-6 and my 1991 Tempo GLS 5 speed coupe, but I’d take a 4 cyl/auto again just to drive one again, lol. I was stupid for selling mine.

    By the way, I had a person tell me that he put a Tempo 2.3L paired with the 3.73 5 speed (Escort GT, Tempo GLS) in an early Escort and it was insanely quick. The 2.3L HSC has a lot of torque and is far more robust than the CVH. Just something to keep in mind if you have to re-power a ‘Scort one day. You can find a MPFI in 88-91, sequential MPFI from 92-3, of course CFI from 85-87 and carburetor for 1984 (varies in Canada).

    Love your collection. Keep it up!

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