Junkyard Find: 1981 Ford Escort L Liftback Coupe

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1981 Ford Escort in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The automotive industry’s shift from rear-wheel-drive to front-wheel-drive was in full swing by the late 1970s, and the folks at Dearborn knew that the successor to the Pinto would need to get with the space-and-weight-saving FWD program. The North American Escort appeared in the 1981 model year and sold very well to buyers with strong memories of gas lines in 1979 and 1973.

Rapid depreciation condemned nearly all of these early Escorts to The Crusher well before the end of the 1990s, but a few miraculous survivors managed to hang on for extra decades. Here’s one of those cars, spotted in a Denver-area self-service yard last winter.

1981 Ford Escort in Colorado junkyard, stripes - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The L trim level was the second-from-the-cheapest available for the Escort in its first model year, but the original buyer of this car opted for two-tone paint and these trick tape stripes. It’s still a 4-speed-manual car with no air conditioning, but at least it had a bit of style.

1981 Ford Escort in Colorado junkyard, Courtesy Ford emblem - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

This junkyard is just a couple of miles from the dealership that sold the car new, nearly 40 years ago. Sometimes the Circle of Automotive Life works that way.

1981 Ford Escort in Colorado junkyard, front seats - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The interior looks decent, suggesting that the car spent most of its life garaged (the mile-high climate is rough on car interiors).

1981 Ford Escort in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

1.6 liters, 65 horsepower. Curb weight was just a hair under a ton, making this car not quite as slow as that lackluster horsepower number might suggest.

1981 Ford Escort in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2019 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Base price came to $5,494, or about $16,175 in 2019 dollars. Meanwhile, bargain-seeking 1981 car shoppers might have considered the the Honda Civic 1300 ($4,599), the Fiat Strada ($5,689), the Chevrolet Chevette Scooter ($4,700), the Mazda GLC ($5,095), the Toyota Corolla Tercel ($4,748), the Subaru STD ($4,669), the Plymouth Horizon Miser ($5,499), the Plymouth Champ ($5,263), or the Volkswagen Rabbit ($5,765). Man, the Civic looks like a steal in that crowd!

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[Images: ©2019 Murilee Martin]

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