A photo for Sunday: We Are the Ones, You Are the Ones Too.

To speak comparatively, this is funnier than a Steve Martin essay: the 1991-1996 Ford Escort. 

1991-1996 Ford Escort (US model).

The US Ford Escort here occupied showrooms from 1991 to 1996. The EU versions straddled this: 1986 to 1992 and 1990 to 1997 (there’s a year when Ford sold all three). In order to see the redundancy of this consider the dimensions. I’ll do them as US first then EU and compare the 1990-1997 Escort (EU). Length: 4318 mm/4036 mm; Width:  1694 mm/ 1692 mm;  Height: 1334 mm/ 1395 mm. The US car has a 2499 mm wheelbase and the EU car a 2525 mm wheelbase.

Not the same, I admit, but not very much not the same. The EU model even rolled off production lines in South America. The US car emerged from plants in Michigan and Mexico. Conceivably NAFTA had as much to do with this arrangement as anything resembling engineering and marketing considerations.

American cars in Europe (this one lives in Basel, Switzerland) are usually unlike anything the Europeans make so one understands the appeal. Quite why one might want a slightly distended US Escort instead of the Mazda 323 it shared bits with is anyone’s guess. My theory is that a US family brought it when one of them was working for one of the many international corporations based in Basel.

Still, did they imagine it might be hard to buy a smallish FWD hatchback on this side of the Atlantic?

 

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

5 thoughts on “A photo for Sunday: We Are the Ones, You Are the Ones Too.”

  1. A good find there.

    I’ve seen the odd Australian Laser or Meteor of that generation in the UK, probably long extinct by now.

    I knew about the Renault-engined Brazilian Escort Mk.3s which were iexported to Sweden, Finland, and Norway, and a quick check of Liepedia reveals that Switzerland got them too.

    It also records that Cyprus and Malta got the 90-94 Laser, which would have enriched an already interesting carscape.

    1. Which Escort is this exactly? I’ve never heard of Brasilian Fords being sold in Switzerland. Does it look the same as a German Escort?

  2. Ford and Mazda jointly opened a factory in Hermosillo Mexico in 1986. Lincoln-Mercury, a subsidiary of Ford, wanted a small car to compete against the abysmal Escort Ford had foisted off on North America and them in 1980 and called the Lynx in Mercury (dis)guise. So Mazda cobbled up a hatchback called the Mercury Tracer (323 sort of) and assembled it in Hermosillo. One of my employees bought an early one – his previous two vehicles had been a diesel Escort (don’t even ask) and a Ford Ranger small pickup diesel (same rotten engine). The Tracer was a revelation- nothing went wrong! In fact the word spread that these Mexican-built cars were essentially error-free, and Hermosillo became known as Ford’s best quality assembly plant, winning internal prizes.

    So the Escort Mk 1’s that Hermosillo also churned out were no better than US made ones except perhaps assembled better – it was the poor design and incredibly rotten CVH engines that hampered those useless things up till 1991. No wonder Ford decided to use the Mazda chassis design for the Escort starting in 1991. You could even get the 1.8l DOHC Mazda engine in higher trims, a revolution for people used to the burping, snatchy non-linear power delivery of the CVH. The station wagon was very popular in these parts, a pleasant and attractive vehicle with the manual and 1.8.

    NAFTA wasn’t signed until 1994 after much wrangling on US corn (maize) surpluses being dropped on Mexico that eventually ruined smallholding farmers unable to compete with the corn machine. Canada lost all its branch plants of US companies, both consumer and industrial, and 400,000 manufacturing jobs, which started with the Canada US Free Trade pact over five years before. Mexico was the hold up.

    So what NAFTA had to do with a Mazda/Escort designed in the 1989 to 1991 time period is – essentially nothing. The thought of having a reliable car was probably the reason. And remember, Europe didn’t even have lead free petrol until 1993, so the engines were different and catalytic converter-equipped (requiring different floor pans), as they had been for the previous 18 years. Ford owned a lot of Mazda and the Mercury Cougar, Probe GT, Mazda MX-6 in the early ’90s and mainly the 626 were made in Flat Rock Michigan from the late 1980s until production ceased in 2012. Ford by then had flogged off almost all its Mazda shares. The Ford 2.0, 2.3 and 2.5l 4 cylinder engines are stilled based on the Mazda MZR engine family which I think Ford called Duratech afore they turboed them. The Mazdaspeed3 turbo 2.3l of years gone by has the exact bore and stroke of the present Mustang Ecoboost. Mazda itself replaced those old birds with the SkyActiv requiring no main bearing girdle starting in 2012 or so.

    Seeing that lonely US Escort in Switzerland probably meant a US diplomat or family member b(r)ought it as a personal vehicle. We used to laugh our heads off at full-size ’67 Chevy cars in dull paint which hobbled around London when we Canadians got there in 1969. Very subtle. Official America never buys foreign, although they might have bought a few Hi-Luxes here and there. The largest single car factory in America is after all run by Toyota at Georgetown Kentucky.

    1. G’day from Olde Europe, Bill.

      Lead-free petrol was introduced in Germany in 1983, not 1993. We’re mere decades behind, not centuries, you know?

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