6k Original Miles: 1982 Ford EXP

When Ford was rolling out the new Escort to replace the aging Pinto, they concluded there was a market for a sporty-two seat version of the car and the EXP was born for 1982. It sold well the first year, but sales fell off a cliff after that and the car was gone by 1988. The seller may have the lowest mileage surviving EXP on the planet, with just 6,200 said to be on the clock. It can be found in Strongsville, Ohio (southwest of Cleveland), and available here on Facebook Marketplace for $4,900. Thanks, Andy Morris, for uncovering this one for us!

The first generation of the front-wheel-drive EXP ran between 1982 and 1985 and – through 1983 – Mercury offered its own version, badged as the LN7. The EXP would be the first Ford two-seater since the 1957 Thunderbird and also the last two-seater until they resurrected the T-Bird in 2002. While the EXP was clearly a small sports car, buyers would sometimes yank out the rear carpeting and drop in some seats from the Escort, making space for two really tiny people to sit. The EXP rode on the Escort’s 94-inch wheelbase with four-wheel independent suspension from Europe’s 1970s Fords. After selling just shy of 100,000 EXP’s its first year, sales dropped by nearly 80% the second year and never recovered to be more than one-third of the EXP’s rookie season.

While the seller doesn’t elaborate on the car’s history, the reported mileage of 6,000-plus suggests someone thought in 1982 they were buying a future collectible and only drove it sparingly for 38 years. Or it was in storage for a good bit of that time. At any rate, it still rolls on its original tires, which are likely hard as rocks by now. While the seller doesn’t offer us any really good pictures, the car physically looks fairly good. There are no obvious dents or rust, but one photo suggests that some of the black on the bumpers may be fading or discolored. The seller does indicate that body has been “painted around,” but without indicating whether there were any accidents and carelessness to cause this.

The lone photo of the interior shows a car that has been kept up, but it would be nice to see carpeting, the headliner and door panels. The car is equipped with factory air conditioning (which may have strained the small 4-cylinder), cruise control and even an 8-track tape player (bazinga!).

What’s likely under the hood is the same inline-4 that propelled the Ford Escort, a 1.6-liter CVH rated at 70 horsepower. Since the car weights 200 lbs. more than the Escort, the use of a 4-speed in this car over the automatic was probably a good choice. At least it was economical in this configuration with reports of highway gas mileage exceeding 40 mpg. Since the EXP has not yet achieved (or will achieve) collectible status, the price guides that mention this car quote dirt cheap prices. This means the seller is going to have to find someone who had one and is trying to recover their lost youth in order to get his asking price. Even with 6,200 miles.

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  1. Chris

    An eight track tape player in 1982?

    Like 5
  2. Bob_in_TN Member

    These were plenty quirky and odd-looking, but I always kind of liked them. I’m always pleased to see a basic economy car which has survived; there can’t be very many at all left, let alone low-mileage ones. If you want to take something to Cars & Coffee that no one else will have, here’s a low-cost opportunity.

    Like 11
  3. 370zpp

    Some larger rims and tires would totally change the look.

    Like 3
  4. gtyates

    My Aunt had one of these. Same color as this one. Neat looking, very slow though. She and my Uncle moved on to a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. :)

    Like 4
  5. Easy Money

    I just bought an ’82 last month in decent shape for $1500 in Ohio and drove it back to Florida. The little car got 38 mpg and ran like a champ. Everywhere I take it she gets tons of attention. Just a fun little car!!

    Like 12
  6. downforce

    yeah, 8 track would have to go. Just keep it for originality. Like the phone dial wheels (resembles Porsche ones), but i’d go for 14 inchers. Should be some Escort wheels out there that fit.

    Like 1
  7. CJinSD

    I believe those wheels are 365 millimeters in diameter. Thanks Michelin! They’re actually 14.37 inches in diameter, which should be plenty of wheel for a car of this size and weight. The tire size is 165/70R365, which resembles the dimensions of a compact spare. Too bad the tires are no longer available new. Coker Tire will sell you ‘New Old Stock’ ones for display purposes, but you have to agree not to drive on them. https://www.cokertire.com/amfinder/index/index?finder_id=9517915

    I do think these wheels look great, just as Ford’s other TRX wheels looked great. Shame about not being in a size that lets you take advantage of 40 years of improving tire technology or availability.

    Like 5
  8. Superdessucke

    My god why? This is with near certainty the nicest one in existence, for whatever that is worth.

    Like 4
  9. nlpnt

    I’ve always wondered what the point of a sporty coupe (much less a 2-seater) that weighs more than the standard sedan it’s based on. Still would be cool to have today, it’d certainly be the only one at your local cruise nights or Cars and Coffee and probably even the only one at Radwood or the Concours d’Lemons.

    Like 2
    • CJinSD

      I’ve wondered about this many times myself, especially when looking at all the special heavier coupe bodies FIAT offered in the days when most of their volume came from tiny rear-engined cars with about as many horsepower as a Dixie-Chopper zero-turn lawnmower.

      Here’s my thought: The sedans were the initial products and whatever the budget was to be spent it got spent optimizing every aspect of the launch sedan. The coupe was an afterthought and a compromise based on the sedan that had to amortize any development expense on a volume predicted to be a very small percentage of total sales.

      VW used the first model year Scirocco customers as beta testers for the MK1 Golf/Rabbit released the following year. As near as I can tell, it is the exception in that a Scirocco weighed about the same as a Rabbit with comparable equipment. Is that because the Scirocco was developed with the Golf to dazzle the press as opposed to as a token effort to amortize development costs of the mechanical components?

      Like 1
  10. giorgitd

    Test drive one of these. Returning to the dealership with the salesman in the passenger seat, the shifter knob came off in my hand. You could see that the salesman knew that it was game over at that moment. Bought a Civic Si and never looked back

    Like 12
  11. Stevieg

    With this having an Escort drivetrain, ya gotta watch these for blown head gaskets. Even low mile ones are prone to it. I know this because I had a couple of these years ago. I loved the fuel economy! Performance was adequate with a stick shift, terrible as an automatic. My favorite was a red 1981 2 door Escort “stripper” lol. Yup, an Escort stripper lol. Sorry, mind went into the gutter lol.
    That car got incredible miles & took me every weekend to see my then girlfriend who lived up near Green Bay. Loved that car, makes me want this one.
    Neat car!

    Like 7
  12. Todd Zuercher

    It must be the waviness of the photo or something because the passenger side rear corner tire/wheel and fender look odd in the one shot.

    I’m astounded they sold nearly 100K of them the first year they were sold. I had no idea. I remember seeing a fair number of them on the road in the ’80s but they didn’t last long. I liked the second generation’s look much better.

    Like 1
  13. Dave Suton

    Turbo was available for the 84-85 years. Had 120 hp. With the 4 sp manual, it surprised a lot a rotted out Honda’s and Nissan’s at the time.

    Like 3
  14. irocrobb

    It would be fun to own this car and take it to local car shows . No doubt it would be the only one. Sure seems cheap to me if its as good as it sounds.

  15. Marko

    The two barrel carbs on these were Two barrel- two stage, which was like cutting a four barrel carb, front to back. Kind of unique.
    Then I think they went Variable Venturi in 1983, and were a bit difficult to get to run right.

  16. Steve

    I had one of these…we called the AC switch the “turbo” switch. You could feel a noticeable difference in power when the AC was turned off. Sadly rust and a broken timing belt did the car in. Fun to drive though.

    Like 1
    • Stevieg

      My friends 1978 Cutlass with the V-6 under the hood had the same issue. When the air was on and you would floor it, it didn’t speed up nearly as “quickly” as when the air was off. He would floor it with the air on & hit the switch (slide it, anyhow) to turn it off & it felt like you suddenly had an extra cylinder or two lol. He referred to it as his “supercharger booster switch” lol.

      Like 2
  17. Christopher Gentry

    I had a 86 (second gen) back in the early 90s. Loved that little car. Same color as this one , except mine was red inside too.

  18. B/D Member

    Some parts are easy to get for these, others impossible. Much more parts available for my Model A than an EXP. Buyer beware. Just the pic under the hood says 162,000 at least. Not that the former isn’t possible depending on how it was stored and documentation.
    Like them or not, at least it wasn’t as boring looking as most everything else of that time or now for that matter.

  19. Larry McGaw

    That’s a pretty shiny steering wheel for a car with only 6,200 miles on it. Just another 38 year old car that averaged 165 miles per year. Does anybody really fall for this nonsense?

  20. Jerry

    I bought a red 84 New in Detroit back then.
    5 speed.. .red interior, ran good and mpg was awesome.
    When loaded with my buddies on a HOT summer night in heavy traffic the 1.6 would start to heat up….without the air on so I had to be careful.Took it back to the dealer and I got the “oh thats normal” BS from them. I remember asking them ” so its normal for a car to overheat”??
    Othervthan that it ran good….drive it out to So Cal in 86 and traded it in for a New Chevy Turbo Sprint!

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