Hot Hatch Time Capsule: 1988 Ford Escort GT

It’s almost mind-boggling that the Ford Pinto preceded the Ford Escort. Maybe it isn’t mind-boggling but the Escort was such an upgrade in almost every possible way that it’s hard to believe the two cars are even from the same company. This nice 1988 Ford Escort GT is posted here on craigslist in Mooresville, Indiana, just southwest of Indy, and the seller is asking $6,000. Thanks to Pat L. for sending in this tip!

As Ford’s hot hatch, the Escort GT has a similar look to other slightly modified cars of the era and I think it wears it well, even today. The offset grille opening with the GT logo and “go-fast” ground effects and striping are nice touches. The Escort line of cars was Ford’s first front-drive offering for the company and a decade later almost all of Ford’s cars were front-wheel-drive.

If I were still in rabid car collecting mode this would be a hard one to pass up for me. The first-generation Escorts were made starting in 1980 for the 1981 model year and the second-gen cars came out in the spring of 1990 for the 1991 model year. I prefer the boxy first-generation Escorts by far as the second-generation cars were based on Mazda’s B-platform. Not that it was a bad thing and most of us know that Mazda makes fantastic cars, I just like the boxy look of the early cars, especially the tarted-up GTs. Here’s a YouTube video of a 1987 Escort GT, cool.

This particular Escort GT looks great to me, I don’t see any flaws anywhere inside or out. The seats look like classic 1980s velour-type fabric with a bit of weave to the inserts for toughness. Some GT or Recaro logo seats would have been a nice touch. Thankfully, this car has a 5-speed manual which no doubt adds to the driving enjoyment, at least when you’re not in bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic. I wish that we had more photos, such as one with the hatchback open and there are none of the back of the car at all which is unusual.

Here’s the engine and… er..  well, the seller didn’t include an engine photo, unfortunately, or any underside photos. It should be powered by Ford’s 1.9L inline-four with around 110 horsepower or so. For a 2,500-pound car that isn’t bad but it isn’t a number that would work for today’s hot hatch buyer. Are there any other fans of these 1980s hot hatches out there?


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  1. Stevieg Member

    I wanted one of these back in the day. Instead I had for a while a base model 1983 Sentra. Later, an aunt gave me a 1989 Escort hatch back. It was a base model automatic.
    I’d like this one too, but I don’t think I would fit in it too well lol. I lost 95 pounds in the last year but I am still fat lol
    Good write up Scotty. I almost forgot about these. Thanks for the memories.

    Like 8
    • Scotty Gilbertson Staff

      Hey, thanks, sir, and congratulations on the new compact-sized Stevieg! That is unbelievably impressive!

      Like 8
      • Stevieg Member

        Hardly compact Scotty lol, just slightly downsized. Think 1976 Caprice, then 1977 Caprice. Better, but not there yet lol.
        I appreciate the kudos!

        Like 13
  2. Bick Banter

    Those side stripes were not factory but I believe they were part of a dealer add on kit through Ford Accessories. I’ve seen them before. Not a fan personally but they’re period correct. Rest of the car looks good. These used to be literally everywhere but not many left now.

    Like 3
    • SaabVertGuy

      You’re correct about the striping being a dealer add on. That was actually part of my job at a Ford dealer back then. I hated them as well. I ended up buying one of the first 89s we got in on the hauler a few months later. Really like the subtle redesign that year.

      Like 1
      • Bick Banter

        Hopefully you bought it before they slapped those stripes on it!

  3. Mitch

    to drive. 1987 Escort EXP GT. It was the 2 seater version. Had sportier rear lines and was fun to drive.

    Like 3
  4. steve

    All first gen Escort GT’s were 5 speed manual only. These had a hot cam and tube header. Sort of the poor boys Mustang GT. These will really take quite a beating. I had a 89 and a 90 GT, and loved them both….until I got the Mazda based 2nd gen 1995 GT. The Mazda 1.8 DOHC is music at 7k, and runs circles around the Ford 1.9 H.O. None the less, a fun car thats all but extinct now.

    Like 7
  5. Bo

    It seems like a bargain at $6000. Especially these days.
    It’s rare to see these cars now, especially the GT.

    Like 4
  6. Howard A Member

    An Escort GT,,,whistles, who was sportin’ that kind of cash? It’s true, the Escort was the “new” Pinto, but I’d take a Pinto over this anyday. I dislike all FWD vehicles, so this was just another stab at what I held dear in cars, especially this era for Ford. I knew people that had Escorts, like the Pinto, they put a jillion miles on them, but these were throw away cars, once something puked, it was off to the crusher. Nobody repaired an Escort. It’s why it’s almost unheard of to even see one like this today. Reminds me of a smaller Tempo, which I had, and was an awful car.

    Like 2
    • KarlS

      @Howard A I used to have similar feelings towards FWD cars until I started watching the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC). Almost all cars are FWD and they are generally better handling than those that are RWD, most notably the BMWs and one other make that I can’t think of – maybe Infinity. The RWD cars usually get off the line better but after a lap or two, usually it’s FWD for the win. I had an ‘89 one of these, same colors, and after that got totaled by some drunk, I got a ’90, same color as this one too. That got highjacked by my ex-wife but I now have, (because of the BTCC Ford Mondeo), a ‘98 Ford SVT Contour and it, like these cars, is anything but throw away. Much too complicated and superior in construction and performance against most anything within its price range and vintage, IMHO. If I had one complaint against these GTs it’s, at least with my two, the engines seemed noisy or buzzy and had what I thought was a vibration at higher RPMs. But they were way above what GM was offering at the time (a rebranded import) and were less money.

      Like 3
  7. Troy

    I think the mileage is suspect this thing pre dates Carfax and auto check so its more difficult to verify a 5 digit odometer. My co-worker had one and she sold it after 200,000 miles but since she kept it in a garage it looked really clean

  8. MarveH

    Hot hatches are my favorite guilty pleasure. While my friends were drooling over muscle cars I was looking longingly toward Europe and their Escort XR3’s, real GTi’s, Renault 5 Turbos, Peugeot 205 GTi’s, Vauxhall Astra GTE 16v’s, etc.
    There is something captivating about a small, light car that you can chuck around with reckless abandon.
    My white whale I’ve been chasing for years has been a Gen 1 twin stick Dodge Colt Turbo. I’d have this Escort in a minute if three garages weren’t already full.

  9. larry

    As I recall, this 2-door version weighs MORE than the original 4-door. Not the best of engineering even in its day.

    Like 1
  10. Todd Zuercher

    I always loved these – but never drove one. I just saw one in a junkyard a few weeks ago – was very surprised to see it as I had not seen one in years.

  11. Roland Schoenke

    I was given one, same color in and out, was sitting for 4years . A new head gasket, polish, and I had to take the interior out and pressure wash the mold out ( it worked, looked like new ) . It was a lot of fun to drive and did fit in well with the Mustang gt etc… for its appearance. I was surprised how many people had to ask what it was.

    Like 1
  12. Jeffrey P Kane

    I have one in my driveway. Trying to get it back into running shape. Fun car to drive. When I’m done getting it back into shape I will probably sell it.

    Like 1
    • Money where mouth is

      Hello, id like to see the one you have in your driveway, what color, does it have power windows ?..
      Ive been looking for one, but must have power windows. I know, for such a rare car, kinda picky.
      Im suprised to see it, ive been looking.
      Had a fully loaded black one, and a blue one.
      Loved em, plenty of performance and amazing gas mileage, solid 35+ mpg.
      I lowered mine in the front to compensate the rear rake these all had, and it performed much better.
      Automatic seatbelts were a 25% discou t on my insurance !

      • Jeff

        It is blue but unfortunately it fits not have power windows

    • $ where mouth is

      Dear Jeff, im interested in your blue one,,
      Will you post a pic ?, maybe email me,
      Let me know if your interested in selling, ill find a way to get you my info..

  13. JC

    I bought a brand new ’89 Escort GT…bright red and gray interior, 5spd, loaded and it was really comfortable. It looked fast standing still… unfortunately, that’s what it mostly did during the 2yrs I suffered with it. Two days after I bought it it died in traffic and wouldn’t start, had to be towed back to the dealer. They fixed it, but then it was one thing after another. Swapped it at the same dealer in 1991 for an Electric Blue Mitsubishi Eclipse GST (with the turbocharged engine). THAT car stayed with me for nearly 10yrs and never had any problems and I kept that car running and looking brand new. I sold it to a guy who bought it for his daughter and she promptly blew it up…. Last time I saw it it was a in a sad state, sitting in a trailer park, paint peeling, interior panels torn out of the back…sigh.

    Like 1
  14. AutoArcheologist AutoArcheologist Member

    I had one of these back in the late 90’s. I took it autocrossing and yes, they were fun to toss around. Did pretty well too. Took a second overall in my first outing and a first in my second… Then, because I had different size tires from stock, they said I was street prepped and that put me into a different class than stock and up against a totally different class of cars. Still did pretty well, but the attitude for a simple car doing well against Corvettes and Porsches eventually pushed me away.
    A rotted strut/spring/shock tower in back (hidden under carpet) caused the car to be sold off when it reared it ugly head, quite literally, through the rear hatch.

  15. Jamie

    I have one exactly same year but white limited edition striping. I’ve owned 5 escorts in my life & currently have 2….88 & 91. Love ❤

  16. Fogline

    A friend in high school had one of these. We were screwing around rocking it in the parking lot and then it wouldn’t start for him. It turns out we set off some kind of switch for the fuel or something that was supposed to keep it from catching on fire in a roll over. I seem to remember it took them a while to figure it out. He wasn’t too pleased.

  17. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    These used to be all over the place and I thought they were nice, since I was into hot compacts at the time. The engine should have been “hotter” in order to compete with other cars like the SE-R, GTI and my favorite GLH.

    I owned a GLH-T at the time that was more fun than the price would have suggested.

  18. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member


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