Obscure Hot Hatch: 1985 Ford EXP Turbo

Among cars that are near impossible to find in any sort of condition, the short-lived Ford EXP Turbo has to be in the top 20 of 80s-era vehicles that have faded into obscurity. Featuring numerous upgrades over the standard EXP, this rare turbocharged model is a nicely maintained example that has been stored winters and supposedly comes with a stockpile of spares. Find it here on craigslist for $3,500 or best offer. Thanks to Barn Finds reader Rocco B. for the find.

The EXP Turbo models featured a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder, which pushed out a respectable 120 b.h.p. and 120 lb.-ft. of torque. The camshaft and compression ratio were also modified for better performance, along with aero enhancements and unique paint and badging. The “Turbo” badge on the rear bumper remains affixed and undamaged.

The interior was a decent place to spend time, too, with nicely bolstered bucket seats and a full console with armrest. The EXP Turbo was not a case of lipstick on a pig, as Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations (SVO) team was responsible for its development. I would expect nothing less than a well-engineered driver’s car with all the features enthusiasts desired.

The seller notes numerous maintenance items addressed in his stewardship, including a new turbocharger, tires, exhaust, battery, fresh fluids, and more. The heat and air conditioning also both work as intended. These cars also came from the factory with Koni shocks, and I’m sure this rare turbocharged EXP is a blast to drive – and worth collecting.


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  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Interesting car, thanks for the write-up Jeff.

    The quirky front end styling didn’t help for these cars, otherwise they were a pretty good effort at upping the performance of a basic throw-away economy car of its time. Rarely seen today, in any form or condition. This one looks to have had quite a bit of work and is in pretty good shape. After some additional TLC on this EXP it would be a fun little car. You for sure would be the only person at Cars & Coffee. Price is reasonable.

    Like 7
    • Vin_in_NJ

      I agree Bob. In 1986. Ford adapted the Escort front end onto the EXP. I dated a girl that had one in ’87. Typical 80’s girl’s car

      Like 2
    • SubGothius

      The EXP was originally meant to have popup lights, but they got axed for cost reasons at the eleventh hour, so this was the last-minute solution the stylists came up with — essentially “fixed popups”.

      Like 9
  2. Poppy

    Maybe you should write for BF, Ted. I find your comment more insipid than Jeff’s write up.

    Like 2
  3. 71FXSuperGlide

    Neat vehicle for it’s time, but I’d have to go with the Mustang SVO if I was going for something along these lines.

    It helped move the SVT program along at least.

    Like 1
  4. Rx-7 TurboII

    Ted, feel free to unsubscribe…..



    • Midwest Jeff

      No surprise. Assuming that there are no undisclosed mechanical gremlins, the buyer got a great deal. Drove an EXP (and a LN7 – the one year Mercury version of the EXP) during my formative years. Not fast cars by any means, but the stick shift made for fun driving. Of course, these cars were only two-seaters. One person could sit in the rear hatch area without much difficulty, but stuffing two people into the rear hatch area was hilarious. The EXP saved me a lot of gas during the oil embargo days. I was rarely asked by my friends to drive to an event.

      Like 5
  6. Mike Davis

    One Rare Find Here!!! Scoop that baby up folks. That is bargain priced! All Orig!!!

    Like 1
  7. Superdessucke

    Man. If this was an Escort GT Turbo I would be all over this. I never cared much for the EXP’s looks. I always thought it was kind of frog eyed. And it did not age very well. It looks dated, IMHO.

    Like 1
  8. Bultaco

    These seem silly now, but at the time, they were the earliest dawn of a new performance car era along with mustangs, capris, camaros, firebirds, etc. Once the manufacturers understood computer engine management, fun cars came back in droves.

    Like 1
  9. Mike Palein

    I know the seller of this Ford exp is a multi millionaire! Just a little trivia to go with that rare beast.

    Like 1
  10. davew833

    With pop-up headlights it would have looked like Ford’s answer to the Honda Prelude.

  11. larry

    As I recall, these weighed more than the standard Escort. So much for sports car performance.

    Like 1
  12. carbuzzard Member

    This is a car that you could buy, detail, drive to C&C’s, and then sell for more than the limited funds you put into it in the first place. I love that someone has preserved this and hope that whoever bought it respects it for the historical piece it is.

  13. Bhowe Member

    Didnt last long. Ive got one identical to this one waiting in my queue for a little upkeep. Soon as i get a few other projects done will be o. To my EXP. I kove the looks of these. To me the later ones with the Escort front end looked boring. Now to find an original Mercury LN7…

  14. Rob S

    I was a tech with Ford at the time these came out. I pulled plastic off the seats, put the hubcaps on and went for test drive. After driving normal escorts, tempos and crown vics this thing was VERY impressive! Once the turbo kicked in and you kept the revs up it was a little rocket ship! I returned to the dealership and took the service manager for a ride. I can’t repeat what he said when I nailed it😆😆
    I woulda threw done 3500 for this in a heartbeat

    • Miguel

      At Chevy, we called that a PDI tech.

      Like 1
  15. scottymac

    At least this one didn’t have the Michelin TRX wheel/tire combo.

  16. Bhowe Member

    This one, does, in fact have trx wheels and tires. My own 84 EXP turbo has these same wheels and tires and they are TRX metric wheels

    • scottymac

      Sorry, ex-wife’s EXP had the phone dial TRX wheels, didn’t know the turbo had special wheels.

  17. Mike Davis

    The true vintage trx tires are the most desired for the Ford exp turbo’s, if you want to keep it all orig! Last time i saw a set on ebay was 10 yrs ago a set of nos trx Michelin metrics 15′ stock for the exp’s. They sold in a flash for $1,200..If you see a set let me know or snap those baby’s up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They are crazy rare nos! and a lottery odds find.. just like the orig nos turbo hose.. good luck on finding that new! This car had it all!

  18. Bob Reiels

    Good Call Bhowe! Those tires are valuable along with those oem wheels!

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