True Hot Hatch: 1988 Ford Escort RS Turbo

Whether you love them or whether you hate them, the hot hatches were a breed of car that really defined the 1980s. While they lacked the pure horsepower of a muscle car, light weight and agile handling still made them a very rewarding drive. This little Escort RS Turbo is a perfect example of a hot hatch of the era. It is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and is listed for sale here on eBay.

According to the owner, this little Escort has spent the past 18 years housed in a private collection, and it has been kept in a climate controlled facility. This certainly has helped to preserve the car in really good condition. The body and paint look really nice, and I really see no issues that are worth mentioning, apart from one missing center cap on the driver’s side rear wheel. Hot hatches tended to try to distance themselves from the ” shopping trolley”  roots by adding body kits, along with distinctive paint jobs and decals. Some manufacturers were more successful than others, and I think that Ford got it pretty right with the Escort. It looks purposeful without looking ridiculous.

The interior of the hot hatch had to at least create the impression of performance, and the Escort RS was no exception. Plush upholstery, Recaro seats, a decent stereo, and a few other luxuries were all par for the course. This little Escort features all of these, and the upholstery has generally held up fairly well. The vinyl on the armrests is quite creased where the vinyl is separating from the door trim, and there is some stretching of the cloth on the seats, but the rest of the interior looks quite good.

A hot hatch was designed for enjoyable and spirited driving, and the RS was no exception. What has changed over the years is the level of performance that manufacturers extract from their engines. In its day, 130hp extracted from a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine must have seemed impressive. Today, a basic Toyota Corolla produces more power, and you would hardly call one of those a hot hatch. Having said that, this one produces that power, and after its 18 years in confinement, it has now been serviced and returned to the road. The owner says that the car starts easily and that it drives as it should. He also adds that it’s a real blast to drive.

Hot hatches are great fun to drive, and they are a very involving driving experience. Unlike a muscle car, a hot hatch doesn’t have bags of power and torque, but they are nimble little cars that require you to concentrate if you want to extract the best from them. They are not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you’ve never driven one, you probably should just for the experience. This one looks like a nice one, and its relative rarity is guaranteed to make it stand out in any company. The owner has set a BIN price of $22,900 for the Escort, but there is the option to make an offer. I’m not sure whether I would pay that for it, but I’d really like to take it for a drive.

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  1. Saul

    What? Wait! Nah? $23k for a domestic 80s Ford Escort in fancy trim? I bought one of these new in 95 and tossed it around for a few years. Mine was even black with subdued silver graphics. The quintessential disposable car. I guess someone should go ahead and “make offer” on eBay to make sure our earth is again properly spinning on its axis.

  2. Miguel

    It doesn’t say anywhere in the ad where this car came from.

    This is not an American version of the Escort.

    I won’t even comment on the price.

  3. EmmyJ

    That’s definitely a European Escort. The RS Turbo was never imported to the US, other than the Hot Wheels car.

    • Saul

      Had/have the Hot Wheels car too. Somewhere in the man cave. Black also. The 1995 domestic Ford Escort definitely took it’s design cues from the euro version. Everything but the hood and front fascia on this Barn Find looks like the car I owned.

      • EmmyJ

        The original intent was to import the European Escort, but pretty much everything ended up getting changed and reengineered in the process. There’s very little commonality.

  4. Miguel

    From BAT

    Bid To $10,700 On 12/21/18

    No sale.

  5. Miguel

    Now we have to ask how this car was imported to the US so many years ago before the 15 year rule kicked in and can it even be registered today.

    • JC

      Any car 30yrs and older are exempt in my state (Delaware). You just register it as an antique when you initially register, never needs to be inspected after that.

  6. edh

    I’ll take the Corolla’s NA horsepower over this old turbo Ford any day.

  7. mark

    2016 2.0 Ford Focus non turbo today makes 160 HP. Roughly the same cubic inch per horse power as this turbo Car makers have came along way getting more power from these smaller motors and they are making better gas mileage also.

    • UK Paul

      This is a lot lighter than a Focus though.
      It’s great to see our cars doing so well over there.. the Focus has sold well?
      I see the Transit and Fiesta is pretty popular too?
      No if we could only get some Camaros here in exchange..

      • Mark-A

        Surely 1080kg with 132hp & lsd from factory will feel so much faster than a 1810kg 160hp modern Focus, these can be turned by about 40-50hp before having problems, don’t know what/if any difference between US v EU fuels & if it’d be noticeable, I’d like to find out, especially when it’s from the age of foot down, 1,2,3 Hoooooolld On!

  8. Scott

    Got to love the comments , European yes , actually a ford and not a rebadged mazda , these where great in their day and command very high prices in non NA markets

  9. UK Paul

    How did that escape over there I wonder? Takes me to my teenage years. These are great fun. Looks like a nice one.

    – to add it is a U.K. model but being left hand drive maybe an export to EU. Then on to US?

  10. RobF

    as per the old ad: is offered with Italian importation documents, and a clean Florida title in the name of the seller’s business.

  11. Daymo

    A great small car. One of the little gems. Getting rare in the UK – due to the boy-racers who managed to trash so many, either by crashing or modifying them. Values are going through the roof here for a good one like this.
    If you’ve never driven one, don’t mock them. Great fun!

  12. JC

    I had an American 1989 Escort GT… that stands as my WORST car purchase ever… it looked good, was really comfortable but the engine was JUNK… traded it in 1991 for an Eclipse GS Turbo and never looked back.

    • UK Paul

      They are completely different. My wife is American and had one before she moved to the U.K.

  13. Mark-A

    These can be made to give good power try looking for ZVH RS Turbo (Zetec block with CVH head iirc)

  14. RITON

    Torque steer was bad in the Ford of those days…they didn’t handle as well as the competitors : Golf GTI, Peugeot 205/309 GTI or 309 GTI 16 (16 valve, 1.9L, 160 bhp…NA)…
    Even the grocery getters Ford Fiesta and Escort/Orion had bad reputation for their road handling.
    Got to drive a Fiesta (MY1992 or so if I recall well) XR2i in 16v version (130 bhp I think), super engine, lousy chassis…
    They even had a Fiesta XR2 turbo. I remember they only offered it for 1 or 2 years, it was such a bad handeling car (was meant to replace the NA 8 valve version…they ended replacing it by the above 16v).

  15. Sheffieldcortinacentre

    Will have been new on the continent ,they are fetching that sort of money here in the UK in that condition.
    Only thing I can see wrong are the driving/spot lights would be ford sourced (those look like aftermarket ones) & I presume like UK spec ones it should have a 3 spoke steering wheel ( that appears to be a standard model version).
    Also like the other MK3 onward escort’s the engine has been fitted the wrong way round!

  16. Joe Mac

    I’ll pass….

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