Junkyard Gem: 1987 Ford Escort GL 2-door hatchback

Ford sold the Pinto subcompact from the 1971 through 1980 model years, and gave it a bit of European flavor by powering it with engines originally designed in Britain or Germany. When the time came for a modern front-wheel-drive Pinto replacement for North Americ a, influence from across the Atlantic was even stronger. While the first-generation North American Escort

was more of a first cousin than a twin to its European counterpart, it moved Ford a big step closer to selling genuine “world cars” and sold in huge numbers here, making it a very important piece of automotive history. Today’s Junkyard Gem is one of those first-gen Escorts, loaded with plenty of costly options.

The Escort was available in three trim levels for 1987: the El Cheapo base model

, the somewhat more luxurious GL, and the hot-hatch GT. There was a two-seat coupe version known as the EXP, too, plus a Mercury-badged Escort called the Lynx.

This car is a GL hatchback, which had an MSRP of $6,801. That’s about $18,817 in 2023 dollars, but the original buyer almost certainly spent a lot more than that. At first glance, there’s the two-tone paint: 156 bucks for the GL, or 432 bucks after inflation.

The original radio is long gone (a two-speaker AM-only unit was standard on the GL), but we can see that this car came with one of the costliest ’87 Escort options of all: air conditioning. This car appears to have the Climate Control Group, which cost $920 on the gasoline-engined Escort that year ($2,545 now).

If you’re going to have refrigerated air, why not ditch the base four-on-the-floor manual transmission

and get the three-speed automatic instead? The price tag for this slushbox was a sobering $490 ($1,356 in today’s money). The five-speed manual added just $76 ($210 now), by the way, and its overdrive top gear would have paid for itself in gas savings within a short period.

The GT and EXP for 1987 came with a high-output version of the 1.9-liter CVH engine, but the GL got this one with 90 horsepower and 106 pound-feet.

The CVH was, legally speaking, an overhead-cam design (specifically, a “cam-in-head” design) and that’s how Ford always marketed it. However, you won’t see a camshaft when you remove a CVH’s valve cover; it’s located above the pistons, all right, but below a bank of rocker arms which are directly actuated by pushrod-style valve lifters

. Opel used a similar rig for several decades.

The five-digit odometer means we can’t know how many miles this car traversed during its life. The odometer shows just over 81,000 miles, and the car’s nice interior suggests that that figure may be accurate.

The stickers all over the dash indicate that its final owner may have been given this car as a hand-me-down from an older relative.

Because this is Denver, stickers from cannabis-related businesses are nearly inevitable

Smoked-down-to-the-filter Pall Mall butts and packaging for THC vape cartridges suggest that this car’s final months were full of excitement.

Starting with the 1991 model year, the Escort moved to a Mazda platform. That’s where it stayed until the last U.S.-market Escorts were sold as 2003 models.

Today’s Junkyard Gem could be the exact same car Ford used to shoot this commercial.

The “good people who care a great deal” in New Jersey were pricing Escorts to fly out of the showroom in ’87!