Car Disgust--Ford EXP
The idea behind the Ford EXP was a good one, especially for the fuel-crunched but performance-starved automotive world of the early 1980s. The basic concept was similar to that used by the later Pontiac Fiero and Toyota MR2: You start with the foundation of an existing small car, strip out the rear seats to save weight, add on some performance upgrades, tighten up the handling, and give the package a longer, lower, and tantalizingly sleek body. Given the fact that the EXP would beat both the Fiero and MR2 to the market, and that Ford was gathering itself for a strong performance and styling push for the rest of the decade, the idea sounded like a slam dunk.
When the EXP debuted in 1982, it was clear that the slam dunk clanged hard off the back rim.
From the formula above, the EXP started with a 1980s Ford Escort--not a bad base for the time. But the level of performance implied by a two-seat sports coupe was wholly missing. The EXP received an unchanged version of the Escort's 70-horsepower four-cylinder, saddled with 200 extra pounds of weight--this despite the fact that the EXP sacrificed the Escort's rear seats and hatchback utility.
Instead of a sleek restyling, the EXP received a sound beating with the ugly stick. Its unbelievably awkward, oddly proportioned lines and a curious headlight treatment gave the effect of a cross-eyed tadpole. I'm not sure, but I don't recall the "retractable headlights permanently stuck open" look being particularly cool in 1982 or, really, at any point in our nation's history. So it was slower and uglier than an Escort, but at least it was more expensive.
As a two-seat sports coupe with ostensibly sleek styling, the EXP was meant to be Ford's pre-emptive answer to the Fiero, but it failed to clear even that modest bar. Instead, it was an Escort with all of the usefulness stripped away. Think about that for a moment--the Escort was a useful subcompact, but it's hard to imagine buying and driving one just for the joy of it.
Some cars are so innately desirable and attractive that it's startling to see them later on in their lives with peeling paint, darkened chrome, and dirty windows. It's somehow sacrilegious to see great cars reduced to humble mortality. In the case of the EXP, though, the opposite was true. Even when new, it took no imagination at all to envision an EXP as a rusty, neglected daily driver with thin, fading paint, discarded once the driver could afford something better.
The EXP eventually underwent a much-needed reskinning, lifting the EXP to roughly the same level of passion and adulation as one would expect from, well, a regular Escort. It was revolutionary only for the level upon which it looked better than its predecessor.
I'm fully aware that as a habitual defender of quirky, forgotten, oft-derided cars, I'm probably on the wrong side of this issue. In reading through the Ford EXP fan club site (the existence of which is a tribute to the power of the Internet), I came across DRBurdyshaw's 1982 EXP and his heartfelt tribute to his lust for his EXP.
"Since I've been a fan of EXPs and LN7s (Chris comment: that was the short-lived Mercury version of the EXP) for a long time, I decided that it was time to have one ---- and the search began. After many, many months of looking, I found this little gem."
That's what Car Lust is all about, and DRBurdyshaw's immaculate silver EXP does approach cuteness. But given my horrible weakness for 1980s sports coupes, what does it say that even I wouldn't want one?
Oh, and for those of you who are about to very legitimately point out that the EXP bears more than a passing resemblance to last week's Shelby Charger, or the previous Chevy Monza, I can't hear you because I have my fingers in my ears and am chanting at the top of my lungs. That's the kind of well-reasoned analysis you get here at Car Lust HQ.
The commercial below features some fantastic computer effects, as well as some highly entertaining pseudo-computer or robotic language.
Place: Anyroad, USA.
Action: Creation of a new personal sport coupe.
0:10 - You know, when I see a car and two futuristic (potentially cybernetic?) drivers rising up through the floor, I know it's time to buy.
0:12 - The "female" just gave a slow, deliberate, obviously robotic smile at the camera. She's definitely cybernetic, no doubt plotting the overthrow of her human oppressors from her Ford EXP.
0:19 - "A beautiful package of world-class technologies ..."
Such as ... repackaged economy car technology?
0:28 - I don't think I'd ever before seen the video editing tactic of superimposing a circular video of a driving car onto the wheel of the car. Good stuff.