1982 Ford EXP hatchback coupe

“Two-seat excitement in a world class coupe.”

Ford’s EXP two-seat coupe was new for the 1982 model year and introduced early in April 1981. Ford’s first two-seat car since the 1957 Thunderbird, the EXP was designed for a far different purpose. Built on the same platform as the Ford Escort/Mercury Lynx twins and closely related to the Mercury LN7, the EXP was marketed as a car for buyers who wanted an efficient and decently-equipped vehicle somewhat sportier than the Escort.

The design language of the EXP resembled that of the contemporary Fox-body Mustang. However, front-wheel-drive and a different platform made the proportions different, which some observers saw as ungainly. I remember thinking that it was different-looking, but not unattractive.

Ford’s new two-seater was a small car—a length of 170.3 inches makes the EXP more than half a foot shorter than the 2020 Honda Civic coupe. However, the EXP’s length was almost seven inches longer than an Escort hatchback coupe, while its height was over 2.5 inches shorter. Because Ford made the EXP fairly well-equipped, it’s weight was about 125 pounds greater than the spare base Escort.

The EXP’s standard powertrain was a CVH 70 bhp 1.6 liter/98 ci inline four with a Motorcraft 740 two-barrel carburetor paired with a four-speed manual. An automatic transmission was optional for $411. EPA fuel economy ratings with the manual were 29 city/46 highway by the standards of the day. With an 11.3-gallon gas tank, an EXP owner could expect a range of between 345 and 380 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

What the EXP wasn’t was anything approaching quick. Figures are hard to find, but the EXP’s 0-60 time was likely about 14.5 seconds. Late in the extended 1982 model year, an HO version of the same engine became available, with 80 bhp. It likely dropped the EXP’s 0-60 time by more than a second, but in this case, HO did not mean fast.

1982 Ford EXP brochure cover
1982 Ford EXP brochure cover

Standard equipment on the $7,387 EXP included front-wheel-drive, a four-wheel independent suspension, rack and pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and P165/80R13 tires (a size now hard to find) on 13-inch wheels. Inside, a Sport steering wheel, reclining high-back bucket seats, a console, and an AM radio were included.

Exterior and mechanical options included tinted glass (initially $82 but standard later in the model year), a flip-up open air roof ($276), power steering ($190), and cast aluminum wheels ($232). Inside, options included an air conditioner ($611), fingertip speed control ($151), leather/vinyl reclining low back bucket seats ($138), and a few different stereo choices.

The optional TR Performance Suspension Package included special handling tuned suspension components (a thicker stabilizer bar, stiffer shocks, and stiffer springs) and P165/70R 365 Michelin TRX tires (still available!) on a choice of either TR Sport aluminum wheels ($405) or Sport steel wheels ($204).

First-year sales of the EXP were decent: 98,258 in a model year that extended from April 1981 through September 1982. Following 1982, sales dropped precipitously—only 19,697 for 1983, 23,016 for 1984, 26,462 for 1985, 30,978 for 1986, and 25,888 for the EXP’s final year in 1987.

I have not seen an EXP on the road in over a decade. EXPs rarely show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—in fact, they seem to have virtually vanished.

Make mine Bright Red, please.

I have previously written about the 1981 Escort hatchback coupe and the 1987 Mercury Lynx XR3 hatchback coupe. Perhaps someday I shall write about the short-lived Mercury LN7.


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