Home » Shockingly Rare Coupes: 1982 Ford EXP vs 1984 Plymouth Conquest

Shockingly Rare Coupes: 1982 Ford EXP vs 1984 Plymouth Conquest

Sbsd 10 17 2023
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Good morning! It’s another Two-Door Tuesday as we check out a pair of cars that never – and I mean never – come up for sale. I’m even breaking one of my search rules for one of them, just because it’s such an oddity. But first, let’s settle the score on yesterday’s slowpoke trucks:

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Autopians all over the world, join hands, and start a LUV train! These little Isuzus-dressed-as-Chevys seem to win every time I post one. And kudos to you all for all the LUV puns in the comments; I really enjoyed them. I agree with this vote; I like a good Rabbit pickup, but the jury is out on whether or not that’s a good one. Besides, that Chevy is just so charming. And I like the fact that it’s completely stock – it is in no way a tainted LUV. (See? I can do it too.)

Today we’re taking a trip down memory lane, for those of us old enough to remember, and a trip to the history books for those who aren’t. Today’s cars have all but disappeared, from the roads, the classifieds, the zeitgeist, everywhere. And yet here they are, sitting forlornly in dusty Western towns, just waiting for someone to come along and give them a chance to shine again. And they’re cheap, too! Let’s check them out.

1982 Ford Escort EXP – $1,500

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter overhead cam inline 4, four-speed manual, FWD

Location: Santa Fe, NM

Odometer reading: 62,000 miles

Runs/drives? I think so?

Had this been even a slightly less rare car, I would have passed right by this ad. I like to see a minimum of four photos, and a good paragraph or so of description, so I have something to work with and can assess a car properly. In this case, there are only three not-very-good photos, and barely a line of text. But I always liked these little cars, and they so rarely come up for sale anymore that I’m willing to ignore my own guidelines for this one.

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For those too young to remember it, the Ford EXP was to the Escort what the Honda CRX was to the Civic, or the Scirocco to VW’s Rabbit, a sporty two-door fastback variant of a small economy hatchback, mechanically identical, but wearing sleeker sheetmetal and with only room for two passengers (yes, technically a Scirocco has a back seat, but it’s more punishment than transportation). Introduced in 1982, the Escort EXP and its badge-twin, the Mercury Lynx LN7, were powered by the same seventy-horsepower 1.6 liter CVH engine as regular Escorts and Lynxes. A few fools chose to pair this engine with an automatic transmission, but most of the ones I’ve seen, including this one, were stickshifts. Later in its run, the EXP received a “High Output” CVH, with an optional turbocharger, which sped things up a bit. Sadly, this car is not so equipped.

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It isn’t equipped with much, actually, from what I can see. It has the basic four-speed manual instead of the optional five-speed, and the seats are standard vinyl. I’d be astonished if it had air conditioning or power steering, and convenience features we take for granted now, like power windows and locks, probably weren’t even available on the ’82 EXP. But all that means is there are few things to go wrong. The CVH engine is pretty robust, if a bit coarse, and since it’s all Escort under the skin, mechanical parts won’t be hard to find.

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I am not completely sure, based on the terse ad, that this car runs and drives, but I think it does. The seller is the original owner, and they claim it needs paint and “minor stuff.” That claim, in addition to the fact that it’s parked nicely on aired-up tires, makes me think that it is, in fact, drivable. If so, it’s the rarest classic you’re likely to find for fifteen hundred bucks, and even with its current patina, it would be a guaranteed head-turner at car events.

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1984 Plymouth Conquest – $2,000

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Engine/drivetrain: Turbocharged 2.6 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD

Location: Laramie, WY

Odometer reading: 167,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yep!

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Here we have a captive import from Mitsubishi, sold by Chrysler Corporation, with an interesting distinction: it’s the only car ever to be sold in the US by three divisions of a company – Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth – under the same nameplate. Chrysler and Dodge shared the Conquest for the first couple of years, until 1986 when the revised “widebody” Conquest debuted and became strictly a Chrysler. To make matters even more confusing, Mitsubishi also sold this same car in their own dealerships, under its Japanese name, the Starion.

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No matter what you call it, it’s a rear-wheel-drive 2+2 sports coupe, powered by a turbocharged 2.6 liter four. Later versions were intercooled, and made quite a bit more power, but even these early cars weren’t slouches. You could get one with an overdrive automatic, but wisely the original purchaser of this car chose a five-speed manual.

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This car is in rough shape, but it’s all there, and it runs and drives. It has some surface rust, but the seller says it’s solid underneath. But it looks terrible outside, and the interior is just plain grubby. It isn’t trashed, just dirty, and it looks like it would clean up all right. It’s got that great futuristic ’80s Japanese aesthetic, with lots of buttons, and some really cool gauges.

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But that paint – or rather, lack of it – is going to be more difficult and expensive to remedy. I guess you could always wrap it, or do something else interesting with it, but this Mad Max-reject look isn’t doing it any favors. At least you can drive it while you figure it out.

These are both pretty scruffy, it’s true, but you’re not likely to find another one of either of them for sale for these prices. Or any prices, for that matter. Either one is a worthy project, but I can already guess which one is going to win. But do me a favor, and don’t dismiss the other one out of hand. I think they could both be cool cars to putter around with. Ultimately, however, the choice is yours. Which one will it be?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Soso Tsundere
Soso Tsundere
4 months ago

Hmm… rear hatch louvers are required to make the Conquest truly Rad, and a quick google search shows them to be pretty pricey. Still, it’s a car worth fixing up, so it gets my vote.

Cyko9
Cyko9
4 months ago

At the price, the EXP isn’t bad if you need a driver now. The Conquest is definitely a project, but a worthy one, so it got my vote. The EXP would have to be something more special even at a comparable price.

DDayJ
DDayJ
4 months ago

Starion for the Turbo badged seat belts alone. Clean the crap out of it, get a cheap respray, and roadtrip to Radwood.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
4 months ago

The Conquest wins by default.

However, you can probably swap a Zetec into that EXP, which would give you 130 hp. You might even be able to swap the Zetec head on to the CVH block.

IRegertNothing, Esq.
IRegertNothing, Esq.
4 months ago

I’ll Escort that Ford to the junkyard, because that Mitsu-Chrysler has staged a Conquest of my heart.

You can make bad jokes with the name of any car as long as long as it isn’t alphabet soup.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
4 months ago

Way off topic: you Americans and your 2-seater CRXs. The rest of the world got tiny rear seats until the Del Sol came along and killed them off. I once drove from Nottingham to a tiny village in Suffolk three up in a ‘89 CRX. Admittedly the rear seat passenger was a tiny dancer, and he was sitting sideways using both seats, and he complained the entire way, but those seats kind of worked.

Anyway, Starion for me. It ticks nearly all my boxes and I’ve never had a Mitsubishi.

I’ve never had a Ford either, but look at it. Nope.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
4 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

also, the newer CRZ also had a back seat in other markets that we didn’t get 🙁

However, you can probably install the seat if you can somehow import it…

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
4 months ago
Reply to  Dogisbadob

We went to test drive one of those in the UK. Somehow even less useful space inside. Cool though.

Sklooner
Sklooner
4 months ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Did your passenger hold you closer ?

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
4 months ago
Reply to  Sklooner

I knew I should have said diminutive dancer.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
4 months ago

Clean the inside and clearcoat the outside of that Conquest. Then drive it as a battle hardened veteran of the 20th Century Automotive Wars.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
4 months ago

Sorry, Mark. I wanted to give the quirky Ford a chance, but I can’t ignore the math. More is just more. Conquest today!

JCat
JCat
4 months ago

I would absolutely turn that conquest into a lemons or rally car.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
4 months ago

Tainted Love? Great. Now I have the damn Coneheads movie stuck playing in my brain, again.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
4 months ago

I love how cars just get sandblasted out west. It’s like half the paint prep is already done! I hate looking at ads out there as I just end up pissed off that I have to pay so much more around here (Midwest) for something comparable that isn’t afflicted with festering rot.

Speed Racer
Speed Racer
4 months ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

The sun at elevation helps to remove the paint too.

Anoos
Anoos
4 months ago

There was a ride at a local amusement park when I was a kid that had cars that looked very much like the front of the EXP.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
4 months ago

Both are too crapped out and crusty for my internet money.
My Grandpa bought a new EXP, and a few days later we drove it 700 miles to visit my Mom. The day after we arrived he traded it in for a new Honda Accord.
Honda was a great car, EXP was not.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
4 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Gramps knew what’s up

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
4 months ago

The Conquest is sweet — it’ll win, and it probably should.
So, of course, I picked the EXP.

Both of these cars need a good scrub and a quick trip to Maaco, but the EXP will be less complicated to sort out when stuff starts to go wrong. Plus, it was just such a wacky car: did you know you could get shearling-and-leather seats in these?

First order of business, however, will be ditching those accursed 165/365 TRX tires, which not even Michelin makes anymore.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago
Reply to  Geoff Buchholz

EXP will likely also be harder to find parts for, there’s still significant demand for the Conquest/Starion stuff so I would guess mostly anything is available, not many people give enough of a crap to have old escorts around still. Meaning the car, there’s probably a market for older escorts of the other kind, though I would not know.

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
4 months ago

The body parts certainly will be complicated, but the grubby bits are normal-ish. And I’m not out here looking to dig into a 40-year-old turbocharged engine. As I said, the Conquest probably should win, but I’m on Team Frogeye.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago

I thought we got the neon sold under all three banners as well? Was it not sold as a Chrysler in the states? I know it was Plymouth and Dodge and I swear it was a Chrysler as well but it’s been too long and I hated them when they were in production (nothing against the car, just the only 2 owners I knew were both people I disliked).

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago
Reply to  Mark Tucker

interesting. I swear I have seen them with Chrysler wings on the front but I must be confused or people just made weird mods

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
4 months ago

Are you in or near Canada, by chance? I thought the same, but then went digging and apparently they did sell Chrysler-badged Neons right after Plymouth was dropped up there, before it became the Dodge SX 2.0

But, not sure it had the full wings or just the shield – whereas Euro Neons did get wings. The chrome bar across the grille has a bit of a winged look though.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago

Nope. Grew up in Utah, but we did get Canadians wandering through every once in a while. I lived in the UK for a couple years, I am thinking it was while I was there. That or I am just losing my mind. Both are equally plausible.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
4 months ago

A Canadian Neon could have wandered through though like you said. I know I’ve seen Acura ELs and Nissan X-Trails down in NC before.

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
4 months ago

No contest, easy conquest for the conquest!

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
4 months ago

I almost…almost went with the EXP, mainly due to those lovely wheels. But then, I was reminded a lot of a Foxbody Mustang, which I’m less enthusiastic over.

But the StarQuest, that has those perfect 80s Japanese styling cues inside and out, plus snail power. And, honestly, those 8 spoke wheels aren’t too shabby either.

Max Headbolts
Max Headbolts
4 months ago

As a car nerd of a certain age, there is no contest, I’ve ridden in MANY EXPs, and even worse; many owners tried to play them off as Mustangs. Conquest all the way. Even showroom fresh the EXP was terrible, and in no way comparable to the Starion and its “American” cousins. With the same budget for both cars, you’d wind up with either a sad, anaemic, less useful Escort, or Jackie Chan’s Cannonball Run car. Who could ever choose otherwise?

Utherjorge
Utherjorge
4 months ago
Reply to  Max Headbolts

I FORGOT ABOUT THAT CAR THAT CHAN DROVE

If only that movie could be rewatched/streamed, I would be happy

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
4 months ago
Reply to  Max Headbolts

I came in here to assert that Jackie definitely drove a Subaru DL Turbo in Cannonball Run, but then I realized you were talking about Cannonball Run II. Regarding the former, I remember thinking in subsequent years how odd it was to see him driving something other than a car from his career-long sponsor Mitsubishi.

Redfoxiii
Redfoxiii
4 months ago

“This shall just be the least of my Conquests, in every sense.”

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
4 months ago

The EXP would be easier, but honestly it’s hard to ignore the prospect of reviving an interesting piece like the Conquest. The possible rust on the rear fenders gives me a little pause, as do the headlights which are showing in the up position on the one photo where they’re visible – working parts would likely be unobtanium at worst or stupid expensive at best. Still…I remember them as cool cars, and they wear that 80’s style very nicely.

JDE
JDE
4 months ago

it is not the wide body TSI, but I still would take the Hemi turbo RWD manual over the Escort any day of the week. I would definitely want to source the fenders and wheels from a TIS before applying Tractor paint for sure.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
4 months ago

I can’t believe I picked the FWD, low power, fixed headlight option, but here we are. I have a weird soft spot in my heart for the EXP.

I REGRET NOTHING!

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
4 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

I was about to comment that I have an odd fondness for the EXP, but rwd, an extra gear, and TURBO\\\\ tipped the scales the other direction

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
4 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Y’know, if this was really my money, I was standing in front of these two cars, and I actually had to hand over my greenbacks, I’d probably go that way, too.

But in my heart, I’d wish I’d bought the EXP. The heart wants what the heart wants.

Baja_Engineer
Baja_Engineer
4 months ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

Unpopular opinion: Although I like Starions I always like underdogs like the EXP. It’s rareness is on another level

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
4 months ago
Reply to  Baja_Engineer

So is its shittiness, though.

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
4 months ago

Conquest for sure. I still see widebody Starions/Conquests at shows from time to time but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a narrow body one in person before. Plus the fact that it’s a Plymouth makes it extra cool, I had no clue that they sold those as a Plymouth. Plus it being RWD + Turbo + Manual is going to make it a lot more fun to drive than the N/A FWD EXP

Timbales
Timbales
4 months ago

My first car was the Mercury twin of the EXP – the LN7. The rear hatch was different on mine, it didn’t have the illusion of a trunk lid. It was more of a bubble, a much bigger piece of glass. It didn’t have a wiper, so it would get covered with snow and you couldn’t see out.

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
4 months ago
Reply to  Timbales

I always thought that was a much better-looking car than the EXP, and the Lynx & LN7 had much better TV ads too — kind of sci-fi looking, with awesome Vangelis-like music. (EXP ads had the pop music “EXP Experience!” jingle.)

Even so, the design of those cars cried out for pop-up headlights. They look like they were originally designed that way, and then at the last minute Ford decreed that they had to be fixed headlights, and this rushed design is what we ended up with.

Alexk98
Alexk98
4 months ago

Sure the conquest is complicated, while the EXP is simple, but the conquest/starion is just cool, is the right formula, and has far more aftermarket support. Not to mention value, while this one will never be a high-dollar BaT queen, spending a few thousand to freshen it up will probably net a decent ROI unlike the EXP, and it’ll be a better driving experience.

JDE
JDE
4 months ago
Reply to  Alexk98

the right formula is the Cannon Ball Run https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0AQVDZpJlGM

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