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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Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
4 months ago

Always choose the one that looks like it has been driven recently.

Also, the Mitsubishi Starion, or what ever it was rebadged as, is an overlooked classic sports coupé!

Craig Rumpel
Craig Rumpel
4 months ago

I voted Conquest, but not out of love. The EXP is wearing one of the two TRX wheel designs for that year. Tires are unobtainim, which explains the flats in the pictures. It’s going nowhere without an investment in different wheels and rubber. I owned a 1982 EXP, and I have a permanent stainless steel souvenir from an attempt at “spirited” driving with it. I wouldn’t give another one a chance at killing me. Sadly, I did not know that POS was a delete option at the time of purchase.

Jim Galbraith
Jim Galbraith
4 months ago

The EXP is a new one for me, being from the UK. The front reminds me of the experimental Rover P6 BS mid engined V8 https://www.aronline.co.uk/concepts-and-prototypes/rover-p6-bs/

Mr. Fusion
Mr. Fusion
4 months ago

When I was a young teen, my favorite car was the Toyota Supra. I just thought it was so cool. But when the Mitsubishi Starion came out, it really turned my head. I almost felt guilty that I liked it so much, like I was cheating on the Supra, lol. So yeah, one vote for Starion — er, Conquest.

Mike F.
Mike F.
4 months ago

The Conquest, no question. I almost bought one of those new, back in the day, but waited a couple of years until the Eagle Talon became available. Always liked the Conquest/Starion, though.

In the particular case of the EXP, rare is not the same thing as desirable.

Yngve
Yngve
4 months ago

I was *this* close to buying a purple Starion as my first car back in the day…until the pre-purchase inspection revealed so much rot in the sills that the doors wouldn’t open (or remain shut) depending upon which jack point(s) were used.

That said, I always hated the first generation EXP’s headlight treatment (Pac Man? Muppet eyes?).

Give me the Conquest, a scraper, a can of POR-15, and a Maaco paint job.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
4 months ago

Conquest is an easy pick. Just make sure the timing belts are changed and it will likely be a better and more reliable vehicle than that Ford.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
4 months ago

I would prefer the Starion for a few reasons if the EXP didn’t give me 100,000 reasons to buy my 2nd Ford.

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
4 months ago

The Conquest has too much potential to leave it like it is. Only the most self-disciplined would be able to resist turning it into a restoration money pit. On the other hand, the EXP is perfect as is for a winter beater, for dirt road hooning/off-road experimentation, or for parking without fear in even the sketchiest neighborhoods. Drive it until it breaks, then walk away.

Morgan Thomas
Morgan Thomas
4 months ago

Conquest all day. RWD and turbo for the win. Plus I like the idea of parking what is known here in Australia as the Starion beside my early Valiants at a Chrysler show and confusing people with the Plymouth badges (although they seem to be missing, so would have to replace them). I don’t mind leaving the outside looking as is, but my place of work ghas just installed a full size spray booth, so a cheap respray is an option, although I would probably just give it a sealer coat of matt clear and leave it looking as is.

Griznant
Griznant
4 months ago

My first car was an ’85 Lynx so with that memory still vivid I voted for the Conquest.

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
4 months ago
Reply to  Griznant

I owned (was pwned by) a 12-y-o Lynx wagon with low miles. Typical fair weather church and grocery store car. Immaculately clean inside. That car was an utter disgrace. The head gasket went around 70k. The steering knuckles and boots were shot. I still haven’t figured out if it leaked or burned oil. Going up moderate inclines was a major source of stress and I had to take longer but flatter routes everywhere I went. Overheating was a constant risk. I was broke and living in a car-centric area, so every penny I made went to keep that pile vaguely roadworthy. My mechanic, Polo, was pretty nice to me given the circumstances and the fact I took my car to his shop regularly.

It’s completely irrational but the financial and emotional scarring that car inflicted on me means I’ll never own a FMC vehicle again (even though I LOVE the panther crown Vics).

So yeah, the Conquest.

Last edited 4 months ago by Harvey Park
Griznant
Griznant
4 months ago
Reply to  Harvey Park

The sad part is I owned that Lynx 32 years ago (’91). My grandma had used it as a summer car for her house in Michigan the previous three years. It had 60k on it and was 6-years old but was already a RAGING POS. Already rusting out, already had to have new rings in it (burned oil), the A/C died, and it was an autotragic. I drove it for one solid month before we sold it and I got an ’85 Nissan Sentra which was a much better car, and had a stick!

Harvey Park
Harvey Park
4 months ago
Reply to  Griznant

I have permanent PTSD from fearing my car every day. That opprobrious Lynx actually replaced an equally atrocious Horizon that also blew its head gasket, had the muffler dragging on the ground, a hatch that had to be propped up with a 2×4, and one of the front doors only opened from the inside.

I haven’t owned a domestic since and doubt I ever will again. That’s completely irrational since modern Detroit is better than malaise Detroit, but I’ll take this grudge into the grave.

Andreas8088
Andreas8088
4 months ago

You know, I’m not generally into the whole “patina” thing… but both of these look damn good as is. I have no idea why, but I dig it here.

I’d go with the conquest. Both are going to require the interior to have some serious cleaning, so that’s the one with the better platform.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
4 months ago

The conquest and a case of rattle-cans please.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
4 months ago
Reply to  Shop-Teacher

Ditto.

Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
4 months ago

EXP all day long.

I cannot tell you the last time I saw one, and I’m in Metro Detroit, where back in the day we were rotten with them.

I always thought that they looked like a frog from the front, and kind of a pissed off frog at that…

Cam.man67
Cam.man67
4 months ago

I know I’m in the minority but the EXP is too good to pass up. Seems like a relatively easy project, abd the patina is perfect.

XLEJim700
XLEJim700
4 months ago

Because inside every one of us is a wizened, scruffy driver with a leather, some body armor, and a small dog. All we need is a jug of fuel and a scrapyard Conquest.

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
4 months ago

Test drove a new EXP in 1983. Salesman told me that jumpseats for the rear were available as an option.
Ended up buying a new Fiat Strada instead (it was the 80s and K was just a young maroon!)

Oldskool
Oldskool
4 months ago

EXP for me. I like the looks better, and it’s FWD. I’m glad for the simpler naturally aspirated engine. Easier to find parts for and service. Only thing I’d do is find a set of non TRX wheels for when I replace the tires.

Hotdoughnutsnow
Hotdoughnutsnow
4 months ago

I vote for the popup headlights. The one that looks like a Supra.

MAX FRESH OFF
MAX FRESH OFF
4 months ago

The one with a turbo and RWD.

05Mil Machine
05Mil Machine
4 months ago

If I am going to sink money into either of these, I at least want to have some cool turbo noises while going to the cars and coffee. As cool as the EXP is, I am going with the imported Chrysler.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
4 months ago

Thanks for reminding me to go out and clean my car.

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
4 months ago

I’ll be the EXP pedant and point out it wasn’t “Escort EXP” until midway through 1985, and the Mercury was never called “Lynx LN7.”

Also, by the look of the interior and the wheels, this EXP may have been minimally-equipped, but did have the TR Performance Package(!), so whoever originally bought this thing had their priorities in order.

Last edited 4 months ago by ColoradoFX4
Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
4 months ago

What about theLH sedans. Chrysler Concorde, Dodge Intrepid, Eagle Vision. Plus couple of other sub models! Aha! Yours Truly, The Idiot Savant of Cars!,

LTDScott
LTDScott
4 months ago
Reply to  Rich Hobbs

None of those are “under the same nameplate.”

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
4 months ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Aren’t all under the “Chrysler” halo? Badge engineered for sure. IMHO

LTDScott
LTDScott
4 months ago
Reply to  Rich Hobbs

You’ve missed the point entirely.

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.”

The model name (aka nameplate) “Conquest” was sold under Chrysler, Plymouth, and Dodge brand names. Totally different from the example you gave where literally every car you listed has both a different make AND model name from each other.

“Aren’t all under the “Chrysler” halo?”

Yes, Chrysler Corporation built all of these cars, but all three were sold under different divisions with different model names.

Badge engineered for sure.”

Not really. All of the cars you listed were built on the same platform (and likely came out of the same assembly plant), but they all had unique body shells and sheetmetal.

Conversely, the Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge Conquest and Mitsubishi Starion *are* perfect examples of badge engineering because the body of the car was the same for all of them with barely any changes between divisions.

Rich Hobbs
Rich Hobbs
4 months ago
Reply to  LTDScott

I stand corrected!!

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
4 months ago

I always thought the EXP was a cool looking car when I was a kid, so I’m voting for it. Haven’t seen one in decades.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
4 months ago

I wanted to vote EXP because they’re scarce and the shape is interesting. Then I was watching the news and saw that US had dispatched the USS Ford to the Middle East and two days later sent a second carrier, just in case Ford had another recall. That brought me to my senses. The EXP was a dog from way before “Quality is Job #1” became a thing, so no thank you.

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