That Time I Should’ve Died in a First-Generation Ford Escort

88-90_Ford_Escort_LX_5-doorBy IFCAR - Own work, Public Domain, Link

Being young has advantages and disadvantages. You have the full vigor of your youth, with your entire life ahead of you. But you also have no idea how incredibly stupid you are, and you end up making stupid decisions. Here’s the story of where I probably should’ve died in a first-generation Ford Escort wagon.

In high school, I had a friend who had the first-generation Escort wagon. For the sake of protecting the innocent, we’re going to call him Will. Will liked to shuttle his friends around in the Escort, which from the factory made a whole 86 horsepower. It was mated to an automatic transmission of too-few gears. I distinctly remember riding to band practice — our practice field wasn’t on-site — with the rear end dragging the pavement because we had so many people in the car.

One night, along with another friend we’ll name Steve, we went out in search of something incredibly stupid. We had figured out the address of one of our teachers, and we wanted to show up and say “hello.” It was dumb, and probably would’ve been extra-bad in today’s age.

This was before GPS, and we didn’t have a map. We went solely from the address in the phone book and my vague recollection of the various roads in the county. Making matters worse was this address wasn’t a typical address in town, and it also didn’t make sense out of town. Though, I had some ideas on where to look.

We stopped at Wendy’s to pick up some sandwiches — this is relevant for later — because we didn’t want to show up empty-handed. Then we were on our way.

We first checked the sub-division I thought for sure it was at, and no luck. We tried a couple of others. I phoned my parental unit to see if she had any clue. Nope. No dice.

While heading down one of the side roads, we approached some railroad tracks. We were already moving at a clip, and my friend Will enjoyed jumping railroad tracks — which is incredibly stupid — so he put the hammer down. It was a nice smooth run up to the tracks, so it didn’t look like anything was going to happen at all.

After cresting the tracks, the car went airborne. As it turns out, while the one side was a nice smooth rollup to the tracks, the other side was basically a sheer drop-off. Midair, I remember Will curing “Fuck!” as the nose dipped towards the tarmac. When the car dropped, the sandwiches in the bag kept going straight, so it appeared like they levitated out of the bag before dropping back in.


We hit the tarmac with a solid thud. Surprisingly, Will kept control of the vehicle and there was no damage to the vehicle. I’m not sure to this day how something didn’t break because we had some pretty serious air in a pretty crappy car. Yet that little Ford held it together.

For those wondering, we did eventually reach our destination and it was a mission accomplished.

But hindsight has taught me that that was incredibly stupid. It’s not something that I’d duplicate in adulthood, especially on a public road. Heck, I wasn’t even the one behind the wheel and it was still dumb.

While there are days that I lament getting older, I’m grateful to now have enough years under my belt to make wise decisions. But it was a heck of a little crappy car. I wonder whatever happened to it?


Chad Kirchner
the authorChad Kirchner
In addition to Chad Kirchner's work here, he's a freelance automotive journalist for outlets around the world.

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