Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

1981 Ford Escort GLX Sedan: Gas Prices Go Up; Car Sizes Go Down

January 2, 2021 Archive Insight
White compact car

THF90278

Most Americans weren’t very interested in small cars—until 1973, when Middle Eastern oil-producing countries cut back on oil exports. Gas prices skyrocketed in the U.S., and shortages led to long lines at service stations. Many people still wanted big American-style cars, but more and more actually bought small four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive, European-inspired cars like this Ford Escort. “The new world car” evoked the Model T’s slogan: “the universal car.”

Blue sign in the shape of a stylized eagle with white text "Ford, The Universal Car"
Model Ts were built in 20 countries, on every continent but Antarctica. / THF104934

Two-page advertising spread with photo of car under cover decorated with a variety of national flags and many people in white coats standing alongside; also contains text
Ford responded to competition from small gas-sipping foreign cars by making an Escort for the North American market. Introduced in Europe in 1968, the Escort was built and sold in many countries, coming to the U.S. in 1981. / THF84548

Series of colorful images, each with a title and text underneath
Many Escort ads focused on technology that improved the car’s fuel efficiency, reflecting customers’ growing interest in improved gas mileage. / THF84549


This post was adapted from an exhibit label in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation.

Ford Motor Company, cars

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