1 2
The Staff of Motorsport Marketing
The Staff of Motorsport Marketing Writer
7/18/18 10:38 a.m.

Like stories like this? You’ll see every article as soon as it's published by reading the print edition of Grassroots Motorsports. Subscribe now.

Story by Alan Cesar • Photos as Credited

The United States never really got the world’s best Ford Escorts. Cars like the RS200 rally homologation bundle of insanity, the Escort RS Cosworth rally homologation bundle of insanity, and the rear-drive RS1800 rally champion bundles of insanity gave the nameplate a truly incredible pedigree that has no relation to the street cars we saw stateside.

Instead, America’s first Escorts coincided with what the rest of the world knew as the model’s third generation. Introduced in 1981, these were front-wheel-drive economy cars with lackluster performance, poor build quality, bad suspension geometry and milquetoast styling. Ford somehow sold zillions of these things; together with the Taurus, the Escort is responsible for the company’s success through the 1980s.

Fast-forward to 1997. The new-in-1991, Mazda-based Escort has just received a major refresh and been totally divorced from its also-updated Protegé cousin. The CVH engine—the letters denote its Compound Valve angle and Hemispherical combustion chamber, not the more apt “considerable vibration and harshness”—increased from 1.9 to 2.0 liters.

The Mazda BP-powered Escort GT—essentially a hatchback version of the Mazda Protegé LX—disappeared in 1996, and performance Escorts took a brief hiatus. For 1998, Ford introduced the Escort ZX2, a coupe version with unique sheet metal and a 2-liter twin-cam engine. We had previously seen that Zeta-family engine in the Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique cousins.

Its variable cam timing on the exhaust side is tuned mostly to eliminate the need for an EGR system, but the cam profile is more aggressive than that of the Focus that eventually replaced the Escort. Output is 130 horses and 127 ft.-lbs.—similar horsepower but a 10-percent torque bump over the Mazda-powered GT.

Front suspension remained relatively unchanged, though a bit more bracing was added to the K-member. The rear strut arrangement saw more substantial revisions. The longitudinal links became longer, decreasing the camber change through its travel, and toe adjustment was added to both sides. For braking, the ZX2 used the same disc/drum arrangement as lesser Escorts.

Read the rest of the story

Miles Wilson
Miles Wilson Marketing Assistant
7/18/18 11:10 a.m.

I know one of our readers called about this exact article a while back, now it's online for you! Hope the racing has been going well.

iceracer UltimaDork
7/18/18 11:34 a.m.

I bought a red ZX2SR in 2000.  I beat on it for 8 yrs.  It was a DD, track car, ice racer and occ.   auto crosser.  Ford camber kit for the front. Never touched the back except for 19 and 22 mm bars.  Shorty header and adjustable intake cam gear. For track I ran A Hoosiers on 7" rims.  Best thing I did was increase caster through offset control arm bushings. After tying in and out toe found zero to work best.   Along with 2.5 degrees neg camber the car was a joy to drive on the track and throttle steer.  

 Fo ice racing, stock alignment, no sway bars.  The adjustable cam gear allowed me to have a quasi traction control.  By retarding if fully it cut low speed power allowing for less wheel spin.  

This may have been a little lengthy but my experience with the car may give some hints.

Oh, the car was capable of 40 mpg when driven properly.


alfadriver GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/18/18 12:03 p.m.

Back in the late 90's, I considered getting one as a new car.  Went to test drive it an all.

Wound up getting a used '95 Miata instead.  And replaced it with a brand new '99, when we got S-plan.

Not that the ZX2 is a bad car- we got to do some autocross lapping at our test track once.  But it wasn't a car that I really wanted.

stylngle2003 Reader
7/18/18 3:42 p.m.

my wife had a blue ZX2 that got totaled.  she was ok, but has sworn off small cars because the exploder that hit her ended up in her back seat.  

i have a saved/recurring search for a zx2 sr.  they're like hen's teeth.  she doesn't even drive manual

crankwalk GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
7/18/18 3:47 p.m.
alfadriver said:


But it wasn't a car that I really wanted.





 But it wasn't a car that I really wanted.




Fixed that for you.

Antihero GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
7/18/18 5:21 p.m.

I just bought one for a fun high mpg car, it delivers on all fronts. Ive got 42mpg out of it before but i average 37mpg

iceracer UltimaDork
7/18/18 6:14 p.m.

I forgot to mention that there never was a problem with coolant overheating or brake fade with proper pads during track days.

Oil was changed once a year.   Amsoil 5w -30

Knurled. MegaDork
7/18/18 6:56 p.m.

'98 models had ESCORT ZX2 embossed in the rear bumper cover.


'99 models only had ZX2.  ESCORT was stickers under the left taillight.


You can remove the letters and re-apply them to say SCROTE.

CyberEric HalfDork
7/19/18 9:16 p.m.

Test drove a 2002 (I think) Zx2 with the updated bumper (looked good!). 

I was shocked at how well it handled. Interior was total crap, of course, but I liked it quite a bit. But I too bought a Miata instead. 

MazdaFace Dork
7/19/18 9:24 p.m.

Neat article, neat car. I enjoy watching gasoline and gears (or is it gears and gasoline?) Drive their boosted one on the track. Neat build and great looking car. 

poopshovel again
poopshovel again MegaDork
7/20/18 5:29 a.m.

Bobby Ore has a fleet of them that were purchased new. All of them have a couple hundred thousand hard miles of stunt-driving abuse and are still tickin. It was funny to see half the people I did his school with searching CL for $500 beater ZX2’s after the class...including a guy who DD’s an RS7.

accordionfolder Dork
7/20/18 5:47 a.m.

Mine has 5000 original miles on it (though all on track). It's a great little car.

accordionfolder Dork
7/20/18 6:03 a.m.

In reply to iceracer :

Maybe you could fire me an email, I'd love a brain dump. My car is only used as a track rat. Needs all the bushings replaced, etc.

Cooper_Tired HalfDork
7/20/18 10:46 a.m.

I drove one as a DD for a few years. 98 auto, that had the springs and intake off of an S/R. 

It was slow, but fun and basically indestructible. Massive oil leak and the need for a 4 door led me to get rid of it.

Damn it. Now I’m searching craigslist again..

iceracer UltimaDork
7/20/18 10:50 a.m.

The only suspension parts I replaced were both tie rod ends, one ball joint, it was iffy. The offset control arm bushings were for increased caster, not wear.   I might even have the replaced ones some where.

 The SR came with a lot of upgraded bushings. Also stiffer springs and shocks. 1" lower.

 My car had 78K total miles when I sold it.   Track miles unknown.  A small portion.


Since it is yellow, is it an SR. 

Seems to lean quite a bit.

e-mail address ?

accordionfolder Dork
7/20/18 10:58 a.m.

In reply to iceracer :



It sat in a barn for 14 odd years. Didn't do it any favors. Check Adrian's post further down the page.

BlueInGreen - Jon
BlueInGreen - Jon SuperDork
7/20/18 10:59 a.m.

I like these cars, and the platform in general. The bummer is, unlike the comparable Saturn S-Series, the good engine only came in the tiny coupe. A Zetec powered wagon would have been nice.

pres589 PowerDork
7/20/18 11:03 a.m.

I've wondered if the motor in these is "better" from a perf & efficiency standpoint than a 1.8 BP.  Seems like an interesting source of parts for cross pollination with other vehicles in the BG chassis family.

iceracer UltimaDork
7/20/18 11:03 a.m.

I saw a converted wagon at an auto coss once.

iceracer UltimaDork
7/20/18 11:07 a.m.

In reply to pres589 :

Seemed to be more efficient in producing power.   143+ in the SR and 170 in the SVT.


captdownshift GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/20/18 11:36 a.m.

In reply to pres589 :

I prefer the BP to the zetec by a wide margain, but the suspension bits of an SR make the ZX2 worthwhile, especially if keeping stockish. 

pres589 PowerDork
7/20/18 11:39 a.m.

It always seemed like cars with 1.8 BP's just didn't get the mpg numbers that they should have.  What's preferable about the BP over the Zetec if stock or near-stock status is retained?

captdownshift GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
7/20/18 11:51 a.m.

The lack of mpg from the BP is primarily based on the final drive and gear ratios in the G series box, wind it to near redline on upshifts and you won't see below 4000rpm until 4th gear. That means that in autocross, rally cross and tighter road courses that if you select the correct gear that you're always in the power. The gearing so so tight on the G series box that I actually like WIDER gears when adding boost. The other advantage is parts availability in part due to platform sharing, JDM factor (though not stock, the availability of bolt on turbo bits or a full BPT engine swap). 

Antihero GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
7/20/18 7:28 p.m.

Here's mine. Has the apparently rare foglights and ABS.

1 2
Our Preferred Partners