Marketed as the new Thunderbird, the Ford EXP was introduced in April 1981. Ford Division General Manager Louis E. Latalf once said of the Exp “We’re introducing another two-seater with the same flair, but the EXP will be a very affordable, very fuel efficient car matched to the lifestyles of the eighties”. Ford perceived that households were shrinking to one and two person households without small children. This young upwardly mobile generation was the target audience.
EXP, according to a Popular Mechanics article, stood for Erika Project Personal Car. However this claim was never substantiated. The first generation, called the EXP Turbo Coupe featured a 1.6 Liter CVH I4 engine available with a five speed MTX-III manual transmission or a three speed FLC automatic transmission.
Though aimed at the younger sports car market, sales remained sluggish for the EXP. This was due in part to the underperfomance of the engine. Although 200 pounds heavier than the Escort, the EXP had a smaller engine. To correct this problem, Ford designed the EXP Luxury Coupe. It was given a throttle-body injected version of the 1.9 Liter engine.
The EXP Sport Coupe was given a fuel injected high output version of the 1.9 Liter CVY engine and special handling components and performance bucket seats.
By 1988, Ford had done all it could to save the sporty two seater, however sales continued to slide and in October 1988, the last EXP was produced.