I have a 2006 Grand Caravan SXT and a 2002 Eldorado ETC, but they simply don't compare to the 1997 Escort wagon. Shortly after I bought it the rear suspension began groaning over bumps. I never worried about it, but eventually it turned out to have broken rear springs -- relatively cheap to replace. Absolutely wonderful engine: I have the 2.0L SPI (split port injection) and it makes the correct amount of power. The chassis is still firm, steers straight, no squeaks, though it won't be long until the rust starts at this age. I'll just keep 'er going indefinitely as a winter-beater, top-notch reliability and ease of maintenance.
I love the wagon and the higher-end LS features combined with low-end simplicity and value. Excellent reliability with distributorless ignition, there's virtually nothing to do to tune it up besides screw in new plugs!
Timing belt is getting old and it's a tight pinch to get it out, but that's typical for this type of repair.