Ford Motor Co. said yesterday it made $211.2 million ($1.75 a share) in the first quarter of 1983, bringing Big Three profits for the period to $1.04 billion, the automakers' highest quarterly earnings in nearly four years.

Also reporting yesterday, Pan American World Airways and Trans World Corp. both posted near-$80 million losses for the first three months of the year.

And Xerox Corp. said it earned $1.25 a share on continuing operations in the first quarter ended March 31, up 3 percent from $1.21 a year ago.

The showing for Ford, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Corp. was the best since the second quarter of 1979 when they made $1.5 billion.

"The turnaround reflected the profitable operations in North America as well as higher industry volume and a record car share in Europe and improved cost performance in most areas of the world," Ford Chairman Philip Caldwell and President Donald Petersen said in a statement.

Ford, the No. 2 automaker, had worldwide sales of $10 billion, up 13 percent from last year's $8.9 billion. Last year, Ford lost $302 million.

Ford said it made $111 million on its total United States operations, including financing. Ford said its North American Automotive Operations, which includes Canada, were profitable for the first time since 1979.

Ford's operating profit for the quarter was $272.2 million compared with a loss of $117.2 million on the sale of cars and trucks in the first quarter last year.

Outside the United States, Ford made $100 million in the first quarter, down $104 million from the same period last year.

Pan Am reported a net loss of $79.6 million in the first quarter, 37 percent less than its $127.3 million loss for the same period a year ago.

Pan Am said its first-quarter results improved because of a 16 percent decline in fuel expenses and an 8.7 percent reduction in its costs for salaries and benefits. The airline had reduced its work force from an average of 30,071 employes in the first quarter to 27,670 this year. But the company also said it had a $45.3 million drop in revenue from freight and mail. The company trimmed its 747 freighter fleet from six planes to one as it pursued a plan to carry more cargo in passenger planes.

Consolidated operating revenue was down 1.8 percent to $838.2 million from $853.9 million, Pan Am said, but its operating expenses also declined by 8.5 percent to $872.7 million from $954.0 million a year ago.

Trans World reported a first-quarter loss of $82.3 million as heavy losses by the company's airline wiped out profits earned by the company's hotel, food service and real estate units.

Trans World Airlines' holding company's loss was an improvement of more than $24 million over the first-quarter loss of $102.7 million in 1982.

Trans World Airlines reported a loss of $92.7 million, which corporate Chairman L. Edwin Smart blamed partly on the traditional loss of traffic in the first three months of the year. He also attributed the loss to promotional fare wars in the airline industry, pointing out that TWA lost money despite a 20.6 percent increase in domestic traffic and a 4 percent increase on its international routes.

Other subsidiaries of Trans World Corp. reported total earnings of $20.3 million in the first quarter, compared with $22.3 million last year.

The holdings are: Hilton International Co., which operates 89 hotels in 43 countries; Canteen Corp., one of the nation's largest food service operators; Spartan Food Systems Inc., a diverse restaurant operation; and Century 21 Corp., a franchiser of independent real estate brokers with 6,400 offices in the United States and Canada.

Xerox Corp. said its first-quarter profit rose 17 1/2 percent from a year earlier, while revenue edged up 0.3 percent.

Net income climbed to $128.7 million ($1.25 a share), from $109.5 million ($1.29) a year earlier. Revenue rose to $2.009 billion from $2.003 billion.

Xerox said, however, that a direct comparison between quarters "is not meaningful" because the latest earnings included net income of $30 million from the company's recently acquired Crum & Forster insurance unit, and because the year-earlier results included $7.2 million of income related to Xerox's sale of WUI Inc. on June 30, 1982, to MCI Communications Corp.

Xerox said first-quarter income from continuing operations rose 25.8 percent to $128.7 million, or $1.25 a share, from $102.3 million, or $1.21 a share, a year earlier.