Junkyard Find: 1989 Merkur XR4Ti
Every so often during the 1970s and 1980s, the suits in Detroit had an inspiration: Take one of the corporation’s European-market vehicles, throw some new badges at it, and sell it in the United States. Chrysler did it with the Hillman Avenger aka Plymouth Cricket, GM did it with the Opel Kadett aka Buick Opel, and Ford did it with the Ford Capri aka “the Capri.” While these deals never worked out so well when it came to the bottom line (though the Simca-derived Omnirizon did pretty well for Chrysler), Ford didn’t give up on the idea. Bob Lutz decided that a Mercury-badged Ford Sierra with a turbocharged Pinto engine would be just the ticket for stealing BMW customers: the Merkur XR4Ti.
The XR4Ti was rear-wheel-drive and reasonably quick for its time, but car shoppers were confused by the Merkur brand and the build quality was iffy. Here’s a Crusher-bound example of the final-year XR4Ti, spotted in a Denver self-service yard.
Merkur dealerships couldn’t even move 3,000 of these cars in 1989, which makes this a very rare car.
The biplane spoiler of the first few years of the XR4Ti became this tamer-looking single spoiler.
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There actually was a 1988 1/2 model XR4Ti that came with the monoplane spolier too. However I can just tell from the pics that this is an actual 1989 model because on the 1989s the speedo went above 85 mph while on the 1988 1/2 the tics continued past 85 but there were no numbers. I had a 1988 1/2 I bought used with just 29,000 miles in 1993. Excellent car, by then all of the problems (especially the dash and the leather seats) !had been solved so it was a good and reliable car. Ended up selling it to my mother when I bought a Neon ACR for autocross and she drove it for several more years until the last dealer doing Merkur service in the area shut down and she found a killer deal on a used Miata. I still think very fondly about this car and I think it's poor reputation isn't totally deserved.
I, don't think unfondly of my '88 XR4Ti, with monoplane spoiler, either. As I wrote before, I got mine used several years later, with only 4,000 miles, and totally loved it. As for your mom's Miata, I also had a '92 special edition (black with tan leather). Another car I wish I'd still owned.