Junkyard Find: 1988 Mercury Tracer Hatchback

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Here’s a rare one! We’re familiar with the 1990s Mercury Tracer that was a Mercury-badged Ford Escort (which was itself a Ford-badged Mazda), but the 1987-89 Tracer was a rebadged and left-hand-drive Ford Laser, a crypto-snazzy Australian version of the Mazda 323. They sold in very small quantities in the United States, and so it took me a moment to identify this example that I spotted last week in a Denver self-service wrecking yard. As an excellent example of “rare ≠ valuable,” it seemed worthy of this series.

Not even 65,000 miles on the clock. Perhaps it sat in a garage for most of its life, barely emerging onto the street.

It was running in 2006, though, because there’s a Colorado State Parks pass from that year on the windshield.

Vaguely sporty-looking yet late-80s generic.

The Mazda B engine, used in everything from Kia Rios to Mazda Miatas.

Just the car for a night of wrestling!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Sep 04, 2014

    It was clever of whomever did the Merc rebadge to only include rear badging on the glass portion. Just some glass labeling can change it to a whole different marque.

  • Japanese Buick Japanese Buick on Sep 06, 2014

    This car must have been popular with women buyers considering that most of the reminisces here are not about owning the car, but about women we knew who owned them. And that includes me. In 1989 (I think, +/- a year or so) my girlfriend bought one of these as her first new car. She shopped for it and did the deal herself and she was very proud. It was a really nice car and IMO she was justifiably proud. It was less than a year old when she was driving from her home in VA to visit me in NC in a snowstorm and had an accident. It cost nearly half the value of the car to fix it and she insisted it be done right. Said it was a nearly new car before the wreck and it better be nearly new coming out of the shop. It was. I married her a few years later, but unfortunately the marriage didn't last as long as the courtship, but that car was still giving her great service when we parted ways.

  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff I a,so had a 1969 Thunderbird with the 429 V8, and it was a smooth highway cruiser. I sold all those cars when I got commissioned into the Army. I regret selling those cars and miss the simplicity of them. I do have an 1985 FJ 60 Land Cruiser and it is real easy to get to everything in the engine bay. My 16 year old son inherited it. The Mavericks are pretty popular here in Az.
  • John Hummer owners don't care. Like shingles.
  • Wjtinfwb Funny. When EV's were bursting onto the scene; Tesla's, Volt's, Leaf's pure EV was all the rage and Hybrids were derided because they still used a gas engine to make them, ahem; usable. Even Volt's were later derided when it was revealed that the Volt's gas engine was actually connected to the wheels, not just a generator. Now, Hybrids are warmly welcomed into the Electric fraternity by virtue of being "electrified". If a change in definition is what it takes, I'm all for it. Hybrid's make so much sense in most American's usage patterns and if needed you can drive one cross-country essentially non-stop. Glad to see Hybrid's getting the love.
  • 3-On-The-Tree We also had a 1973 IH Scout that we rebuilt the engine in and it had dual glass packs, real loud. I miss those days.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Jeff thanks. Back in 1990 we had a 1964 Dodge D100 with a slant six with a 3 on the tree. I taught myself how to drive a standard in that truck. It was my one of many journeys into Mopar land. Had a 1973 Plymouth duster with a slant six and a 1974 Dodge Dart Custom with 318 V8. Great cars and easy to work on.