By on July 30, 2015




No surprise, the auto journo that insists on everything LS-swapped is actually a big ol’ fraud. Do as he says, not as he does with TTAC’s Project Car — a 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia previously reviewed with the promise of more to come.

Promises: kept.

After scouring the interwebs, reading about the Sierra’s factory shortcomings and applying a modicum of common sense, the ultimate in Chevrolet LS-performance was beyond my financial scope and my intentions for a Mk1 Sierra. Stuffing 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag, no matter the ability to make the baddest, brown, 5-door hatch on the planet, wasn’t in the cards.

1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

Then a 1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe arrived via phone call. Bought by my friend (and infamous LeMons racer) Brian Pollock as a rust-free restomod worthy of a good home, he parted it out to feed his racing addiction. True to form, he made a quick buck off me with its valuable Fox Body parts, but our conversation soon regressed to the Sierra-worthy goodies: the turbocharged 2.3-liter mill, EEC-IV fuel injection, T-5 gearbox (a la Sierra Cosworth), the largest injectors/camshaft/manifold/VAM of its breed, rear disc brakes and even a serpentine accessory belt drive. It was all mine for $700, with Brian’s commitment to be the craftsman behind this madness.


Then another LeMons racer offered the running, restorable 1988 Merkur XR4ti (American Sierra to you noobs) seen in this article’s introduction. Sure, the motor’s hurt, but it rounds out the Sierra’s Ford-ification: a drop-in EFI wiring harness/fuel system/clutch, bigger (front) brakes, firmer springs, fatter anti-sway bars, stronger 7.5-inch differential and countless interior bits including a boost gauge.

$600? Sold! There’s even my favorite 2.3-liter aluminum cam cover with complimentary mud dauber nest:


Shockingly, the Merkur’s hurt motor fired up on first attempt after a 2+ year slumber. Once the amazement subsided (terrible quality YouTube video remains), the notion of driving a parts car certainly beats pushing the damn thing.

For the price of an LS1 take-out motor, my path to being a complete fraud — a two-faced bastard of massive proportions — was complete. Plus, I enjoy slamming performance Ford parts in Ford products where they do not belong. It’s been my shtick with non-Mustang Fox Bodies since 1999.


Necessary Aside: Behold the amazing parts interchangeability of (disturbingly comfortable) Turbo Coupe seats in Brian’s Ford truck. It’s also a 5-speed Fummins conversion, garnering attention from the tow-savvy among the B&B in our last article, effortlessly yanking the Merkur, T-bird and the Sierra around Texas. Aside from the color clash, this embodies everything I wanted to share in this update.


That’s a very handy book to find in the back seat of your Merkur parts car. I bet I can get $50 for it when I’m done with the swap. So what’s next for TTAC’s Ford Sierra?

The Turbo Coupe is stripped; of no further use to anyone but China. It’ll be scrap metal by the time you read this.


The Merkur isn’t long for this world, but the sacrificial lamb’s pain is pure pleasure to The Sierra Gods. I suspect we’re swapping subframes (for that stiffer suspension and big differential), grabbing fuel, drivetrain and EFI wiring bits in the coming months. And since its rust free, maybe I’ll sawzall off the rocker panels as the Sierra is a tad rusty-crusty after those hard UK winters.


Most of this is on Brian’s plate, but me? I’m ensuring the Merkur’s computer accepts a tune like the (better) unit salvaged from the Turbo Coupe, with input from my SCT tuner friend. Perhaps intake, exhaust and camshaft upgrades are in the mix. You never know!


I’m also geeking out over the Merkur’s factory boost gauge via installation into the Sierra’s cluster. Not a direct drop in, as the right-hand-drive Sierra puts the speedometer (and cable) on the wrong side of the assembly.


Nothing I can’t handle.

What other roadblocks shall TTAC’s project encounter? Until next time!

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45 Comments on “TTAC Project Car: Sacrifice to The Sierra Gods!...”

  • avatar

    Love the fummins. I have always loved that body style of ford trucks

    • 0 avatar

      Me too – I have essentially the same truck, but a 1990 with the 460 gasser that has diesel-like low-end torque. I’d love love love to do a Fummins conversion on it, but I only drive it every month or two so I can’t justify the cost and time to do it (doesn’t stop me from CL-scanning for donor engines however, heh heh).

      If you can’t afford a diesel, I can’t recommend the 460 highly enough. It has the stump-pulling power to get the job done. Fuel mileage? I’m getting between 9 and 12.5mpg which is not bad for something that big and heavy IMO.

  • avatar

    There is no MAF on Lima Turbo Fords it has a Vane Air Meter and it kinda sucks.

    That LA3 ECM from the 88 TC has a provision for a MAF though and it’s recommended if you plan on using a blow off valve (stock setup lets the turbo surge).
    You can also convert the VAM to a Blow Through setup if you want to go the cheap and easy route.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the update Sajeev. I just wonder why you don’t take the Sierra Parts and pop them on the Merkur? Seems like it might be in better shape then the Sierra plus you don’t have to deal with the hassle of RHD.

  • avatar

    I love the pattern on the Merkur seats. I’d rather have that then the blah styling of current cloth seats.

    A brown cavalry twill (as seen on 70s Lincoln Town Coupes) roof would match and make it a Merkur Brougham…no wait, that’s a terrible idea.

    • 0 avatar

      I like a nice herringbone pattern as well. IIRC something very similar available on mid 80’s Camrys.

      • 0 avatar

        Need moar herringbone!

        • 0 avatar

          The Camry had some pinstripe suiting style comfort in velour if you were at higher trims. It looks very nice actually.

          That’s not what was in my uncle’s though. His was this, in grey. Just stripes, no herringbones.

  • avatar

    Great project! Did you know that the Sierra’s head designer, Peter Horbury, went on to make late 90s Volvos?

  • avatar

    A frankenmod tow vehicle gathering parts for a frankenmod car project. This is awesome.

    (but WTF is a “mud bug?” That there is a dirt dobber nest, son!)

    • 0 avatar

      Second correction of the day. I feel so humiliated.

    • 0 avatar

      Haha, I was wondering about that. I knew what you meant. I have always heard those being called mud or dirt dobbers. A mud bug, however, is a crawfish. At least where I come from… Born in Louisiana, grew up in Houston, still trying to escape.

      • 0 avatar

        Is there a difference in a crawfish and crawdads?

        Pronounced “krawl-dads.”

        • 0 avatar

          None at all. Crawfish, crawdads, crayfish, mudbugs, and there’s an old French spelling that I can’t remember at the moment. Something like ecravasie… I haven’t heard it pronounced as krawl-dads before, though.

        • 0 avatar

          None at all. Crawfish, crawdads, crayfish, mudbugs, and there’s an old French spelling that I can’t remember at the moment. Something like ecravasie… I haven’t heard it pronounced as krawl-dads before, though. But tasty, no matter what you call ’em.

          • 0 avatar

            I imagine the person that said Kral Dads is the same guy that says Erl instead of Oil.

          • 0 avatar

            There is a drawl found in the country here in SE Indiana, which is the krawl-dads thing. Nobody says erl though.

  • avatar

    That seems to me like a VERY base model XR4, by the way. I don’t know that I’ve seen one (not that I’ve seen many anyways) with that few options. I’m guessing even with the lack of equipment it was still more expensive than a 5.0 Mustang of the time.

  • avatar

    So lat week I was out looking at houses for my daughter and cam across a person with a turbo 2.3 fetish. Turbo coupe of the same era as your donor and a pair of XR4TI in the driveway. Alongside the house was a similar era F250.

  • avatar

    About time :)
    It seems like the XR4ti parts car does not have the biplane wing though, you really need the biplane wing to get the best of the aerodynamics for better top speed ;) Well, you would also need to rebuild the side skirts and fender flares to get all the way down to 0.31 tbh
    I guess you will also need the lights (at least the fronts) to make it legal in the US?
    I would also mention the Sierra obviously has no ‘shortcomings’, it only has ‘unused potential’. The one thing I always loved about them was that you could basically build whatever you wanted from it, race car,fast&furious hooner style, family hauler, 4×4, custom, etc. etc.

  • avatar

    Of course you know that every single person who bought an XR4Ti hated the car after owning it for only a short time. And STILL hates them after all these years.
    I KNOW from experience. I make the sign of the cross when I see one, like I was seeing a vampire.

    • 0 avatar

      Hatred is a passionate feeling, and I know we all feel passionately about Sierras XD
      Strangely enough, just as Sierras almost took over Europe completely, VW sales started to rise, and they have sold more cars than Ford ever since. It must be because people knew a better car would never be made, so they all stopped being passionate and got boring… (no, no, I’m not in denial, having owned a dozen Sierras does not make me biased at all XD)

  • avatar

    2.3T FTW!!! Especially when it’s an ’80s rwd Hot Rod. ’85ish Corvette? Punched out to 500+ hp 2.3T madness?? The mind boggles.

  • avatar

    I am similarly infected with Mark VIII and Mustang GT convertible disease, yet am completely immune concerning these cars. Thank the fates for small favors. I am already plugged by my membership in every bizarre automobile repair website forum extant.

  • avatar

    First mod: front mounted intercooler! Very cool project car.

  • avatar

    A groovy story! I’m happy the Merkur is getting some deserved love.

    I’d be hard-pressed to make a decision to save a Mercur vs a Thunderbird.

    Because… Thunderbird!!!

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