Crapwagon Outtake: 1988 Merkur XR4Ti

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

A few months ago, I lamented how Blue Oval enthusiasts never got the “good stuff” from Europe. When all we saw here was powered by pushrod-laden V-8 lumps, the “sophisticates” to our East could buy high-revving, twin-cam fours in light, sturdy, rally-and-race proven sedans.

I was wrong. For a few short years, Merkur set up shop in Mercury dealers, trying to sell Americans a Cologne version of performance. However, most recall Merkur as “the car with the funny name and the funny wing.”

Well, today’s car doesn’t have the badass biplane spoiler of the early cars, but it’s still cool nonetheless. This 1988 Merkur XR4Ti needs a good bit of work to return it to perfection. The dash — like so many from the early days of plastics — is cracked in several places. The upholstery is frayed and loose in spots. The paint needs to be redone.

I’d argue, however, that this car needs little to make a wonderful track-day toy. A good set of shocks and better tires would be enough to let it run with contemporary BMWs.

Most basic parts should be reasonably available, considering how much the drivetrain is shared with the SVO Mustang. The car has plenty of racing pedigree in Europe, as well, so more speed should be available with the assistance of UPS or FedEx.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

More by Chris Tonn

Join the conversation
8 of 76 comments
  • Kmars2009 Kmars2009 on Oct 19, 2015

    XR4ti was cool...but I liked the Merkur Scorpio better!

    • See 1 previous
    • Kmars2009 Kmars2009 on Oct 19, 2015

      @Wheeljack Scorpio was the beginning of Merkur becoming a brand. Pitty it had the plug pulled, just as things got interesting. Now finding a decent Scorpio is impossible.

  • Wmba Wmba on Oct 19, 2015

    The real Ford Sierra Cosworth, on which this bag-o'-shite XR4Ti was based had a 204 hp, 2.0 litre Cosworth engine. Never so disappointed in my life as when the XR4Ti showed up with a rough, stumbling version of the old 2.3 litre SOHC engine from the Mustang SVO. An acquaintance of mine bought one and almost immediately regretted it. In the UK, the real version with the new Cosworth YB engine was first available as RWD, and later AWD. The versions with the great inert lump of Cologne V6 weren't involved in any competition - they were for people to meander down country roads with all the understeer you could ask for.

  • Spartan Spartan on Oct 19, 2015

    Love these cars. My parents owned one from 1987 to 1990. It was fun, but the window regulators went bad often and it had a thing for overheating. My parents traded it for a Honda Accord EX and never looked back. We were a growing family at the time so it made perfect sense to get out of the Merk. I also remember that funky manual operated sunroof, despite the car having power windows and locks.

  • "scarey" "scarey" on Oct 19, 2015

    Worst car I ever owned. I bought it new, less than a week into it, it wouldn't start. Lincoln/Mercury dealer found RUST inside the starter. Took 15 trips to dealer to solve intermittent no start problem (faulty rear-end collision fuel shutoff device). Windows always went down, not always went back up. Lights dimmed noticeably (including headlights and dash lights) when A/C kicked in. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

    • See 1 previous
    • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Oct 23, 2015

      krhodes1 - you nailed!