Rare Rides: The 1988 Merkur Scorpio, a Luxury Liftback for Nobody

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

Rare Rides broached the subject of Merkur in the past with a very clean XR4Ti. Today we have a look at Merkur’s only other offering — the luxurious liftback called Scorpio.

As mentioned previously, Merkur was the brainchild of Bob Lutz when he was in charge of Ford Europe. Lutz oversaw development of the European-market Sierra, then convinced executives at Dearborn that a new brand should shift Ford’s European offerings onto U.S. shores. Re-engineered and clothed as XR4Ti, the sporty hatchback went on sale in 1985. XR4Ti was sold at select Lincoln-Mercury dealers, and was in fact the only Merkur until 1988. At that point, its big brother the Scorpio arrived.

Designated as the flagship of the Merkur brand, the Scorpio was intended as competitor to the Mercedes-Benz 190E, Audi 5000, and the Saab 9000. Perhaps the most similar competitor for Scorpio was the Sterling 825/827, which was foisted upon the U.S. by Rover at the same time.

Scorpio was built on the same rear-drive DE-1 platform as the XR4Ti, but at a different factory: All examples rolled out of Cologne in West Germany. While European-market Scorpios were sold as sedans, liftbacks, and wagons with a variety of engines, all North American Merkur Scorpios were of liftback variety. Establishing its flagship status, the Scorpio came equipped with the model’s largest engine, a 2.9-liter Cologne V6. The potent 144-horsepower mill was paired to a five-speed manual, or (more commonly) a four-speed automatic.

Ford intended the Scorpio to impose a more upscale and European image than its domestic counterparts. This was especially true for the Mercury Sable, with which the Scorpio shared a showroom. Though differing in door count, the Sable and Scorpio were similar in appearance.

While Scorpio was slightly smaller in all dimensions, it cost more because of its “premium” European heritage. And the more money part should be emphasized here; the Scorpio asked $23,390 in 1988, or just over $52,000 today. Said price was without options like the automatic transmission, electric moonroof, and the Touring Package, which raised the ask to an adjusted $58,232. The Sable GS asked $14,145 ($31,462 adjusted) in 1988. Obviously, Lincoln-Mercury dealers had a hard time justifying the price for Scorpio.

It was perhaps no surprise, then, that the Scorpio lasted just two model years: 1988 and 1989. In October of ’89, Ford announced there’d be no more Scorpios imported, as the liftback joined the already cancelled XR4Ti in the Merkur funeral pyre. Some 22,010 Scorpios were sold in total, most of which vanished from the roads long ago.

Today’s Rare Ride is listed on one of those odd sites which hangs onto old eBay listings. Located in Oregon, the loaded Scorpio had 70,827 miles at the time of sale.

[Images: seller]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 28 comments
  • WildcatMatt WildcatMatt on Nov 21, 2019

    The exterior styling is a bit bland to modern eyes, but I like the interior. Reminds me a lot of the Olds Touring Sedan of similar vintage.

  • Tbones77 Tbones77 on Feb 27, 2021

    I had an '89 Scorpio and I absolutely LOVED IT! It was a well-built, European-style car with very good handling, a distinctive style, and versatility. Oh, and THAT HATCH... HUGE! It created a greenhouse inside not helped by lightly tinted windows. I actually had to have them tinted (and I live in Pennsylvania!)since I had black leather seats. I would have kept it but for the fact that they pulled the brand after only three years and L-M had an insane guarantee against depreciation up to three years of ownership. It was guaranteed to hold its value at least as well as a Mercedes 190E or C-Class within that three-year window. Needless to say, it got CREAMED in resale value by that time because they pulled the line so I didn't have much of a choice except to trade it in. I had to trade it for another Ford product but I really didn't want a Ford but I found a Jeep dealer willing to "play along" with me. I traded the Scorpio for a brand new Explorer, drove it less than five miles to the Jeep dealership then traded the Explorer for a brand new Jeep Cherokee. Craziest car deal that I've ever done! Anyway, don't 'dis' the Scorpio. If not for terrible management at Ford, they may have been able to save it with some slick marketing (which was almost non-existent) for the brand.

  • Bd2 Oh yeah, funny how Trumpers (much less the Orange Con, himself) are perfectly willing to throw away the Constitution...
  • Bd2 Geeze, Anal sure likes to spread his drivelA huge problem was Fisher and his wife - who overspent when they were flush with cash and repeatedly did things ad hoc and didn't listen to their employees (who had more experience when it came to auto manufacturing, engineering, etc).
  • Tassos My Colleague Mike B bought one of these (the 300 SEL, same champagne color) new around June 1990. I thought he paid $50k originally but recently he told me it was $62k. At that time my Accord 1990 Coupe LX cost new, all included, $15k. So today the same car means $150k for the S class and $35k-40k for the Accord. So those %0 or 62k , these were NOT worthless, Idiot Joe Biden devalued dollars, so he paid AN ARM AND A LEG. And he babied the car, he really loved it, despite its very weak I6 engine with a mere 177 HP and 188 LBFT, and kept it forever. By the time he asked me to drive it (to take him to the dealer because his worthless POS Buick Rainier "SUV" needed expensive repairs (yes, it was a cheap Buick but he had to shell out thousands), the car needed a lot of suspension work, it drove like an awful clunker. He ended up donating it after 30 years or so. THIS POS is no different, and much older. Its CHEAPSKATE owner should ALSO donate it to charity instead of trying to make a few measly bucks off its CARCASS. Pathetic!
  • RHD The re-paint looks like it was done with a four-inch paintbrush. As far as VWs go, it's a rebadged Seat... which is still kind of a VW, made in Mexico from a Complete Knock-Down kit. 28 years in Mexico being driven like a flogged mule while wearing that ridiculous rear spoiler is a tough life, but it has actually survived... It's unique (to us), weird, funky (very funky), and certainly not worth over five grand plus the headaches of trying to get it across the border and registered at the local DMV.
  • Kat Laneaux I get the point that Musk is making. I wouldn't want everyone to know my secrets. If they did, they could or would shout it out to the world. But then, if Musk certified certain folks and had them sign Confidentiality agreements, which would allow them to work on cars that Musk had made, that could allow others to work on his cars and not confine vehicle owners to be charged an arm and a leg for the service. It's a catch 22. People are greedy little buggers. If they can find a way to make money, they will even if it wrong. People...sad.