Rare Rides: The 1991 Mercury Tracer LTS, Put It on Your List

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1991 mercury tracer lts put it on your list

Rare Rides has featured Ford’s compact Escort offering previously, in a first-generation EXP from 1986. Today’s Escort hails from the model’s second generation and wears a Mercury badge instead. It also has three important letters on the back: LTS.

Let’s check out a sporty economy sedan from the good people at Mercury.

The Tracer name had an unusual start, as in its first generation it was actually a Mazda rebadge. Parent company Ford ordered up Mazda 323s (BF platform) in three- and five-door hatchbacks and wagons, and did a light rework of clips front and rear. In 1988, Ford axed the slower selling and Escort-based Mercury Lynx, and started its import-a-Mazda experiment instead. The deal with Mazda lasted exactly two model years (and I’ve never seen one of those wagons).

For model year ’91, the Escort was all new, and the Tracer rejoined its brand sibling after it took a break for 1990. Both cars utilized Mazda’s new BG platform, which was also implemented in the 323 (Protegé in North America). Available as a four-door sedan or wagon, the three-door stuff was a thing of the past for the Tracer.

Two engines were on offer in Tracer: A standard 1.9-liter Ford mill which produced 88 horsepower, and a smaller 1.8-liter Mazda unit, which made a more exciting 127 horses. The Mazda engine was only available through 1994, and was also used on the Escort GT and the Protegé. The automatic transmission on offer had four speeds, while those who selected the manual received five.

Mercury brought the new Tracer more in line with its larger Topaz and Sable siblings with a nonfunctional light bar. Safety was upgraded in ’93, with the addition of a driver’s airbag in place of junky automatic seatbelts. The next year Ford had to spend more money on a new dash, as the legislation hammer came down and required a passenger airbag as well.

Tracer was sold as a GS or LS like other Mercury sedans but received a special trim as well: LTS. Those letters stood for Luxury Touring Sedan (LOL you guys) and were the pinnacle of Tracer Time. All examples of the LTS had the Mazda 1.8; the trim vanished after 1994 alongside the more powerful engine.

Other special bits for the LTS included unique alloy wheels, a sporty red stripe around the exterior, more black trim (replacing body-colored pieces), and black door handles. Seats were trimmed with striped fabric inserts, a pattern not found in other trims.

The Tracer in its second generation found a customer base, even if the LTS was rather short-lived. The model moved on to the very rounded final generation for 1997 but was canceled in 1999, many years before the Escort. It was replaced at Mercury dealers by… nothing.

Today’s Rare Ride is a superb condition LTS with an automatic, which is presently listed on BaT. And it just happens to be the same color as the one MotorWeek tested in 1991. It’s bid to $3,200 with three days left in the auction, so the seller may find a few more dollars in his pocket than he originally planned! (Read in John Davis’ voice.)

[Images: seller]

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  • PrincipalDan PrincipalDan on Nov 05, 2020

    My Great Aunt (who also happened to teach at the junior high I attended) had the LTZ wagon. Honestly believe that was one of the most beloved cars she ever owned. Funny how in the 1990s slightly rotund older women didn't mind getting in and out of something so low to the ground.

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    • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Nov 06, 2020

      @PrincipalDan I can see that. I vacillate between y'all and lumbering Ave more nimble. I will say after going from the CX-5, a nice rig by all estimations, to the Mazda3 I was happy. While controlled fairly well, I could still feel the CX-5's top-heavy heft trying to get onto the freeway. The only weird part is that the acceleration for the Mazda3 is only slightly better than the CX-5 with the same engine.

  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on Nov 10, 2020

    I wonder if the mouse belts are unobtanium, just like the ones for the Tempaz of the era? I can’t remember a process to manually set the belts back into the belted position, after which time, you could release them manually. (The Tempo/Topaz ones were permanently attached, and had some sort of emergency release down in front of the shifter; these look like the belts my Mom’s ’90 Civic and Dad’s ‘91 Accord had, with the release at the trolley itself around the door frame. Ironically, the Civic had the plate installed around the lap belt buckle to prevent busted pieces of the orange release tabs from falling into the buckle, the first big Takata scandal! I don’t remember when that recall took place, but my Dad may have been leasing his 1994 Accord by then, which had dual front airbags.)

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.