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

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

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]

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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6 of 42 comments
  • 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.

    • See 3 previous
    • 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.)

  • 1995 SC On the plus side, I found a sedan I want to buy
  • Teddyc73 As I asked earlier under another article, when did "segment" or "class" become "space"? Does using that term make one feel more sophisticated? If GM's products in other segments...I mean "space" is more profitable then sedans then why shouldn't they discontinue it.
  • Robert Absolutely!!! I hate SUV's , I like the better gas milage and better ride and better handling!! Can't take a SUV 55mph into a highway exit ramp! I can in my Malibu and there's more than enough room for 5 and trunk is plenty big enough for me!
  • Teddyc73 Since when did automakers or car companies become "OEM". Probably about the same time "segment" or "class" became "space". I wish there were more sedans. I would like an American sedan. However, as others have stated, if they don't sell in large enough quantities to be profitable the automakers...I mean, "OEMs" aren't going to build them. It's simple business.
  • Varezhka I have still yet to see a Malibu on the road that didn't have a rental sticker. So yeah, GM probably lost money on every one they sold but kept it to boost their CAFE numbers.I'm personally happy that I no longer have to dread being "upgraded" to a Maxima or a Malibu anymore. And thankfully Altima is also on its way out.