26,000 Mile Survivor: 1988 Merkur XR4TI

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At first, I thought this gorgeous, low-mileage Merkur XR4TI here on eBay was going to be a major disappointment: the listing said it was an automatic. But when you spot three pedals on the floor, it’s hard to deny the possibility that the seller got a critical detail incorrect. Fortunately, this 26,773 mile example does have a 5-speed transmission and it needs a new home before the current owner lets it deteriorate into project status any further. 

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Am I being a little harsh? Perhaps. But in this picture, the missing interior trim by the door handle, loose-hanging wires and the aftermarket steering wheel just seem a bit out of place in a car that should otherwise be a preserved specimen – especially since it’s been in the current owner’s care for 13 years. Maybe he just got bored and wanted to start “fiddling” with his project car. I get it: when a project starts to become boring, it’s inevitable that you begin looking for things to fix or tweak. Fortunately, bodywork won’t be one of them as the car looks rust-free.

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The seller has upgraded the transmission to a Ford T5 unit, but otherwise, it looks like the mechanical bits remain stock. The manual is important for many reasons, not the least of which is due to having more horsepower on tap than the automatic: 175 b.h.p. versus 145 b.h.p. This engine was also shared with other turbocharged models in Ford’s U.S. lineup, including the Mustang SVO and Thunderbird Turbo Coupe. Despite the low mileage, a thorough recounting of any maintenance history would be appreciated since these aren’t the cheapest cars to maintain.

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These later cars had the smaller rear wing, a departure from the unique biplane design that came on the earlier cars. Personally, I like the bigger wing better, but that’s not a hard modification to make. There’s no reserve on this car, which is a surprise considering the low mileage and mostly stock condition. The vehicle cosmetics seems to affirm the seller has looked after the car, but you’ll still want to budget accordingly for the upkeep. Which boosted Ford product would you rather drive – the Merkur, SVO or Thunderbird?

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Comments

  1. Dave

    U.G.L.Y. sorry just my opinion, looks a little better without the double rear wing though, this was just one car I never got used to.

  2. Rich

    One of my first jobs was prepping cars for a Merkur dealership in Coon Rapids MN. Loved driving these and the Skorpio too. The interior was incredibly plush. Very ahead of their time in my opinion.

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  3. piper62j

    Yes, ahead of it’s time.. Unfortunately they didn’t become as popular as predicted.. Fairly quick little car and the interior was nicely designed.. Somehow, it reminded me of a hopped up Ford Escort..

    Nice find and a nice car…

  4. HeadMaster1

    I worked for Budget rent a car in late 1986 and we had a few in the fleet, all automatics, but I learned quickly about trailing-throttle oversteer in these.

  5. MikeH

    Another example of a great car that the American motor industry either didn’t recognize what they had, or chose to suppress it. How many examples do we have–Opel, Saab, Simca, Jaguar, Merkur, Cortina, Vauxhall—–??

  6. Steven C

    It would be a lot of fun to take one of these and make a clone of the South African Sierra XR8.

  7. gorzor

    Had to be in the running for one of the top 10 ugliest cars ever.

  8. Mike Williams

    The horsepower is lower than the SVO’s 175 by at least 20 because it doesn’t have an intercooler. In this condition the odometer has to have rolled over to 100k+

  9. jim s

    car does look rough for the claimed miles. seller should relist as a manual, since ebay system will not allow a correction on this listing, and post a carfax to support the miles. i think current bid, on a no reserve auction, of just $1575 is a give away price even if the mile are wrong. great find.

  10. Jubjub

    I was always on the like the looks side of the fence. I always liked these wheels but liked the biplane spoiler on my ’86.

    Ugly or not. Not many vehicles as fun to drive and able to haul a major appliance too.

    These still don’t look outdated.

    What’s with the Playskool steering wheel?

  11. Steve

    No one else noticed that the driver seat doesnt match the passenger seat? This, along with the wierd steering wheel make me think the odometer has rolled over. It looks like a 126k mile car, not a 26k mile car.

  12. RH FACTOR

    Worked on these at the dealer when they were new. Wicked good structural intergrity and handled like they were on rails. I preferred the automatic versions of the early turbos as the combination of the turbo and torque convertor kept the engine on the boost.Parts were very expensive.

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