Parts Or Restore? 1987 Merkur XR4Ti Turbo

They were popular, and in a flash, gone and mostly forgotten, certainly by me, until I spied this 1987 Merkur listing and thought, “Oh yeah, one of those”. While limited in production numbers, the Merkur was still a common sight in the ’80s until it wasn’t. What happened? I don’t know but maybe some research can help. This Merkur XR4Ti Turbo is located in Los Angeles (Hollywood), California and is available, here on craigslist for $1,500.

I initially thought that the Merkur was pretty lame, take the Mercury name, knock off the “Y” and Ta-Da, sounds European, great, everybody will want one right? Wrong! When Ford of Europe introduced the Merkur to the U.S. performance-oriented car consuming crowd in late ’85, they didn’t exactly fly off of dealership lots. According to The Merkur Club of America, people had trouble with the pronunciation of the name and the price was not in-line with targeted competitors. Also, Lincoln-Mercury dealerships were better versed at selling Lincoln Town Cars, with their big markup, than some odd-looking hot, German hatchback that required more innate knowledge. About 25K units were sold in the first two years, half of what Ford predicted, and then sales just went into a rabbit hole. By ’87, it was evident that the Merkur wouldn’t survive without some major changes, not only to the car but to its marketing plan as well. That being the case, it was allowed to wither away and conclude in 1989. I always thought “XR4Ti Turbo” was a mouthful of a model name to remember. I wouldn’t be able to tell someone what I owned unless I glanced at the badge on the rear hatch.

What propelled the Merkur was a 175 net HP, 2.3 liter, four-cylinder, turbocharged Ford engine. Coupled to a five-speed manual transmission, such as this example, a Merkur, according to Car and Driver was good for 0-60 MPH times of 7.o seconds and a quarter-mile haul of 15.5 seconds, fair for the era. Unfortunately, this example’s engine looks like it has turned into a peanut-sheller, it’s doubtful that it has run in a long, long time. The Ford 2.3 is one of the most ubiquitous engines of all time, having existed in many manners of tune and models. It’s probably safe to say this one will need a complete dismantle/rebuild – hardly an impossible task.

Of course, the engine may be a moot point when the elephant in the room is that smashed-in driver’s side quarter panel. it also looks like the rear axle may have been damaged as the rear left wheel doesn’t look like it’s exactly pointed where it is supposed to be. The rest of the body, what can be seen, is OK, it looks as if the front header panel has been cut open into a speed-grill of sorts. There is a replacement bumper/grille cover included in the sale that can be used to replace the installed, altered piece.

Inside looks like it had a run-in with Sling-Blade, those are some gnarly, trashed leather seats. But they can be reupholstered and the rear one appears to have escaped the same fate. The dash pad is pretty cracked (good luck finding one of those) but the rest of the interior presents itself as reasonable – I wouldn’t say it’s a lost cause.

The seller wants to move this Merkur, he states, “Bring your own tow truck/trailer or helicopter and take it all away today !” I question whether this car can be returned to road-worthy status at anything resembling a reasonable investment, but then again, it’s only $1,500. It’s quirky but neat because these are just not encountered anymore – here is a Merkur website worth reviewing, if you are interested. On second thought, maybe $1,500 is a good price for a parts car, one that can keep a nicer one still operating; what would you recommend?

Like This? Get Our Daily Email

Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    Parts car.I looked into these after my Cortina got totaled.
    Fun cars to drive,but when I looked on a Merkur website,it basicly
    said that “Anything that can go wrong will.
    I still have a soft spot for these,but wouldn’t buy one unless it
    was completely sorted.
    There’s a place in Portland,Oregon (Rapido) that sells parts
    for these.

    Like 6
  2. DayDreamBeliever Member

    $1500 for a wrecked, non-running, critter house, with a shagged interior.

    PASS!

    Even the parts-bin concept is dodgy.
    One in running condition was advertised locally a couple of months ago, for about twice this ask, IIRC. Money much better spent.

    Like 9
  3. Howard A Member

    Principal Skinner drove a Merkur. I too, always thought it was a European Mercury. It’s pretty hard to stump the Autozone folks, but this would certainly try.

    Like 6
    • Clive Roberts

      The electrics on the early cars were very dodgy. They did get things sorted for the final year of production but it was too late. Shame.

  4. Roger Hackney

    May I suggest the crusher.

    Like 2
  5. David

    The Scorpio was a better model to have, no Turbo but still a cool car

  6. AMCFAN

    Hold up! For someone living in the East especially the rust belt and has one. This may just be the ticket. It’s wrecked and that is unfortunate however it is a California car and it’s underside will be corrosion free. The production numbers and the survival rate both are very low. It may or may not be a parts car sure. Not something that should be scrapped.

    Like 3
  7. Skorzeny

    Jim, Merkur is German for Mercury. It’s that simple.

    Like 5
    • SubGothius

      In hindsight, IMO they probably should have canceled or renamed the Fox-body Capri and applied that moniker to these as their sole badging (just as they’d done before with the Euro-Ford Capri I and II), then when it came time for the Scorpio, expand Capri into their captive-import marque, which would then cover the later Mazda-derived Australian-built convertible we got as the Capri XR2, and perhaps while they were at it place the Mazda-derived first-gen Mercury Tracer under the Capri marque instead.

      Like 2
  8. Arthur

    If the body damage can be fixed and the rear axle can be replaced, I could see this Merkur being restored, or if it somehow costs too much to be restored, it could be the basis for a custom project involving the installation of a Coyote V8.

    I saw such a project on the Engine Swap Depot web site. I don’t know if they completed it yet.

    • SubGothius

      I love the idea of stuffing a Taurus SHO Yamaha-built V6 into one of these — imagine opening the hood to find that signature “nest of snakes” intake. Apparently the key to this swap is sourcing a bellhousing from an Aerostar manual transmission.

      Like 1
  9. Joshua

    I was in high school when this thing came out. It was no good then and this one is no good now. The side windows look like an afterthought, like the old vans from the 70’s. And that name,XR4Ti, please. Now give me an old 1987 Sterling.

    Like 3
    • S

      I have to completely agree here, it was a dumb name. What is XR4Ti supposed to mean anyway? The Scorpio unfortunately looked like just a sportier Taurus/Sable. I’m not sure what Ford was thinking when they brought these over here, but the concept sure didn’t work. They could have done better.

      • S

        It looks sort of like a Renault Fuego. Another car that seems like it should have been kind of cool, but it wasn’t.

        Like 1
      • Joe

        XR4 was the name for the Sierra XR4 in Europe. The T means turbocharged, the I for fuel injected.

        Like 1
  10. Roger Ross

    I had a ’85 with 5 speed. Like you said performace was good in the day. Love the styling especially with the bi-winged spoiler. More upscale than a Mustang SVO.

    Like 2
    • Bob Morris

      I also bought a 1985 Merkur XR4 TI. Kept it five years. Only issue was the AC hose to the compressor exploded one day. A specialty hose shop duplicated it & the couplings. I sold it with about 120,000 miles. The man who bought it gave it to his daughter who used it to commute from the LA area to SD. He told me years later it stopped running at about 230,000. It was a fun car, pretty quick and handled well.

      Like 1
  11. Gremlin X

    Looks like that rear driver side got hit by an oncoming car or object. Good reflexes by the driver to avoid a head-on collision!

    Like 1
    • DayDreamBeliever Member

      More likely someone trying to drift (or not trying, but doing it anyway), lost it and slid into the end of a guard rail. I like your take, but my faith in the skill of most drivers is pretty low.

  12. Mike Hawke

    Drove a Merkur back in the day…great performance with the 5-speed and just had minor FI issues to sort. Ford sold hundreds of thousands of these in Europe as Sierras with a wide variety of engines. The hottest version had a Cosworth engine and it’s very collectable. I had an AWD Sierra with a V6 for a time.

    This is a valuable parts car if under $1000 and one has the space and inclination to tear a car apart (and deal with the rodent infestation). I wouldn’t dare restore it.

    Like 2
  13. Elanguy

    The manual transmission is very rare in the US so this might be worth following up just for that.

    And the model name is silly until you learn that most people who knew them called them Exarati (rhymes with Maserati) rather than the alphabet soup name.

    Like 1
  14. Rob Eddy

    I currently have an 87 XR4Ti and it’s a great car. I drive it frequently.

    That said, this car is a parts donor. It would be good for about half the price if someone wanted the engine for a project. Morgan/Lotus 7 guys will pay good money for the trans. Guys still need parts to keep theirs running. So one COULD recoup a $750 investment

    Like 4
  15. Argy

    The tragedy of the Merkur brand was that we only got one iteration of this car, while Ford ROTW sold the Sierra in five body styles with 4, 6 or 8 cylinder engines and rear or four-wheel drive. The one I wish we’d gotten here the most: the legendary RS Cosworth, which used a 16V DOHC head and was known make in excess of 500 horsepower in race tune. Sourcing Merkur parts in America would be next to impossible but the Sierra was built worldwide from 1982-1993 so they should still be plentiful elsewhere. Nobody should have to crush a rust-free classic.

    Like 3
  16. Joe

    I have owned both a 1986 and 1987, they were both money pits. Electrical issues, all the warning lights would come on like a Christmas tree. Gas gauge didn’t work, temp gauge couldn’t be relied on, tach would stop, a/c usually broke and a/c line were cooked by the turbo under the hood, driveshaft guibo would break off in pieces, T9 trans was to weak if you modified the car. Rust under the rocker panels was known to be a problem. They have a cult following but used prices for these cars were never high like a Mustang SVO or a Turbo Bird which used the same engine, but they had a innercooler. This is a parts car, not worth fixing, maybe $300 to $500 price range. With a good set of performance springs, bigger sway bars, shocks and wider rims and tires, they are very comfortable to drive and handle well. Good back road and highway car. It was never meant to be a 1/4 mile type car.

    Like 1
    • Lc

      The Christmas light ordeal on the dash sounds like the 2010 Dodge Journey that I just bought. Lol. I just took it to the Dodge dealer shop to have the passenger side airbag recall fixed, and drove off with the dang airbag light on along with all the other warning lights.

      Like 1
  17. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Parts car, and only if you live close by.

    I’ve mentioned it before, but I owned an ’85 when it was a couple of years old – picked it up for a bargain because these already had a bad reputation for being money pits.

    It was fun to drive, but the manual transmission had to be replaced or rebuilt four times in 2 years and when I traded it on, every warning light was flashing.

    Like 1
  18. Steve Clinton

    An unusual spot to roast peanuts.

    Like 1
  19. ron

    If anyone here buys this for parts, please consider selling me the 5 speed. I am in need of one for a project. :)

    Like 1
  20. Martin Horrocks

    Here in Spain you can easily find 3 door ( ie Cosworth type) 2.0 Pinto/5 speed for 2000€. Importing one would make much more sense than spending on this wreck.

    Like 1
  21. Steve Bush Member

    I remember sports talker Jim Rome having a running bit in the 1990s in which he talked about the numerous problems he had with the 1985 XR4Ti that he bought brand new at his dad’s insistence when he was in his early 20s.

  22. Joe

    I remember they had such a hard time selling them in their last year, 1989 that Mercury had a $5000.00 rebate on them, unheard of amount at that time.

    Like 2
  23. Dave Mathers

    I was on a Ford Canada Dealer Trip to Europe in 1983 and we were at a hotel in Zurich for a reception hosted by Ford Europe. Ford Canada president introduced me to the European Managing Director as a ‘racing type’, HIS words. The MD said ‘here, take my car for a ride, you are getting a version next year’. A 3 litre V6 5 spd Sierra coupe. BAD fast piece. Unfortunately the Merkurs we got wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding but they did handle well.

  24. Mark-A

    Based on the EU Ford Sierra, which was common for the rear arches to need replacing but this is definitely the worst case I’ve ever seen (and my Dad was a Ford Bodyshop worker) just try to find a replacement shell as the 2 door is hard enough to find never mind the XR4i (EU version) also where’s the bi-plane rear spoiler?? Without it, its nothing imo

  25. Mitchell Ross Member

    Actually, the Turbo 2.3 US cars were faster than the 3 liter British cars. I’ll bet this one goes back to Europe.

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Don't post your car for sale in the comments. Click here to get it featured on the homepage instead.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.