Rebadged Import: 1986 Merkur XR4Ti

Ford in the U.S. has been known to borrow from Ford of Europe over the years for cars to market on these shores. Case-in-point is the Mercury Capri which was built and sold under the name on both continents. About a decade later, Ford would take the European Sierra {successor of the Cortina/ Taunus) and rework it to become the Merkur XR4Ti in the States. This 1986 edition has been an ongoing project for the past 30 years that the seller needs to let go to focus on more pressuring business. Located in Tempe, Arizona, this seldom-seen hatchback is available here on craigslist for $5,000 OBO. Another rare find by Pat L.!

For consumption in the U.S., Ford’s marketing gurus came up with “Merkur” as the brand name for the car in the U.S. It means “Mercury” in German and was added to the portfolio of automobiles sold through Mercury dealers. This product was dubbed the XR4Ti as a performance-oriented coupe for which the “T” stood for turbo and the “i” for fuel injection. The cars were imported from 1985 to 1989 and were targeted to compete with other imports like BMW. Halfway in, the Merkur moniker was dropped.

Sales expectations for the new car were never met. Instead of selling 20,000 units in a year, it took two years for the U.S. dealers to sell 25,000 for both 1985 and 1986. By 1989 and with a redesign of the car looming in Europe, only 3,000 copies were sold before the Ford bosses in the U.S. decided they no longer needed the product in their U.S. program. Which is too bad that the demand was never there.

As the story goes, the seller saved the car (when?) from someone who was stripping it to become a rally car. So, a lot of rebuilding was needed to get it back to the running order it’s in today. That includes relying on a Mustang 2.3-liter SVO turbocharged engine as the powerplant. The motor is paired with a Borg Warner T5 manual transmission, and we’re told it runs and drives as it should. The seller has accumulated $10,000 in receipts to cover the variety of work that has been done (though not detailed). The body and paint may be okay here, while the interior needs to be tightened up. The car needs to be sold quickly and the seller is not interested in any sort of trade.

Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    Another car that I’ve really been tempted to own,but then
    common sense kicks in,& I pass.

    Like 7
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      I should have had that same common sense, anglia.

      Mine was bought a couple of years used, and it went through manually transmissions like crazy – and I didn’t beat on my cars. Plus, mine ended up with a myriad of electrical gremlins.

      Fun to drive, though, and the stock seats are Recaro.

  2. BimmerDude Member

    I had a 1985, one of the first shipment that came here. Those cars were built by Karmann and the first run was the learning curve. It was well proportioned with comfortable leather seating for 4 . Even with my short, about 3 years ownership, I had many issues: a/c crashed as my parents arrived for a visit in the middle of a summer heat wave. I persuaded the dealer to remove the evaporator from a in-stock one and put it in my car.
    The transmission was not the BW T5 as stock, they took the French built Capri 4 speed and tacked on a 5th gear. Mine would pop out of 5th on decel so I used a bungie cord to hold it in gear, then I installed a T5 using a kit from Rapido Motors. The Turbo was water cooled but it still coked up, valve stem seals went through several replacements and TTO was a common design flaw.

    When I sold it I drove it to the buyer’s house, took him on a short test drive and pulled over so he could drive. He said,, don’t bother. I can’t drive a stick. Ohhkay…

    Like 13
  3. Derek

    I didn’t like the early Sierras; rubbery gearchange and handling (I was working in a garage, but Minis were my drive of choice). By the time that they came to their end – XR4x4s and so on – they were a far better thing to drive. The XR4i (Merkur) was a homologation job to try to stiffen up the shell for touring car racing, as that big rear quarter window frame flexed. Can’t’ve flexed that much, as the Cosworth variant used the big-window shell.

  4. Vance

    I owned this exact car, it kinda drove me down memory lane. I totaled my 1987 Mustang GT that I had bought before I got married. She wouldn’t let me buy another Mustang (that should have been my first clue), but I got a new F-150 instead. My wife went back to school about a year later, so I sold it. I then bought one of these from a friend. It was a very fun car to own, and people either liked it or hated it. It handled very well, accelerated with that turbo whine, and had every option you could get. Here’s where it gets good, outta nowhere she divorces me and takes the new Escort I had just got her. My Father had died the previous year,, lost my dogs because I lost my house, then lost my job because the plant lost it’s contract with Dodge. Every time I see one of these it takes me back to that moment in my life. Yes, it’s like a country song, you play it backward and you get it all back. Beer, women, and work got me through it all, it was one hell of a time.

    Like 18
    • Stan

      🎶 🎵
      Tonite, the bottle, let me down, and let your memory come around ” 🎶

      Like 5
    • BCB 42

      Been there myself, friend.
      Missed my dogs a helluva more than my ex….

  5. Cody Bolt

    I bought a one- owner bright red 1986 back in 1990. The warranty was a strange arrangement, and after I paid the $50 transfer fee, I got it into the shop about 10 miles before the warranty expired. Did replaced the turbo, steering rack, brake calipers, and some other odds and ends, but claimed the bad 5 speed transmission was fine. I also missed out on the leather upholstery recall. I loved driving the car, and wish I could have a good one now. Parts were a nightmare in 1990, so I imagine many are impossible now.

  6. Stan

    5.0 mustang or SVO was a more sensible offering from the Ford motor co. Always liked these anyways, seats 💺 looked awesome, and rwd, 5sp is primo fun.👌 👍

    Like 4
  7. Fran

    Funny. I gave my parents one of these cars to use we all loved it and we took it many miles well over 100K with no issues. Would like to find one local that was in great shape. Hard to find.

    Like 3
  8. Thomas H Piercy

    My 87′ looked exactly like this, wastegate bypassed and very responsive, easy on the 5 speed, I knew not to powershift it and loved the suspension. The independent rear gave a soft ride on the interstate, but stiffened up quickly when the wheel was turned. No problems and I would buy this car at $5000 in a heartbeat.

    Like 4
  9. Solosolo UK Solosolo Member

    This model was always known as a FORD CAPRI in UK and as far as I know, the whole of Europe, never a Merkur.

    • angliagt angliagt Member

      They were called Sierras in the UK.

      Like 4
      • Solosolo UK Solosolo Member

        Sorry angliagt. You are absolutely correct, brain fade again on my part I’m afraid. They weren’t available in South Africa other than four door versions.

  10. Philip Lepel

    Merkur became the ugly step child of the Ford turbo family. The SVO and the Turbo T-bird delivered the same horsepower in a lighter package(svo) or a more luxurious (87-88T-Bird).

    • fran

      Thunderbird turbo coupes were made from 1983 to 1988, they were heavier than the xr4ti. The SVO had a intercooler, thus they were faster, but the xr4ti was super fun to drive and even with the auto was fun. I had 2 turbo T-Birds, (83 and 85) the 87-88 turbo T-Birds also had a intercooler. My Turbo T-Birds fooled tons of Monte CarloSS’s because of my manual….

      Like 6
    • Thomas H Piercy

      I spent many miles in a Turbo T Bird, a couple in an SVO Mustang and I owned an XR4ti.
      83′ to 85′ T birds had the same engine as the XR4ti, 87′ up and SVO had intercoolers good for another 25 or so hp. There was also a Mustang GT Turbo which had the same engine without the intercooler, these are very rare and were available in a convertible. All these engines were hand assembled with 4 bolt mains in Brazil and other improvements over the standard Mustang and Ranger 2.3s. The XR4ti was superior because of an independent rear which gave it a very civilized ride with genuine European handling. I agree with the remarks regarding the name, but I believe an important fact of its demise is the lack of an intercooler and that the automatic, though it performed well was a 3 speed, making it kind of buzzy at highway speeds.

      Like 1
  11. Rw

    Best of both worlds, work as mechanic not tech in those days, drove mekurs , mustang,capris,and big block Buick Oldsmobile chevy Pontiac,u get it

  12. SubGothius

    The Merkur moniker wasn’t dropped “halfway in” or otherwise, until they stopped importing these (and the later Scorpio model) altogether. That said, halfway in they did get a minor update that changed the Merkur logo badge on the tailgate to a serifed text badge instead, along with a bigger rear window and a single-wing rear spoiler, a more durable dashboard, and various other improvements.

    In hindsight, IMO they probably should have just axed the fox-body Mercury Capri for ’85 and, once again as before, made Capri their Euro-Ford import brand in the US market, leveraging the residual familiarity and goodwill of that name here rather than inventing the confusing and unintuitively-pronounced Merkur marque. Then later they’d add a Capri Scorpio, and eventually perhaps a Capri XR2 or Barchetta (aka the ’91-94 Mercury Capri roadster).

    That also would have allowed them to transfer the old fox-body Capri’s handsome boxflared fenders to the Mustang when they gave it a facelift for ’87, which would also help recoup their tooling investment in that body variant.

    Like 3

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