Unmodified Survivor: 1988 Merkur XR4Ti

Merkurs unfortunately have become a boy racer special for enthusiasts looking for a cheap turbo car for flogging or entering into events like the 24 Hours of LeMons. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s still refreshing to find one in stock condition. This 1988 example looks quite tidy, with the 2.3L turbo mill (shared with the SVO of the same era) still in place and unmodified. The seller notes its sub-60K mileage as another major selling point, but it still needs some sorting. Find the XR4Ti here on eBay with bidding over $1K and the reserve unmet. 

I love the cars with the factory MSW basketweave alloys; they just fit the Euro-style influences evident throughout the design. This car features the more restrained trunk / hatch spoiler, but the biplane wing is an OEM-correct upgrade if you’re inclined to such things. The body looks better than most of these hot hatches at this point, with just some parking lot scars and paint fade on the top of the spoiler to worry about. The headlight lenses have yellowed, but that’s an easy fix – or excuse to upgrade to the Cosworth front end.

The interior presents as nicely as the exterior, with the nicely bolstered sport seats showing no major signs of wear. Despite being tan in color, there’s no evidence of major staining or soiling on the carpets. The original radio and equalizer are included but not hooked up. Although the steering wheel is stock, I always felt it was a sad design for such a sporting car, along with the accordion-style shift boot. The seller notes the only deviation from stock is an aftermarket temp gauge, as the factory one doesn’t work.

The underside looks quite dry and rust-free, with no obvious leaking from the water hoses or steering rack. The seller notes that the previous owner had the headgasket replaced and new head bolts installed; now, in recent weeks, the lifters have gotten noisy. He seems to cautiously indicate the two may be connected, but the lifters in my departed Subaru XT6 project would get noisy if the car sat for more than a week. The Merkur may also be in need of a valve adjustment. If the reserve is under $3K, this looks like one of the best XR4Ti’s left.


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  1. Classic Steel

    Yawn….but back in barn another decade

  2. Patrick D.

    It is brown. Very, very brown…

    • Wayne Thomas

      Ecoboost could help it be a total sleeper though.

  3. Beatnik Bedouin

    Nice car, but I would say that…

    It’s kind of a shame the model didn’t do better, stateside, as they’re a ball to drive. Ford Sierra XR4i coupes and sedans come up for sale from time-to-time over here, and I’ve often considered adding a coupe to go with the wagon – then I look in my garage and, sadly, practicality takes over.

    Like 1
  4. BarnfindyCollins

    I never understood why they didn’t just label this as a Ford or a Mercury here. The Scorpio used the same Cologne 2.9 V6 as the Bronco II and the XR4Ti had the Mercury Capri Turbo/Mustang SVO engine.

  5. RC

    Sold by us couple of years ago.

  6. BOP Guy Member

    I always found these interesting. It was a modest attempt to bring a little Ford of Germany engineering to the US, to battle the successful German cars of the time. Always wanted to drive one, just to check it out. Wouldn’t buy this one though.

  7. flmikey

    …don’t think these engines had lifters in them…were these not overhead cam engines? I loved my 87 T-Bird with the 2.3…ran forever…

  8. Seriously?

    I had one several years ago. Quick car. But not too reliable.

  9. Adam

    I’ve had mine for almost 10 years. Even spent a few years daily driving it in Toronto (at 100 shifts per day it was at times a bit taxing) I’m slowly working on it and still love it. Definately has tons of character and will make you want to take the long way home. Its a shame many do poor modifications, as they can be reliable and so much fun.

    And yes it has an overhead cam, the 2.3 turbo is also featured in the SVO mustang and turbocoupes.

    As for the naming of Merkur – it’s German for mercury. Why they didn’t get to use the name Sierra over here? That one is easy; the name Sierra was already owned by GM.

    As for this one being the most original? It pretty good, but we have a few members who have XR’s, and Scorpios for that matter, that are one family cars and look just as good now as they did the day they came out.

    But it is nice to see there are still some more originals out there.

    • Tiki Vegas

      Ground breaking design on that car. Set new standards for years.


    I’m sorry but thats an ugly car

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      I guess beauty is really in the eye of the beholder as usual, then, because I strongly disagree with that sentiment (although I would prefer a different color).

      Like 1
  11. TD

    Fun cars to drive when running right, the motor pulls good, but power band is very short…they sure were different at the time.

  12. Gay Car Nut

    Although I never cared for the name, I’ve always liked the car. It’s a damn shame it didn’t sell well here in the USA. I’ve seen the XR4ti and the Scorpio, and while I liked the Scorpio’s 4 door body, I loved the front-end appearance of the XR4ti.

  13. CliffG Member

    I bought one the day they were released, black with a grey interior. The local dealer/sales guy knew almost nothing about it, had to keep looking in his little book. I checked it out on a Thursday before the Saturday release and they added about $5K ADM. i refused to pay it and sat there reading Saab turbo and BMW brochures. Glad I bought a Ford extended warranty, everything in the a/c system needed replacement, then it started popping out of fifth gear. Ford took the little 4 speed from the Capri and added a fifth to the back and it couldn’t handle the torque. i finally bought a T5, bell housing and hardware from Rapido motors and installed it in my side yard, made it very nice, along with a Borla exhaust, turbo rebuild, etc. It felt right-sized, handled like a Euro car but kept attacking my wallet.

  14. John Leyshon Member

    Pretty sound engine. 2.3 Pinto motor with forged internals. EFI from 83-88. The SVO Mustang 84-86 and 87-88 Thunderbird Turbo coupes were intercooled and quicker. Easy to intercool the XR4 and get more power. The borg-warner T-9 manual didn’t like more than the stock 175 HP. The T-5 was strong enough for the turbo and V-8 cars. Recently dropped an 86 XR motor into a 90 mustang. The sumb!tch may even run this spring !

    Like 1
    • Don

      Apparently V8 models of the Sierra were made in South Africa, so it shouldn’t be too hard to swap in a 5L Mustang motor of the same vintage into this thing.

      • Mark-A

        Yup, called it the XR8 in South Africa (5ltr version) but also sold a XR6 with the Essex V6 fitted, both would make a decent sleeper if you got the Base model parts (Bumpers, Lights & Grille etc) maybe not the fastest nowadays but good at the time

    • man ' war

      My 90 Mustang LX with a 2.3 Turbo Coupe engine ran great, had good pull except started to stall once warmed up. So sold it for a loss, but it’s all good thanks be to God.

      It was fun to drive though!

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