Project Car Hell: Lancia Scorpion or Merkur XR4Ti?

The blowout Choose Your Eternity polls are fun, but we really enjoy the nail-bitingly close races... which is what we got yesterday, with the Roots-blown Old Beetle just barely beating the Pro Street Peugeot in a 175-165 vote split. Does that mean a German car just upset Project Car Hell GigaTeraPower France, or does the Detroit engine water down the 200-proof Frenchness of the Peugeot? We'll leave that question open for now, because today we're going to see how an Italian basket case fares against a brutalized European Ford!


When a car ad leads off with the statement "This is another car that I have exhumed from my graveyard," you know you're in for a real treat. Better install some good air-conditioning in your garage, because it'll get mighty hot in there once you drag this '76 Lancia Scorpion inside! You Yurpeans might know this car as the Montecarlo, but don't let the similarity fool you- the US version had 81 horsepower instead of 120, because Yurp decided it would be better to allow asthmatic children to die horrible hydrocarbon-enhanced deaths than to strangle car engines with emission control hardware during the Malaise Era. Naturally, that means you'll need to do something about the 1756cc engine currently in this car, but it's probably a boat anchor by now, anyway, as the car "has been sitting out in the weeds and weather for many years" and probably wasn't running when placed in its weedy home. We suggest installing a supercharged Toyota 4A-GZE out of an MR2, which should be a no-sweat swap... right? You know it! The seller claims it's a parts car, but we know you'll be able to bring it back to life in a couple of weekends.

So the Toledo 24 Hours of LeMons race is coming up and you still don't have a car? How about a Merkur XR4Ti, such as the one the confusingly-named Team Flying Hyundai drove in the Altamont race? Come on now, you might whine, nobody really sells an XR4Ti that cheap! Au contraire, my skeptical Midwestern wannabe-racer friend! Just take a look at this '89 Merkur XR4Ti, which has a price tag of just 600 bucks and actually runs! Well, to be honest, the statement "Runs and drives, but needs work" generally means "it makes noise when you turn the key," but that's better than a car that doesn't do anything. It's priced $100 over the 24 Hours of LeMons limit, but we suspect the price is negotiable (besides, if I can sell $280 worth of parts from a $100 Volvo, you should be able to squeeze a measly C-note out of a Merkur). Many, many problems bedevil the electrical accessories, but all you'll need to do is tear out everything a race car won't need and then pray that you can still get the engine computer to work. Thanks to SundaySunday for the tip!

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