With Mercury moribund, not only does its slate of badge-engineered American cars fade into history, but also a series of Euro imports. That makes today's Nice Price or Crack Pipe Merkur an orphan's orphan, and it's seeking a Daddy Warbucks.
The Dutch wear wooden shoes. And heel and toe action in pine clogs is neigh-on impossible, making the advent of the DAF Variomatic CVT transmission a godsend in the Nether regions. We here at Jalopnik - while not exactly barefoot and preggers - prefer not to get splinters in our feet, and like our shifters to be manual and coggy rather than continuously variable and belty. That didn't play into the favor of yesterday's Dutch Military DAF 66YA, leaving it with an 85% Crack Pipe loss, and line of cars behind it at the exit.
Today's candidate also hails from Yurrup, but that and four tires that are round is about all it and the DAF have in common. Cheaper by a grand and a half than that DAF comes an 1985 Merkur XR4Ti, and for that happy hour cover you'd be getting a much more potent drink. It was created in the heady days when Ford's engineers and designers seemed like they were on peyote, and had locked management out so they wouldn't smack down such radical fare as the Taurus/Sable twins and the brilliantly re-imagined Thunderbird Aerobird. The Merkur brand was Ford's attempt to leverage European product, and establish a differentiation factor for Mercury. Sadly, it didn't work. The mid-west dealers couldn't pronounce the brand, and the Deutchmark/Dollar exchange rate sent the car's price on a roller coaster ride- well, the first part of the ride at least, you know, where it just keeps going up? Merkur only lasted for 4 years and two models, and these days finding the second - the Scorpio hatchback - on the road is like discovering an actual Almond Roca in the litter box. Mmmm, cat candy
The smaller and sportier XR4Ti on the other hand remains an iconoclastic and desirable ride, and typically current cars fall into two categories- dog turd, or Schnell-wagon. This '85 falls into the second category. The chassis of the European Ford Sierra, upon which the XR4Ti is based, rivals the contemporary BMW 3-series for creds: solid uni-body architecture, coil and strut suspension with trailing arm IRS in back with
disc brakes all the way around brakes better than Fred Flintstone's, and an available T9 five-speed. Wrapped around those specs was a body that was the antithesis of the Bavarian's inability to think outside the box, and rivaled its fat American cousin for roundiness. The Merkur came to the States with the additional unique styling traits of a split second window and bi-plane rear spoiler. Motivating the Merkur was Ford's tried and true 2.3-litre, here with a turbo bolted to it.
This red rocket still has the funny windows, as well as the pressurized four cylinder, but along the way from there to here it has lost the plate rack that used to bisect the hatch. In its place is the less ostentatious single spoiler off of a later, duller '89. Now for some people, an XR4Ti just doesn't look right without the wacky split-level air management system back there, sort of like seeing Richard Simmons without his trademark too-short shorts and peek-a-boo scrote. Making up for that on in the visual department is a Cosworth Sierra nose piece which adds a gaping maw and a set of Cossie headlamps and hood gills. Giving it an almost Plymoth Sundance appearance from certain angles, the plastic rocker cladding has gone the way of its parent brand as has the front bumper, having been replaced with one from a MKIII Jetta! Mustang 10-hole alloys keep the tires from rolling away, and the seller says the paint looks better in the pictures than in the metal.
Underhood the 2.3 benefits from a slew of upgrades and replacements including a big valave head and intake and exhaust plumbing roto-routed by turbo Pinto modder 40bob. There's too much there to list again, and only the deletion of both A/C and heater is obviously a questionable choice. The chassis has seen similar mods and should give the what's now likely now over 200-pony engine a good sparring partner.
Inside the car looks to have stood both the test of time reasonably well, with only some crazing I the leather and a few wonky dash joints to show for it. In back there's a pair of 12" speakers if that's your kind of thing, and if it isn't, well, just toss ‘em out. There's no mileage given, although with so many parts replaced, it's questionable as to how relevant it would be anyway. The seller does say it's rust-free and made
the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs a recent run from Seattle to Cali without issue.
You might take issue with the price however, as at $5,000 asking, it's a hell of a lot more than the aforementioned dog turd Merkurs clogging up the Craigslists. This XR4Ti has a enough upgrades and new stuff that even the seller's admission that the Garrett is leaking doesn't necessarily mean it'll be a money pit, but are you willing to pit your money against that chance? What do you think, is five grand American a deal for the Merkur? Or, does that price mean this car's days at the orphanage are just beginning?
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