Friday, December 27, 2013

Merkur Scorpio & Cadillac Catera - Lost In The Translation

Merkur seemed like such a good idea. By the 1980s Americans had, in a big way, taken to sporty European sedans and coupes. Ford had a few in their European stable. It seemed like a no brainer to bring them to the US. In 1985 they introduced the Merkur XR4Ti (based on the German Ford Sierra XR4Ti) and in 1988 the Scorpio (based on the Ford Scorpio Mark 1).

Things didn’t go quite as planned. First of all, we Americans had some sort of mental block when it came to pronouncing the name. Meant to be pronounced “mare-coor” , most people wound up calling them “merk-kers”. Not very classy. Secondly, Ford decided to sell them exclusively through Lincoln – Mercury dealers, not the first place (especially in the mid-eighties) people thought about when looking to buy a sporty European car. Thirdly, many dealers seemed not to like the cars and almost resented having to sell them. Fourth, the XR4Ti’s styling was considered by many to be too outrageous (the first ones had a two winged spoiler on the back) and the Scorpio’s styling too conservative. Fifth, they had some initial reliability problems, especially with the electrical systems.

This Scorpio needs work. The seller says it runs "but makes noise." It's probably best to assume that it's knocking and will need major work. The interior is in very nice condition.

The best thing about this car is its selling price; $500.00, battery not included. (!!)

The Scorpio was a nice car that never had a chance. If you're looking for a unique European sedan and a nice winter project, it might be worth calling on this car.

Located in Middletown, NJ, click here to see the Craigslist ad.

Ford wasn't the only US car company to give an alias to one of their European cars. The Cadillac Catera was an americanized Opel Omega. It was built at Opel's Rüsselsheim, Germany, plant.

Like the Scorpio, the Catera was not a success. Euro car fans found it too cushy, too unexciting to be a valid European sports sedan. Traditional Cadillac buyers found it too small and too "unrefined" to be a "real" Cadillac.

Like the Merkur, there were some reliability problems early on. Most of those were taken care of by 1999, but it was never as reliable as similar European or Asian cars. Timing belts, cam drive idlers, and tensioner pulleys were common, expensive, but avoidable, problems.

Having said all that, the Catera wasn't a terrible car. The 3.0, 24 valve, DOHC V6 engine is powerful. 0 - 60 came in about 8.5 seconds and it had an electronically limited top speed of 125 MPH. The transmission was a 4 speed automatic, the same one used in certain BMW and Mercedes models. If it had cost 20% less and was badged as a Buick, it might have been a success.

These days, nice ones can be found for $3000.00 or less. If you don't mind spending a little extra time on maintenance, it's a unique alternative to a used Maxima or virtually any US sedan from the same era.

This Catera has just 67,000 miles on it. The asking price is $1999.00. There are plenty of Cateras available. I chose this one because I liked the green / tan color combo.

Located in Downers Grove, IL, click here to see the ad.


steve in podunk said...

I had a Scorpio about 20 years ago and it was a really nice car for the $1500 I paid for it. I think the engine in these is basically the same the V6 they put in the BroncoII and ranger, so another engine won't be a challenge to find, now those Cateras are expensive to keep going; the plug wires cost around $150 over 6 years ago(my friend bought one). I'd be wary of the low mileage on it also, as the odometers are known to fail; sort of like Fords and BMW's

Unknown said...

The Catera was a horrible car. I think this one may actually be one that I owned in 2005. I had a dealership a couple of towns over and had a low mile 2000 Green/ Tan Catrea with the same options. That car had 43k. Typical Cadillac electrically issues, poor interior workmanship, plus the engine issues mention in the description. Mine was still covered under the GM warranty and went through a fuel pump as well. The list of warranty claims on my car from the Cadillac was a mile long. I don’t think many Cateras had miles piled up on them, as they were constantly being repaired or sat in dealer lots/repair facilities. I finally just sent mine to auction after 90 days and actually made a profit. I’ll have to look up the VIN to see it it’s the same car.