Sunday, February 9, 2020

1986 Merkur XR4Ti - Good Car / Bad Marketing

"Hey, I've got an idea. Let's import our European Ford Sierra XR4i. We'll replace the 2.8 liter V6 with a 2.3L turbocharged 4. Then we'll give it a name that most Americans won't know how to pronounce and sell it through a dealer network that wants nothing to do with it. How can we lose?"

That conversation most likely never took place at Ford, but it might as well have. The Merkur, despite being a decent car, failed in the US. And, it failed at a time when we were buying virtually every car the Europeans were sending us.

It failed not because it was a bad car. It was a restyled Ford Sierra. The Sierra was a well regarded car in Europe. The 2.3 liter 4 cylinder engine that Ford used to replace the Cologne V6 wasn't a bad engine. It had been used in the Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe and the Mustang SVO. It wasn't extremely powerful - No US spec engine really was in the 1980s - but when the turbo kicked in it was fun to drive.

It failed because of Ford's marketing. The name was odd to Americans. Many pronounced it "Mer-Ker, " instead of the way it was supposed to be pronounced, which is "mare-koor." But the biggest mistake Ford made was trying to sell this car through Lincoln / Mercury dealers. The last place anyone would look for a sporty European car was at a Lincoln / Mercury dealership. It didn't help any that many Lincoln / Mercury dealers didn't like the car and didn't want to sell it. (I was talked out of buying one by the dealer in the late '80s. Really.)

The XR4Ti had a few teething problems when it was introduced, but all-in-all it was a good car that never had a chance due to Ford's questionable decisions.

Looking back on it today, it was as good as - and in some cases better than - many of the cars BMW, Saab, Audi and Volvo were sending us.

This 1986 manual transmission Merkur looks to be in decent, but not perfect condition. Mechanically, quite a bit of work has been done including a rebuilt cylinder head and a new turbo. It looks like most of the work it needs is on the body - some minor rust and a mismatched hood - and the interior. You could probably drive this car while restoring it. There is a U.S. Merkur Club, whose members should be able to give you any advice you need and help you source parts.

If you're looking for something a little different from the typical 1980 Euro coupes. a Merkur would be a great choice.

Located in the Detroit Metro Area, click here to see the Craigslist listing for this car. The asking price is $2500.00.


pickles said...

1) YAAAY you're back!!!
2) Merkurs are still sexy. There's something about them that's a little bit bad-guy in a Euro club.

Bruce said...

Thank you for posting this wonderful blog about unusual, rare and forgotten cars. I'd like to congratulate you on your work. Have a great rest of your day and keep up the posts.