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Weird For The Sake Of Being Weird: The Smoking Tire Checks Out A Merkur XR4Ti


Weird For The Sake Of Being Weird: The Smoking Tire Checks Out A Merkur XR4Ti

Ford’s decision to bring the Merkur brand to life in the 1980s was actually a very sound choice. Buyers were running away from traditional American brands and generally, were going towards European nameplates. Honda, Toyota and Nissan were quick to jump on this bandwagon with Acura, Lexus and Infiniti respectively, and Ford had two products that, with a little massaging to meet Federal regulations, would work: the Ford Sierra and Ford Scorpio. Since GMC owned the Sierra name, the bi-winged three-door became the strangest mis-mash alphanumeric name ever applied to a car sold in the States: the “XR4Ti”. The name actually had a meaning (experimental racer, 4 series, turbocharged, injected) but it didn’t matter…it kind of looked like an Escort, kind of looked a little Mustang-ish, but between the funky quarter glass, the bi-wing and the economic relationship between the U.S. and West Germany at the time, the car wasn’t a big hit…it was expensive and didn’t have the right “X-factor” to grab people’s attention.

Which, while not exactly a shame, is still a kind of missed opportunity. The Sierra has a performance pedigree, and it wasn’t like the materials present were Euro-only. The 2.3L four-cylinder was basically the same unit found in the Mustang SVO and Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, and it can be boosted as high as you’re willing to take it. The Type 9 five-speed manual can be gutted and replaced with a T-5 (and it should be…you’ll see why) and there’s independent suspension front and rear. The XR4Ti can be made to hustle if someone has the drive to put some time and effort into one.


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7 thoughts on “Weird For The Sake Of Being Weird: The Smoking Tire Checks Out A Merkur XR4Ti

  1. David

    People want to knock these but…

    If you look at the current market, you’ll see that the XR may, have been about twenty years to early. Nearly ever manufacturer has an equivalent vehicle.

    And for those who have kept their in nice condition, such as the one in the video… Ford didn’t make a ton of these, and the collector market has started to take notice. In a couple years, these will become a prized addition to some buyers.

  2. Gavin

    I had a black one back in the 90’s that was a truly nice car. Great handling, comfort, and the little turbo 4 was surprisingly lively. More options than any other car I had owned up to then and I agree that the car was ahead of its time and under appreciated. I just started to watch this video and almost instantly recalled why I don’t watch Smoking Tire videos: Matt Farah is, um, how to say it, … insufferable. I don’t know why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to subject their car to a review by this individual. Too bad because I see some neat cars pop up there but can’t take his berating of some features on owners cars. Anyway, my take is Merkur’s have aged well, and a good one now for a good price would bring a buyer lots of smiles.

  3. Drew Harthorn

    Total XR fan here. I’ve owned many of them and really appreciate the engineering, so much so, I race a XR based chassis (with a 61 Falcon body on it) in a circle track mini stock series in the NW, and also appreciate the engineering so much I put the complete suspension (front and rear) under my 29 Model A PU rat rod. The front and rear suspension cradles contain all of the components and attaches with six bolts each. Simple, reliable and amazing.

  4. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    Now a 5.0 V8 would slot under that hood with no problem. Funnily enough such a car was offered in South Africa in RWD form – the Sierra XR500. Its strange that this wasn’t sold in either Britain of the States as it would have blown even the Sierra Cosworth into the weeds and most American compacts too.

  5. Sharkey

    I’m pretty sure these cars were sold in England as Ford Sierras and were turbocharged but the guys who knew what to do with them had them flying. In Australia they were raced against our V8s and were consistently beating them and even went on to win Bathurst and I think the figure for the horsepower they were getting out of these little cars was around 5-700hp . look up bathurst winning sierras on you tube.

  6. C.M. Bendig

    First salvage yard I worked at had 4. I mechanically stripped the motors to the bone. Every last one had been ran low on oil. The old guru at the yard rebuilt turbo’s by him self.

    My problem is I learned what I know from bad tempered beer consuming, finger missing old guys.

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