In the late ’90s, Ford built a one-off sporting edition of a Ford mid-size SUV using Ford Racing products. They planned to promote it through Ford Racing dealerships to bolster Ford’s motorsport history and credibility. It was a great move to build up Ford’s public image. So Ford built it… as a Mercury. The supercharged special has lived a long but confusing life, and is now available for relatively little money. Find this 1998 Mercury Mountaineer SportTruck prototype for sale in Huntington Beach, CA for $7,495 via craigslist.
Whatever gaps are in the craigslist posting can probably be filled in with information about the Saleen Explorer XP8. Both use blowers in Ford’s old 5.0-liter, instead of the modular 4.6. Both use a four-speed auto. Both are marginally less likely to roll over, thanks to a 2-inch drop and additional chassis modifications. While the XP8 was available in all-wheel-drive, this Mountaineer powers the rear wheels only. Engine output should be similar to the Saleen’s 286 horsepower and 366 ft-lbs of torque.
Ford’s 4R70W four-speed automatic, used in Mountaineers, Mustangs, F-150s, Crown Victorias, and more, gets a beefier torque converter and a much-needed shift map adjustment. It sends power through a Ford Racing (“Mercury Racing” doesn’t have the same ring to it) differential en route to 255mm-wide tires.
It’s been on the dyno, in a magazine, and on the track. It has new parts and passes SMOG in California. And it’s offered in the same Toreador red/tan leather color combination as every other Mercury still on the road. Gold racing stripes don’t help the image, but a nice smokey burnout should.
See another discarded factory prototype? Email us firstname.lastname@example.org.