A Long Story: 1986 Merkur XR4Ti

Ford’s grand idea to bring in the European Sierra XR4i is often linked to the Swiss-born, all-American legend, Bob Lutz. But what’s tucked away in the dusty corners of history is the quirky genius who thought, “Let’s call it a Merkur and unleash it upon the unsuspecting Lincoln-Mercury dealerships.” I mean, seriously, Merkur? Is that the German version of Mercury, or just an excuse for car confusion? Buyers were left scratching their heads, wondering what in the automotive galaxy this mysterious contraption was. And if the name “MeeerrrKURRR” wasn’t enough of a mouthful, they added the XR4Ti, the unpronounceable name that nobody could remember. Of course, Maximum Bob Lutz later moonwalked his way to Chrysler before Ford’s number crunchers realized this European import with the perplexing name was a financial dumpster fire. But wouldn’t it have made more sense to peddle it at a Ford dealership under a name like “Pinto” or something equally sensible? Fast forward a couple of decades, and I’ll admit, these quirky oddball machines have grown on me, making them a treasure on the used car market. Find this 1986 Merkur XR4Ti offered for $4,600 in Mason City, IA via craigslist. Tip from Rock On!

From the seller:

1986 Merkur XR4Ti
condition: good
cylinders: 4 cylinders
drive: rwd
fuel: gas
odometer: 89658
paint color: white
size: mid-size
title status: clean
transmission: automatic
type: hatchback
1986 Merkur XR4Ti

This might be long. If you have A.D.D. and want the quick facts, skip to the ####### section.

Behold, a garage find right here in River City! This is a car that we never (or at least I never) intended to sell. For starters, my family has owned this car since May of 1987 when it was purchased as a Father’s Day gift for my dad. It was purchased at Don Lafrenz Ford in Mason City, IA and was apparently a Ford factory program vehicle (employee use) prior to our purchase.

I drove this car as my first car in high school and did all the cheesy things an early 90’s teenager did (like having senior photos taken with your car) etc. Unlike many of my friends, I took meticulous care of the car and did not beat on it like many of my classmates did with their cars. As a result, this car was in near mint condition until 2003-04 or so.

It was almost always garaged until 2003-04 when it unfortunately found itself sitting outside while at my mechanic’s shop. I had moved to the Minneapolis area (where I still reside) and I was not aware the car had been pushed outside into the elements in my absence. It was there for a transmission rebuild since it has the factory “glass” C3 auto-tragic transmission. The mistake I made was to tell my mechanic it was “no rush” as I wasn’t even in town at that point. When I came back to visit, I discovered it sitting outside, covered in dust and even worse, it had gotten hailed on and the sun had cracked my once pristine dashboard and done damage to the front seats etc. It was pretty heartbreaking to see it go downhill so fast after all those years of TLC.

I retrieved the car and would have the transmission rebuilt at another local shop although reverse was still a bit soft. Worse yet, while the car was parked outside shop #2 it was left unlocked one night and my Alpine head unit and rare 50×4 Carver amplifier were stolen by some lowlife. I still have the original box and sales receipts for all that… was about a month late in seeing the stolen amp for sale in an online forum! Would have loved to provide proof of ownership and have the clown arrested but I digress….

Anyhow, the car has been driven sparingly by my father between 2004 and 2020 or so. It did venture out for a drive to a transmission shop in the summer of 2022 (slowly, and carefully as the tires are old and dry-rotted) so it does in fact still start and move under it’s own power. It started and ran in mid-October of 2023 as well.

It’s a good starting point for a cool 80’s era restoration if you want something very unique. If you’re not well versed with Merkurs and sourcing parts for them, I can likely point you in the right direction there as well. There are still some great resources for them even here in the Midwest. The engine bits are Ford 2.3 turbo so most of that is easily obtained.
The best thing for this car would be to dump the C3 autotragic and do a five speed conversion. There are a number of options for doing that with the Ford T5 being one of the more common over the years. This was MY plan for the car as well. (Building it into a Quasi-Cossie RS-500 was actually my goal before getting heavily involved with Audis and a few Porsches)


1986 Merkur XR4Ti

  • White over gray leather. Front heated seats, power windows, sunroof.
  • Turbocharged 2.3 liter 4 cylinder engine. 3 speed automatic (needs a rebuild but can run and drive enough to get on trailer etc)
  • 3 Ring binder of maintenance records back to May of 1987
  • A few hail dings here and there but fairly easy cosmetic restoration. Paint the wing and nose panel which have gone chalky and you are in business assuming you know how to do a paint correction/detail.
  • Very little rust! I was daily driven from 1986 until 1995 or so but was always washed and looked after. The stock original exhaust system is still on the car although it has now rusted out. Aside from that, the underbody rust isn’t too bad. Don’t expect AZ or CA clean but for a Midwest car it’s far from gone.
  • 89,xxx original documented miles.
  • Car overheated due to a broken coolant line around 29k miles if I remember correctly. It got a new block from Ford at that time (who of course washed their hands of all responsibility which is why we are now an Audi family just FYI) I think it was the block but that seems weird to me as it’s normally the head that would need replacement…. Don’t have the records in front of me to clarify however.
  • You won’t be driving it home as she sits. Tires are old and dry rotted. Car does start and run however. I’d do a timing belt and water pump etc (non-interference engine FYI) and change all the fluids just for peace of mind. New rubber brake lines for sure too.
  • 100% original paint with ZERO accidents since new.

While not perfect, it’s got solid bones as they say and would be a good starting point for a restoration if you want something “ohhhh so eighties” and weird. I hate to see it go but I have more Audis than sense at the moment and really want to free up the garage space for one of the vintage Audis.

Asking $4600 as she sits.

Additional photos and video being posted soon. Serious potential buyers can message me for a link.

See a better way to drive a cool old oddball? tips@dailyturismo.com