Big Brother to XR2 and XR3 – 1987 Merkur XR4Ti

Nowadays, people don’t blink twice at weird model names. There are plenty of offenders, but BMW’s naming scheme is probably among the worst, which is how you end up with the BMW X5 Xdrive40d. Would it have been so horrible to call it the X535is? It’s enough to make you pine for the days when CR-X HF or XR4Ti was considered awkward, never mind the simplicity in names like Sentra XE. Nonetheless, for a make and model that were new to the American market, the marketing machine that was and is Ford could have definitely done something a little more evocative than a jumble of numbers and letters, which did their best to disguise the virtues of a turbo all-wheel drive coupe. Wait, you say it’s not all-wheel drive? But XR4… it has “X” and “4” in the model designation? Which, as it turns out, just designates it as the bigger brother of XR2 and XR3 (Fiesta and Escort, respectively). Let’s take a look at this 1987 Merkur XR4Ti for sale for $1500 in Grandview, WA.

1987 Merkur XR4Ti left rear

Well, it’s clearly spent some time outside in the sun and rain, as underscored by the water marks and faded red paint. The seller has drained his car budget into this thing, which could mean it’s a money pit or you’re getting a good value. It’s said to have good tires, new brakes all around, a 2.3-liter Pinto engine with about 100,000 miles, and significant upgrades to the turbo and exhaust system. The 5-speed transmission is a T5 swap – Mustang V8 transmission, Pinto tail shaft, and Thunderbird bell housing. It’s not clear whether this was originally a manual car, and the “custom shifter housing” does not look like it’s holding together well. Speaking of holding together, the left tailpipe seems to be dangling a little.

1987 Merkur XR4Ti right front

In spite of the faded paint, the body looks pretty straight and complete overall. If you go the repaint route, an inexpensive and reasonably effective way to get the European Sierra look is to black out the C-pillar that splits the two rear side windows. The biplane spoiler is a classic on these – you can either remove it for a very smooth, even more Euro-market look, or embrace it and find all the 1980s-cliche accessories you can.

1987 Merkur XR4Ti interior

The interior looks reasonably clean, and the likely cracked dash is covered with a mat. The seller says there is normal wear to the nearly 30-year-old seats, but doesn’t offer any detail on whether this is bad enough to actually warrant leaving those sticky vinyl seat covers on there. Either way, it looks pretty complete, and upgrades include a recent USB-compatible deck and Grant GT wheel (which actually looks good here), along with a storage container for the spares you’ll want to haul with you… at least on your first trip home.

1987 Merkur XR4Ti engine

The engine shows evidence of plenty of recent work, including turbo plumbing, plug wires, belts and more. Oddly, the painted underhood parts don’t seem to have escaped fading, as if this car spent several months outside with its hood open. The car’s needs include a new battery and exhaust manifold, and the seller recommends towing it home – don’t make a decision without a test drive. With an active enthusiast’s forum to help you keep it going, this might be a more accessible alternative to a GTV6 or 325i, just as Ford wanted you to believe back then.


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