Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beater Past: Merkur XR4Ti

Of all the cars I've owned, I miss my Merkurs the most. Through high school and college I had a pair of odd European Fords that weren't Mercuries and its pronounced mare-coor for your information. For me it was my first car I bought instead of being handed down.

The first was a nimbus-gray-metallic 1985 with cloth interior sans sunroof. The air conditioning died on the drive home and never returned. While generally reliable, HVAC problems occasionally made driving uncomfortable and I once shivered 500 miles from Houghton to Detroit in December with only the heated seat for warmth. The turbo lag felt like it lasted minutes which was some sort of traction control for a seventeen year old. When the steering rack began leaking I ordered a manual rack out for a base Ford Sierra from an ad in a British car mag. Steering feel went from good to telepathic. The car would steer itself back to center after dialing in a dab of oppo and was well worth a few extra turns to lock. Sadly electrical problems parked it and eventually it became a parts donor for the blue car.

The second car was the puppy who followed me home. A Ford engineer bought it from the executive lot at a year old and drove it only occasionally. I asked him to give me a call whenever he wanted to sell it and my phone rang a week later. It was a blue 1988 with raven cloth interior and spatula wheels (BBS knock-offs pictured). It was entirely reliable and I won my first autocross in it. Some guy ran a red light a few weeks before I graduated and rearranged the front end badly. Without any means to get it the last eighty miles home, I sold it to the towing company. Its final resting place was a junk yard in Albion.

Merkurs have ruined me for nearly any other 1980's beater. Sure BMW E30s are slightly better handling but lack gobs of turbo torque, out there '80s styling, and that useful hatch. I tell myself that the XR chapter of my life is closed but I have a stash of parts and the XR4TI license plate just in case.

1 comment:

  1. This makes me want to sell the E30 and get a Merkur. Especially that last pic with the phone dial wheels. I went to look at one in NC for $450 - black on grey charcoal interior with the BBS wheels but like your grey car, it was riddled with electical maladies.