Only two blocks from the Washington, DC street parking space once occupied for 15 years by a svelte Citroen SM, this early aerodynamic car from another decade appeared recently. Rare in the area when new and practically never seen three decades later, the Merkur XR4Ti had many shortcomings, but this particular example with shiny paint, no visible rust, and a stepladder lashed to its roof appears to be in excellent condition.
Lacking the distinctive biplane spoiler used in early examples marks this as a 1988 or 1989. The rear of the car also indicates that this car may have been spent part of its life in its native Germany, based on the German license plate on the rear shelf. Regardless of its history, whoever owns a Merkur XR4Ti in this condition in 2014 clearly is an enthusiast and who has learned to enjoy the relatively unloved car’s strengths (as indicated by the “Got boost?” sticker next to the nameplate) and live with its weaknesses. The condition of the rear bumper is the only apparent flaw of a car that has quite notably beaten the odds.
Parents had one of these when I was a kid. The electrical system went after about three years and it sit in the driveway for years.
That’s a USA-spec model. Note the narrow indent for the rear license plate, and the CHMSL (center high-mounted stop light) integrated into the spoiler. And of course the USA-spec badges. It was a Ford Sierra in Europe, after all. I also bet those headlights have DOT markings on them.
It is clearly a US model Merkur and not a German Ford Sierra. There are a number of ways in which the car could have moved from the US to Europe and back, though, so it is possible that the owner is displaying a German license plate formerly used on the car, and not just some random German license plate for no significant reason. The U.S. Foreign Service ships foreign service officers’ personally owned vehicles overseas and back, and that would be my first guess as to how this car in DC could have been in Germany at one point.
It’s a fairly common thing in the US and Canada to put a license plate from Germany or Sweden or whereever on the front of your car. I would imagine he got the license plate from Germany for dispaly on the car. But your scenario is of course also possible.
Ford also had a program that you could accept delivery on your Merkur in Europe and they’d ship it back to you when you went back to the US.
Fake and genuine used German license plates can be purchased quite easily.
That is a swell looking Merkur and when I saw one in Portland I did a double take. Older cars have gutter rails so it is easier to mount aftermarket roof racks on them unlike today’s cars. That Maryland “Our Farms Our Future” license plate is one of my favorite designs. So, how long do vehicles last in the Mid-Atlantic States? I never saw anything that old when passing through there.
Its a Ford Sierra out side the US so I doubt its from Germany, the Turboed Cosworths were very quick and became popular for touring car racing in Australia Ford at that time having ditched their V8 Falcons due to lack of power in unleaded form, Rouse prepped Sierras won Bathurst but were then disqualified due to wheel arch infringements and the victory awarded to a Holden but they came back and won again. The best stock Sierras other than the Cosworths had a twincam engine and were German assembled other than that they were only a Cortina in a new suit.
They were certainly not a Cortina in a new suit. They shared nothing with the Cortina and competed in a more expensive and prestigious market segment.
I think you’re thinking of something else Eric. The Sierra shared much of the Mk III-V Cortina/Taunus running gear (and many smaller things like interior lights, handbrake etc). It also directly replaced the Cortina in NZ and the UK, was targeted at the same rep/family market segments and came with exactly the same spec levels and names (L, GL, Ghia etc).
I speak from personal experience, having grown up surrounded by my parents’ 5 Cortinas and 1 Sierra, and then owning 3 Sierras of my own. I knew nothing other than Cortinas and Sierras for the first 28 years of my life, and my mechanic Dad taught me a lot on them (including a full engine recondition on one where the piston broke off the conrod)
Of the shared/interchangeable parts, the most popular Cortina modification here is to swap out the 4-speed manual for the Sierra’s 5-speed. It’s a direct bolt-in proposition (and was factory optional on the Argentinian Taunus SP5) as are the engines. Sierra electronic engine controls/carb (non-EFI) are finicky; disconnecting them and attaching a Cortina carb solves all of that. One of my Sierras blew the C3 trans; I installed a Mk IV Cortina C3 as it was way cheaper. Bolted right in.
It was certainly frequently said here over the years that the Sierra was a Cortina in a dinner suit (or party frock!). That’s obviously facetious given the new floorpan and body, but given how incredibly popular the Cortina was here and in the UK, Ford were happy to associate the Sierra with the Cortina’s heritage.
I always took the ‘Cortina in a dinner suit’ phrases to mean the Sierra took all that was right about the Cortina (not just the mechanicals but equally the trim levels, the target market, the default-rep/family-choice reputation, the value for money) and wrapped that in a much more advanced case.
And yes, I am (tragically!) a Cortina/Sierra fanboi and would have one again tomorrow if I could afford another car 🙂
Nothing wrong with Cortinas and Sierras.I had a Mk3 and Mk4 Cortina and a 2 litre Sierra GL.Good reliable cars,easy to work on and parts didn’t cost a fortune
Certainly in the second half of the eighties there was an endless choice of trim levels and powertrains for the Sierra hatchback, sedan and wagon. Gasoline, diesel, manual or automatic gearbox, AWD, fast and very fast editions. Anything was possible. A true Cortina/Taunus successor !
I remember the ads from the late eighties when the new 2.0i DOHC engine was introduced, a nice all-round and affordable family car.
If this is straight from Germany then it would be a 1988-1989 Ford Sierra XR4x4 2.8i-2.9i, so with AWD and a V6.
And did anyone notice the license plate?
You mean that the white German plate wouldn’t fit ?
Umm…. nope – what it says.
The M stands for München, the rest I can’t read… 🙂
Sorry I should have been clearer:
On the U.S. plate: XR-CIZIN
Nice play on words.
Going by the ladder, I wonder if the exercising involves step aerobics? (boom-tish!)
A once familiar sight in the UK as a Ford ,most had a brutal life,thrashed to death,wrapped round lamp posts or “tuned”.Restored ones go for good money now
I really liked these when new. Ford was on that “Merkur” trip. Too bad it was a re-wrapped Pinto with a turbo. Pierce Brosnan drove one in “The 4th Protocol”.
A Sierra by any other name is still just as ugly. I always thought it strange that they made a “six-light” three door (used for the XR4i) and also a “four-light” three door ( used for base models and for the original Sierra Cosworth).
Notice the protruding surround for the rear quarter windows. This was a mid-term “fix” to try and cure stability problems arising from the styling.
Ugly?? Wash your mouth out with soap Mr! 😉 The XR4i (or XR4Ti as it was over your way) was a stunning looking car, I’d love one!
Maybe you’ve never seen the original 5-door model, with the cheap grill treatment and grotesque wheeltrims.(At the first facelift these were changed, the windows were enlarged, and the bumper shapes sharpened-up)
The Sierra debuted the same week as the Citroen BX. The BX proved to have traditional Citroen build quality , but the styling was very very sharp, and showed the Sierra how it should have been done.
Don’t mind Scott, the car probably looks much better upside down. 🙂
Worth mentioning is that the Citroën BX design was actually meant to be a Volvo.
Fair point, we only got the 5-door hatch in 2.8 XR4x4 and 2.3 Ghia spec. The wagons came in ‘L’ spec though, and my first one had that base-spec slatted grille. I preferred the smooth Ghia nose, but found the L spec quite tolerable. Mind you, ours were body colour, and just checking the ’82 UK brochure, I see there was a sub-L spec available over there with unpainted grille. Not terribly attractive. Re the wheel trims, I presume you mean those smooth featureless disc ones? We got those on the Ghias, L-spec models like my first two had no trims in 84, and the Mk 1 1/2 from 85 gained the ones with lots of round holes around the outside, they looked nice!
My cousin bought a BX new around 1987. I found the styling interesting, but the sharp edges seemed old fashioned to me, a step backwards from the GS/CX, let alone the spaceship Sierra styling! But I wasn’t old enough for a driver’s licence then, so take what I say with a grain of salt!
I’d forgotten the Sierra and BX were launched at the same time. Comparing their styling makes a fascinating exercise. They were certainly quite divergent, almost captaining two opposing directions. That’d make a good CC actually… JPC: it looks great from upside down! 😉 By which I mean all the underneath was fascinating to study for all the hours I spent under it removing faulty C3 and C4 trannies from all of mine!
Also in 1987 Ford introduced the Sierra sedan, for the more conventional Ford enthusiast. This is a 1990 2.0i CL, no spaceship Sierra styling !
When the Sierra wagon first arrived in NZ it not only replaced the Cortina but also the Falcon wagon, one was given to our then P.M. Piggy Robert Muldoon to replace his rusted out Triumph 2000. That car was bright red perfect for a conservative politician.
I think you mean the Escort wagon? The Falcon wagon continued as usual.
Rob’s Sierra was a 2.3 V6 Ghia 5-door hatch and was blue – being a National man he wouldn’t have been seen dead in a Labour-red car. He had Crown plates on it and personally drove it to and from Parliament each day, but I’m certain it was bought by him as his and Mrs M’s personal car; and that she continued driving it after his death.
Fascinating pic below of him and it in 1984:
NZ Falcon wagon assembly ceased yeah they were brought in built up but no local assembly. CR 1 was my BILs Dads job he was the PMs driver for 25 years or more.
Good, it’s not just me. I had wondered if my finding this car unattractive was just a midwestern or American thing. Glad to see your take on this one from the other side of the Atlantic. I feel better.
This sat in the market space of the Cougar. Which, as it turns out, was already occupied by the Cougar. The import Capri was more complementary to the Cougar in its early days, and became the entry sporty two door starting in ’74. Which explains why it actually sold.
This car was not attractive and made no sense in the L-M showroom.
Somebody in Ford had the bright idea of, “It’s German. BMW’s are German. Mercedes are German. This should sell just as well to American audiences.” And then they entrusted the selling to people who don’t understand anything more driver oriented than a brougham.
Robert: I’ve waxed lyrically enough above, but that’s a fantastic find, it’s made my day! 🙂
Roush raced them in Trans Am and IMSA in the late 80s with a good bit of success, I saw one win at Summit Point.
What a sweetheart! I love 80s sport sedans so much with their perfect size, timeless styling and bright colors. The XR4Ti design hasn’t aged a bit and the car is in remarkable condition.
It’s just curious why someone would risk the paint chips and scratches from putting a step ladder on the roof. I feel 80s sport sedans are going to be the next classic category to go crazy in price. Oh I know clean low mile 740ts, E36s are sought after now because they are impossible to find.
What I’m saying is that cars like this Merkur, in mint 1-owner low mileage condition, may soon be selling for $30k. I find the often-heard comment that “sedans will never be collectible” rather ridiculous. It was in the 80s that sport sedans took over from sport coupes for the image conscious buyers.
I’d say that an original and well-maintained Ford Sierra Cosworth (the King of the whole Sierra line) already is a collectible.
Good luck finding one that hasn’t been crashed,messed with or is the real McCoy.A genuine nice example is worth a lot now,there’s a lot of fakes about
“It has to be rare and someone has to care”.
Meet both criteria and you got something valuable. Like an original and well-maintained Ford Sierra Cosworth.
There are a number of good Cossies left here in NZ. We got them all new from the first to the last – they were Ford NZ’s flagship, and were around NZ$95,000 in 1990. A Sierra Ghia sedan was NZ$40,000ish at the time, the XR4x4 was 50-60, and the GLX wagon was 30-35.
The wagon was always the volume model, and the sedan was only available in Ghia form, and the hatch in XR4x4. This meant that there weren’t many donors to build fake Cosworths from, and the vast majority remaining are real. They’ve held their value relatively well over the past decade too – a good RS500 hatch will be still be 40K+ today; the sedans hover around 15K but go up to 30.
Here’s a spectacular NZ-new ’88 RS500 with only 95,000km on it: http://www.trademe.co.nz/motors/used-cars/ford/rs/auction-690353218.htm
I last saw one in Bar Harbor, Maine 4 years ago, same color as this
A friend of mine’s girlfriend had a white one back when they were dating. It had a lot of issues and about the time they got engaged, there was some major engine issues with it and she traded it for a Nissan of some kind. The Nissan was around till it rotted. I haven’t seen an XR4ti in a very long time. I think the last one was near work, sitting dead in the back yard of one of those houses with the “God’s gonna get you!” type signs in the front of it.