Monday, May 23, 2016

1989 what? By who?

Some cars are just born under a bad sign. For whatever reason they remain unloved, made fun of, or misrepresented as lemons if only because people hear jokes about them and nothing else. Ford begot the Edsel back in '58 which, while a great and very modern car, was immediately maligned due to its looks and timing. 31 years later they ran into the same problem.
This is a 1989 Merkur XR4Ti in one of the 5 or so versions of Black they offered in that year. You almost never see one of these on the streets, especially on a nice block in Windsor Terrace. Maybe out West where rust can't get a hold of them. Get a load of that swoopy '80s styling!
Someone worked long and hard on designing this facade, yet somehow it looks equally like '70s architecture as it does '80s automotive. Like many automotive footnotes it would've looked more at home if it was released 5 years later.
Merkur was introduced as a separate brand in 1985 by the Ford Motor Company (though meant to be sold through Lincoln Mercury dealerships). If you get right up close to this image you can see FORD WERKE A.G. GERMANY stamped along the bottom of this emblem. Indeed these cars were each hand-built in Rheine, Germany.
The 4 cylinder engine used in these Merkurs was the same as the SVO Mustang and Turbo Coupe Thunderbird. Both of those are popular with collectors though and not these.
The styling is a bit generic, but really it's in line with other sporty imports of the day. The original '85 version had a goofy double wing on the rear with the upper of the two wings up in the rear window area.
This egg shape was very efficient in the wind tunnel and performance and economy were both good.
In Europe this car was known as the Ford Sierra XR4i. The "T" America ended up with in the name refers to the fact that all were turbocharged. These cars were rear wheel drive making for fun driving.
Here it is staring into the rear of another Mercury product from the same era; a full size Colony Park wagon. I shot that too so I'll leave it for another day. Could be a Mercury-of-the-'80s fan owns both!
It's hard to pinpoint why certain cars get such a cool reception. You could chalk it up to life not being fair of course, but usually there are subtle reasons. When this came out its sibling the Taurus was also curved and swoopy, and proved to be a gargantuan success. When the Edsel was released America was in a small and almost totally forgotten recession, so laying out decent money for an advanced and controversial design was way out of favor. When Merkur hit the scene it was the go-go '80s (though of course there was a major stock collapse by the time this example was built). Who knows why it never took off?
The interior is yawn-inducingly boring, with the saddest steering wheel known to man, a transmission that looks like a screwdriver jammed into a crack, and all the gauges stuck in a deep box. Boooo.
With zero excitement I will end this post just looking this thing dead in the eye. Merkur went on to release the 5 door luxury hatchback Scorpio in '87 to directly compete with BMW and Audi customers. Nobody noticed or cared and so Merkur went quietly into the night, finally bowing out completely with the 1989 model year. Take a good look because these will no doubt be extinct in mere moments.
While I have a deep love for odd rides that were released and killed off quickly I have no longing for the Merkur XR4Ti. If I ever saw a Scorpio I'd be stunned (only 12,000 were produced during its entire 3 year run) and perhaps a bit excited, but for now I'll just wait patiently for the rest of them to make it to the crusher like the rest of my fellow Americans.

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