German Ford: 42k-mile 1987 Merkur XR4Ti

Merkur was Ford's short-lived import brand from the late '80s. In a rather rounabout way, Ford decided to market their German-made cars in the U.S. market. So we were getting a product made in Germany, owned by a U.S. corporation, intended for the European market, but modified and branded to sell here. Sheesh! Why they couldn't just be honest about it and call it what it was - a Ford - is one of automotive history's minor follies.

Since the brand was discontinued in 1989, it made one wonder whether all the trouble on Ford's behalf was worth it (they even once held press-conference to clarify the pronunciation of "Merkur"...note to marketing executives: if you have trouble saying the name of your brand, the whole brand is in trouble).

Fortunately, the actual car wasn't half bad.

The XR4Ti was the first of two Merkur models offered here, and lasted from 1985-1989. It was based on the European Ford Sierra.

The layout was front-engine and rear-wheel drive powered by a 2.3-litre inline turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that, when mated to a 5-speed manual transmission such as in this car, produced up to 175 horsepower, which is decent for a compact from 1987.

Styling-wise, the translation from European economy car to U.S. yuppie-mobile was mostly successful, and at least very memorable. The grille-less front takes getting used to, but the overall shape is nicely proportioned, and the rear quarter window is something rarely, if ever seen on vehicles. The double-decker bi-plane rear spoiler was also-controversial, but when they toned it down for a single level spoiler in the final year or two, the double-decker was somewhat missed. Did it really keep the car weighted down? Who knows. But it was unusual, looked good, and harkened to the car's distant rally cousins in Europe.

Inside, things work relatively well too. The dashboard is un-pretentious and deliciously bland, and is more '80s American than '80s European, but has held up well, mainly due to the fact it's wholly more functional, ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing than American interiors of the '70s. This one looks totally fresh in light grey bolstered leather seats.

The seller states the vehicle has only had one-owner and that the very low 42,774 miles are original. Finding a low mileage Merkur isn't difficult. 42,464 were made, and, with '87 still fresh in people's minds, they have a cult-following here, so some owners keep them preserved. The rest of them are junked, trashed, and abandoned.

Fortunately this one has definitely been in the hands of either someone that cared very much about it, or someone that didn't use it much. The seller states the car has no known defects, with a starting engine and smooth shifting transmission.

There is no real value in the XR4Ti and nobody expects them to rise, though I am sure they will someday in the distant future. Hemmings estimates the value of an "excellent" example at only $3,000. They are a relic of the '80s that failed not because they were a bad machine, but because they were marketed poorly by humans.

Still, if you want a Merkur, this is the one to have. Low miles, excellent condition, manual transmission, good year in two-tone metallic burgundy and grey plastic. How many other cars are turbocharged rear-wheel drive hatchbacks with leather seats and a stick-shift? Not many 2012 models that's for sure. Merkur: 1, 2012 cars: 0.

Find it here on ebay in Philadelphia, PA, with active bidding up to $2,225 and only 2 days left.

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