If you’re from outside of the US or Canada, you would be forgiven for not even knowing that the Merkur brand existed. A subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company at the time, the marque was very short lived, offering cars from 1985 to 1989, before shutting its doors. During that period, the company only offered a couple of models, one being the XR4Ti. This XR4Ti is one of just over 42,000 cars produced for the North American market, but represents a far more interesting car than first meets the eye.
To most of us, this car looks like a Ford Sierra XR4i with a Sierra Cosworth body kit. But what Ford did with the Merkur brand for the US and Canadian market was a bit different. The Merkur was hand built by Karmann Coachworks in Germany, and had a slightly different body to the Sierra. Instead of using the naturally aspirated 2.8l Cologne V6, the Merkur made use of a 2.3l 4 cylinder turbo, which when mated to a manual transmission made 25 more horsepower than the XR4i.
It is also interesting to note that the XR4Ti was a successful race car in its own right. Despite only being offered in the US and Canadian markets, it was driven in and won the title of the British Saloon Car Championship in 1985, and took the class title for 1986, with 14 race victories. The XR4Ti also competed very well in the European Touring Car Championship and the German Touring Car Championship in the mid-80s. In fact, it was the Merkur that was used for feedback and development purposes which led to the eventual introduction of the Ford Sierra Cosworth. Although the Merkur is anything but a Cosworth, they’re about as close as you will get, with some true thoroughbred racing heritage to match.
This particular example is one that has been brought back to Europe from the North American market, and therefore represents a fairly unique opportunity for European enthusiasts. This car is currently for sale in Portugal, as advertised here on Carandclassic. The owner has improved the look of the car with a Cosworth style body-kit, rear wing and other features, as well as aftermarket hotwire wheels. They have even re-badged the car as a Ford Sierra, making it look like the real deal Cosworth.
The car looks fairly clean, and with the body work done to it, probably justifies a higher price tag, particularly considering it’s a unique car in Europe. We have seen a large number of these cars in varying condition for sale in the US, however, they generally attract far lower prices, so perhaps there’s some opportunity there for those wanting to bring in cars from the US which have a well-established following in Europe.
We'll keep an eye out for others like this, and please comment if you have any experience with the Merkur, or better yet, add yours to the register!