In the 1980s, European cars were ascendant in the United States. The economy was booming, and conspicuous consumption was in. To the distress of Detroit automakers, however, the new class of monied young professionals was rejecting Cadillacs, Buicks, Oldsmobiles, Lincolns, Mercurys, and Chryslers in favor of European brands. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volvo, Saab, and even Peugeot saw sales take flight. Rather than trying to beat ’em, Ford decided to join ’em by importing its own German cars and selling them under the Merkur nameplate to Euro-snob yuppies.
The idea was pushed by Bob Lutz, then head of Ford of Europe. For lack of a better option, the new cars were sold by select Lincoln-Mercury dealers. Pronounced “MARE-coor,” the name is German for Mercury, and its first entry was the XR4Ti, an Americanized version of the Ford Sierra coupe. It arrived in 1985, aimed squarely at the BMW 3 Series coupe. The second model is the car you see here, the Merkur Scorpio, which washed ashore in mid-1987 as an ’88 model.
The Scorpio was a German executive car that competed with the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-class, and Audi 100. In its introductory year of 1986 in its home market, it had won European Car of the Year honors. Roughly the size of a domestic Ford Taurus / Mercury Sable, the Scorpio was priced closer to a Lincoln Town Car, owing to the soaring Deutsche mark.
Unusually, the Scorpio was offered as a four-door hatchback exclusively. A 2.9-liter V6 sent 144 horsepower to the rear wheels, and most cars came fitted with a four-speed automatic transmission (though a five-speed manual officially was offered). The long wheelbase made for an extra-large rear seat, which had a power-reclining feature. Anti-lock brakes, power windows, power seats (with a rubber-bulb device for lumbar adjustment), and automatic climate control were standard. Most cars were also equipped with the Touring Package, which included Connolly leather upholstery, a power sunroof, and a fuel-economy computer (showing instant and average mpg, and miles to empty). A little more than 22,000 were sold over two years before Ford shut down Merkur in 1990.
According to the selling dealer, this incredibly well-preserved Scorpio, for sale right now on the auction site Cars&Bids, is believed to have been awarded to a Ford employee as a bonus when new (which is why Ford Motor Company is shown as the original owner). The seemingly ungrateful recipient evidently didn’t drive it much, and it next ended up with a collector in Tennessee. When that collection was liquidated, this dealer acquired it at auction. Mileage stands at just over 19,000 miles. Finished in Tuscany Gold with Spice Brown leather, it appears now just as it did in 1988, when Ford’s yuppie dream was still alive.