Get ready to feast your eyes on the Ford ‘RS 4Ti’, a modern interpretation of the iconic Sierra Cosworth RS500. Unveiled at SEMA 2023, this impressive creation by Canadian-based restoration specialists, JH Restorations, is based on the Merkur XR4Ti. With its custom wide-arch body kit, ‘Area 51 Blue’ finish, and a tuned 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine, the RS4Ti captures the essence of the RS500 spec. Discover more about this exciting blend of classic and modern right here.
As we make our way around SEMA 2023, we’ve already seen some spectacularly impressive rides. Being based in the USA, most of Fords on show are based on iconic USDM models such as the Mustang and F-150 pickup.
But one Blue Oval caught out our eye in the Toyo Treadpass just outside the Central Hall…
This awesome creation is the handiwork of Canadian-based restoration specialists, JH Restorations. Based on the Merkur XR4Ti, it closely resembles the Ford Sierra XR4i that we know and love in Europe – more on that later. But this one has been upgraded to RS500 spec. A modern interpretation of RS500 spec.
XR4Ti meets RS500
The Merkur XR4Ti was based on the three-door, six-window window bodyshell shared with the UK-spec Sierra XR4i. You’ll notice that this RS4Ti, though, has the same larger rear windows as found on the Sierra RS Cosworth.
The body mods don’t end there. A custom wide-arch body kit clearly takes inspiration from the Cossie too. The whole thing is finished in a cool shade called ‘Area 51 Blue’, taken for the Ford catalogue and expertly mixed by BASF.
2.3-liter Turbo Powered
Under the hood, the original Merkur XR4Ti featured a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. So does the RS4Ti. But there’s no Lima here. Nope, this motor is a tuned version of the 2.3-liter EcoBoost lifted from the S550 Mustang – the same as found in the Mk3 Focus RS.
Mounted longitudinally, it’s hooked up to a beefy Tremec TKX 5-speed transmission. Power is sent straight to the rear wheels, through a full independent rear suspension set-up taken from a 2018 Mustang. The rear end also includes the ‘Stang’s virtually indestructible 8.8in rear diff too!
Up front, things are a little different. Don’t let the purists know, but the RS4Ti features components from the GM parts bin! The front suspension set-up is based on the Corvette C6, including the front hubs and QA1 Suspension coilovers. It’s a bit of a mix-and-match, but it works. Anything that addresses the stock Sierra’s less-than-ideal suspension geometry gets our vote!
Inside, there’s a distinct retro feel. The Recaro seats and door cards have been trimmed with a real 80s vibe. The finish is flawless, but it’s packed full of neat little touches too. For example, the reverse-sweeping rev counter and integrated boost gauge in the dash binnacle are simply class touches.
Completing the look, a set of American Racing VF529 wheels fill those flared fenders perfectly. The aggressive and functional style of the rim suits this car’s race-car-for-the-road intentions. Unsurprisingly given the stand it’s displayed on, the RS4Ti runs on Toyo Proxes Sport tires.
As far as modern interpretations of a classic icon go, the RS4Ti is up there with the best of them!
What is the Merkur XR4Ti?
The Merkur was a bit of a mix-and-match of Ford brands in the 1980s. The bodyshell was based on the Sierra XR4i. The engine was a turbocharged 2.3 Lima unit from the Fox body Mustang. And the whole thing was built by Karmann in Germany, where it was badged exclusively as a Merkur. It was then sold through Ford’s Lincoln dealership network in North America.
In many ways it was similar to the European Sierra XR4i, but with an engine rated at 175bhp (with manual transmission, it was 145bhp with automatic transmission. That was more powerful than the XR4i, and until the Sierra RS Cosworth went on sale, the XR4Ti was the most powerful car in the Ford-of-Europe range.
The XR4Ti was a remarkably good, fast and capable machine. But sales in America flopped, and the car was only on sale for four years.
In Europe, the Merkur XR4Ti was officially sold only in Switzerland. None officially came to the UK. Except for two very special cars, that is. They were the cars that BTCC legend Andy Rouse turned into very successful touring cars in 1985 and 1986. He won the BTCC Drivers Championship in 1985 behind the wheel of an XR4Ti – a feat he couldn’t repeat in the Sierra RS500 Cosworth.