Rare Rides has featured Ford’s compact Escort offering previously, in a first-generation EXP from 1986. Today’s Escort hails from the model’s second generation and wears a Mercury badge instead. It also has three important letters on the back: LTS.
Let’s check out a sporty economy sedan from the good people at Mercury.
The Tracer name had an unusual start, as in its first generation it was actually a Mazda rebadge. Parent company Ford ordered up Mazda 323s (BF platform) in three- and five-door hatchbacks and wagons, and did a light rework of clips front and rear. In 1988, Ford axed the slower selling and Escort-based Mercury Lynx, and started its import-a-Mazda experiment instead. The deal with Mazda lasted exactly two model years (and I’ve never seen one of those wagons).
For model year ’91, the Escort was all new, and the Tracer rejoined its brand sibling after it took a break for 1990. Both cars utilized Mazda’s new BG platform, which was also implemented in the 323 (Protegé in North America). Available as a four-door sedan or wagon, the three-door stuff was a thing of the past for the Escort and Tracer names.
Two engines were on offer in Tracer: A standard 1.9-liter Ford mill which produced 88 horsepower, and a smaller 1.8-liter Mazda unit, which made a more exciting 127 horses. The Mazda engine was only available through 1994, and was also used on the Escort GT and the Protegé. The automatic transmission on offer had four speeds, while those who selected the manual received five.
Mercury brought the Tracer more in line with its larger Topaz and Sable siblings in 1992, when its grille was replaced by a nonfunctional light bar. Safety was upgraded in ’93, with the addition of a driver’s airbag in place of junky automatic seatbelts. The next year Ford had to spend more money on a new dash, as the legislation hammer came down and required a passenger airbag as well.
Tracer was sold as a GS or LS like other Mercury sedans but received a special trim as well: LTS. Those letters stood for Luxury Touring Sedan (LOL you guys) and were the pinnacle of Tracer Time. All examples of the LTS had the Mazda 1.8; the trim vanished after 1994 alongside the more powerful engine.
Other special bits for the LTS included unique alloy wheels, a sporty red stripe around the exterior, more black trim (replacing body-colored pieces), and black door handles. Seats were trimmed with striped fabric inserts, a pattern not found in other trims.
The Tracer in its second generation found a customer base, even if the LTS was rather short-lived. The model moved on to the very rounded final generation for 1997 but was canceled in 1999, many years before the Escort. It was replaced at Mercury dealers by… nothing.
Today’s Rare Ride is a superb condition LTS with an automatic, which is presently listed on BaT. And it just happens to be the same color as the one MotorWeek tested in 1991. It’s bid to $3,200 with three days left in the auction, so the seller may find a few more dollars in his pocket than he originally planned! (Read in John Davis’ voice.)