Back to the Magazine Articles index page.
SCORCH XR4Ti
 
     From where inspiration springs always seems a mystery. It's only upon investigation that one discovers the reasoning behind the revelation.
     Ralph Todd has worked with cars for decades, cataloging each one in his mind.; Knowing their reletive merits (and weaknesses), when faced with the challenge of building a car that could blow away 427 Cobras at owner's club meetings, he immediately thought of the nearly forgotten, Ford of Europe-built '85-'88 Merkur XR4Ti as a base. The Merkur's major advantages were it's exceptionally strong unibody structure, sophisticated suspension and steering, and roomy engine bay. In Europe, the Sierra Cosworth RS pitched over 500 horsepower through the same unibody and won multiple rallying championships in the process. If any car could accept additional power, it was the heavily reinforced Merkur. So Ralph built a nasty Merkur, which he calls the Scorch.
     Traditionally hot rodding would have dictated the installation of a big American V-8, but the mass of such an engine would swallow up many of the lightweight Merkur's talents. The cheapest source of power in a feather-light package was, to Ralph's mind, the 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged DOHC 24-valve V-6 used in the Nissan's 300ZX. With the space available in the nose of the Merkur, Ralph smoothed the kinks out of the Nissan's induction plumbing by installing slightly larger Garrett turbochargers, and cooled the boost with massive 4.5-inch-thick Blackstone intercoolers. Throw in a few tuning tweaks to produce between 18 and 20 pounds of wheeze, and 550 horsepower at 6800 rpm on 92 octane unleaded is emancipated. Beyond that, there's a massive 460 pound-feet of torque--far more than was present in even the Sierra Cosworth.
 
     Behind the engine lives the Nissan's five-speed manual transmission, a carbon-fiber drive shaft, and reinforced gears and halfshafts on the rearend. For stopping , Ralph installed a modified set of the Corvette ZR-1's Australian-built PBR brakes behind the 300ZX's 16-inch wheels. The rest of the car is barely modified. A new nose funnels air to the intercoolers, a larger single-plane rear wing replaces the Merkur's original dual-elements, and 245/50ZR16 BFGoodrich Comp T/A R1s wrap around the wheels. The interior remains stock.
     Weighing in at only 2820 pounds, the Scorch is nearly 900 pounds lighter then a 300ZX Twin Turbo and has nearly twice the horsepower. The result is an ungodly amount of wheelspin as the car launches. There's way more power than there is traction. It spins it's tires right through fourth gear. The quarter mile flashed past in only 14.0 seconds at 108.4 mph.
     Considering that this is a German-built car packed with a Japanese engine and Australian brakes assembled in California, it's startling how confidently the car handled hard work on the Willow Springs Raceway road course. Todd's balance of shocks, springs, and bars results in tremendous turn-in and the ability to careen off corners with ballistic acceleration. The claim is that the car will run away from a 427 Cobra like the 427's tied to a stake--and that's apparent in it's thrilling 71.5-mph slash through the slalom.      Bring Ralph Todd a Merkur and $50,000, and he'll re-create the Scorch for you. His prototype is built upon the $600 remnants of a car nearly destroyed by an engine fire. Imagine how good the car would be if it were built on a better example.