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
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.