Junkyard Treasure: 1987 Mercury Topaz GS 4WD

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November 20, 2019 09:00 AM

Junkyard Treasure: 1987 Mercury Topaz GS 4WD

One of the rarest of all Junkyard Treasures, a genuine all-wheel-drive Mercury Topaz.

Murilee Martin

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Murilee Martin

The Ford Tempo 4WD is incredibly rare, but its Mercury-badged sibling may be one of the rarest cars…in the world.

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Murilee Martin

Ford didn’t start using six-digit odometers in most cars until well into the 1990s, so we can’t say whether this car was pushing 100,000 miles or 600,000 miles when it came to this sad place.

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Murilee Martin

This car has a true all-wheel-drive system, so dry-pavement driving in the 4WD setting won’t break anything.

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Murilee Martin

A Colorado car, start to finish.

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Murilee Martin

They don’t salt the roads in Denver these days, but this car found some salt outside of town.

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I had been searching for one of these cars since I started documenting vehicle graveyards, but I never expected to find one.

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Independent rear suspension, and it appears that the rearmost part of the driveline uses a torque tube of some sort.

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When I’m exploring car graveyards in search of interesting bits of automotive history, I’m always happy to find really old vehicles or high-performance European machinery. What I really look for, though, are examples of weird badge engineering and super-obscure all-wheel-drive versions. A genuine Mitsubishi Precis, say, covers the former type, while the latter could be the seldom-seen Toyota Camry All-Trac.
A car that combined both those qualities would be best of all, of course. When I managed to find a discarded Ford Tempo AWD four years ago, I became obsessed with its Mercury-badged twin, the Topaz AWD. I checked every Topaz in every yard for years, until finally this ’87 Topaz GS AWD appeared in Denver.

Murilee Martin

It’s unclear whether the official Mercury name for this car was the All Wheel Drive or 4WD, since both terms can be found here. The distinction between the two terms wasn’t so clear in 1987.

The Tempo/Topaz All Wheel Drive could be purchased during the 1987 through 1991 model years. The idea of a daily-driven four-wheel-drive vehicle that wasn’t a truck had been under challenge by the likes of AMC Eagles, Audi Quattros, Volkswagen Syncros and Toyota Tercel 4WD wagons for years at that point, but it wasn’t until AWD Subaru sales went crazy during the 1990s that ordinary car buyers thought powering all four wheels was worth the premium. Few AWD Tempos and Topazes made it off the showroom floors, and I’ll bet a big fraction of those ended up in Colorado.

Murilee Martin

Here’s how you turn a front-wheel-drive into an all-wheel-drive.

Buyers of the Tempo/Topaz All Wheel Drive had to get the automatic transmission (presumably because the AWD system wouldn’t survive the rigors of a manual-trans setup) and the high-output engine (presumably because the base HSC four would be intolerably pokey when burdened with all that extra powertrain drag). Even though Ford and Mercury—and everybody else— used “4WD” and “AWD” interchangeably back then (note the 4WD badging on the doors and the All Wheel Drive emblem on the decklid), this is a true all-wheel-drive system with center differential, like the Quattro/Syncro or All-Trac systems.

Murilee Martin

Things got a little hot in here.

A car like this would be pretty useful during the winter in Denver, but this one met its doom when an engine fire fried the engine compartment plus the right-front bodywork. This is the “HSO” high-performance version of the 2.3-liter HSC (itself two-thirds of a Ford Thriftmaster straight-six), rated at 100 horsepower; the base Topaz engine made 86 horses in 1987.

Murilee Martin

Bordello Red was a very popular interior color during the 1980s and 1990s.

Now I just need to find a Topaz or Tempo Diesel (not available in the AWD cars, sadly) and my collection of rare junkyard Tempaz photographs will be complete!

The Tempaz’s marketers focused on one quality in their advertising: cheapness. They don’t seem to have pushed the Tempaz AWD much at all, which is part of the reason so few know it existed.

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Source:https://autoweek.com/article/junkyard-treasures/junkyard-treasure-1987-mercury-topaz-gs-4wd

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