Low on cash? Looking for something cheap that will return a few smiles? Why not look around for something a little different? Let TFLCar show you rides that might give hope to the hopeless feeling of vehicular inadequacy. Every once in a while, “Cheap as Chips Diamonds in the Rough” will titillate the nostalgic while spotlighting used cars under $2,500.
Starting in 1991, The Mercury Tracer LTS and its cousin, the Ford Escort GT were based on a Mazda 323/Protegé platform and sported a zippy, 127 horsepower, DOHC 16-valve, 1.8-liter four-banger that made 114 lbs-feet of torque. The Mercury Tracer LTS and Ford Escort GT used a Mazda power-plant and it loves to rev. I know, it’s not much by today’s standards, but you have to remember that these vehicles weighed under 2,500 lbs. A five-speed manual was offered and a four-speed automatic was optional.
Most importantly, the suspension setup was excellent. An independent rear suspension (rare back then) helped the Mercury Tracer LTS and Ford Escort GT out-handle much more expensive sporty cars of the day. Aside from the engine and suspension setup, you got sportier wheels, tires, equal-length drive-shafts, larger anti-roll bars, four-wheel disc brakes, larger front brakes, a beefier clutch, twin-outlet exhaust, spoiler, (fairly tasteful) exterior cladding and an upgraded interior.
These cars were a joy to drive and had excellent balance. Go through a sharp bend and you could feel the Mercury Tracer LTS and Ford Escort GT hunker down. The tails were planted and steering feedback was mighty good. The power was just right for corner-hounds, it squirted out of corners with the alacrity, but none of the serious torque-steer, of a SAAB Turbo. The engine sound was sweet too.
Gas mileage averaged in the high 20s/low 30s.
My biggest gripe was with the automated seat-belts that retracted over your shoulder when the front doors shut. There was a simple release, but the electric mechanism was annoying. Still, C&D rated the 1991 Mercury Tracer LTS as one of its “10 Best.” I guess they didn’t mind the seat-belt.
I did some checking and, although they are hard to find in good condition, the Mercury Tracer LTS and Ford Escort GT from 1991-1993 run between $900 and $1,900. Mind you, those are prices from across the United States as both vehicles are too cheap for Ebay. In many cases, they price for the same amount as their regular, 88 hp, 1.9-liter, less exciting brethren.
Yes, these cars are going to have a ton of miles. The good news is: the Mazda 1.8 used in these models was rather popular, durable, numerous and is fairly cheap to replace components on. Most of the parts (brakes, clutch, catalytic converters etc) can be sourced from equivalent Mazdas.
If you have one of these cars, or if you’ve owned one, drop us a line and tell us about it!
Check out this fun video with some seriously cool used cars!
p.s. I had a 1991 Mercury Tracer LTS and it was a blast!