A Rare Cat: The Cosworth-Powered Mercury Lynx
Did Not Finish

This is the story of the upscale, US-market version of the Ford Escort MkIII, the Mercury Lynx. Well, not just any Lynx.

In 1980 the Escort platform went front-wheel drive, with drivetrains ranging from a piddly 1.0-liter on up to a 1.8-liter diesel option, resulting in a car which I imagine was as boring to drive as it was to look at. There was a 1.6-liter turbo version, but I wouldn’t know if it was any good either since we didn’t get that Escort in America. What we did get was the Mercury Lynx with a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter engine or, if you were really looking for a bad time, you could opt for Mazda’s 2.0-liter RF diesel.

Confused as we are in America when it comes to the automobile, this was somehow Mercury’s best-selling car, before sales and the platform, finally died off in 1987.

Since it was affordable and practical, as well as offered in a wagon layout, and boasted high sales, you might think the streets would be littered with old examples. Not so. Honestly, I can’t say I’d ever seen one (I’m sure I have, but they’re awfully forgettable) until I stopped by Impeccable Inc. and I noticed a weird boxy thing tucked in the back next to a gorgeously maintained race-spec AMC Javelin.

Right, so, this Lynx…

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This car is one of one. Not just because it’s the singular chassis that Ford commissioned Firestone Motorsports to build for the 1983 SCCA Pro Rally Season, but also because it’s probably the only interesting Lynx to ever exist. This is in large part due to the Cosworth power plant, but more on that in a moment.

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As you can see from these photos straight from the ’80s that Chad Raynal, owner and president at Impeccable Inc. (the first of which was shot by John and Lynn Nixon, with the last two shot by Mark Windecker), sent over, the car was indeed completed on schedule and competed in 1983 rally season. Ford, or more accurately Mercury-Lincoln, managed to get Taisto Heinonen, the ’82 SCCA Pro Rally champion, behind the wheel.

Unfortunately, it didn’t seem that they were altogether too successful, as the only results for the ’83 season that I can find show the Lynx earning four DNFs in four appearances during the 12-round championship. Bummer.

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Behind the bulging bodywork construction on the car was Gartrac, a British fabrication outfit with experience previously modifying Escort rally shells from as early as the ’70s. To convert the chassis to rear-wheel drive, Gartrac built new front chassis rails and redesigned the front crossmember (along with much more detail work, I’m sure) to reorient the engine and gearbox while also moving it closer to the center of the car. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the parts developed for the MkII Escorts ended up on this car too.

Aesthetically it’s a funny looking little machine; it’s almost right, but certain proportions just don’t end up working out. Still, cool details like the original Hella Rallye 2000 driving lights, Hella headlights, and even a Michigan-registered license plate remain.

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The Lynx still also wears its original Panasport wheels, plus two spares which are housed in the rear. Chad tells me that the Firestone rubber wrapped around the wheels in the hatch are actually original to that less-than-successful 1983 season.

In my heart of hearts I really wish the car had seen racing success, but Ford pulled the plug pretty quickly after the disappointing results, with Audi going on to take the championship that year. Fast forward to 2018 and the car sits in Northern California, hot off a refresh at Impeccable Inc.

Cosworth 2.0
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Of course, the best part of this car lies behind the growling cat on the front grille.

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A fantastically restored Ford-Cosworth BDG 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, initially developed for the Firestone Motorsport McLaren M81 Mustang.

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Before being transplanted into the Mercury Lynx, the inline four was refreshed and adapted by Terry Hoyle for rally use. The engine now utilizes a Gartrac dry-sump oiling system as well as dual 50mm side-draft Weber carburetors. After turning air and 110-octane race fuel into power, the engine makes use of the original Terry Hoyle-specified header and exhaust to expel the fumes.

From here, a 5-speed ZF dogbox sits in a custom-built transmission tunnel, sending power out back to a floating Atlas axle with a Watt’s link setup. Naturally, the entire back end of the car was rebuilt to accommodate the rear drive and massive suspension travel.

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With keys in hand, I had to ask Chad for a little start-up job.

He obliged, much to my delight. I’ve been looking for a good, compact, Ford-based power plant for a project I’ve long had in my head. I’ve always had these old Cosworth units in the back of my mind, and after poking around this car and hearing the old motor turn over the answer is obvious. Still, as always, it really comes down to cash…

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On the dash I noticed a 12,000rpm redline as well as 1,120 miles on the odometer. Nice.

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Inside and out the car is full of race-spec hardware. One of my favorite details is this navigation light for the co-driver; why wouldn’t they just use their phone?

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Chad and his uncle Ray, who purchased the car together, have only owned the Lynx since 2015, after picking it up from the first private owner who had it stored in his collection for some 30 years. Still, Chad says he’ll probably sell the car sooner rather than later to focus on restoring (and driving) a number of his other projects you’ve likely noticed in the background.

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There are dozens of fantastic cars, engines, and parts tucked away at Impeccable Inc., and I’ll get to all of it soon. First, I just had to get a closer look at this one-of-one Mercury Lynx, the underdog of underdogs, the only Lynx ever built this way.

Yes, that’s probably for good reason, but I still can’t help but hope whoever ends up getting their hands on it will wind up that glorious Cosworth towards that 12,000rpm mark at every opportunity.

Trevor Yale Ryan
Instagram: tyrphoto
TYRphoto.com

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18 comments

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1

Great article. Though to quote others "The BDG was the evolution of the BDE built for Formula 2. The BDF was an improved development of the BDE. In 1973 the BDG was introduced, it featured another increased cylinder capacity and produced 275 bhp. The first versions had a cast iron block, but later engines had an aluminum block." This engine saw service in 1970's Escort Rally cars and though it was used in the McLaren M81 Mustang it was certainly not developed for that car. It was used, in that case, because it was very convenient and very good.

2

Thanks! Yeah, for sure, proper Escorts were using the power plant long before that Mustang. From what I make of the notes on the car though the team was able to transplant one and make minor changes, i.e. the majority of the development done on this engine was for the Mustang (although all of the previous development was indeed for other cars) and this Lynx piggybacked onto those efforts.

3

I don't think (believe) any development was done on this engine for the M81 Mustang. That makes no sense. It is completely unrelated to what powers this car. The used what they had, a known, proven engine in this Lynx. It is really just Lynx sheet metal on a Gartrac Escort.
Why? The M81 was a show car, proof of concept kind of thing, they only made 10 of them when it was all said and done, great concept but it didn't fly.
Why else? The M81 Mustang used a turbo 2.3 Pinto engine.

4

Wow another 80s icon
This has to be the best of Ford

5
Daniel P Huneault

more on that javelin in the background!

6

If it looks familiar, it's because it's known by another name in the UK & Ireland: The Gartrac G3. There's a decent enough history on Gartrac's own website, but there are still a few running on the stages here today.

What I hadn't realised was that Kris Meeke's father, Sydney Meeke, prepared the first car for competition which was driven by Irish rallying legend Billy Coleman.

http://www.gartrac.com/company/g3escort.htm

7

And more importantly ran all of Bertie's cars!!

8

i totally never knew a bit about Mercury had a cool little sport car called the Lynx, what would I do without Speedhunters <3

9
Michael Hugo Rodriguez

Nice piece of writing here. Love to see obscure cars being featured on Speedhunters but I have a correction. There was a turbo powered Escort GT from 1983 to 1985. https://autopolis.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/1983-to-1985-ford-escort-gt-turbo-the-turbo-trickle-down-effect/ My Dad worked for Ford as a designer and I always wanted him to lease one as his company car.

Fun fact (not for anyone except myself)...I've got a FoMoCo promo poster of the red rally Escort on the LH side of the starting line pics.

10

Thanks! Yeah we did actually get the FWD version in the 80s didnt we? I didnt find any indication that the turbo powerplant made it over, but I believe you.

11

Thanks for bringing us the story of this car Trevor.

That is not a 12,000 rpm redline though, note the tach is rotated so 9k is at the top - that is more realistic, and lots of revs for 1983.

Also, in 1983 your phone was in your house plugged into the wall! Besides that you need both hands as a rally navigator, modern cars still have lights (the ones that run at night)

12

9k is at the top, but this looks like one of those old-school tachometers with a manually-set redline, and that's sitting at about 5000rpm if I'm reading it right.

Oddball race cars are always interesting though!

13

Over 9000!

Navigators are no joke but, yes, I did know that about phones...

14

More articles like this!!

15

I will be posting my story as the driver about the sad 1983 rally season of the Pro Rally Mercury Lynx ‘83 on my FBpage

16

Hey Taisto...mitte kulu! How about sending us some updated personal info so we can get in touch?

John & Lynn

17

Thanks for this. In the Rust Belt of the US, the lowly Escort has mostly gone the way of the dodo (if dodos...oxidized...)...anyway, seeing the combination of oldschool bodywork that I associated with the pizza delivery boy in 1995, juxtaposed with the blue-chip awesomeness of the BDG engine and rally pedigree, is surreal.

I want one powering the rear of an EXP. It would also make for a very agile, bubble-hatch, Foxbody Capri...

18

If this floats your boat have a look into the Escort RS1700 T. It was intended to be a group B rally car but by the time it was finished four wheel drive was a must have, so some of the tech, such as the engine, was transferred over to the RS200.

In Europe we also had the Series 1 RS Turbo, another homologation car, which used the 1.6 CVH Turbo, and is something of a cult classic. I owned a super rare non custom S1 track car a while back and it's the only car I genuinely regret selling.

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