Thinking about getting into XR4's

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redrabbit348
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Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by redrabbit348 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:27 pm

Hi everyone!

I had no idea these cars even existed until I watched John Davis's retro review on youtube! (If you haven't seen that series, do yourself a favor and go watch all 300+ videos multiple times like I have). Needless to say, im very intrigued by these cars! I currently own a 2005 Subaru WRX STi and have a daily Nissan Sentra SER spec V. I intend to keep the STi for the rest of my life (extremely rare and lucky find/price) but sell the Sentra in the spring and get a new weird daily, I have a small list assembled and the XR4ti is on the top.

Now I know, getting a 30+ year old car as a daily driver is never a good idea, but im stupid and refuse to drive normal things. I know these things also have some issues (so ive been told) but I was also told the Subaru EJ motor was terrible and has loads of issues. I find this not the case, I keep up on maintenance and don't cut corners and she's been good to me. Im not an idiot with a wrench but also have a lot to learn. All that being said, if I could find a good condition XR4, what are some things to watch out for in my search for one? I still have a long time to look, I won't even be interested until at least February when snow thaws.

If anyone is thinking about selling theirs, im willing to pay decent money as well, and yes- of course ill be making a WTB post in the classifieds once spring comes around!

Thanks for reading!

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John Brennan
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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by John Brennan » Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:12 pm

Welcome Aboard! :cheers
I think the first thing we need to know is your location...
This is my car, and these are my people!
1989 XR4Ti 5-Speed
2001 BMW Z3 3.0 5-Speed
2015 Fiesta ST 6-Speed
2015 Edge 3.5 V6 Auto/Paddles

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by thesameguy » Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:37 pm

In my relatively limited experience I would have zero hesitation about dd'ing an XR4Ti. I've had mine for just shy of 13 years, bought it with something like 263k on the clock. I own a lot of cars (the XR4Ti is not even remotely the oddest) so the XR goes through periods of DD followed by periods of rest while I do upgrades, overhauls, or just drive something else - but when it's doing 40 miles a day, 5 days a week it doesn't complain and it's generally nice to drive whether it's 45 degrees out or 115.

My strong advice with the XR4Ti or any old(er) car, is don't buy one and expect to just start driving it. It doesn't matter how well it was looked after, stuff - and probably lots of stuff - will need to be addressed. Most parts are cheap, most upgrades are cheap. I'd buy a car, throw a couple grand at it, and enjoy many tens of thousands of trouble free miles. Fluids, rubber parts, engine electricals, some engine seals & gaskets, some wiring and consider doing the simple upgrades on the engine, brakes, suspension, and transmission. Once you get there, the only thing you'll really have to contend with is the interior which will no doubt be falling apart around you... like any respectable '80s car. Getting to an excellent Stage 0 or Stage 1 is extremely well hammered out at this point, plenty of formulas to follow that will net you a reliable known quantity.

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by Matt01 » Tue Jan 16, 2018 8:22 pm

I'd like to add.

I know about subarus (have a BRZ) and my friend has 2 STis, they're fast, and fun, however they're not as fun as a well done XR4. Its weird saying that because the STI is a much newer car, but its just not RWD. (The BRZ is, and very much reminds me of my XR4 though).

That being said, I think you'll get bored of DD'ing the XR, and it'll become a project. RWD is addicting! With a few simple mods (I can make a list if you're interested) these cars are a freaking blast.

And yes, buying an XR there WILL be stuff to fix on it immediately. For instance when I bought mine, I had to do everything! haha. I can also make a list of typical stuff if you want.

Put coilovers and an Eaton LSD in the XR, you wont even remember you had an STI you'll be drifting it all kinds.

Im not sure if I recommended you buy a BRZ or an XR, but either way, they're both great cars.

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by merkurdriver » Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:26 am

XRs are inexpensive, and still remain one of the best bangs for the buck especially in terms of fun. Maintenance and upgrades are inexpensive. Parts and advice are readily available, etc.

Shopping advice? The early cars physically the best looking to me with the bi-plane spoiler, but the later cars received improvements on the steering, brakes, electrical stuff, etc. etc.

redrabbit348
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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by redrabbit348 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:40 am

John Brennan wrote:
Tue Jan 16, 2018 6:12 pm
Welcome Aboard! :cheers
I think the first thing we need to know is your location...
Hi! I live in Central Iowa! There was one for sale in the fall but I didn't have the time or money to get a RWD 80s car for the winter haha

redrabbit348
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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by redrabbit348 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:42 am

Thanks for the advice guys! I'm glad there's a good community out there around these cars, once I get more serious ill be sure to frequent this website more and more. Especially the classifieds section ;)

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by timxr8 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:44 am

There are lots of opinions as to what to do with these, the biggest thing to do is figure out a budget. That's where people get into trouble. They don't, and run out of money. I'm not in a huge hurry to get mine done, but for a DD, I would have done things way differently.

Be weary of ones that are "modified". Don't steer clear, just make sure everything was done correctly. If everything seems too good to be true, many times something isn't working correctly and that person got sick of trying to fix it.

Something to know: You will get frustrated. My DD XR I owned back in 2003-2004 timeframe had the alternator seize: cost over $200 plus a tow and 2 days to get it fixed. How would I mitigate that? Modify a 3G alternator, and then you have more amps, much more steady current, and way cheaper and reliable. Had the wrist pin for the distributor sheer on the drive home from college...over 2 hours from either end...put a new one in, timed it real quick at a shop and drove the rest. My brother took it to St Louis and on the way home the pin slid out...yeah, I put a V8 in it, then found lots of rust...anyway, I digress. They are fun, or my project would not be continuing.

I think the biggest point of advice is get it running reliably before trying to modify it, unless that modification is for it to get more reliability. It's really, just don't go spending money when you don't need to. Many have learned their lesson here with that, and many that don't are obviously not around here much, if at all.
Tim Spencer
1988 XR4Ti Duratec project car
2011 Taurus SHO daily driver...not stock.

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by Longitudinal » Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:32 am

I'd say jump in--with the following caveat:

The XR4Ti is a great chassis with a lot of potential, but the car is more potential than actual out of the box compared to a lot of cars similar to it such as an Rx-7, Celica Supra, 300Z, etc.

It has a tough engine, but a lousy cylinder head that requires expensive porting to make it really perform.

The Type 9 5-speed is not to be trusted in the long term even at stock power level and should be upgraded to a T5. The stock C3 automatic is not to be trusted even at stock power levels and should be upgraded to a C4 or some other tougher automatic.

The differential is open with no cost-effective bolt-in options for a stronger LSD diff. LSDs can be fitted by buying a GM 7.5" and installing it (requiring light machining and modifying work) or John's Supra conversion (for which you have to deal with John--a task of its own. Admit it, guys...) or go your own way entirely with an E30 or Ford 8.8" IRS diff from a Thunderbird. Or you can buy a Cosworth diff. ha...ha...ha. Any way you go, there is expense and work. It's just a question of how much expense and how much work you want.

The suspension geometry and design are sound, but everything is WAY too soft. You must replace every rubber bushing, shock/strut, and spring.

The former cars I mention have their own shortcomings, but my point is that they don't have ALL of these shortcomings. Take an Rx-7 for example since I have more experience owning those than the XR4. Let's focus on the second gen since the first gen is more of a cruiser than a wild fun car and the second car was always grossly expensive and is now appreciating rather than depreciating. A second gen Rx-7 has a good-enough transmission (they fail can fail, but they can also last through a lot of abuse.) It may have an open diff, but a turbo's LSD is a direct fit to non-turbo driveshaft and CV axles. The suspension may be enhanced through some work and expense, but it is sporty from the factory with firm-enough bushings for spirited driving. The engine would be the Rx-7's Achilles' heel where power is low and cost is high, but it is a very spirited engine that will put in well over 100k of spirited driving (70k max for turbo before boom) and responds well to add-ons such as exhaust systems.

My response for the 300 and Celica Supra would be similar to Rx-7.

The XR4 is a great car, but one that needs everything to be "right." You can drive it just as it is and even have some fun just as it is. But you will find it very squishy, brittle in the trans, and excessively prone to one wheel peel.

With all that said, you will find them available for much better prices than its Japanese competitors in equivalent condition. That is in part due to the natural desire for vintage Japanese steel ans in part due to just how much the XR4 needs to compete with the Japanese cars. But go for it. It's well worth the journey.

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by eaton53 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:53 pm

redrabbit348 wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:40 am
Hi! I live in Central Iowa! There was one for sale in the fall but I didn't have the time or money to get a RWD 80s car for the winter haha
Not too far away. I've been as far west as Iowa City and Kalona.
merkurdriver wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 2:26 am
Shopping advice? The early cars physically the best looking to me with the bi-plane spoiler, but the later cars received improvements on the steering, brakes, electrical stuff, etc. etc.
Buy an '89, they're WAY better sorted than the early cars. If you like the bi-plane, just swap out the hatch and spoiler.
I'd do the whole faux Cossie thing if I were going that route.
Mark Copeland - I'm 50 miles west of Kewanee, IL

'89 XR4Ti
Car was the 2014 MCA Merkur Preservation Award Winner
I'm just the latest caretaker and I'm keepin' it REAL shiny!! 8)

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by eaton53 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 1:56 pm

Longitudinal wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:32 am
The Type 9 5-speed is not to be trusted in the long term even at stock power level and should be upgraded to a T5. The stock C3 automatic is not to be trusted even at stock power levels and should be upgraded to a C4 or some other tougher automatic.
Yeah, I chucked three T9's in my '85 XR. IMO, it's a real POS.
Thanks to Ford's Lifetime Service Guarantee that they had at the time, I only paid to fix it once.

So far, so good with the C3. It does hate to drive 55... it can't decide if it wants to be in 2nd or 3rd at that speed.
Ford designing a tranny that was unhappy at the national speed limit (at the time) was just so freakin' brilliant.
Fortunately we get to go faster than that now.
Mark Copeland - I'm 50 miles west of Kewanee, IL

'89 XR4Ti
Car was the 2014 MCA Merkur Preservation Award Winner
I'm just the latest caretaker and I'm keepin' it REAL shiny!! 8)

redrabbit348
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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by redrabbit348 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:01 pm

Another question for you guys, where do you look for good condition XR4s? I know that's probably a loaded question, but I do want to find a good one. Of course im prepared to put in some money and work to get it 100% but I don't want major trans or drivetrain issues. Should I stick to this forum or try the craigslist approach? I can't seem to find ANY in the markets near me (Minne, Omaha, KC, Quad cities...etc)

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by thesameguy » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:05 pm

You gotta look everywhere. You're looking for a car they made 40,000 of 30 years ago. There may not be 1,000 of them left! CL, ebay, forums - everywhere. All three of the ones I've owned came from CL, but I've seen several nice ones go through this and other forums over the years... a few I've been tempted to buy. If you stay somewhat active on this forum, people will surely help point you towards good opportunities in your area - you just gotta remind people you're still looking, and be ready to move when one shows up.

If you don't mind travel, there is a pretty decent looking one on the sfbay CL - $2500, nice shape (California = no rust) and some quality mods.

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by Matt01 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:34 pm

Longitudinal wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 10:32 am
I'd say jump in--with the following caveat:

The XR4Ti is a great chassis with a lot of potential, but the car is more potential than actual out of the box compared to a lot of cars similar to it such as an Rx-7, Celica Supra, 300Z, etc.

It has a tough engine, but a lousy cylinder head that requires expensive porting to make it really perform.
'''''

The XR4 is a great car, but one that needs everything to be "right." You can drive it just as it is and even have some fun just as it is. But you will find it very squishy, brittle in the trans, and excessively prone to one wheel peel.

With all that said, you will find them available for much better prices than its Japanese competitors in equivalent condition. That is in part due to the natural desire for vintage Japanese steel ans in part due to just how much the XR4 needs to compete with the Japanese cars. But go for it. It's well worth the journey.
I agree, Ford DUMMED down this car, big time. Its capable of being a sports car, yet they marketed it as a euro touring car = soft, crappy ride.
Even the ECU is detuned, it could have gotten an SVO ecu with the intercooler, but god forbid the Merkur being faster than the Mustang...

It does seem like the 88's -89's are less problematic for some reason, I must say, my car was a POS, but its pretty reliable. Sad part is there's few left and they're still dropping like flys. People always scrap them, Im sure some here would have scrapped my car for the rocker panel rust. Fact is if a more valuable car had rust like that, people would be laughing. Rust is is the enemy, but its reparable!

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Re: Thinking about getting into XR4's

Post by Longitudinal » Thu Jan 18, 2018 10:49 am

redrabbit348 wrote:
Wed Jan 17, 2018 5:01 pm
Another question for you guys, where do you look for good condition XR4s? I know that's probably a loaded question, but I do want to find a good one. Of course im prepared to put in some money and work to get it 100% but I don't want major trans or drivetrain issues. Should I stick to this forum or try the craigslist approach? I can't seem to find ANY in the markets near me (Minne, Omaha, KC, Quad cities...etc)
I have bought two that I found on CL and one on this forum. I don't know what is the prevailing national search engine for CL right now. So many have come and gone.

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