XR4Ti Racing home page
Additional information and links at the bottom of this page including race video clips from the '85 season.
Autograph card, front and back, that was handed out at race events in 1985 (incorrectly hand dated 1987).
The Merkur XR4Ti IMSA GTU race car was constructed for Ford by Dave Kent of Kent Racing in Hawthorne, CA in 1984 to coincide with the Merkur introduction into the U.S. market. Its first race was at the Camel GTU in Miami on 24 February 1985 with driver Lee Mueller.

Kent Racing had previously built cars and run the IMSA GTU (Grand Touring Under 2 liter) program for Mazda with RX7's winning the GTU Makes Championships for several years running. Lee Mueller won the GTU Driver Championship with a Kent Racing Mazda in 1981. Mueller was also a 4 time SCCA National Champion, 3 time winner of the 24 hours of Daytona, and 12 hours of Sebring winner.

Dave Kent's shop was known for high quality fabrication as is evident throughout the car. As allowed by IMSA rules the Merkur GTU race car is a custom tube frame chassis under some of the original XR4Ti steel body panels and custom fiberglass panels. Robert Riley, who worked for Ford at the time (and later formed Riley & Scott), oversaw the chassis design and visited the Kent shop several times to monitor the construction. The Ford 4cyl turbocharged engine was built by Drake Engineering, the Meyer-Drake descendant of Offenhauser race engine fame. Development cost of the car exceeded $225K.

Only the '85 season was campaigned under Ford sponsorship. Ford funding for the GTU effort ceased after Ford's decision to move the Merkur marque up to the Trans-Am series through Jack Roush. The Roush Merkur XR4Ti's won the '86 and '87 Trans-Am, and the '88 IMSA GTO Manufacturers Championships for Lincoln-Mercury-Merkur. After the '85 IMSA season the car was sold to privateer Dave Kruse who continued to campaign the car in GTU through the '87 and '88 IMSA seasons.

The Merkur GTU car was stored by Kruse from 1988 until 2006 and then purchased by Peter Cipolla of Kansas City, Missouri. Cipolla found the car in good condition and complete including the spares prepared for the car in 1984 and many of the original engineering blueprints.

Afterward Cipolla had the good fortune to meet Harry Haggard who worked at the Kent Racing shop during the car's construction as the Merkur GTU Project Engineer. When the Kent shop later closed Haggard retained the files on the Merkur project, which he turned over to Cipolla. Over 500 pages of documentation includes the original Ford purchase order to Kent Racing for the car's construction, 9 progress reports with photos submitted to Michael Kranefuss (head of Ford SVO 1982-88), correspondence with others at Ford including Edsel B. Ford II and Lee Morse and with vendors such as Drake Engineering, technical information, test results, race results, plus 55 additional photos documenting the car, Kent personnel, and events. For a brief biography on Mr. Haggard that mentions the Merkur GTU program,
click here.

In addition Cipolla has acquired race video clips from John Mueller, son of original driver Lee Mueller, of the car in action at Miami, Riverside, and Laguna Seca that were broadcast during the '85 season.

Cipolla also owns the Merkur XR4Ti IMSA IS (International Sedan division) race car that was built and campaigned by Bill Topping during the 1988 through 1991 seasons.

The Merkur IS and GTU cars are documented in the IMSA yearbooks.

Cipolla runs the IS car on track frequently, and will do likewise with the GTU car after its restoration
Merkur GTU Chronology
Merkur GTU Specifications
Development history:
On the dyno: If ever a dynamometer could be famous this would be it. One of the Merkur GTU engines on the same Drake dyno as were numerous Offenhauser Indy winning race engines before it. Driver side with Weaver oil pump and Bosch mechanical fuel injection. Exhaust headers and wastegate are in a different configuration in the chassis.
Left and above: Fabrication at the Kent Racing shop, 1984.
Left: Rolling it out for a track test at the Riverside Raceway near Los Angeles.

Right: Riverside track test October 1984.
The 1985 IMSA season:
Camel GTO/GTU race at Laguna Seca, May 1985.
photo courtesy of Dan Wildhirt
Above: First race, the Miami Camel GTU, February 1985.
Dave Kent is standing in front of the car with Harry Haggard at drivers door. Stewart Van Dyne of Drake Engineering with driver Lee Mueller. Right: Lee talking with Michael Kranefuss (head of Ford SVO 1982-88).
1985 Miami race video
1985 Riverside race video (9.3KB) 1985 Laguna Seca race video (17.6KB)
All videos with sound.
In the press: Honorable mention on the centerfold of Fabulous Mustangs Magazine Sept. '85 issue.
Dave Kruse 1987 and 88: 
photos courtesy of Mark Windecker
Mid-Ohio Camel GTO/GTU race, June 1988.
Columbus Ohio Camel GTO/GTU race, October 1988. Unfortunately the beautiful silver paint and graphics are gone.
Under new management 2006:
Left: My first visit to California to see the car in Jan. 06. Just out of storage since 1988. Literally tons of parts are stored in a trailer. Body panels are laying outside.

Right: Sept. 06. Arrived with my empty trailer. Hosing off 18 years of dirt and trying to assemble as much as possible for transport home. Spread out behind the car are 6 pallets worth of spare parts that will have to be shipped back.
Left: Jimmy Privett was the mechanic for Dave
Kruse when they raced the car. He's back to show me how it all goes together. Engine looks quite radical with the 4 intake butterflys, Weaver oil pump, and Bosch mechanical injection pump on this side. We installed the engine for transport home.

Right: Now in Kansas City awaiting restoration.