This car is without a doubt amongst the most economical of cars to own. I beat the hell out of it, rarely change my oil (I may have only changed it two times in 2 1/2 years I owned it), and never do maintenance unless it doesn't run, and it still runs.
The Motomaster battery lasted like 7 years and the alternator I finally replaced wasn't because it wasn't working, but it was starting to smoke, and that was the original alternator after 17 years.
I mean I only paid $300 for it, and put in maybe under $2000 in repairs for 2 1/2 years, so that works out to only $1000 per year. I would have driven it longer, until it died, if somebody didn't rear end me and total the back of my car this Jan 2007.
For that matter, the whole bumper was bumped right in, and the car was still running fine at that! In fact, because it had a separate bumper, that absorbed most of the impact, the damage was not so bad at all. And the muffler was intact and the rest of the car was running just fine.
The windshield was cracked, the rear bumper was damaged, but still tightly hanging on. The right side mirror was knocked off by my lousy driving, there was some rust, but what do you expect for a 18 year old car?
Amazingly there is very little oil leak and almost no oil burn. And I tell you the previous owner did not do any maintenance on this car, and when I asked him if he did an oil change, he asked me what's an oil change? He knew absolutely nothing about cars, and the only time he took it to the mechanic was when something was wrong with it. And still after all those years of abuse from him and then from me, it still runs... even after the accident.
I was still driving it until I listed it and sold it for $150. Can you believe that?! And because it still runs, I told the buyer who said he'd pay someone $50 to tow it, that since it still runs fine I could drive it over to his mechanic's garage and give me an extra $25, so I got myself $175 for this beaten up car and it still runs! Considering I only paid $300 for it, I can only say this car is an unbelievable bargain.
I can't say the same for all American cars or for that matter all Mercurys, but I can tell you that this Topaz is a beast! An absolute savage animal that takes whatever you dish it, and craves more. I can tell you that my 89 Honda Civic, which I owned from 1996 to 2004, cost me a pretty mint in repairs and reached the point in the final 2 years where I said it just wasn't worth it anymore, and everything simply fell apart. and I only got me $180 for it.
When I look back at my service costs for my Honda and Topaz, and compare the two, my Honda was certainly more expensive, and in terms of reliability I would have to rate it lower. The Honda was an 89 and the Topaz was a 1990, so they were both about the same age, and I had the Honda earlier so it was younger in its life when I owned it than the Topaz, and yet the Honda cost me way more in repairs, and has broken down on me on the road on more occassions than I care to remember. Without a doubt the Topaz was more reliable and cheaper to maintain than my Honda. It's ugly, but it's a beast. Ford got this one right!
If you can get your hands on one. BUY IT! It ain't pretty, but it ain't supposed to be. It's a workhorse.