1986 Erin Merna Coupe and Estate
It's May 1985. Erin has just paid off its debts from its financial crisis and is at last able to expand its design team at its Central Design Studio at the company's HQ in Nottingham, UK. Head of Design Chris Famerley, who had styled the entire current Erin range, had been asking to expand his staff numbers for some time now, mainly to bring in new talent and new ideas for cars. Finally, his calls are answered, and he oversees the addition of 30 new members, 14 of which we will be focusing on today.
These 14, known at the time as "the Junior team", were all post-graduate design students around 1 to 4 years out of university, who had impressed Famerley and whom he felt were right for the task he was proposing. Research into who was buying the Mk 4 Merna showed that there were a significant number of younger buyers, many of whom were buying this as their first new car.
CEO Marco Erin had requested two new variants of the Merna as well as a face lift of the standard model. The idea was that this team who were right in the age bracket for this car would be in the right mind to style these new versions, as well as bring completely new talent into the company. It was risky, but Famerley had been recruited under similar circumstances at the age of 25.
A year later, and the results of this project came into being.
1986 Erin Merna Estate
Aimed to cater to buyers looking for a first family car or just wanting some extra utility space, the Merna Estate was all about making a wagon appealing to young buyers.
The iconic tail lights were widened and stretched further to differentiate them from the standard car, and an extra faux vent was added at the rear on the boot lid for aesthetic purposes.
Then, on the back of the roof, a small glass window was designed in. It didn't serve a purpose; the Junior team had simply been experimenting and felt this feature would be a nice touch.
At the front, the circle headlight fixtures were replaced by rectangular ones, while the front grill fascia was reshaped to be a little less 'smiley'. This design would later be transferred to the standard car.
1986 Erin Merna Coupe
This is where the Junior team really shined. They proposed a 3 door liftback variant of the Merna (yes, not exactly a coupe, but...) which, rather than keeping the same body style and hatchback style boot of the standard car, would be sleeker and styled differently. Essentially, at the rear, it became a fastback, while at the front, the nose was lowered and grill/lights section thinned.
A unique headlight design was then introduced to separate this version from other models. It was aimed at making the Coupe look more serious.
At the rear, an extra piece of grey plastic fascia was added (supposedly to make it sportier).
But the most exciting car the team produced was this:
1986 Erin Merna X-Coupe
As if the X Department couldn't get involved! The powertrain of the standard X variant were ported over, a rear wing was added and a fat exhaust fitted to ensure everyone head the blunt swaggeriness of the 2.0l i4 engine.
Today, this is one of the most sought after variants of the Merna, period. There has only ever been one X-Tuned Merna with a body style like this. Prices have been climbing considerably year on year since the late 2000s.
These new variants would remain in production until 1991, when the Mk 4 ended production and the Mk 5 arrived.