Ford Capri RS3100

Mercury Capri

Mercury Capri
Mercury Capri
Mercury Capri
Mercury Capri

Ford Capri RS3100

Mercury Capri

Mercury Capri 2600
Ford Capri MK1
Ford Capri RS3100

Model Production *

* Please note, dates are approximate

Related Articles and History

In order to appeal to the specific preferences of different markets around the world, automakers rarely offer the same model lineup to all of the countries in which their products are sold. Many European companies produce a range of small, frugal cars that would not appeal to most American buyers, and so those models are usually not offered to the American market. Similarly, most U.S. automakers still provide some large and comfortable (but not necessarily fuel-efficient) models that sell well in the States but are excluded from the vastly different European market.

This variation in carmakers' lineups from country to country is not created only through the exclusion of certain models from foreign sale, though. Many large car companies are able to extend this practice by developing whole new cars specifically for foreign markets. This practice sounds expensive and potentially risky, but, with the Ford Capri standing as an excellent example, it has proven to be a great strategy for increasing sales when a manufacturer's domestic model lineup is at odds with the tastes of foreign buyers.

The Ford Capri, though sold in many different countries, was developed in Europe specifically for British buyers. It was by no means the first model developed by Ford specifically for foreign customers, but it was one of the most iconic and successful.

Ford's domestic offerings throughout the 1960s were largely typical American cars, with big engines, big bodies, and the lazy, laid-back demeanors made possible by their motors' surpluses of cubic inches. Cars like the Galaxie and Fairlane were just what Americans wanted, but they were worlds away from the economical and eager compacts of Europe.

When the groundbreaking Mustang was introduced in April of 1964, it sold phenomenally well in the U.S., where it represented a smaller and sportier type of Ford. Even the relatively small and sprightly Mustang, though, was not a particularly sporty car by European standards. Ford knew that if it could introduce a European equivalent of the Mustang, it would be a hot seller. The Ford Capri was introduced in January of 1969 to capture some of this untapped sales potential

While the Mustang was significantly smaller than most other American Fords, it was not a particularly compact vehicle when compared to the other Fords then available in Europe. In order for a European Ford to be analogous to the domestic Mustang, it would have to be even slimmer than the Mustang and emphasize sporty handling over straight-line speed and cubic inches.

The Capri succeeded in being to the European (and especially British) market nearly everything that the Mustang was to the American market, including a bestseller. Like the Mustang, the Capri had a lengthy list of available options. A base Capri, though an endearing and well-designed car, was hardly an impressive performer. Base models had a 1.3L four, initially producing only 52bhp. Top-of-the-line models were a different story, though, costing almost twice the price of a base Capri and putting down almost three times the power with a 138bhp 3.0L V6.

The Capri Mk I was produced until 1974, with Ford having sold over one million units. A Capri Mk II was introduced to replace the Mk I, and it featured updated styling but was still very similar to the original Capri. The Mk II, like the Mk I before it, offered customers the choice of many options and trim levels. Engine choices were very similar to those of the Mk I, again ranging from 1.3 to 3.0 liters.

By the time the Capri Mk III replaced the Mk II in 1978, the Capri had been in production for nearly a decade. Despite being very similar to the original model, the Capri Mk III remained one of Britain's best-selling cars, a testament to its enduring qualities as well as its being particularly well-suited to the British market.

Up until the very end of Capri production in December of 1986, Ford's European wonder was offered in many different special editions to boost sales. The last of these was the Capri 280, often referred to as the 'Brooklands' because it was offered in only one color: Brooklands green. The Capri 280 was based on the Capri Mk III body, and more specifically the 2.8 Injection model. It had a 160bhp V6 engine that, despite the model's nomenclature, displaced 3.0 liters. Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection was used, as were attractive 15-inch alloy wheels. The interior was trimmed in black leather with red piping. Significant as being the very last Capri produced, there were just 1,038 Capri 280s made before production ended on December 19, 1986.

With nearly two million examples sold, the Ford Capri was a European bestseller for many years. It was completely different from most of the Fords with which Americans were familiar, but it was an excellent car for the European market that marked Ford as a truly global manufacturer.


Ford-Crush, Giles. 'Ford Capri History.' n. pag. Web. 13 Jul 2010.

Swetnam, Mark. 'Capri Buyers Guide.' Ford Capri Laser Page n. pag. Web. 13 Jul 2010.

By Evan Acuña

A rare U.S. built car, the Mercury Capri began in Europe before being imported to the U.S. The Capri name took its inspiration from the Italian island of Capri and the Lincoln Capri from the 1950s. First debuted early in 1969, the Capri fastback was first revealed at the Brussels Motor Show to capitalize on the success of the popular pony car, the Ford Mustang. Created to rival the American pony car, the Capri became quickly popular among female drivers who were searching for a less manly version of the Mustang. The standard entry-level Capri was an exceptionally sporty coupé.

Ford introduced the Capri to U.S., South African and Australian buyers in 1970. Powered by a less than impressive 1.6-liter 4-cylinder engine it wasn't long until the Capri was offered with a much stronger 2-liter engine from the Pinto. The new Capri styling was slightly different from its European sibling with new bumpers and headlamps that adhered to U.S. safety standards.

Marketed in North American by the Lincoln-Mercury division of the Ford Motor Company, the Mercury Capri was sold in the US as three distinctly different cars over 30 years. The Capri from 1971 through 1974 and the Capri II from 1976 through 1977 were Ford captive imports produced by Ford of Europe in Germany. Capri sales in the U.S. were exceptionally high; the highest in fact for any import model except the Volkswagen Beetle. Today these models are very rare and are popular restoration models for their styling, performance and affordability. From 1979 through 1986 the Capri was merely a rebadged For Mustang produced in the U.S. From 1991 through 1994 the Capri was a convertible from Ford Australia.

First sold in the US in April 1970 the European Capri didn't carry any Mercury marque identifications. The only type first available used the British 1600-cc Kent crossflow with a starting price less than $2,300. 1971 brought with it the 2.0-L OHC I4 engine that was very popular with its 9.0:1 compression ratio. Late in 1972 model year was the 2.6-L 'Cologne' V6 engine.

1973 brought with it a fresh facelift that included an updated grille, bigger taillights and updated rear quarter 'grills'. U.S. Capris now sported a federally mandated 5-mph front bumper. Shock absorbers attached to the frame held the chrome bumper mounted in front of a steel pipe. On the inside of the Capri were updates seat trims, steering wheel and dashboard. New different wiring harness was utilized.

The following year North American Capris now featured large, federally mandated 5-mph bumpers at the front and rear of the car that were covered in body colored plastic. A 2.8-liter Cologne V6 engine replaced the 2.6-liter Cologne V6 with revised castings for both the engine block and cylinder heads.

In 1975 the Capri was restyled as a hatchback, but in the U.S. it was sold as an early 1976 model named the Capri II. Worldwide the Capri II was usually known as the Capri Mk II. Either the 2.3-liter Lima 4-cylinder or the 2.8-liter Cologne V6 engine could power this model. The name 'Capri II' followed closely behind the introduction of the Ford Mustang II in September 1973. The Capri II was imported from Europe after the 1977 model year and remaining models were sold as 1978 models. From 1970 through 1978 more than half a million German-built Capris were sold in North America. The European Capri was replaced in the U.S. by the 'Fox' chassis Capri in 1979. Until 1986 the European Capri production continued for the European market.

The Capri was applauded from its styling and image, its solidly built, sporty compact body and considered 'fun to drive'.

The second generation of the Mercury Capri was introduced in 1979 riding on a 100.5-inch wheelbase. Mercury had a pony car for the first time since the Cougar was upsized in 1974 to complement the Ford Thunderbird when a version of the Ford Mustang was sold through Lincoln/Mercury dealers as the Mercury Capri. Built on the Ford Fox platform just like the Mustang from 1979 through 1993, the Capri trim series included the base Capri, the Capri Giha, the Capri RS and the Capri Turbo RS. The second-generation Capri was the only Capri model powered with a V8 engine.

With very little updates made throughout its production run, the Fox-based Mercury Capri kept its squared-off front fascia and grille and distinctive flared fenders. In 1983 the biggest change occurred when a racing-inspired hatchback with a compound rear window (also known as the 'bubble back'), new taillights and a new rear bumper. The following year the high performance Capri RS added a front air dam, which remained until 1986. The Capris drivetrain and interior options very closely mirrored the Mustang from year to year.

Mercury offered a special Black Magic edition from 1981 through 1983. This special edition was a black car with gold striping, gold metric TRX wheels, and a gold cat's head on each side of the front valance. On the inside the Black Magic model sported special black seats with gold inserts. The only Black Magic model that had the compound rear window, the 1983 model was incredibly rare.

In 1981 Mercury debuted the White Lightning, or White Magic special edition. This version was actually the 'Black Magic' version, but was allowed to be ordered in white. The 'White Lightening' name originated from a Mercury magazine ad, though Mercury never used the term directly. 575 'White Magic' models were produced in 1981, but even less the following year with only 348 models produced, making them incredibly rare.

1983 brought with it another special edition from Mercury, the Crimson Cat. The Cat was painted red with special gold striping riding on Cougar XR-7 TRX wheels. The interior of the Crimson Cat featured custom black seats with red inserts. Only 803 Mercury Crimson Cats were produced.

Another special edition produced by Mercury was the 1984 Charcoal Turbo RS, a Capri only offered in Charcoal upper, and silver lower exterior paint with Light Grey striped rub moldings. Powering the RS Turbo was a Garret 60 trim turbocharger, and enhanced multiport EFI 4-cylinder engine. Other features included Michelin TRX package, 5.0 HO Sway bars, 3.45:1 limited slip rear axle, hood scoop, orange and red lettering and striping. Optional on the RS Turbo was a sun and T Top roof.

Capris were converted into convertible and enhanced standard hatchbacks that were renamed 'Coupes' by ASC, American Sunroof Corporation, now known as American Specialty Cars. These models were updated and tweaked with numerous suspension and visual upgrades that included striping, ground effects, a built-in radar detector, Hella fog lights, headlight and taillight covers and honeycomb wheels that were imported directly from Campagnolo, Italy. 25 of 1984 Capri Coupes were produced and painted in midnight blue. 150 of 1985 Coupes were produced and painted in either white or blue. The following year 115 Coupes were produced in its final year. Customers had a broad array of colors that included Oxford White, Midnight Blue, Silver Metallic, Smoke Charcoal Grey and Raven Black.

The Coupes were powered by the Ford Motorsport B303 camshaft, which produced more power that rated 200-bhp/210 bhp of the standard 5.0 motors. All of the coupes were outfitted with BF Goodrich Comp T/A radials. The ASC/McLaren Coupes effective gear ratio was upped from 3.08:1 to approximately 3.35:1 with the 225/50/15 low profile size of the tires. These Coupes were the speediest offering from Ford in 1985 and 1986 and had the ability to reach 0-60 mph in just under six seconds and the quarter mile in the mid-13 second range.

The convertibles had a lot more involved with the redesign especially with the vehicles unit construction and the fabrication of a replacement rear deck lid, floor reinforcements, quarter panel caps, tonneau cover and a raked windshield about 10 degrees back. The convertibles had a manual convertible top that was nestled in the area once designated for the rear seats. The ASC McLaren convertibles featured a special top smaller than the Mustang convertibles that was unique to that car, along with the seals, windshield moldings and weather-stripping.

In 1985 Mercury introduced the Motorsport Capri, Grand Prix IV Pace Car. Only 30 of these pace car replicas were created in 1985 to commemorate the fourth year of the Detroit Grand Prix. These pace cars were also modified by ASC McLaren for Mercury and are highly sought after collectibles for their esteemed racing heritage. Today around 10 are still thought to be in existence.

In 1989 Ford Australia introduced a Mazda Miata rival dubbed the Ford Capri, based around many Mazda 323 components. The Capri used Front Wheel Drive and was sold in North America as the Mercury Capri in the 1991 model year. Until 1994 this car continued on with just minor changes, though 1994 models did receive slight modifications that included new front and rear bumpers along with taillights. The XR2 sported an independent rear suspension and reinforced front and rear sway bars.

In response to the Miata's popularity in the US, Ford sought to import the Australian convertible, which necessitated the need for a driver's airbag. The Mercury Capri had four usable seats, lockable fold down back seat that made getting into the trunk easily through the interior when the soft top is up, and a lockable top storage. A removable hard top was a popular option for the convertible.

The two convertibles available were base and XR2 for all model years. The base was powered by a Mazda 1.6L DOHC 4-cylinder rated at 100 hp, while the XR2 was powered by a turbocharged version of 1.6L engine rated at 132 hp. Both models had a 5-speed manual transmission that was standard while a 4-speed automatic was optional for the base model only.

By Jessica Donaldson