Ford/Mercury Capri II
Chris Hafner whetted my curiosity with his Ford Capri post when he mentioned the Capri II. Though I remembered the Capri well, the Capri II somehow escaped my memory. Sure, the later '79 Mustang clone and the little car from Down Under are familiar, but the Capri II just drew a blank.
Our neighbors had a '72 Capri, so I saw their car almost every day. It was blue, and it represented a slightly more sophisticated means of travel than, say, a Pinto. And the one thing they taught me in that car was to pull way over to the right at an intersection when you're going to make a left. This is just a simple driving courtesy, like dimming your lights.
So I did some homework on this forgotten car, and here's what I found: First and foremost, it was a hatchback, unlike the coupe version that Chris wrote about. The all-new Mercury Capri II made its debut here in 1975 as a '76 model. Nearly all of the previous model Capri had sold out, so the dealers started with clean lots. In its peak years, Capri sales in North America were the highest for any import model except the VW Beetle.
This car had already been on sale in Europe since 1974 as the Ford Capri Mk I; while it was a brand-new car here, it was not at all new over there. Hopefully, many of the new-car bugs had been worked out in that year.
The hottest Capri II was the "S" version. This trim package gave you better-bolstered seats, black carpet, a blackout instrument panel treatment, black and gold trim inside and out, dual "racing" mirrors, a tighter suspension, and better sound insulation. For whatever reason, black and gold trim packages were a hot ticket in the mid-1970s. And, thankfully, Ford's celebrated attempts at "Europeanizing" their American cars went back to this time.
The next year, the 1977 Capri II included a $241 "Le Cat Black S" version (Same as the "S" package the year before), and a dealer-installed "Rally Cat Decor Package," which sold you twin hood and deck lid racing stripes, a spoiler, and bold rocker panel stripes. Yippee!
All Capri IIs offered the base 2.3-liter inline 4 engine, built in Lima, Ohio, which made 88 horsepower. An additional $272 would get you the German-made 2.8-liter V-6 and 110 horses. That was money well spent, in my opinion.
The front seats reclined, full instruments were standard, a fold-down rear seat let you pack in more sports gear, and, for $95, you could have a vinyl roof. Yes, a vinyl roof. What more could you possibly want on a fine automobile in the mid-1970s ... faux opera windows?
Why do I not remember this car? Well, it's getting clear now ... Ford just didn't sell very many of them! Was it the wrong car at the wrong time? This car didn't even say "Mercury" on it, but was sold at prestigious Lincoln-Mercury dealers all across the land. What were they thinking?
Sales numbers by the years dropped like a rock. In 1975, Ford sold 54,586 cars; the second year 29,904 left the lot. The third year, 22,458 went to happy homes, and a few (4,079) leftover '77 models were sold and titled as '78 models. Then that was it. I'm not sure if this car quite falls into the "Epic Fail" category, but it sure seems to come close.
Maybe the reason the car flopped was this: The Capri II's base price in 1975 was $4,117; a new 1974 Mustang II started at $2,895. For 1977, the price jumped about 6%, to $4,361. The final year, 1977, a Capri II Ghia, like the white one shown here, was $4,984 plus options. That was a lot of cash for a small car at the time, even for one with a true European pedigree.
The Capri II was followed in 1978 by an all-new car (a '79 model) that was virtually a clone of the "Fox" Mustang. By 1983, the Capri had separated itself from the 'Stang cosmetically with unique sheet metal, a bulbous rear hatch glass, and special seat trim. But the dash, the powertrain, and just about everything else was the same as a Mustang.
The base "Fox" Capri had a 2.3-liter engine with a turbo option. The 2.8-liter V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8 were also choices. The 1979 brochure does not list any horsepower figures. Fake woodgrain and an incredible 8-track tape player sound system were also available.
And, in this car, the venerable spirit of the Capri II "S" version lived on. You could get a "Black Magic" Capri with the black and gold trim, quite similar to the old "S." A hood scoop, handling suspension system, Michelin TRX tires, and forged metric aluminum wheels finished out the package.
The summer of 1990 brought us the Capri and Capri XR2 from Ford of Australia. With mechanicals based on the Mazda 323, this roadster gave us 100 horsepower from the standard 1.6-liter engine; the XR2's turbo raised that to 132 horsepower. Five-speed manuals were standard, and a four-speed automatic was available, but only on the base model.
Introduced as a 1991 model, the car was sold for four years. Essentially a competitor of the Miata, the Capri differed with front wheel drive and a tiny back seat. The trunk was deep enough to store grocery bags upright, also unlike the Miata. But this Capri developed a reputation for unreliability, and a good 15+-year-old copy of this model might be hard to find.
So the Capri name has faded away, like my memory of the Capri II. Maybe for good reasons. Will there ever be another Capri? I'm guessing not for a long time.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)
"How Stuff Works" was a source for technical information for this post and the first image. The Capri II Register gave great assistance as well. ASCMcLarenCoupe.com provided the brochure information. The white Capri II photo is from philseed.com, and the Capri S image is from blogHemmings.com. The last image is from MercuryCapriParts.com. Wikipedia supplied some facts as well.