Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
1983 Mercury Capri - Crop Duster
From cornfields to dragstrips, John Puckett's '83 Capri is a heavy-hitter.
Twenty, thirty, or even sixty years can go by without anyone ever taking notice, but it isn't until that one certain someone strolls on by and it catches their eye.
For John Puckett of West Des Moines, Iowa, he found this '83 Mercury Capri slowly sinking into the Earth's soil in the back plot of a Norwalk cornfield. Draped in weeds, and covered in six years worth of dust and dirt, the Capri was left retired, waiting for someone just like John to take notice.
"I had just recently graduated high-school, and a friend of mine had mentioned that they knew of a Capri sitting in a corn field," John told us. "So I went to look at it, and bought it on the spot. It had a 302 and four-speed in it. It was everything I wanted. I paid $250 dollars for it and the previous owner even towed it home for me."
John was no newcomer to the Blue Oval scene, as he also owned a '79 Mustang with an '87 front clip and matching ground effects—aka Puckett's Bucket. According to John, it wasn't in the greatest shape. When he got the Capri home, he immediately gutted the interior and placed it all into his Mustang. The Mustang served daily driver duties for the next five years as he attended college and work. The Capri sat immobile until John had the money and resources to build a stout 302 and get it running again.
When John finally buttoned up the Capri, he swapped the interior back into it. Puckett's Bucket was on its last leg, and John said his goodbyes and sent it on its way to the crusher. "I don't even think they paid me for it," John told us. "It's condition was that bad."
With John's attention now fully dedicated to the Capri, it wasn't long before he was hitting the strip. "I started getting into the street scene and threw a nitrous kit onto the car," John explained. "From there, I started getting into competitive racing at the track. I started racing in the True Street events at Fun Ford Weekend back in the late '90s at Cordova Raceway."
Fast forward to 2011, John kicked things up when it came to racing. His Capri featured a new powerplant consisting of a 401ci stroked Windsor, 225 Air Flow Research heads, an Induction Solutions 400-shot of Nitrous, Pro Systems carburetor, and a Powerglide transmission. High 8-second passes were the norm for the Capri, but according to John, the ignition system was becoming a limiting factor.
"It just got to the point where I needed to upgrade the ignition," John said. "I told myself if I ace the motor one more time, I'm done racing. The next time I took it to the track, I melted cylinder No. 4 and that was the last straw. I took everything out of the car and sold all the parts online."
Tired of the constant headaches with the pushrod setup, John was presented with a new idea by good friend Brad Marcsisak, another Capri owner. With the 2011 Coyote Mustangs making a respectable presence amongst racers, the idea came to put a new 5.0L Aluminator engine between the fenders. Rated with a 9.5:1 compression ratio, the supercharger-friendly engine was perfect for what John had in mind. A quick phone call to Justin Burcham from JPC Racing yielded a new Paxton 2200 centrifugal supercharger.
Along with John's new modular estate, he's also added a Tremec Magnum six-speed transmission and Spec Stage 3+ clutch. The suspension has been upgraded with a Team Z tubular front end, upper and lower control arms, and Strange Engineering shocks and struts. The 8.8-inch rearend features 3.73 gears, Moser spool, and 35-spline axles. Weld Magnum wheels can be found in all four corners, and Strange four-piston brakes are used for stopping. Inside, the factory black interior still remains.
With John's newfound Coyote-powered Capri on 16 psi, it cranked out an impressive 780 rwhp and 605 lb-ft of torque. His previous best at the track was an 8.96 at 153 mph utilizing the old pushrod setup. On his new modular combo, he's bested a 10.35 at 139 mph, cutting a 1.81 60-foot.
"I feel like I can finally enjoy the car again," John told us. "I love drag racing, but before it was really starting to feel a lot more like work than fun. I find it hard to imagine ever running a carburetor again. I took a step back for sure, but this motor is making almost the same power the old motor was naturally aspirated, and it's pump gas. It's just so much easier to drive now."
John says that none of this would have been possible without the constant support from his wife, Tisha, and friends Brad Marcsisak and Paul Ballard. He also mentioned that if he gets back into competitive drag racing, an automatic swap might be in the future.
"I've driven it 21⁄2 hours to the dragstrip, run it down the track, and then driven back home, all while getting 26 miles per gallon," John explained. "It's just such an easy swap and the benefits are great."
John's Capri may not be the most archaic find in barnyard history, nor the most rare, but one thing is for certain—it only took one special and dedicated person to breathe life back into it. We salute you, John, for an excellent build.