5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
1979 Mercury Capri - Blood Brother
Here's Proof There Was More Than One Worthy Offering In The Fox Family
Horse Sense: Just to remind you of the performance vacuum that existed in 1980, the Turbo RS was the top performance model according to factory literature, which conveniently avoided mentioning the anemic 130hp rating of the hairdryer-enhanced 2.3 four-cylinder. Think that was bad? The optional 255-cube V-8 offered just 118 horses.
When Ford of Europe's Capri made its way into domestic Mercury dealerships in the early '70s, few likely realized the car was initially spawned by the overwhelming success of the Mustang some years earlier. Frankly, the two models could hardly have been more different by 1971, when Capri was a small, affordable sports coupe for the leather-driving-glove set, and Mustang had morphed into something approaching the dimensions of a beached whale. Truth be told, though, Mustang's initial record-setting sales were exactly the impetus for the creation of a similar Ford sensation for Europe, which-with nearly 2 million sales during its lifespan-the Capri arguably was. While the euro-Capri soldiered on overseas well into the mid-'80s, America saw quite a different animal with the debut of a Fox-chassis car bearing the name in 1979. To call the new Mustang and Capri "virtual twins" would be a bit too strong, but the family ties were obvious-much more so than corporate siblings of the '60s-i.e., Mustang and Cougar.
Perhaps keeping a slightly more international flavor than its now Mustang brethren, the '79 Capri also featured distinctive body lines that more than a few people actually prefer over the '79-'93 Pony. A case in point is the owner of the car seen here, Scott Hicks of Everett, Washington, who has a thing for the Capri's subtle box flares that bulge around the wheelwells front and rear. The look prompted Scott to build a car inspired by the mid-'80s FoMoCo Trans-Am efforts and, later, the cars of the Speed World Challenge series. The intent was to have a predominately track-oriented machine in which to participate in various road course events-from open-track to SCCA Track Trials, and even open-road events. This particular Capri is an '80 model, originally an RS Turbo four-cylinder Scott bought in 1991. As you may have figured, the build to its current configuration didn't happen overnight-in fact, it didn't start in earnest until 2001, with the sudden death of a mild 302 that was installed some years earlier.
By day, Scott spins wrenches for Brad's Custom Auto in Seattle, a Mustang and Corvette (sorry, guys) specialty shop with a steady stream of projects going in and out its doors. As such, he obviously had the requisite skills to perform the lion's share of the work on his own effort, as well as the experience to know what he liked and didn't like. The engine failure was a blessing in disguise, as it was just the catalyst needed to kick off the ground-up transformation Scott had always dreamed about.
Step one was to gut the interior and install a Griggs World Challenge frame kit, essentially a pair of stout 2x2-inch subframe connectors that mate into the original front and rear subframes, which involves cutting and welding of the floorpans. Next, the Capri was sent to Cascade Autosport in North Bend, Washington, where Peter VanBogart bent up a jungle gym of a rollcage that would not only keep Scott safe in case of disaster, but would also add vast rigidity to the formerly flexible unibody. More Griggs hardware is found throughout the underpinnings, including the K-member, control arms, torque arm, Watt's Link, coilovers, and, well, you get the idea.
The brakes predate most of the other work on the car, having been installed while the Capri was still on the road as a more civil driver. Scott was an early customer for FRPP's 2300K four-wheel-disc kit-essentially everything needed to put modern Cobra binders on the notoriously under-braked Fox chassis. To this, a set of two-piece Baer front rotors and Hawk pads all around do an apt job of hauling down this 2,940-pound Merc from speed. Wheels are the once-available M179 Cobra Rs wrapped in Kumho V710 rubber.
When the bare hulk came home with the completed 'cage, it was time to go to work on the body and paint. Surprisingly, Scott found that HO Fibertrends made a 2 1/2-inch cowl hood for the Capri, while the 'glass hatch is a Mustang piece from the same. Buddy Chris White did the required straightening and finessing before shooting the whole thing with Sikkens acrylic urethane-in the original Polar White hue.
Throughout the buildup, Scott was simultaneously acquiring the drivetrain parts that would make this Capri rocket like few others that carry the nameplate. Based on a 302 Sportsman block, Scott had Dave Bliss assemble a short-block with an internally balanced Eagle forged stroker crank, H-beam rods, and JE pistons and rings. Fox Lake Power Products did a Stage 1 Plus port job to the Canfield aluminum heads, featuring 54cc chambers for an 11:1 squeeze. Generous Manley 2.05/1.60 stainless valves march to the tune of a Comp Cams solid-roller bumpstick, with 0.609/0.616-inch lift and 242/248 degrees duration at 0.050. A Victor Jr. intake and a Barry Grant 650-cfm Silver Claw carb top off the whole affair, which amounts to a 331-inch powerhouse. Working rearward, we find a T5-Z trans with an 0.080 Fifth gear, an FRPP aluminum driveshaft, and your typical 3.55-geared 8.8-inch rear-this one with an Auburn Pro diff.
This now-nasty Mercury was completed not long before our photo shoot-with some timely assistance and pearls of wisdom from several coworkers in the shop, including Brad Seibold, Brian Holsten, and Dane Bergman. Scott has already participated in several high-speed events, and, as if we couldn't tell by the smile on his face, he reports the car really works. When Scott slows down long enough for a look, the uninitiated will often mistake the car for a Mustang, but we'll cut 'em some slack. Such Fox family siblings are much more alike than different, with the most telling connection being the blood relation-both flowing unmistakable Ford blue.