Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
1985 Mercury Capri - Mercury Rising
John Walker's '85 Mercury Capri Cranks Up The Heat On The Track And The Street With A Naturally Aspirated 331.
The words "fast" and "Mercury" are not commonly used in the same context. Or at least they haven't been since the NASCAR Cyclones of the late '60s. Most MM&FF readers don't remember those cars, or like your author, weren't even born yet. In fact, you're more likely to relate a Mercury to your grandparents driving to the grocery store or bingo, than to a powerful beast screaming down the dragstrip.
John Walker's '85 Capri is the exception to the rule. This is one bad Merc with a bad attitude. It certainly isn't a grocery-getter-unless you want your eggs and milk splattered all over the bubble-back glass like Marvin in Pulp Fiction.
Things weren't always like this for the Capri, though. When John bought the car from a family friend eight years ago, the Fox didn't even make it home before the transmission gave out. But even after having the AOD rebuilt, the car only ran low 14s. It wasn't until after three years and countless man-hours that John and his Capri were able to destroy the Mercury stereotype.
Starting with a stock 5.0L block, John looked to Marty Brown Performance in Linthicum, Maryland, for machining. John then built the short-block assembly himself with a Pro Power Street/Strip stroker kit and Ross flat-top pistons, which brought the total engine displacement to 331 ci. Combustion occurs beneath a pair of Trick Flow Specialties Twisted Wedge heads worked over by Chris Nelson at Nelson Competition in Pinellas Park, Florida. They feature 2.02/1.60-inch intake/exhaust valves respectively, as well as custom porting. Valve actuation is handled by a Stage 2 roller camshaft, 5/16-inch pushrods, and a set of 1.6:1 roller rockers, all from Trick Flow Specialties.
Aspiration is achieved through a K&N air filter, while fuel is supplied by a Barry Grant Speed Demon 650 four-barrel. A MagnaFuel QuickStar 275 electric fuel pump and Holley adjustable fuel-pressure regulator maintain the required 6.5 psi of fuel pressure. A 150-shot of nitrous oxide is on hand for that extra nudge at WOT. The air/fuel mixture is delivered to the combustion chamber through a ported Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake manifold. A Mallory ignition box signals fire through an MSD distributor, coil, and wires. After the party, exhaust gasses escape through BBK 13/4-inch long-tube headers and a 21/2-inch diameter H-pipe, then finally out Bassani mufflers and tailpipes.
With all of this new-found power, John knew the old AOD couldn't handle the job. So he called up Performance Automatic in Gaithersburg, Maryland, for a Super Comp C-4 capable of handling 1,000 hp. John coupled it with an 8-inch ATI 4,500-stall converter. A custom aluminum driveshaft links to an 8.8-inch stock axle housing stuffed with 3.73:1 Ford Racing gears and Strange spool, axles, and C-clip eliminators. Bogart D-10s wrapped in Mickey Thompson ET Drag slicks sit out back, while matching D-10s with Kumho rubber keep John pointed toward the traps.
To hold everything up in the front, John chose Moroso drag springs and Lakewood 90/10 struts. In the rear, stock springs supported by a set of Lakewood 50/50 shocks assist traction, and a Competition Engineering sway bar helps prevent body roll. Then, John installed a pair of UPR adjustable lower control arms to obtain maximum traction for wheels-up launches.
John left the interior mostly stock, with the exception of safety equipment and instruments. A Competition Engineering 10-point rollcage and five-point harness keep him safely enclosed and NHRA-legal. Dash-mounted Auto Meter gauges report engine conditions, and deviously hidden in the console are the nitrous controls. A Hurst Quarter Stick allows John to rip through the gears on the track and the street.
Lucky for John, his hometown of Palmetto, Florida, is a mere 20-minute drive from Bradenton Motorsports Park, where he competed in the True Street event at NMRA's '09 season opener. Fuel system failure prohibited him from finishing, but an improved setup is in the works. His best elapsed time to date is 9.92 seconds at over 135 mph. On the chassis dyno, the Merc put down a ground-pounding 430 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque on the juice, but John feels the converter is too loose to get an accurate reading. Regardless, that's not bad for a stock-block 331.
"I know the car has more in it, but good blocks are not budget friendly," John tells us. "I won't get rid of it, so I will keep making it faster." With the addition of a Boss 302 block in the future, John has his sights set on low 9s. Never satisfied, we know John and his non-stereotypical Mercury will continue to rise to the top.