By on August 3, 2012

After the Miata (introduced in the United States as a 1990 model) turned out to be an instant hit for Mazda, the marketing wizards at Ford decided to put Mercury badges on the Australian Ford Capri, a four-seat sporty convertible, and beat Mazda at its own game. Sure, the ’91-94 Capri was a Mazda under the skin (it was based on the 323), and it had front-wheel-drive, but so what?
The Capri was powered by a Mazda B engine, just like the Miata, and it had a convertible top, but the similarities ended there. While the Miata was a perfect expression of everything that the Alfa Romeo Spider and MBG had tried— but failed— to be in the past, the Capri was just a funny-looking 323 with a soft top.
I still see the occasional Capri of this generation on the street, for the same reason I see Geo Metro convertibles on the street: driving with the top down is fun!
The 24 Hours of LeMons has several teams campaigning these things (all turbocharged models), and they’re about as quick around a road course as, say, a Ford Ranger pickup or Kia Sephia. In other words, pretty slow.
This one only managed to get 120,000 miles, which makes me suspect that it spent a few years parked with something expensive broken.

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66 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1993 Mercury Capri...”


  • avatar
    grzydj

    I like the fuel door <- indicator. I wish more dashes had which side of the car the fuel door was on like that.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Just about all of them do, though it’s very often very subtle. I haven’t seen a modern car without one

      • 0 avatar
        ...m...

        …my significant other pointed this out to me when we were fuelling her MX-5 earlier this summer and my mind was blown: these arrows had quietly lain there unnoticed, for decades, and in all cars?..skeptical, we rushed home to check the dashboard of my elise, but no arrow…

        …so fuel filler markings may be very common, but they’re not universal in modern cars…

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        I don’t recall seeing arrows anywhere, but sometimes the filler location will be hinted at by which side of the dash has the low fuel light.

        Although, if the hint is too subtle for most people to notice, then it’s not terribly useful.

      • 0 avatar
        ClutchCarGo

        Usually the arrow is proximate to the fuel gauge. But yes, often very subtle.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Have to remember that for a little while during the proclaimed Malaise Era, the big three had many vehicles that had the fuel door behind the rear license plate. The theory was the car would retain its clean line all around without the interruption of a nasty fuel door ruining it (also could save some money at the factory in stamping). Unfortunately they neglected to put a retaining device on the gas caps, causing many to leave them stranded on top of gas pumps while the driver rolled off piloting a mobile Molotav into freeway traffic.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Heh, the Volt even has a little triangle displaying the fuel door side.. Same side as my dear departed Merc..

    • 0 avatar

      The fuel-filler-side arrow became increasingly common during the 1990s. I can’t think of an 80s car that has one, but I’m sure some did.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      Yeah, it’s really hard to find the fuel filler door. Even on your own car that you’ve had for a while. A completely unnecessary feature for car dummies. Try looking at the quarter panels, and it should be obvious as to where the gas goes. I can’t believe someone would post on TTAC that this is a good idea. I’d be embarrassed.

      • 0 avatar
        Slab

        I used to rent a dozen cars a year for work. Pulling into a gas station was always a crap shoot. I was the guy with the hose running across the trunk. Who notices the gas door until you need to use it? Love those arrows. Such a simple thing.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Agreed. if you drive a lot of different cars, these arrows are great. Such a small and cheap thing, yet so useful. Hopefully they don’t go the way of intelligent trunk hinge design.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    These sucked. I’m glad they are gone.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    So, who says Ford never brought cars from their Australian division to the States? It’s just that they always brought the wrong car, and failed miserably.

    Man, I hate cars with totally flat instrument panels, which were so common in the 1990s. Thank God we’ve moved past that.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Not Ford Australia’a finest hour. Good concept but they were junk. They never went anywhere in Australia. Ford Australia at the time had pitiful quality control.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Lol at the incongruity of the ’55′ callout mark, and the inflated speedometer range (I doubt a Capri could hit 140 mph if it were dropped from orbit).

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      In the 70s manufacturers tried to create the illusion of luxury with Brougham. In the 80s and early 90s they tried going for power/speed/sportiness through high numbers and gauges. In each case it was mostly an illusion. But it did help move a few more cars with extra options.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    At least some of these things actually have a (tiny,tiny) back seat. In 94(?) I actually test drove one of these with a mercury salesman, as a passanger and friend squeezed in the back. The thing could barely make it up a hill. The salesman was scary offended that I did not immediately want to buy the car. Test drove a new 240sx, a MX-6, a Miata with a repaired front end, and a 91 MR2. Went with the MR2.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Wait…wait…there’s a BACK SEAT? O__o

  • avatar
    sexyhammer

    NA6 miata guys will eat that valve cover up for probably twice what you pay for it at that junkyard. maybe more. i could use the cam gear cover for mine.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    The back seat was put there just to qualify as a 4-seater and evade the insurance penalty on 2-seat “sports cars”. I doubt if anyone ever seriously expected it to be used as anything other than an upholstered package tray.

    For some reason I don’t recall ever seeing one of these that wasn’t trashed by its owner, many while still fairly new. Not the fault of Ford, but seems to say something about the car’s typical buyer. Don’t know exactly what.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve always wondered if that was real.

      Insurance companies are supposed to be hyper-rational about tying what they charge to what generates claims (unless it violates some law). I have a hard time believing that 2 seat convertible Vs 4 seat convertible is detectable after you normalize for power/weight.

      [adjusts glasses and goes back to working on excel]

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        State Farm still asks me “does it have a turbo” every time I add a car to my policy. When I point out that the 80s were a LONG time ago, I get either blank looks or reams of “you’re just too ignorant to understand” insurancespeak nonsense. Hardly “Hyper-rational”.

      • 0 avatar
        fincar1

        A friend had an insurance agent tell him an Omni was a sports car because it was a 5-speed.

        I had trouble insuring my 16-year-old daughter in her RX7. I pointed out that my new Accord would outrun the RX7 and haul more of her guttersnipe friends. No problem, they’d insure her in that. Okay, I said, how about my ex-cop-car old Dart with its hi-po 360 engine, 727 Torqueflite, and big springs and sway bars and tires, and six-friend carrying capacity? No problem, they’d insure her in that too. Walked away mumbling to myself.

        Car insurance outfits and common sense don’t show much overlap on a Venn diagram.

  • avatar
    StudeDude

    Just bought a ’94 version of this car for my niece. The car is actually pretty tight for what it is, high on the cute factor and gets good mileage. But with a 4 spd auto, it is pretty slow, especially compared to my ’91 Miata 5 spd. Other than body parts, all the mechanical pieces are available and easy to replace. Not a bad choice, especially if someone is looking for a low-priced convertible.

    • 0 avatar
      sexyhammer

      slow is good for what i can assume is a teenage girl. teach her to work on the engine herself then enlist her as an assistant when you work on your miata.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    The car looks trashed, but its engine is clean…what’s up with that?

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Is it me, or does that speedo look WILDLY optimistic?

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      Just a bit, but I think they do that to put common highway/interstate cruising speeds TDC on the gauge. A friend of mine had a Mirage in college with 140mph on the speedo, that was laughable since it would only do about 65 with a tailwind.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      A friend had a Kawasaki Spectre with a 180mph speedo, and he regularly buried the needle. Of course it also said he was doing about 105 in 2nd gear, so it may have had some calibration issues.

  • avatar
    skor

    “This one only managed to get 120,000 miles, which makes me suspect that it spent a few years parked with something expensive broken.”

    Your bone-yard example is equipped with an auto trans, the infamous Mazda designed G4A-EL (Ford called it the 4EAT-G). These transmissions were used in first gen Probes, MX-6, 626 and probably some other things. The G4A-EL almost never made it past 120K miles, which is why you almost never see an auto trans version of these cars on the road anymore (or Probes/MX-6/626 for that matter). Once the cars went over 100K miles, the cost of a trans R&R usually exceeded the car’s FMV.

  • avatar
    Mark Stevenson

    I saw one of these for the very first time, in the exact same colour as the one pictured, driving on the local toll highway here a couple of weeks ago. At first glance, I had absolutely no idea what it was.

    Alfa Spider?
    Fiat X1/9 with a body kit?

    But, when I got within reading distance of the badge, I was completely speechless. These little Capris are something Ford should really aim for again. Maybe not the drivetrain or other characteristics that doomed them to crusherdom, but the formula is something I would welcome with open arms.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    I see them from time to time down here. Did they really made a turbo version?

    I’ve seen your Escort (Laser here) of a similar vintage with turbo and AWD OEM lettering. I think the version is called TX3

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Quite possibly, the worst marketed cars in automotive history. I remember the brochures and signage for this car in a Lincoln/Mercury dealer and it was just God awful. Even as a fresh college grad I was thinking, “whoever approved this stuff should get fired.”

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    My late wife ‘s friend bought one of these new . She got the base version , not the ” hot ” – actually pretty lukewarm – turbo version . Drove a couple of times with the wife and her friend . Both times in the so- called back seat = only way I could fit was sideways and I’m only 5′ 5″ . One time it was raining and with the top up it was totally claustrophobic . It was a stick but with three of us aboard the car was wheezing to get to speed and as you can see here the interior was pretty cut-rate . At the time the car was often compared to the Miata in the auto magazines and always found wanting .

  • avatar
    JMII

    Well… I’ll be a monkey’s uncle (or something like that) I saw a white Capri, with the top down on the way to work this AM, driving past a Ford dealership no less and literally said out loud (to myself) “boy you don’t see many of these running any more” and here it is on Junkyard Find. Awesome! I’m talking about the article of course and not the car.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    This car could have been a success, but Ford management dropped the ball with their cowardice. The project started a decade earlier with a Fiesta XR2 based roadster called the Barchetta. http://www.carstyling.ru/ru/car/1983_ford_barchetta/
    The 2-seat Barchetta was enthusiastically received on the auto show circuit in 1983 and seemed just the successor to the recently departed cheap roadsters from England. Then Ford management got involved. They waffled for years about the possible market size. They added back seats to expand the car’s utility, switching to the larger Mazda platform at the same time. Ghia’s attractive styling was toned down to fit in Ford’s showrooms. As plain looking as it was, the Capri still could have sold well except that Ford didn’t approve it for production until they saw how Mazda’s Miata was selling, and that car illuminated all of the Capri’s failings with HID spotlights. Then there is the little issue that even in Australia these cars had a reputation for abysmal build quality.

    • 0 avatar
      James2

      I remember the Barchetta. Cute little car. There’s nothing stopping Ford from trying a second time, leaving the sheetmetal UNCHANGED this time and using the Fiesta’s platform.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      Regarding build quality. I remember hearing stories about how the build quality on Capris was so bad they were basically torn down and reassembled upon arrival at the port.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I rented one of these when I moved to Maui and was waiting for my Accord to ship. Not much to it, but the top did go down, and on Maui that’s about all you need. I would have bet money these didn’t even have a back seat, I’ll bet it won’t hold more than a couple grocery bags.

    I kind of admired its, er, unique styling at the time, but these haven’t aged very well.

  • avatar
    tim850csi

    some friends of the parental units got a red XR-2 model with the Turbo and 5spd manual… I was much younger than and thought it was a pretty fast car, especially when compared with said parents 85 LeBaron GTS Turbo (3spd auto FTW).

    Or maybe it was the fact that the XR-2 had a turbo gauge and the GTS Turbo didn’t… LOL

  • avatar

    Tough to believe this POS actually spawned a music hit, “Motortown” by Kane Gang. The song hit #36 on Billboard in 1987 as Ford Australia was gearing up to produce the car starting in 1989. The sorely needed jobs promised by production was the song’s (somewhat cynical) theme. Almost a prayer. Maybe they should have prayed for a less leaky roof.

    Foret what’s lost and cheer what’s found. Make cheap cars in motortown…

  • avatar
    GoesLikeStink

    I don t know why you would choose this as a race car. Even for LeMons. Sure it is cheep but why not just go with a Mazda, any Mazda. I had a new 92 MX3 with the V6 that thing screamed. I see some of those have done well.

  • avatar

    I drive past one of these everyday, it’s for sale, 5spd, $2500 written in soap on the windshield.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    These lousy cars were the brainchild of Jac Nassar, and suffered for it.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    This is what you bought during those initial years of the wildly successful Miata but didn’t feel like forking over the outrageous Mazda dealer mark-up at the time.

    Of course, you didn’t get half the car the Miata was, either, but the Capri was small and the top went down, so, hey…

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    It was one of many “trendy coupes” thought up in the late 80′s. Also, was yet another attempt to bring “youth” to Mercury.

    These went to dealers’ wives/daughters/friends. Product planners figured anything with a droptop would sell. Ugly as all get out too.

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    I bought one new as a commuter in 1991. It gave me no problems in 100,000 miles, and traveled from California to Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nebraska and Chicago with two people and weeks worth of luggage. It was no Miata, but I didn’t fit in a Miata, and as long as you thought of it as a Mazda 323 version of a Karman Ghia, it was fine. The back seat was good for dogs and luggage; even my 5’1″ mother-in-law had to sit sideways. But it made it over Independence Pass in Colorado and up Pike’s Peak even with the automatic. There aren’t many left. They went down the food chain pretty quick.
    Now, it could have been worse; I almost bought a Plymouth Sundance convertible, but the dealer was a dick.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    According to one of the car magazines, the Capri had a curious instruction in th eowner’s manual:

    Your car is equipped with either:

    –a 5-speed transmissionn, or

    –a 4-speed automatic transmission (optional).

    If you do not know which one your car has, contact your dealer.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      That’s pretty funny. I wonder what the dealer’s response would be when contacted.

      Actually, it should probably read:

      “If you don’t know which one your car has, tear up your driver’s license and sell your car – you’re too stupid to be trusted to operate a motor vehicle”.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    I worked for a Ford-Mercury dealer when the Capri was available. Nice color (Cayman Green, I think) and the body style is tasteful even at this point. But wow, these were dog-slow and body flex created awful pops & creaks in the structure. Yeesh.

  • avatar
    jayzwhiterabbit

    This car looks very similar to some older Toyota Celica models from back then I agree that Mazda mechanicals were terrible then…everyone I knew who bought the soap-bar 626′s in the ’90s had terrible problems. MX6′s and the first Probes were crap, too.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    I see plenty of these on CL or Auto Trader priced anywhere from $1-4k. A tempting buy for a inexpensive weekend roadster. Could they really be more unreliable than a MG or Fiat Spyder?

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      It should be reasonably reliable with a stick. Ford/Mazda used this engine in many different vehicles at the time with mostly good results. I had a 10 year old 100K+ mile Mazda MX3 during college with this same motor and never had any issues. It was fairly peppy even with just 105 HP.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        MX3 would be a neat Junkyard find especially with the oddball small displacement 1.8 V6. I used to see plenty around but they have gone to the wrecking yard like similar small coupes of the era Pulsar/NX 1600/2000,Geo Storm/Impulse, Toyota Paseo.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    Interesting that you got a good pic of the Mercury symbol on the hood. Seem to remember that the Capri was the first car to behold that new Mercury “waterfall” badge instead of the previous Cougar or “Cat” badge that was festooned on all Mercurys prior.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    I test drove one of these in 1991. The salesman was a dick and so was his manager. That turned me off from the start.
    The car had the smallest trunk I ever saw and was cramped inside. It reminded me of a TR7 and not in a good way. The handling was unresponsive and the car was dead slow.

    I bought an SL-1 Saturn and was glad I did.

  • avatar
    leilapk

    REALLY , THE TRUTH THAT YOU HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT THE CAPRI…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_Capri

    Second Generation (1979–1986)

    During this period, a version of the Ford Mustang was sold through Lincoln/Mercury dealers as the Mercury Capri, giving Mercury a pony car for the first time since the Mercury Cougar was upsized in 1974 to complement the Ford Thunderbird. The Capri was built on the Ford Fox platform, which was used for the Mustang from 1979 to 1993 with a design change in 1994. It was the only Mercury Capri generation with a V8 engine.

    • 0 avatar
      DubTee1480

      REALLY, THE TRUTH THAT YOU CAN’T READ TO THE BOTTOM OF A WIKIPEDIA ENTRY BEFORE POSTING ON A WEB FORUM AND MAKING AN ASS OF YOURSELF…

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_Capri

      From the SAME article:

      Third Generation (1991–1994)

      Ford Australia produced a Mazda Miata rival named the Ford Capri from 1989, which ironically, was based around many Mazda 323 mechanics. Therefore, it is Front Wheel Drive as opposed to the Mazda Miata’s Rear Wheel Drive. From the 1991 model year, this car was sold in North America as the Mercury Capri. The car was sold until the 1994 model year with minimal changes (1994 models did get a minor cosmetic update that included new front and rear bumpers as well as taillights).


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