Junkyard Find: 1980 Mercury Capri

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
Ford built cars on the Fox Platform for nearly or more than 20 years, depending on whether you consider the SN-95 Mustang to be a true member of the Fox family. However, most of the examples I see in junkyards aren’t of sufficient interest for me to photograph for this series.The Foxes that have made the Junkyard Find cut tend to hail from the Malaise Era, probably because the Fox Platform was amazingly futuristic by the standards of the late-1970s/early-1980s. The Fox Capri (not to be confused with the European Ford Capri or the Australian-built, Mazda 323-based 1990s Capri) was uncommon back in the day and is now nearly extinct, so I whipped out my JDM Canon when I spotted this ’80 in a San Jose self-service yard.
Remember when California required emissions-level stickers on the windows of new cars?
This car has the Pinto 2300, so we’re talking about 88 horsepower in a 2,547-pound car. This works out to 28.94 horsepower per pound, which is even worse than the 26.66 hp/lb of the current Mitsubishi Mirage (a car that nearly all automotive journalists proclaimed to be worse than taking the bus, though I thought it wasn’t bad at all for the price). Men were men in 1980, and they were willing to have patience when merging onto freeways.
At least this car came with a manual transmission.
The trunk lid shows the lichens and surface rust that result from long-term outdoor storage in California.
While the original purchaser of this car wasn’t willing to spring for the L6 or V8 options, he or she did get air conditioning. For how many years did Ford products have some variation on this HVAC-control-panel theme? Sajeev?
Ease on down the road in a Capri!
Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Dolorean Dolorean on Nov 05, 2015

    "Ford built cars on the Fox Platform for nearly or more than 20 years, depending on whether you consider the SN-95 Mustang to be a true member of the Fox family." If it rode on the Fox (Fairmont) platform, it's considered a Fox body. The SN-97 (New Edge) Mustang utilized the same platform out to 2004, making the Fox a 25 year platform.

  • Miklo1968 Miklo1968 on Mar 31, 2018

    My 1980 Mercury Capri was the WORST car I have ever owned. It was "baby poop brown/orange with matching vinyl interior. It had the 3.3 liter inline 6 with a single barrel carburetor that made 90 horsepower. It had the automatic transmission, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt wheel,AM/FM radio, rear window louvers and the dreaded TRX wheel package. It is also the only car I have ever owned that did not have reclining front seats. It broke down the same day I bought it but I ignored this giant red flag and set myself up for a long and expensive life lesson. The one lung carburetor back flowed every time the engine was switched off. The carburetor was replaced at least 6 times and they all back flowed within a day of installation. I was lucky if I got 6 months out of an alternator and battery. Driving the car in rainy weather was a huge gamble. If I went through a puddle the wrong way or too fast, water would splash up onto the distributor cap causing the engine to stall. It would be at least an hour before the car would start again. If I used the horn, which was located on the end of the turn signal stalk instead of the steering wheel, the instrument panel light blew out. Turning the cruise control on had the same effect as the horn. The Michelin TRX tires were the only tires to fit the odd sized TRX rims and they were expensive and didn't last very long. It all came to a head when the starter motor failed. After 2 days of trying to lift the starter up from the engine bay without success, I decided to take the drastic measure and cut the exhaust pipe that ran under the starter out of the way so the starter motor could be dropped from below. Exhaustion and dwindling funds led to a cheap half ass repair to the severed exhaust pipe and this made things worse so I decided to park the damn thing and wait for it to be towed away as an abandoned vehicle and salvage what was left of my sanity.

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Mar 31, 2018

      Close but wrong Capri to get. Mine was the '79 (bought in '85) also a "Fox body", but with the "5.0"/auto. Virtually unkillable. I tried, believe me. Overheated it a couple times (my fault), but nope. While you were hating it, I was loving it with a gear-swap to a 4.10 Posi. Then a fwy friendly 3.73s. One of my favorite of all time.

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