By on December 23, 2015

18 - 1992 Mercury Capri in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Imagine it’s 1992 and you’re shopping for a sporty convertible: Do you get an Australian-built front-wheel-drive Mazda based on the 323 … or do you get a Miata?

Exactly.
11 - 1992 Mercury Capri in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

As a result, the 1991-1994 Mercury Capri wasn’t a big seller in the United States, but I still see about as many of them in wrecking yards as I do Ford Capris (sold by Lincoln-Mercury dealers in the USA but not badged as Mercurys) and Mustang-sibling Fox Capris these days.

20 - 1992 Mercury Capri in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Under the hood, pretty much the same engine as the Miata, but flipped sideways. From what we’ve seen in the 24 Hours of LeMons, a well-driven Capri will get around a race track just about as quickly as its very distant Miata cousin (but a Miata with an ordinary driver will run away from a Capri with an ordinary driver).

11 - 1992 Mercury Capri in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

It took a while for 1980s-style graphics to disappear from the flanks of cars.

21 - 1992 Mercury Capri in California junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Made in Australia!

Overseas, they can’t wait to get their hands on one. Can you?

Imagine being a Lincoln-Mercury salesperson during a brutal recession and having to sit through about 19 hours of these training videos. Third prize, you’re fired!

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44 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1992 Mercury Capri...”


  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    Unhit and apparently unloved. Wonder what killed this car at 131k.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I wonder too the engine and transaxle should be good to go about the only semi expensive mechanical repairs that are likely is the clutch or axles. Struts or other suspension work is the other thing that could add up to a fair amount of money too.

      The body and interior still look quite serviceable and worth spending a few hundred bucks on fixing some mechanical problem. I’m surprised that it wasn’t put in the complete cars for sale section first, assuming they do that at this yard.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      The Capri was from the bad old days of Ford Australia, it was junk. It did not sell well here either, only the US sourced Taurus was possibly worse

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        It is unfortunate that the Aussies couldn’t have done a better job of putting these together because the basic 323 bits were pretty decent for the times.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @Scoutdude,
          I know ,but the Ford factory at the time had Union and Management Problems. They produced a product that was SLIGHTLY better than Britsh Leyland and that is certainly no recommendation.
          The Capri came and went as fast as it came. It was one very foregetable car

    • 0 avatar
      Crapi

      If it was a 1991, I’d wager failed crankshaft. As a 1992, I’d say electrical problems. The electrics on these are assembled like a highschool shop class would, hardware store butt connectors, no grease, no weather sealing, and worst of all, if the heater core leaks, it drips into the ECU. Alternators are also very expensive to source and very difficult to change.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Back then would have taken mk3 Golf with vr6 over this oz bloke. More useful body.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    You could get the 323’s 1.6 turbo in the XR-2 version in which case it would easily leave the Miata behind. The FWD version of the 1.6 used a different cam and was slightly down on power compared to the RWD version. I think the automatic Miata also used the lower output version.

    I’ve owned a first and second gen Miata and also spent a lot of time behind the wheel of one of these. They were decent cars though not as robustly built as the Miata. The last year, 94 I think they updated them. I’d drive a 94 XR2 with a stick.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Australian build quality is among the world’s worst, but seeing a twin cam, 5-speed convertible with no rust, no turbocharger, and a perfect top in a junk yard is still odd. The interior looks like it was prepped for a used car lot too.

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Eewww… that thing’s had babies in it! And there’s still plenty of greasy grimy gopher guts in the nooks and crannies. It’s a tub of soiled Legos not worth cleaning.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @CJ in SD
      No US build quality is far worse., Chinese car like. The Capri came from the bad old days of Ford Australia, where I assume things were thrown together in the early 1970’s and 1980’s. Rise of the Japanese,cars dramatically improved the quality of the Fords. US sourced Taurus was a pile of excrement that made the then local Falcon, look like a Lexus.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Whatevs. I can only go by the Capri, the Diamante, the GTO, and the G8. They were all turd sandwiches compared to cars manufactured in the US, the only ones that matter wearing Toyota and Honda badges. The 1991 Capri coming “from the bad old days of Ford Australia, where I assume things were thrown together in the early 1970’s and 1980’s” seems far fetched, what with it being a product of the ’90s and made with Japanese help. If you know what you’re talking about, it doesn’t come across. The GTO was a Monaro with considerable fit and finish fettling and some upgrades to NVH. It was also one of the worst made GM cars offered in the US at the time. I doubt Holden let Ford tower over them with the Falcon in quality, so it must have been offal too.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          @ CJ in SD
          Every imported US vehicle has been Offal here., there. Is a very long list. What do you think is a well made US vehicle?
          People who bought GTO’s , G8 , liked them most Americans would not buy them because of their looks
          Diamanté like the Capri and not liked here either, in fact Mitsubishi closed due to lack of sales
          In fact the folks at Jalopnik think the Holden GTO will be a Classic
          http://jalopnik.com/why-the-pontiac-gto-is-a-future-classic-1078488099
          Another review from a owner, small trunk, flooding, problems not encountered with the non convert d cars
          http://hooniverse.com/2014/06/02/the-ls2-equipped-pontiac-gto-an-owners-retrospective/

  • avatar
    VW16v

    This was a pos new. The convertible top leaked day one.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I always liked that color blue in the late 80’s / early 90’s. Still do – but it only looks right on smaller cars.

  • avatar
    Madroc

    “The automatic won’t be available for several months, so be sure to emphasize the benefits of the manual to your prospects. Especially the female ones.”

    Comedic gold.

  • avatar
    PentastarPride

    I don’t recall ever seeing these and I’m a ’90s kid. Maybe I have but mistook these for something Japanese.

    If these use the same engine as a Miata–which seems to be highly coveted –what made the few that were sold disappear so fast? The transmission?

    That black sedan next to this looked like a first or second-gen Fusion from the side, which would be kind of surprising, barring a wreck. Then I discover that it’s a Lincoln LS and I’m not surprised at all.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Even though many complain that the Miata is a hairdressers car, THIS is a hairdressers car. It had to be in teal or red with some kind of fuschia or pink Capri treatment applied.

    That said, I still wouldn’t mind one to run around in. I might even acquire one in a few years time. I have an uncle, who is not a small person, buy a low mile version for cheap at an estate sale for his long time companion. She is not a small person either, as in I don’t know how they’ll fit. She complained his 2010 Mustang was too small.

    He’s a Harley guy, with a Hemi Challenger R/T and a 56 Chevy Sedan Delivery that he restored in the 80’s. I was completely blown away when my mother told me about this one. I can’t see him holding on to this more than a summer.

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    Comparing it to a Miata is like complaining your Karman Ghia isn’t a Porsche.
    I bought one new because the Miata was just too small as a DD commuter. This car gets no love, ever, but mine took me over 100,000 miles and across the country on vacations to Colorado and Washington and Chicago. Ford should have just made a Probe convertible and given it to Mercury, but I’ll bet that Ford dealers would have screamed about it cutting into Mustang sales.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/cars-only-bob-lutz-remembers-the-1983-ford-ghia-barchetta-concept/

      The Capri started out years earlier as the Fiesta XR2-based Ghia Barchetta(this is why the performance Capri variant was called XR2). It took seven years for Ford to bring it to production, by which time the Miata was a reality that didn’t have the econobox compromises of the Capri. Had the Capri/Barchetta shown up earlier, it would have had the opportunity to fill the cheap sportscar vacancy in the market until the Miata was ready.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Why was there a time where a button had to be pressed to remove the key from the ignition?
    I recall my 90 Maxima had this, it was right next to the cylinder and could be done with one hand.
    This one seems unnecessarily complicated for something that I find completely unnecessary to begin with.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Gov’t mandate that wants to prevent you from turning off the ignition and locking the steering while running down the road. On automatic cars it was integrated with the shift lock so that on the one hand you can’t take it out of park unless the key is in the on position but on the other hand you can’t turn the key off unless it is in park. With the advent of transponder keys the locking steering column is no longer mandated since that is seen as a more effective theft deterrent so locking steering columns are no longer required. That means that they can now have manual transmissions that don’t require that button/lever to be able to turn the key to the off position and remove the key.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I had one of these as a rental when I moved to Hawaii and was waiting for my car to make the crossing. With an automatic, the only thing it had going for it was the drop top. Man was I glad to see my old Accord hatch get off the boat.

  • avatar
    wantahertzdonut

    Nothing screams “premium sound” like a delete plate!

    I don’t know much about these other than the engine (N/A & turbo examples) are near bolt-in swaps for a Festiva. 130hp in a 1700 lb car + Ford Aspire suspension (another direct bolt in) equals serious fun.

    • 0 avatar
      irieite

      Having owned an ’89 Festiva as my first new car, I can attest to the thoughts of this engine swap. Even the stock 2 barrel carb 8 valve 1.3 liter engine was somewhat peppy in this super light car with a 4 speed manual. Still, it would be no SHOgun.

  • avatar
    eamiller

    Fun story:
    Lorena Bobbitt owned one of these at the time of her infamous incident. It was the vehicle she tossed John Wayne Bobbitt’s “member” out of.

    How do I know this? I saw it at the Auburn Cord Dusenberg festival being auctioned off in the late 90s. Possibly the only one of these crapboxes of any famous provenance.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Alright, I’m ready to sell the Mercury Capri.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I’d take one like this as a summer cruiser and I do ocassionally search Capri on craigslist looking for this generation. For me convertibles are about cruising so while I prefer RWD I certainly wouldn’t turn down the right Capri at the right price.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Same here I would gladly own one as a weekend/beach cruiser. They can be a fairly reliable ride with the inexpensive availability of parts since it is based on the 323 platform. Though the automatic version apparently is a bit troublesome. Many of those listed even have the optional hardtop included.

  • avatar
    MGS1995

    I owned one of these. A 91 5 speed; an absolute blast to drive in spite of being FWD. I recall that the manual top required a certain knack to raise and lower but it never leaked. The window regulators were cable driven crap that seemed poorly engineered. I called it my Spitfire without the Lucas electrics.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      MGS1995,
      Lucas electrics were in most every vehicle in Australia when I was a growing up.

      I think Lucas was a British company and Australia used to manufacturer and import many unreliable British vehicles. As a kid it was mainly British, Amercian and Australian vehicles.

      We had one vehicle, probably worse than a Trabant called the Hillman Imp. It was crap.

      Once the Japanese came, electrics improved over the British and US crappy electrics. Datsun even bought engine designs off the British. There was a British vehicle called the Austin A40 with a 1200cc engine. This engine was built by Datsun and became the J12. Datsun also bought Morris engine designs, the J13,J15, etc. I remember when I rebuilt a J15 I used a Morris 1500 gasket kit.

      The original Datsun OHV 1600 was another engine of British origin, and you can trace the heritage of Nissan’s R Series engines back to it. Datsun dropped a overhead cam on the engine an it became the L Series with 4 and 6 cylinders. This L Series evolved into the Z Series, then R Series.

      This is why the in line sixes from Datsun/Nissan are smooth engines.

  • avatar
    STS_Endeavour

    I seriously considered one of these over the Miata when they were new. The reason for that was because I fit better in the Capri than the Miata. I wound up getting a Thunderbird. That was even better.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The Ford Capri was quite a terrible vehicle. It could of been a good vehicle. These were built in the middle of the transition of the Australian auto industry under the Button Plan. Which would only allow 6 models to be built in Australia for rationalization purposes. And to reduce the auto industry reliance on handouts and unfair taxes on imported vehicles.

    I do believe it is what we term a “hairdressers” vehicle. It was a hey look at me in driving my new trendy accessory.

    The AWD TX3 Laser with it’s 1.6 turbo twin overhead cam, quad valve engine was a far better vehicle built by Ford Australia.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      @Big Al from OZ
      It was an extremely foregetable vehicle in an era of mediocre vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        RobertRyan,
        Ford is once again going through a phase of “it could of been a good vehicle” with a number of platforms.

        It seems since the GFC Ford has lost it’s way somewhat. I’m actually a little bit of a Ford fan myself, you wouldn’t think so with some of my commentary.

        Actually all brands are good, just some better than others!

  • avatar
    JEFFSHADOW

    When I lived in Newport Beach in 1991 one of my neighbors actually traded in his 1986 Oldsmobile 442 for a new Mercury Capri. Unsettling to say the least. I used to park my 1972 Delta 88 convertible next to his 442. I moved my Toronados to another area of the parking lot after the Capri arrived, as he had suddenly developed a habit of hitting other cars with his new lightweight wonder.

  • avatar

    I had one of these for about 7 years/100k miles. Despite only twice-a-year Jiffy Lube maintenance, nothing went wrong except a snapped window cable which I replaced for $10 from Orchard Supply. It was much roomier than a Miata; the vestigial back seat was usable at a pinch and allowed the fronts to almost fully recline for camping. The roof packed completely into the body shell for a clean look, and when raised allowed a pass through for things like skis (yes, I took it both skiing and camping).

  • avatar
    nicktcfcsb

    An older empty nest couple had one of these in my parents neighborhood growing up, teal green with a white top, I always liked it, and thought it was neat. I remember them replacing it with a 98 BMW Z in dark green. I don’t know why but I always noticed these when I saw them.
    I think we will someday look back fondly at a time where a sub compact convertible was smaller than a new Mini Cooper.

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