1969 ford capri 001Enlarge Photo
The biggest news in the automotive world was the announcement that Mercury will be no more, mostly thanks to lazy badge engineering and the success of GM’s restructuring. There were some sporty cars that were sold under the Mercury namesake, but the one that most people are fond of never had a single Mercury badge on it: The Mercury Capri.
With the success of the Mustang in the United States, Ford was looking for a unique “pony car” for Europe. In 1966, the Capri was green lit and debuted for Europe in 1969 as a Ford. The coupe was light weight and proved to be a good handling car for the time, using MacPherson Struts in front and leaf springs and live rear axle in back. The engines across the pond ranged from a small 1.3L Kent OHV four-cylinder to a 3.0L V-6, and proved so popular in Germany and Britain that the car remained virtually unchanged until its demise in 1987.
In 1970 the Capri began to be sold in Mercury dealerships to make up for the company’s lack of sub-compact like the Pinto that Ford sold. The first year the car was sold with the 1.6L Kent engine, which most felt was an anemic engine for such a good looking car. This was remedied in 1971 when the engine was replaced with the 2.0L “Pinto” engine, which had a single overhead cam head configuration. In 1972 the cars received the 2.6L Colonge V-6 (the one that was in the Mustang for so long.) The car succumbed to the American safety regulations, gaining heavy 5mph bumpers in 1974. That same year it gained a hatchback configuration and was renamed the Capri II.
The public loved the little European pony car, and at one point was the second best-selling import in the United States, after the Volkswagen Beetle of course. The car also won praises with the automotive press like Road & Track.
Sales ended in 1978, when the Capri became a badge-engineered Ford Mustang and wouldn’t truly be replaced until the Merkur XR4TI came to our shores.
Overall the Capri sold over 500,000 cars from 1970-1978. Those looking for a unique, reliable, classic sports coupe should start searching for this captive import.