(first posted 6/27/2014) Over Father’s Day weekend, I flew up to Denver and drove a 1968 Mustang High Country Special up to Steamboat Springs, Colorado for the Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup (I’ll have more on that car and the drive up in a later post). While the show has a decided Mustang focus, other Ford powered vehicles are welcome at the show, including this 1984 Capri RS Turbo. This car is the Mercury equivalent to the 1984/85 Ford Mustang GT Turbo, a car the enthusiast world has almost completely forgotten.
If the Mustang GT Turbo is a forgotten car, this Capri is even more obscure. Not only is the RS Turbo version a rare option on the Capri, but thirty years out, the Fox bodied Capri has faded into the mists of time. Looking at the lines of this car, it’s clear why many folks mistake this Mercury coupe as “just another Mustang.” Trust me, I owned a 1982 Capri RS twenty years ago, and witnessed this model confusion first hand. But speaking as a former owner, this car is extremely original, right down to the Michelin TRX wheels. All in all, it’s a great subject for today’s post!
In the early eighties, turbo badges weren’t really all that rare on Fox bodies. Starting in 1979, a carbureted turbo four cylinder was offered in the Mustang Cobra and Capri RS. In addition, in 1980 this engine briefly appeared in the Fairmont Futura coupe. Rated at 130 horsepower, it offered a peak horsepower rating close to the 1980 4.2 liter (255 cubic inch) small block, but supplied far less torque. Placing the carburetor above the turbo inlet led to major drivability issues, especially during cold starts. While Ford needed economical engines to make their Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) numbers, the carbureted turbo four wasn’t ready for prime time and Ford dropped it in 1981 (although some sites say Ford built a few in 1982 for the Canadian market).
In 1983, Ford brought out a much improved 2.3 liter turbo (this picture is from our featured car). This new engine used multi-point fuel injection, and made a respectable 145-150 horsepower. Ford developed the engine for its new “euro-style” Thunderbird, but decided to offer it in the Mustang GT and Capri RS, thinking that greater sales volume would help amortize the development costs. However, due to decreased oil prices in the early eighties, the demand for high cost, high technology, high power, economical engines dropped off (if the demand was ever there), and Ford’s production capacity for this engine exceeded the sales numbers.
Nowadays, these turbo powered cars are rarely spotted on the street. I’ve been looking to capture pictures of a 1983-84 Mustang GT Turbo for the past two years, and have yet to spot one. In fact, at the Las Vegas Anniversary celebration, I looked all day and didn’t find a single turbo GT among the several thousand Mustangs (although there were two or three Mustang SVOs).
Speaking of the SVO, most people assume these ’83-’84 turbo cars use SVO technology. Looking at this head-on shot of our Capri RS, it should be obvious the inspiration is far more GT than SVO. The center mounted hood scoop, quad headlights, and Marchal Fog Lights all came out of the GT parts bin. Overall, the look matches Ford’s brute power playbook, and shares none of the SVO’s aerodynamic styling elements. In addition, this turbo four lacked the intercooler used in the SVO, and fell short of the SVO’s 175 horsepower rating.
For further proof of the GT linage, check out those four bolt TRX wheels. These wheels arrived on the scene in 1979, and while they were on their way out in 1984, they were definitely a GT option. In contrast, the SVO chassis came with unique 16″ wheels mounting Goodyear Eagles, used the five bolt wheel pattern from the Mark VII, and included disc brakes out back. This car used the GT’s four bolt pattern, with mounted drum brakes on the rear axle. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but it takes more than a turbo engine to make a car into an SVO.
The 1983 Capri included a new backlight and tail light panel. When the Fox bodies came out, I liked the Capri’s flared fenders, but felt the front and rear clips were far too close to the Mustang. This new tail helped differentiate the ’83 Capri, but Ford dropped the Capri three years later. I guess the changes proved to be too little, too late. Also, check out that lip at the bottom of the window glass- If that’s intended to be a spoiler, it’s probably the smallest air dam ever mounted on a pony car!
The Capri interior also suffered from Ford’s cloning stamp. I’ve owned a couple of early Fox bodies, and outside of the steering wheel badge, I don’t see a single element here that’s unique to the Capri. I suppose the detailing on the instrument panel fascia or the door panel may qualify, but everything else screams “Mustang.” The Fox body interior was nice enough for the time, but Ford should have added something to justify that step up to a Mercury.
In closing, let’s check out this rare “RS Turbo” badge. The internet doesn’t provide much information on these cars, and as is often the case, provides conflicting information from site to site. Some sites indicate all ’84 Capri Turbo’s came in this dark grey paint color using the bright orange and red accent stripes you see here. Mercury may also have called these cars the “Charcoal Capri.”
At this point, I’m not too sure- I know Ford offered the Mustang GT Turbo in several colors, so perhaps the Charcoal Capri was a special package. Regardless of the paint and trim packages offered in 1983, I’m confident this little turbo hatch deserves a place here at Curbside Classics!
Related reading: Michelin TRX wheels/tires