Curbside Capsule: 1980 Mercury Capri RS – The Fox Mustang’s Alter Ego


I met John in the Industrial Design program at Georgia Tech in 1983, and we became fast friends (and remain so to this day). We both enjoyed road racing, and managed to talk the folks at Road Atlanta into free pit passes in exchange for putting up race posters all around campus. I only have this single photo of John’s RS alongside my ’71 Vega, and if I remember right, it was taken where we parked near Turn 7 (sleeping in the cars overnight) one race weekend. John kept the car absolutely spotless, and was always looking for extra weight that could be removed without impacting function or form. The Kamei front spoiler and sunroof were aftermarket, and really enhanced the looks of the car. The rear window louvers (very popular in the early 1980s) were a dealer option.

I forget whether John bought his Capri RS new or slightly used. It had a 85hp (1-barrel carb) 3.3L straight six mated to a four-speed manual transmission (the straight six was only available from ’80-83). The ’81-82 sixes got a 2-barrel carb, bumping power to 98hp. While no barn-burner in straight-line acceleration (in part due to a very tall 2.49:1 rear axle ratio), I do remember it handled quite crisply with the upgraded suspension bits that came with the RS package. Early RS Capris used a non-standard (and unpopular) 390mm (15.35″) wheel diameter with Michelin TRX tires – these were later revised to a standard 15″ size.

The Second-gen Capri (or third-gen Mustang, depending on how you want to count) was only available as a hatchback, with 1983-86 models sporting a unique “bubble back” rear lite (interestingly also used on Mustangs sold in Mexico). The Capri bubble back had significantly less drag than the Mustang hatch (even when the bubble back was fitted to the Mustang!), so Ford used the Capri extensively, and quite successfully, throughout the 1980s in the Trans Am series. Other than the distinctive grill and fenders, there were few other differences between the two models.

I was never really into Fox Mustangs, but I think this generation Capri successfully interpreted what a “classier” pony car could be.

UPDATE – John just emailed some additional photos of his RS: