Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1981 Mercury Capri “Two Door Sedan” – No Wonder It Never Took Off

posted by William Oliver

It’s been a long time since I really stopped to look at and ponder one of these early Fox Capris/Mustangs, which have become quite rare. It comes off rather like a Zephyr/Fairmont two-door sedan, with its upright, boxy body that wasn’t set back like the original Mustang, the fat C-pillar, and those full-framed doors. The bright trim around the side windows only accentuates that.  It’s the polar opposite of the low and rakish F-Bodies (Camaro/Firebird).  And the two-tone paint and turbine wheels only accentuates that further.

Not exactly a very appealing design and package on the face of it. But the Mustang version came to endure, and its appeal grew over time once its rather feeble early power plants were weeded out. The Capri? After a decent first year, it soon slid into obscurity and an early death.

The Capri’s rather bland front end does it no favors either. The Mustang’s sloping front gave it a much more contemporary feel. The fake hood vents are a bit gratuitous, given the weak sauce they’re hiding. Either the 2.3 L four with 88 hp, the 200 CID six with 88 or 95 hp, or the 255 CID V8 with 115 hp. Decisions; decisions.

The troublesome 2.3 L turbo, with its primitive blow-through carburetor, was no longer in the line-up. So the choices were fewer; none of them good.

By 1981, Capri sales were done to 59k, well on the retreat after a quite good first-year bump to just over 105k. By 1983, it was 25k, and then around 20k each of the last three years. The Capri’s run ended after 1986, as ot never really gained any traction as the Mustang’s sibling. Frankly, that notion was a questionable one.

The 1971-1978 European import Capri had been an unexpectedly big hit; it was the #2 selling import early on. despite its age, it still looked better than this new generation. Maybe Mercury should have kept selling it instead; it was built in Europe until 1986.

I came to appreciate the Fox Mustang, but not until the 5.0 GT arrived, and even then it needed a couple of more years of refinement to be fully baked. This just leaves me cold, despite my appreciation for the honest and simple Fairmont/Zephyr. But they weren’t pretending to be something otherwise.