COAL: 1982 Mercury Capri RS Turbo – T-Topped & T-Charged

Looking back at my younger years when I happily changed vehicles as frequently as most people change the oil in theirs (okay, maybe not *that* frequently!) something that has really come to my attention: just how many ‘rare’ cars I have actually owned. I wrote previously about my 1983 Mustang GLX 5.0L coupe, which was already limited in production when it was new. This 1982 Mercury Capri RS Turbo that found its way into my possession during the late 90s was certainly no exception.

I have always had a fondness for Ford’s Fox body products, especially the early ‘four eyed’ Mustang and the Fairmont Futura/Zephyr Z7 coupes. The all-new Mercury Capri, which made it’s debut on the Fox platform along with the Mustang in 1979, was far more unknown to most of us back in the day. It’s fresh Mustang-inspired styling combined with its signature wheel well ‘hips’ made for an attractive looking package, though seeing these cars even when they roamed the streets in numbers was rare in my small northern BC hometown.

Going back into the chronology of my vehicle ownership during my late teens we arrive back to the summer of 1999, when I was picking up the pieces and moving on from my coveted 1992 Tempo GLS V6 coupe, which was involved in an unfortunate freak accident and written off. After paying out the bit of loan remaining on that car, I was left with a handful of cash and the need to find a replacement ride and as quickly as possible. It was through the local newspaper classifieds that I located the subject vehicle, briefly described as a 1982 Mercury Capri.

I was intrigued right away, of course, and made my way over to see it in person. While this particular car was not in immaculate condition (and who would expect it to be so for the $1,200 asking price?)  it was solid enough and clean enough to take on a test drive.

The first thing I noticed about the car, it was carrying the 2.3L turbo 4, the same carbureted turbo engine that arrived in 1979 as the alternate top powerplant choice in the new Mustang (and Capri). While this engine, well known for durability issues, was dropped from the Mustang after 1981, I learned that it was offered in the Capri until the end of the 1982 model year. In fact, the car sported ‘Turbo RS’ graphics on both front fenders in the same place where 5.0 badges would be found, with the more commonly seen ‘turbo’ badges on the non-functioning hood scoop.

While the 2.3L engine seemed to idle faster than normal, it certainly still had plenty of life and the turbo would audibly spool up with a good push of the pedal. It did not immediately react, of course, but the turbo would send the car quickly up to speed as it whirled away under the hood, with a green ‘turbo’ light lit up on the left side of the dashboard, letting you know the car was in full performance mode. It responded well with the manual transmission and overall the driving experience was quite positive. I took it home for a thousand bucks.

As the Capri obviously had multiple owners in its time, there were numerous modifications to it. My assumption is that this car originally rode around the TRX wheel & tire package that was popular on the top trim level Mustangs and Capris at the time. The expense of replacing the metric tires often resulted in the owner finding alternate wheel & tire choices for these cars, the ’83 GLX coupe I owned had also seen it’s original TRX package replaced with later Mustang GT turbine wheels. I firmly believe this was the same case with this Capri, except a previous owner moved to the stock steel 14″ wheels and a set of Ford Aerostar wheel covers, they actually didn’t look that bad. I added the two white racing stripes to the hood myself to give it a more sporty flavour.

It also had a set of t-tops, the right side leaked water during heavy downpours and unfortunately for the passenger, any sudden braking would see a trail of water rain down on their lap. I spent many summer days cruising about with the windows down and the T-tops off, getting the full effect of the trendy 1980s design, not too bad at all!

Inside the Capri, it was the standard RS package, ‘whorehouse red’ interior with the black bezel around the instrument panel and black panel above the glove box where both the ‘RS’ and ‘turbocharged’ badges were found. The car did have power windows originally, as the driver’s side still had a functioning power window and controls for both sides, though the right side had a manual roll down window, I assume the door perhaps was replaced after a collision or something. No air conditioning was originally ordered, the T-tops providing all the refreshment needed at the time. It also had delay wipers, the infamous horn button on the turn signal, the full console with diagnostic centre and the swivel, roof mounted map light.

The most intriguing item in this car was easily the manual transmission paired up with the turbo 4. This particular transmission had an additional gear which was to the right and down of 4th, which did reduce RPM slightly but not as much as one might expect, due to the rear axle gearing. I am not sure exactly what this transmission was about or where it came from as I cannot find any real relevant information online, so perhaps the CC community can offer up more details! (It was a Tremec V140, and the gear ratios were 4.05 in first, 2.43 in second, 1.48 in third, 1.00 in fourth, and 0.81 in 5th — first four gears were the same as in the four speed; upshift speeds happened faster, thanks to an axle-ratio change from 3.08:1 to 3.45:1.  In mid-year 1983, this transmission was replaced by the T-5.  PN)


To re-cap, here’s the car in what I believe was the original form: 1982 Mercury Capri RS, turbo 2.3L carbureted four, 5-speed manual, TRX wheel & tire package, T-Tops, power windows, delay wipers & full diagnostic console. I don’t expect there were many of these made for 1982, I expect the actual number is a few hundred built in total.

The car itself was a pretty durable unit during the year or so I owned it, though moving into full daily driver service for a 20 year old guy did increase it’s wear rather quickly. In September 1999, I made my first move out of province to Calgary and it carted all of my possessions and myself on the long trip with relative ease, the hatchback & fold down seats offering up plenty of cargo space. I did encounter a stalling & hesitation problem early in the trip which was easily remedied with a bottle of carb cleaner in the tank, smooth sailing after that and on the trip back to northern BC.

In the late spring of 2000, it was time to get serious about my relocation and I put the car up for sale, selling it quickly to another Mustang enthusiast who was excited to take it on as a ‘project’. Where it ended up or what its final fate was I am not certain, hopefully it is still out there somewhere as a restored garage queen only seeing the streets on the weekends, but given the condition of the car at the time and the lack of real interest in fully restoring what was an 18 year old Mercury Capri, it likely has long met the crusher, a sad end to what was another one of my rare rides!