After Mercury’s third-generation Cougar ditched Mustang for bigger and… well, for bigger things, it would be five years until the brand again offered a companion to Ford’s pony car. At that time, the second-generation Capri became the Mustang variant (its first generation having been imported via Ford of Europe).
From 1979 until 1982, the Capri strayed little from Mustang’s styling; I actually prefer the Mercury. However, in 1983 it received a “bubble back” treatment which lasted through 1986, the end of the model’s run. (Incidentally, that window correlated with another of Mercury’s fraternal Ford twins, the LN7.)
Sales of the Mustang-based Capri were disappointing over the model’s span, having plummeted year-over-year from just over 110,000, in 1979, to just under 19,000, in 1985; the final year, 1986, rose to almost 21,000 units.
Another somewhat rare Mustang-based breed is the ASC/McLaren. The Ford-approved and -warrantied modifications were offered on 1987 through 1990 model Mustangs and made quite the styling statement. Most notably, it transformed convertible Mustangs into two-seaters, with a hard, flush tonneau cover to hide the lowered top. Despite the McLaren part of the name, it was essentially all structural and visual modifications, apart from modest suspension enhancements.
ASC was the real force behind the product. Originally an acronym for American Sunroof Company, ASC now stands for American Specialty Cars which better describes their expanded capabilities that include building concepts for major car companies. Their know-how and proven track record presented Ford with the opportunity to offer a more exclusive Mustang, and they were exclusive.
All ASC/McLaren Mustangs were convertibles, to mitigate interference with the newly extroverted GT. They were first available for 1987 and 479 were produced. Sales of the two-seat Mustang peaked in 1988, at 1,015. During its last two years, 1989 and 1990, sales dropped to 247 and 65, respectively. Living in southern California, I’d seen several. They looked special and caught your attention.
Yet, did you know that the whole ASC/McLaren and Fox-platform tie-up started years before that? It seems a man, named Peter Muscat, approached Ford with the idea which they rejected as conflicting with plans of their own for a convertible Mustang, already in the works. Although, there were no plans for a topless Capri. So, Muscat made the pitch and an uneasy agreement was struck. Reportedly, Mercury never cared for the idea having been reluctant to officially endorse it and refused to cover any of the modifications under warranty.
Unlike the convertible-only ASC/McLaren Mustangs, the Capris were actually offered in convertible or hatchback body styles. Complicating matters, however, the Capri was only produced as a hatchback from the factory. There was no coupe model from which they could derive a convertible with relative ease (as Ford had done with the Mustang coupe). Instead, ASC/McLaren, through great pains, transformed “bubble backs” into convertibles.
Of course, all that work and materials came at a cost. A factory, 5.0-liter Capri ran about $10,000. For 1986, the ASC/McLaren hatchback, called the “Coupe,” added $4,212 to the price. If you wanted the Convertible model, you could expect to pay almost three times as much; it was $12,059 on top of the donor car. That’s almost $6,000 more than the factory-built Mustang GT convertible was priced.
Nevertheless, during its three-year run, there was some interest. For 1984, there were 50 Convertibles and 25 Coupes produced; for 1985, the totals were 257 and 180, respectively; and for 1986, the totals were 245 and 162. That makes for a grand total of 919 ASC/McLaren Capris and 1,806 ASC/McLaren Mustangs.
With so few of the Capri versions in existence, you might expect prices to reflect that. Although, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Granted it’s been seven years but, in 2008, a 1984 Convertible (#49 of 50), with a 5.0-liter, manual transmission and just 41,000 miles logged, auctioned at Barrett-Jackson for a mere $7,150.
One thing’s for certain, the ASC/McLaren Capris make a great conversation piece.