In 1984, The Mercury Capri dominated the Trans-Am Race Series. Driven by Willie T. Ribbs, Tom Gloy, & Greg Pickett, the Capri's won 11 of the 16 races, including 5 straight. Lincoln-Mercury easily won there first manufactures championship that year.

In early 1985, Ford Motor Company was given the honor to supply the pace car for the fourth annual Detroit Grand Prix. They took advantage of the previous years success of the Capri on the track & chose the street version Capri as the pace car. To further capitalize on the Capri's track success, the pace cars were to be styled similar to the cars that were raced on the track, receiving similar graphics & paint schemes. 50 cars were originally scheduled for production. However, due to lack of available Capri's, only 30 were built. All cars were to be fitted with the new & improved 5.0-liter High Output V-8 engine & 5-speed manual transmission.

Building The Beast

The cars started out as stock Capri's built at Ford Motor Company's River Rouge assembly complex in Dearborn, MI on the same line as the Ford Mustang.

The Capri RS was the obvious choice for the pace car but this was not to be. The RS model was phased out in the U.S.A. during mid-production in 1985. Any 1985 - 5.0 equipped Capri's built after this point would have to be the Capri GS model.

The cars would be built with the Cobra/Sport Appearance Group, which was not available on this model prior to the discontinuation of the RS. The Cobra/Sport Appearance Group would feature a flat dark gray painted lower body. Exterior items such as the mirrors, window trim, & grill would be flat gray to match. The front air dam from the RS would also be added on. All cars with the Cobra/Sport Appearance Group received the RS interior as well as the RS suspension. These cars were built at the factory identical to the RS in every way with the exception of the quarter panel moulding & a rear hatch emblem.

The Capri GS 5.0 with the Cobra/Sport Appearance Group would serve as the starting block.

The next step would be the cars appearance. The manufacturer then approached Graphik Concepts for the job. In 1984 & 1985, Graphik Concepts had been producing & applying decals for the ASC McLaren coupes. They would be brought in to help design, produce & apply the visually wild decal scheme for the Motorsport Capri.

1 white car, courtesy of Spiker Ford in Milford, MI, was to be built first. This would serve as the proto-type. Graphik Concepts would add the decals. Each side of the proto-type would have a different decal style. The passenger side looked close to the finished design. The driver's side would be a lot different. The red strobed stripes started above the door molding & got taller in size as they reached the back of the car and then wrapped around the quarter panel onto the rear hatch. The style closely resembled the Trans-Am Series Capri's.

The "Ford - Lincoln/Mercury Motorsport" decal would be installed on both front fenders instead of on the air dam & it would be a red decal. The rest of the car would have the stripe scheme that would go on to be used on the rest of the cars. The reasoning for the 2 different decal styles was to give Mercury 2 different choices. At this time the proto-type would not have any of the ASC McLaren features.

It was decided that the passenger side style scheme would be used.The proto-type would then be stripped of the stripes that weren't chosen & given a new decal to match the other side of the car. ASC McLaren then added their components. At that point the car still had the red "Ford - Lincoln/Mercury Motorsport" decals on the fenders.

The 2nd version of the proto-type was then approved for production.

4 or 5 more cars were then sent for conversion. These would be the cars that would be used for the track.

2 pace cars would be created. 1 would be the main pace car for the Grand Prix while the other would be the back up pace car. At least 1 safety car was created. More than likely a 2nd one was built. There were also a Pace Car & Safety Car built for the Mercury Motor City 100, which was run the Saturday before the Grand Prix race. These 2 cars had the race name & logo cut out in the decals on the cars quarter panels. The cars also were fitted with an automatic transmission & CFI engine, the only Motorsport Capri's to be fitted with such.

A couple of cars probably came from local dealers, just as the proto-type did, to fill the run of 30. After these cars were converted, the remaining cars would be taken off the line at the Rouge in Dearborn. 3 cars would end up being Silver Metallic due to a shortage of white cars.

The ASC McLaren Factor

During the designing of the Motorsport Capri, Mercury felt the car needed a little something extra.

Enter ASC McLaren.

From 1984 to 1986 ASC McLaren converted Mercury Capri's into convertibles & decked out coupes just as Shelby did with Mustangs in the 60's. Mercury's involvement in the ASC McLaren conversion coupes & convertibles was minimal. Mercury basically just provided the cars & sold the cars. Due to warranty concerns, the Mercury Capri name & logo was left off all ASC McLaren products & given very little promotion by Mercury.

Things would be different this time.

The manufacturer asked ASC to help out by adding on the specialty parts that were being put on the conversion models. The Motorsport Capri was to be a show case vehicle for Mercury, so the cars would not get the full-blown ASC treatment. Just the exterior parts would be needed.

All factory Mercury & Capri emblems would remain & the ASC McLaren name & logo was nowhere to be found on the car.

This is the only time an ASC converted Capri would not feature the ASC McLaren name & logo.

The bulk of the cars were shipped to ASC McLaren's Livonia conversion facilities on June 10. It was there that the cars would be completed. ASC added lower ground effects to the rocker panels & below the rear bumper. Smoke tinted headlight & taillight covers were added as well as a rear deck spoiler. All of the added parts were painted to match the cars existing trim. The stock 10 hole aluminum wheels that came on performance versions of the Capri & Cougar in 1985 were used instead of the ASC McLaren mesh rims.

The stock suspension, air dam & interior were also left intact.

Graphik Concepts applied the decals at ASC's Livonia facility and all 30 cars received the same decal design.

4 or 5 cars were shipped to another Ford location to be converted into the pace car, safety car, and a back up car. The location is believed to be the Kar Kraft facility in Brighton, MI, or possibly at the Roush facility in Dearborn.

It was there that those cars were given something extra under the hood to keep up with the racecars on the track. Ford refuses to say exactly what was done or if the cars were actually there. Some sources claim that slight mechanical modifications were done, while other sources claim the entire drive train was replaced and others say they were never there officially. The most likely scenario is the engine & transmission (and maybe the rear end) were taken out & replaced with a special Roush prepared drive train. Roush Racing was heavily involved with the Trans Am Series Capri's success in 1984 & was working with Ford Motor Company on many projects at the time. After the cars served their purpose, the original drive train would have been re-installed at Kar Kraft or Roush.

It was at this other location that Ford / Mercury would add more to the pace cars & the safety cars. The cars would receive additional decals. A black lettered decal stating "Official Pace Car" & "Official Safety Car" would go on both doors. A white "Motorcraft" decal would be installed on the front bumper.

Cribie decals would go in the rear passenger windows. A "Bendix Brakes - Trans-Am Series" decal would be added to the lower doors. The cars that would be used at the Mercury Motor City 100 would have the race logo cut out on the quarter panel decals.

A roof mounted light bar & additional flashing lights in the air dam was added to the pace cars & safety cars.

At The Race

Upon arrival in downtown Detroit, the 30 cars were used for a few different purposes. A few of the cars were set up at Lincoln/Mercury display areas as show cars. The modified Capri's were sent to the pit area for pace duty. The remaining cars were used as festival cars or runners. They were used by Mercury executives for driving around downtown, used in the parade, or even used by race organizers to drive around the track & the city to run errands. All 30 cars arrived in time for the race weekend June 20 through the 23. They where sent to & were stored at the Renaissance Center parking garage during the weekend.

After The Race

Once the Grand Prix was over, the cars were taken to local Lincoln Mercury dealerships to be used as showroom display models to draw in prospective customers. Dealers who received the cars were chosen through a lottery a few weeks prior to the race. At the end of the summer they were all sold. Some window stickers would state things such as "Detroit Grand Prix driveaway", "Show Car", " Ship Through: ASC McLaren" & "Display Vehicle". Sometimes these would be written in by hand on the window sticker.

Dealerships would add on an extra cost between $1,000 & 1,500 dollars for the decals & ASC McLaren components. The dealer would decide the extra cost. The dealerships would dub these as either "ASC McLaren Motorsport Capri Package" or "Grand Prix Package" and it would usually be handwritten on the window stickers.

Very little promotional material was made for the Motorsport Capri. Since there was a very limited amount of cars produced, there would be no need for sales brochures. However some promotion would be done. Mercury would design a logo featuring the Motorsport Capri in front of the Renaissance Center that they would use to promote the car during Grand Prix weekend. Items such as T-shirts, posters & coffee mugs featuring the logo were given out. Some of the promotional items were given to the dealers after the race. A mini-champagne bottle also was given out to dealers who had a car in their showroom.

Dealer memos, Company letters, & other paperwork featuring the logo sometimes ended up in the glove box. In some cases, the promotional items & paperwork found there way into the hands of the person who eventually purchased the car.

All of the cars were sold in Michigan and 1 or 2 selling in Ohio.