Car Catcher: The Mercury Capri Meant to Fight Mercedes-Benz

Before we get any further, no, this 1986 ASC McLaren Mercury Capri listed for sale on eBay Motors wasn't modified by that McLaren. The American Sunroof Company, in partnership with McLaren, was tasked with build a version of the Capri that could compete with the Mercedes-Benz SL. While original conceived as a convertible, eventually hardtops were build. Learn a bit more about the partnership here

The listing boasts that the Capri was meticulously restored, and has only been driven some 5000 miles since the restoration.

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slowbird Dork
4/13/20 5:25 p.m.

I love Capris in general, and especially these ones. I love the bubble rear window, the improved performance of this version, but most of all I love the orange accents.

Someday I'll buy one, or make a tribute clone at least.

67hardtop New Reader
4/14/20 2:50 p.m.

In reply to slowbird :

I could go either way on the rear window, but those flares!

Schmidlap HalfDork
4/14/20 6:47 p.m.
Colin Wood said:

Before we get any further, no, this 1986 ASC McLaren Mercury Capri listed for sale on eBay Motors wasn't modified by that McLaren. The American Sunroof Company, in partnership with McLaren,

I can offer a little bit of background about the McLaren vs McLaren confusion since I used to work for the one that did this Capri, though I didn't work their until the early 2000s.  The McLaren that worked on this Capri (and later the Mustang and the ASC McLaren Pontiac Grand Prix) is McLaren Engines, based in Livonia, Michigan.  The McLaren that did all the racing and that made the F1 road car, and now the MP4-12C etc is McLaren Cars, based in the UK.  They actually started off as one company, the Bruce McLaren Racing Team, but the company split in the early 80s with the racing team becoming McLaren Cars and the newly formed McLaren Engines continuing to do engine development on their own.  There was an agreement between the two companies that McLaren Cars would not develop their own engines and McLaren Engines would develop their own cars.  To get around that, McLaren Engines would team up with ASC whenever they wanted to put out a special edition car, saying that ASC did all of the work on the car and McLaren Engines just did the engine stuff, even if some of the special editions had absolutely nothing done to the engines. 

McLaren Engines went on to do a lot of development work behind the scenes on things like the Buick GNX (not just the engine upgrades, but the suspension work too) as well as a lot of work for Ford Racing (FR100, FR200, FR500 etc) as well as a lot of engine development for race teams like the 1200hp+ BMW 4 cylinder turbo engines, a lot of Buick 3.8L turbo work, the Cadillac Northstar engines in Cadillacs ill-fated foray into LMP racing. McLaren Cars kept racing, and then built the F1, then the MP4-12C which used their own engine design, so at some point the agreement must have been dissolved or was just an urban legend that got passed down from employee to employee and it never really existed.

McLaren Engines eventually transformed into McLaren Performance Technologies to try to show that they did more than just engine work, and was eventually bought by The Linamar Corporation, a large auto supplier from Canada and was rebranded McLaren Engineering.  They do a lot of design and testing for Linamar, as well as still doing development for auto companies, but they're pretty much out of racing completely, I think.

Here's a post with pics from their 40th anniversary back in 2009.  I guess i wasn't important enough to get invited to their 50th anniversary, assuming they had a big party.  One of the CanAm cars in the pictures is actually street legal, the owner drove it to the show that day.

Sorry for hijacking, I just thought I'd try to add some clarity about why this car is and isn't a McLaren.

stewdesignjts New Reader
4/14/20 7:19 p.m.

In reply to Schmidlap :

that was very helpful, thanks

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
4/14/20 7:39 p.m.

In reply to Schmidlap :

Thank you for clearing that up. I couldn't find much when I was doing research, and what information I did find talked a lot more about ASC.

4/16/20 9:44 a.m.

This is the first time that I have heard that the Mercury was meant to compete wth Mercedes. However, it is my understanding that the Mustang SVO (of the same era) was built to compete with BMW.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
4/16/20 6:46 p.m.

A girl at my high school had a black McLaren convertible. This was back when you could still buy a new one. 

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