Ted's 1976 Mercury Capri II
of my first Capri when I bought it new in 1976
on any photo for a larger view
Buying your first new
car is an exciting experience. Keeping that car for 25 years, half of
that in storage awaiting restoration is another thing. This car was
present for many special memories in my life, so my decision to keep it and restore
it is my way to remember and honor those special moments.
These photos show my Capri when it was just a few days old in March
1976. I was 23 and I had just completed my education the previous autumn,
earning a Master’s degree in electrical engineering. I was happy to
finally be out of college and earning real money. Being an engineer, I
enjoyed searching for my first new car and studying the myriad models for their
technical sophistication and value. I had to work my own way through five
years of college, so I was painfully aware of the value of a dollar.
Burdened with college loans, I nevertheless decided it was time to start
enjoying the fruits of five years of college. I decided the McPherson
strut front suspension, power rack-and-pinion steering and the peppy 2.8-liter
Cologne V6 in this Capri II were for me. It wasn't any surprise that a
newly graduated engineer would go for the German (and British) engineering in
At this same time I met the girl
of my dreams too! We worked at the same television station and dated for
a while, culminating in our decision to marry. She later told me that she
and her friends at the station said, "who is that guy in the new blue
sports car?" as I drove it to work the very first time.
Well, to add to all the new
changes in my young adult life, I got a job offer to work as an engineer for a
TV broadcast electronics manufacturer in Grass
Valley, CA, and I
accepted. Grass Valley is about 60 miles west of Lake Tahoe, in the
foothills of the Sierra Nevada
Mountains. My new
wife and I were both native to the area in upstate New York where I attended college, and where
we now worked. Suddenly the newlyweds were off to live in California! In
June 1977 the Capri was just over a year
old. It carried us across country to our new home 3,000 miles away.
I'll never forget that
trip. We only had to cover 350 miles per day and were thus allowed nine
days to drive to California
on my new employer's dime. Well, we drove much more than that amount each
day, but took the full nine days to get there. Our route wasn't a
straight line! My Capri took us across New York
State where we stayed with a college
buddy for the night in the Rochester
area. The next morning we headed through Cleveland,
OH and then down to Columbus. We then crossed central Indiana and Illinois and
stayed in St. Louis
another evening. From this point on we noticed the states were really
getting big, and it took a long time to get across them! We continued on
I70 across Missouri and Kansas,
staying in Salina, KS for the night. Up to this point the
scenery looked rather familiar to us, just like our home in New York. We did notice that trees
were becoming scarce in Kansas,
though. The next day we really felt we were in a new, unfamiliar
place. We drove across Colorado and
turned north at Denver bound for a night in Boulder, CO.
I'll never forget seeing the Rockies appear on the horizon as we headed west on
I70 into Denver.
The next morning we began a memorable trip through Rocky Mountain
National Park. My Capri climbed to 13,000 feet where my wife and I had a
snowball fight in the middle of June! I remember gasping for air after
running around and realizing the air is thin at 13,000 feet! My little Capri had worked hard to get us up there! Now it
was downhill all the way on the west side of the Continental Divide. The
deep canyons along I70 and the Colorado River
were spectacular. When we reached Utah
I stopped several times to photograph the red sandstone formations in the late
afternoon sun. We eventually stopped in Richfield, UT
for the night. The next day we were headed south to the Grand
Canyon. What a sight! Yes, I have a photo of my Capri on the rim of the canyon! We made it to Las Vegas by the next
evening. We're not gamblers, and my wife was too young at that time to
gamble anyway, but what a wonder it was to see all those lights on the
strip. Our last day took us north on US 395, sliding into California at Bishop and finally arriving in Grass Valley
that evening. Our Capri got us there
without a single complaint! I will say though that the small 12.7-gallon
tank required frequent refills, and that was quite annoying for nine days!
was just over a year old at this point, and it had 27,000 miles on it already.
I'm sure the next two years of California
living did the body much good. Cars don't rust in Grass Valley!
While living in Grass Valley this car took us to San
Francisco, southern Oregon, Lake
Tahoe, Reno, Lassen
Park, Redwood National Park, Yosemite and many times to Sacramento. I have
a photo of my Capri on the beach ready to dip
its nose into the Pacific. No, it didn't get wet! I remember that
getting it to pass California
emissions required the shop to break off the plastic stops on one idle jet and
then misadjust it until this two barrel carb was idling rough. The dual
exhaust was sniffed on only one side and it passed. I drove it home and
put the idle jet back where it was and it idled smoothly again. To this
day the carburetor is missing one of the two plastic caps.
I was transferred back east two
years later in 1979, with about 45,000 miles on the clock, my Capri II took us
back home to the east coast. We drove a more northern route this
time. I have photos of my Capri on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, at Yellowstone
Park with Old Faithful in the
background, at Mt.
Rushmore and in the
Badlands of South Dakota. This time we skirted Chicago
turned north into Michigan and crossed Ontario, Canada
to get to our home state.
The next two and a half years we
lived on Long Island, and my wife drove the Capri
to college on a daily basis. By now I had a company car (1977 Chevy
Impala - ugh!) so the Capri stayed close to
home as we lived our life - still without children.
I later convinced my employer
(still the California company) to move us to Connecticut, where we've
been since 1982. My Capri spent the next
five years doing errands with my wife at the wheel. Our first daughter
was born in 1983 and my Capri carried the newborn
home from the hospital. In 1986 we purchased a minivan and the Capri went into the garage for a 14-year rest. I
was offered only $400 trade-in for the Capri
towards the minivan, which I promptly refused in favor of a complete
restoration some day. We were blessed with a second daughter in 1989 and
our average family of four spent the 90's growing up.
In April of 2000 my, then 17-year
old daughter wanted a car to drive in high school. This was enough impetus to get the car back
into condition. She paid for the parts,
and we both did all the labor. The Capri was back on the road in no time. She drove the Capri
for one year and put 5,000 more miles on it.
When I was cleaning out the back seat area I found her teething ring
which she dropped 17 years prior! We had
a good laugh at that. When winter
approached we decided to garage the Capri and
buy her a Volvo 240. Now the Capri is back in my hands and she’s off to
college. My younger daughter is now 15
and she may be driving the car when she’s a junior in high school
officially turned 25 years old on January 1, 2001. It now has special antique car plates. In Connecticut
these are called “Early American” plates. I have classic car insurance now too.
In August of 2001 we all attended
the first annual New England Capri meet.
It was called the Maine Event and was held at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. There were five cars there. You can see photos of this event by clicking
on the link at the top of this page. My Capri ran fabulously on this 700-mile trip. It was quite nostalgic to drive it so far;
however, I’ve become accustomed to the creature comforts in newer
cars. I don’t know how I drove my
Capri all the way to California so many years ago without air conditioning,
cruise control, six-way adjustable power seats, CD player, power windows, etc.,
etc. I guess we get soft as we get
I’ve held three Capri
gatherings at my home, in 2002, 2003 and 2005.
You can see the cars and folks who attended by following those links
I’ve been to England a number of times on business and on
vacation during the past few years, where I’ve seen and ridden in right
hand drive Capri’s. Capri’s were sold in the UK and Europe,
and a lot of the rest of the world through 1986.
Well, that's the story. I
think you can now see why my Capri II is virtually a member of the family!
appreciate any comments you may have. Please e-mail me at email@example.com
Copyright 2008, Theodore H. Szypulski
Last update - Thursday, March 13,