Something truly terrifying happened as we spotted this particular two-seater at last summer’s Summit Racing Goodguys Nationals.
…We couldn’t immediately identify its make or model.
It has a rear/side profile that mimics something from Stuttgart and the front end is reminiscent of maybe a Nissan Skyline or Toyota Sunchaser.
But yet, there was something oddly familiar about this drop-top coupe.
It wasn’t until we noticed the windshield decal that things started to make a bit more sense.
We were staring at an uber-rare ASC/McLaren SC 5.0.
The ASC/McLaren SC was a boutique-built sports coupe based on the venerable Ford Fox platform.
And we’re not talking about a Ford Mustang or even a Fairmont here. Nope, the ASC/McLaren SC was derived from the Mustang’s Mercury stablemate, the Capri.
Into rare Mercurys? Check this article out: The 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator Cobra Jet
The car was the brainchild of Peter Muscat, a designer who’s worked with Ford, GM, Chrysler, Lotus, and a host of other famous marques. Long before the factory Mustang ragtop arrived, Muscat created a workable convertible concept using Foxbody architecture and brought the idea to ASC for potential mass production.
ASC began as American Sunroof Company, working directly with OEs to develop innovative body/roof systems. As its expertise grew, the company changed its name to American Specialty Cars before closing for good in 2017.
Impressed with Muscat’s work, ASC talked to Ford and both companies felt that well-heeled buyers might welcome an American alternative to those fancy European luxury coupes. And since Mercury didn’t already have a convertible in its lineup, the car would look great in Lincoln-Mercury showrooms.
But the ASC/McLaren SC was way more than a Capri with a body kit—a ton of engineering went into its design.
…Which is evident when you realize that Mercury never made a convertible Capri Foxbody.
Remember, ASC was originally known as American Sunroof Company and had plenty of experience converting factory hardtop cars into convertibles.
So ASC didn’t go the easy route here.
Instead of starting with the new-for-1983 convertible Mustang, the ASC team cut the steel top off a stock Capri coupe and replaced it with a custom retractable soft top—made from a European-inspired Cambria cloth, no less.
The whole thing folds down manually in place of the rear seats and gets tucked underneath a hard tonneau cover. Then ASC added chassis bracing in critical areas to compensate for the loss in structural rigidity caused by popping the steel top.
Additionally, the ASC/McLaren SC got other exterior upgrades, including a completely new decklid, revised front air dam, unique headlight/taillight covers, rear spoiler, and side aero sills.
As for the McLaren part…yup, we’re talking about that McLaren. Or at least the company that bears his name. ASC had worked with McLaren in the past and the two teamed up again on the SC.
The engineers at McLaren provided some chassis tuning so the SC could deliver a taught, European sports car feel. The new suspension also gave the SC a slight drop to enhance the car’s overall look.
While the SC 5.0 denoted Ford’s mighty 5.0L Windsor V8, the base SC carried the 3.8L Essex V6. The V6 and V8 could be had with Ford’s AOD automatic, but 5.0L buyers could also opt for a Borg-Warner T-5 manual too.
Though it could be considered a Grand Touring car, performance for the SC 5.0 was pretty stout for the era, and a competent driver would have no trouble getting a V8-powered SC 5.0 into the 14s.
Once the Capri was dropped from the Mercury lineup in 1987, ASC/McLaren shifted production to the Mustang—yet in any iteration, the high price of these cars meant that they weren’t volume sellers. In fact, ASC/McLaren only made a few hundred of the Capri-based convertibles, which means spotting an SC 5.0 is extremely rare today.
…So we released a sigh of relief as we walked past this 1985 edition nestled among the the more recognizable classics in the Goodguys parking lot.