Ford Capri

Ford Capri

BUYER’S GUIDE

Ford Capri review

Why Ford’s “The car you always promised yourself” advertising line for the Capri is as true now as it ever was…

What Is It?

Having perfected the formula for the affordable, blue-collar performance coupe with the all-American Mustang, Ford repeated the trick for European buyers with the Capri. Launched in 1969, it followed the same formula of glamorous styling underpinned by engines and other mechanical bits repurposed from the wider Ford family to keep costs down.

With nearly two million sales over almost two decades it was an absolute hit, capturing the imagination of aspiring owners through iconic on-screen appearances and success on the race track, where its giant-killing performances against much more glamorous machinery suited its raffish image down to the ground.

Over three generations the Capri stayed true to the same basic format, grunty V6 engines doing the business for the top models but supported by a range of more affordable four-cylinder variants for those keen to share the fun on a more real-world budget.

Corrosive Areas

A-pillars, front scuttle and bulkhead

Front suspension turrets

Sills

Checklist

  • Mk1 Capris are obvious for their raised trim line along the side and the two fake air intakes ahead of the rear wheel; post 1971 facelift cars can be identified by their bigger rear lights
  • Homologation RS2600 and RS3100 are rare and highly collectable; plenty of standard cars were dressed up with the same quad-headlight look both in period and subsequently and can offer similar thrills for a lot less money if you’re not so fussed about matching numbers originality
  • Vinyl roofs, louvred rear windows, rear spoilers and more were all among the popular trim upgrades available in the many and various Capri special editions
  • Launched in 1974, the Mk2 loses the fake rear vents and gains a hatchback tailgate; engines range from 1.3 Crossflows to 1.6 and 2.0 Pintos, along with various sizes of V6 engine
  • The Capri used both ‘Essex’ and ‘Cologne’ vee engines in various configurations, the former more commonly powering the many and various 3.0-litre V6 variants over all three generations before being phased out in 1982 in favour of the fuel-injected 2.8-litre Cologne
  • Most Capris are four-speed manuals, though a three-speed automatic was popular with buyers of the more luxury focused Ghia models and some later 2.8s got five-speed transmissions
  • Ford offered two stages of ‘X-Pack’ packages for 3.0-litre versions of the Mk2 and Mk3, some as fully finished cars or as retrofit options; parts included uprated suspension, widebody arch extensions, Bilstein dampers and, in top Series X trim, a triple-carb conversion for more power
  • Original X-Pack cars will be valuable; again standard ones may have been retrospectively modified and are more accessible if you want the look for less money
  • Four-cylinder engines are standard Ford units and generally tough and dependable, though look for the usual signs of overheating, smoke, emulsified oil and obvious rattles
  • Both V6s are generally tough and dependable, though can suffer from warped cylinder heads and blown gaskets; plastic timing gears can fail and are often upgraded with sturdier steel replacements, which are noisier but tougher
  • Interior trim can be very difficult to get hold of so even a rough car with well-preserved cabin could have value
  • Rust can occur anywhere but is most critical in structural areas like suspension turrets, A-pillars, front bulkhead, sills, rear suspension mounts and boot floor

How does it drive?

Exactly as you’d expect, which is to say entirely in keeping with its down-to-earth, no-nonsense image. Ford’s knack for making sure even its cheaper models handle well was further improved for the Capri, the low-slung driving position and long bonnet making it feel sporty before you even turn a wheel.

Independent McPherson strut suspension up front and a leaf-sprung live axle out the back are nothing fancy but the sharp steering, precise gear shift and natural balance are all there to be enjoyed. Ford developed all manner of go-faster upgrades for suspension, brakes and powertrain for the faster models to make sense of the extra power of the V6 models.

With upwards of 140PS (103kW) depending on the model, these are obviously the ones people go for today, the fruity growl of the engine and power to get the rear end swinging all add to the fun. The smaller 1.3 and 1.6-litre engines are perhaps a little weedy to make serious progress but 2.0-litre models can entertain if a V6 is out of reach.

 What’s good?

Iconic looks, inherent mechanical simplicity, fun driving manners and space in the back to seat a couple of extra passengers make a Capri an excellent weekend classic to enjoy with all the family. By the time you get to the V6 models you’ve got enough performance to keep pace with more modern cars as well, while the enduring popularity means a wide community of fellow owners for sharing knowledge and a guarantee of strong residual values for a well-maintained example.

While navigating the many and various generations, special editions and model year updates can appear intimidating, that does mean you get a huge range of cars and styles to choose from, whether you crave-vinyl roofed ‘70s nostalgia, pared-back motorsport manners with the RS models or prefer the unadorned simplicity of the standard models.

Mechanically Capris are pretty simple and tough as well, given the proven Ford engines and other components. As such running one needn’t break the bank, or be beyond the wit of a driveway maintenance with a few basic tools and a bit of DIY nous.

What’s bad?

It will come as little surprise to hear that rust is going to be your main consideration when looking at a Capri to buy. This can appear anywhere on the body and will be obvious enough but, as ever, it’s what’s going on under the skin that can really cause issues, and all three generations are vulnerable to serious structural rot.

Common areas to look at include the front suspension turrets in the inner wings, the front scuttle and A-pillars (and bulkhead beneath them) along with the inevitable sills and floorpan. Rear suspension mounts can also go, likewise fuel tanks and boot floors.

While tatty bodywork can be repaired, perhaps of greater concern is the lack of interior trim parts, meaning a rough car with a good interior may yet be worth saving for that reason alone. Covetable models like RS variants, 3.0 S and others are also collectable but given the ease of engine swaps and other upgrades you need to perform due diligence to ensure it’s original and not a conversion if you’re paying the premium.

Which model to choose?

Launched in 1969, the Mk1 has the daintiest looks with the small, Escort donated rear lights and single headlights while a 1971 facelift saw bigger lenses all round and a revised engine line-up. Regular V6s are appealing, the V4s have curiosity value and the RS2600 and 3100 are proper collectable rarities.

The 1974 Mk2 stripped off some of the chintzier styling elements like the fake rear vents and the combination of the cleaned-up styling and hatchback rear tailgate are welcome modernising touches but the post-1978 Mk3 is perhaps the best looking thanks to the more aggressive quad-headlight front end and sharper detailing.

Of these the 2.8 Injection is probably the most coveted, especially in Special trim with the five-speed gearbox, Recaro seats and standard limited-slip differential. With around 160PS (118kW) these have enough grunt to make sense of the junior muscle car looks and will always put a smile on your face. This all comes at a price, though, and if we were on a budget a 2.0-litre would just about cut it.

Specifications – Ford Capri 2.8 Injection Special

Engine

2,792cc V6 petrol

Power

160PS (118kW) @ 5,700rpm

Torque

221Nm (163lb ft) @ 4,300rpm

Transmission

Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

1,170kg

0-62mph

8.3 seconds

Top speed

131mph

Production dates

1981-1986 (1969-1986 for full production)

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