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Classic Cars – The Ford Capri
In January 1969, a few months before man walked on the moon, Ford introduced the new Capri in Europe, in an attempt to capitalize on the huge success the Capri’s American cousin the Mustang had enjoyed in the pony car and sports car market. a decade.
When the Mark 1 Capri was launched at the Brussels Motor Show with the slogan ‘The Car You Always Promised’ it was an instant success with the baby generation.
Within a year of production, nearly one in four Ford cars sold in Europe was a Capri.
In 1970 almost 250,000 Capris were sold. The car was assembled in Liverpool and Dagenham in the UK and at Ford’s plants in Ghent, Belgium and Cologne, Germany. In 1973 the millionth Capri RS 2600 rolled off the production line at Ford’s Halewood plant in Liverpool.
The initial success in Europe led Ford to introduce the car to the US and Australian markets in 1970 and confirmed the production of two more models, the Mark 2 and Mark 3 Capris.
The Capri Mark 1 was a fast-looking sports car with a long bonnet, two wide-opening doors, a low roof covered in black vinyl, round windows, fake air intakes and alloy wheels and a distinctive hockey stick shaped indigo that ran the length of the side. of the car. The interior of the car was designed with plastic and fake wood to resemble the cars of the 1970s. Inside the car had spacious back seat room and according to a Ford advertisement at the time ‘We’d call the new Capri a 2+2 but there’s plenty of room in the back’.
The Capri came with a host of engine modifications and many features and parts borrowed directly from the Ford Escort launched two years earlier. This meant that the car had a conventional front-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive.
The most popular Capri sold in the UK was the 1600cc version with L, GL or XL trim to complete its look and interior design. With a manual gearbox the car would struggle to reach 100 mph but the buying public didn’t care about performance in 1969, they were more interested in value for money style and value. The base 1300cc model for the fuel efficient or shy driver starts from just £890 on the road. A two-litre version of the zippy was sold for £1088. The range of Capris offered was so large that no dealer could stock all the varieties. Incredibly the car has front disc brakes and rack and pinion steering as standard, but on early models you had to ask for seat belts as extras!
At its base the 1300 Capri was a stuggling drive with a pushrod engine, but the 1600 crossflow Kent engine with a Pinto overhead camshaft cylinder head gave the car lively performance. The 2000 was a different machine again V4 Essex Ford engine.
The handling of the Ford Capri can best be described as awkward and like the Mustang it involves a lot of oversteer. In the dry the car was manageable and fun to drive, but in the rain it could punish an unaccustomed driver with severe rear wheel drag and slippage.
This became more apparent with the later big engine versions such as the 3000 GT and the mark 3 2.8i, which were quickly classified in the top insurance groups. The Capri, like many cars produced at the time was notorious for rust.
The iconic design was loved for better or worse. The car was often shown on TV screens and in films with police and robbers chasing the car. This may have led to the rise of the British ‘Boy Racer’ which was fond of soup and later versions were modified. The Capri was a popular ‘joy ride’ car with thieves and its safety led to the Mark 3 being the most stolen car in the UK in the 1980s.
As the Capri aged the model changed to be more subtle than mechanical, for example the distinctive square headlights of the Mark 2 Capri, which consequently abandoned a successful sales formula. Production of the Mark 1 ended in 1974 and was replaced by the Mark 2 Capri which was built from 1974 to 1978. The Mark 3 Capri was built from 1978 until the last car rolled off the production lines in 1986. All in all almost two million. Ford Capris graced our streets in the 1970s and 80s.
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