Ford Capri Mk. 1
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The Mini Mustang
Some were to call the Capri the ‘Mini Mustang’, - but there was more to it than just a similarity in line to its American cousin. It represented Fords concept of building their range of cars around one body shape.
Base model in the initial Capri range was the 1300cc, which was designed to fit into the favourable European insurance scales of the time; then there was the GT version of the 1300. Next came the 1600cc version which also had a GT version which, by dint of a hotter cam and a Weber carburettor, upped the power to 82 bhp. Then, at the top end of the range, was the 2000cc GT powered by the 60 degree V4 engine, which turned out 92 bhp.
And if that was not enough to choose from, there were a host of "option packs." Rally-style seats, wide rim wheels, leather covered steering wheels, and a choice of paint schemes were just some of the items found on the options list. In the UK, the launch prices ranged from £890 sterling for the 1300cc model, up to £1087 sterling for the 2000cc GT.
Although power hungry enthusiasts were forced to wait, it was an open secret that a 3-litre V6 version was to follow the initial launch, along with plans for a road-going version of the Formula 2 FVA engine. Suitably de-tuned, it was said to produce in the region of 150 bhp. Under the bright new body shape there was nothing really new or different. Basically, the mechanicals and running gear were all very much the same sort of thing found on the Escort
In terms of acceleration the 2000cc GT was on par with the Cortina GT
– but into the 70 mph range and the Capri would start to pull away. Despite the slight extra weight of the Capri, the body shape was much "slipperier" than the Cortina. In width and length it was just an inch or two smaller than the Cortina and, in height, a startling four inches lower.
But the handling of the Capri was much improved. You could fling the car into a corner far faster than many thought possible, and while it was possible to eventually produce breakaway, the Capri would remain smooth and sensitive such that the required adjustment at the wheel was effortless and imbued confidence. With 5 inch wheels the Capri would feel completely stable and perfectly controllable under all normal cornering.
Doing away with the rain gutters on the front pillars reduced wind noise to almost nothing, and the use of a then new sound deadening material made it the quietest Ford yet. The short, stubby gear shift was perfectly placed - the action was excellent. But there were faults, such as the new-style steering wheel which was designed to meet the then new American safety laws. With its crash padding it felt cumbersome, heavy and restricted the view of the instrument panel. Sadly, there was no glove box and many of the flick switch controls were out of reach when you were belted in – and this was an era before inertia reel seatbelts made forward movement easy.
The Car You've Always Promised Yourself
Behind the wheel the Capri was the sort of car you drove in a sit-back straight-arms position. The seats were excellent, giving a wide variety of positions. The boot offered ample space. Performance wise, Ford's rally engineers who had been running a test programme on the 1600 GT claimed it would hit 60 mph in just on 12 seconds, and show a genuine 100 mph. They were getting 27 to the gallon on test. The gearbox featured synchro on all four gears - but for the lazy there was a 3-speed Borg Warner type 35 Automatic – although this was not available until a few months after the initial launch.
Ford promoted the Capri as "The car you've always promised yourself." And they were right on the money – as the Capri had all the right ingredients: a good looking body that looked a little like a cross between a Mustang and a Falcon; proven mechanicals and plenty of choices of trim and engine size so that your Capri would be very individual. It was bbuilt in England, and in Germany for the European market, and the competition departments in both countries started working on a rally program for it the minute it hit the showrooms.
Here in Australia we had to wait until May, 1969
and then we only had the choice of the 1600 Deluxe or 1600 GT. In February, 1970
, the 1600 GT was replaced by the more powerful V6 3000GT, although a 1600 XL model was introduced to fill the void left by the 1600 GTs demise. The four cylinder Capri's sold extremely well (over 12,000 units were sold in less than four years), with more than a third of these being sold within the first year. Capri 1600 Deluxe - "The car that reshapes your life" was how the official Ford brochure described the Capri Deluxe! .....you slip behind the wheel and something happens. The world suddenly looks a little better to you. And you relax back in your snug bucket seat knowing that your Capri makes you look a little better to the world, too."
Roger Clark developed a Rallycross version which he took for its TV debut three days after its showroom announcement. It was obvious from the get-go that the Capri really was something special – at home in a rally or as a family car – it offered class leading ride, handling, comfort, low noise level and set a new trend in marketing. Most who took one for a test drive were quickly convinced.