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Ford Consul Capri

Ford Consul Capri Published: 29th May 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Consul Capri
Ford Consul Capri
Ford Consul Capri
Ford Consul Capri
Ford Consul Capri
Ford Consul Capri
Ford Consul Capri
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The 315 range always intended as a stop gap until the Cortina came along – so does this forgotten Ford live up to its badge?

As we celebrate 50 years of the Capri, it’s sad that the original Ford coupé bearing that name has been airbrushed from history by the company but there again, the 109E/116E is a model from the early 60s that the Bulge Oval wants everybody to forget – because it was designed that way.

It’s an old classic car cliché to say that they ‘don’t make ‘em like they used to’ but with the Consul Classic and Consul Capri, Ford actually admitted it! When launched, the carmaker said that the range marked ‘the last of the thick metal cars’. Produced for just two years, from April ‘61 to September ’63, the Classic saloon was one of Ford’s shortest ever runs and with just 111,000 built, it was one of the maker’s worst sellers.

The coupé Capri was an equally slow seller with only 11,143 were made; just 6868 Capri 1500s and only 2002 of the GT versions. In its final year (1964) less than 500 were sold – a far cry from its later namesake which shifted almost two million over a year life span spanning two decades.

While this Ford’s days were numbered before it even left the Halewood factory gates, the A plussized Anglia-looking stop gap was essential in filling the void between the 105E and the mid range Zephyr/Zodiac before the Cortina slotted in nicely in 1962. As a result, the 315’s bodyshells were made from ‘soft’ Kirksite body dies and not the normal, more expensive case-hardened type. This didn’t detract from the car’s level of build quality, it simply meant that the pressing machines had a short life span, just like the car itself.

To the car’s credit, this Anglia with ambition secretly played a major role in every mid-sized Ford that followed, becoming a test bed for new unheard of family car fixtures such as standard front disc brakes, four-on-the-floor transmissions, plus an evergreen Kent engine that was a Ford bedrock up until the 1980s. The Classic also boasted separate front seats and was the first UK Ford to boast quad headlamps – items that many contemporary luxury cars lacked – even before the Mk3 Zodiac.

Available in three-door and five-door guises, together with an estate that never figured in the UK (despite its popularity in South Africa and Kenya), the Classic looked ‘Anglican ‘, complete with that novel reverse-rake rear window.

Mechanically, it was a similar story, the initial engine was a bigged up 105E unit, up to 1340cc, which, in a car weighing 955kg (almost 200kg more than the Anglia and 100kg more than a Cortina Mk1) was sorely taxed and many broke their flimsy crankshafts when attempting to touch the 78mph maximum speed.

In July ’62, the stronger, sweeter and more powerful five-bearing 1500 (1498cc) took over and became a legend in its own right siring every Ford competition engine design (even the F1 DFV) for two decades.

Not badly equipped for a car costing £825 back in ‘61, the Classic wasn’t a bad car either, and the critical press found much to compliment. Popular Motoring described the Classic as the first “Compact’ family car‘“, a point no doubt hinting at the Ford’s heavily Transatlantic-influenced styling which never suited the car quite as well as it did the smaller Anglia.

The magazine’s testers liked the car’s roominess and high speed cruising abilities, plus cornering powers which it said “left nothing to be desired for a saloon car” as well as disc brakes “that really work” (What does that mean?-ed).

The loftier weekly Motor magazine however reckoned that the handling deserved “either exceptional praise or condemnation”. Not that most owners drove this family car so hard to notice. Instead, they would have appreciated the car’s solid feel – which was much less tinny than the Cortina which replaced it – plus the Classic’s truly massive boot and ease of servicing where the grease gun was virtually banished to the bottom of the tool kit forever.

Coupé coup de grâce

The Capri off shoot had a lot more going for it compared to the Classic, especially in the looks department; the sleek fastback boasted real Stateside glamour. Essentially a Classic in far sexier clothes, Capri was essentially a two-seater but with an optional 2+2 configuration insofar that the rear seats were simply thin cushions that you chose as accessories; otherwise it was like a sports car albeit with an interior load bed that would have done a hard working pick-up proud. And the size of the boot was even more massive than the Classic’s trunk and a far cry from the token effort of its 1969 successor.

Like the Classic, the Capri was available in 1340cc and then 1500cc guises, plus there was also a Capri GT which, at £900, used the same mechanics as the much cheaper go faster Cortina and was launched two months before that iconic £767 saloon in February 1963.

Despite a healthy 78bhp performance, to match those dashing looks, the GT enjoyed limited appeal. Autocar compared Capri to buying the same chocolates but in a fancier box, because it gave more enjoyment – which is as good an analogy as you can get for any coupé. As with all fastback, you pay more money for less car and maybe motorists back in the early 60s wasn’t so swayed by having a cool image as the are today?

The Classic and Capri were equally as unpopular on the used forecourts during the 60s and 70s; those old fashioned Anglia-style looks turning many buyers away in favour of a smarter styled Cortina. Yet the Classic was just as good a car, even though that heavy gauge metal rusted just as badly just as quickly. You don’t see many around these days which is sad. There’s a real ‘what’s one of those’ factor about any of both them, although Capris have found a good following with the custom brigade, thanks, no doubt, to those overtly Americanised looks and values for these are fairly rocketing, perhaps double the price of an equivalent Classic.

Why we love them

Pipe smoking Harold Wilson owned a Classic; this Labour leader and Prime Minister (from 1964-70 and ‘74-’76) was the Tony Blair of his day. Did he appeal to ‘Classic Man’ like Blair did to ‘Mondeo’ man? Maybe… ask your dad.

You don’t see many Classics and Capris around these days which is sad. With their heavier builds, the Classic feels less tinny than Mk1 Cortinas ever did and by and large they drive like bigged up Anglias although naturally less fleet of foot. The inherently weak 1340cc engine produced 54bhp while the 1500 unit was capable of 60bhp. Although neither will leave you gasping with excitement, at least the bigger engine is much smoother because it has five main bearings. The 1498cc unit is also more flexible, although there’s less of a difference in performance between the cars than you’d think – top speed and acceleration are pretty similar.

Back in the old days the go-faster Anglia boys used to rob Classics of their front suspension and disc brakes if they fitted a Cortina 1500 engine. It was an essential upgrade to cope with the added power – yet why didn’t they consider a Classic or Capri instead in the first place? It can only be an image thing and that’s something that the Classic and Capri strangely lacked.

How times change; if you now want a classic, which while not living up to its name, but is certainly different and good value (for a Ford) it could be this Capri (or Classic) that you should promise yourself instead.

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