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Ford Consul Classic & Capri

Published: 14th Jul 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Consul Classic & Capri
Ford Consul Classic & Capri
Ford Consul Classic & Capri
Ford Consul Classic & Capri
Ford Consul Classic & Capri
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It’s an old classic car cliché to say that they ‘don’t make ‘em like they used to’ but 50 years ago Ford actually admitted it!

An estate version, for South Africa and Kenya, was not offered here

It’s an old classic car cliché to say that they ‘don’t make ‘em like they used to’ but 50 years ago Ford actually admitted it! When it launched the now aptly named Classic, the Blue Oval said that it was ‘the last of the thick metal cars’. And certainly this Ford’s days were numbered before it even left the factory, because the 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 but meant that the pressing machines had a short life span, just like the car itself. Produced for just two years, from April ‘61 to September ’63, the car had model reference 109E/116E and was one of Ford’s shortest ever runs and with just 111,000 produced, it was one of the maker’s worst sellers. There again, the Classic was never designed to make Ford money but was purely a stop-gap model before a rather more successful new car called the Cortina hit the showrooms. But this bigged up Anglia secretly played a major role in every mid-sized Ford that followed, becoming a test bed for new unheard of family car fi xtures such as standard front disc brakes, four-on-the-fl oor transmissions, plus an evergreen ‘1500’ engine that was a Ford bedrock up until the 1980s. The Classic also boasted separate front seats and was the fi rst UK Ford to boastfour headlamps – items that many contemporary luxury cars lacked, in fact.

Available in three-door and fi ve-door forms, plus an estate that never figured in the UK, strangely, the Classic looked like an Anglia on steroids, complete with that reverse-rake windscreen. Mechanically it was almost the same car too, save for the disc brakes which many go-faster Anglia drivers later pinched for their cars! Initially the engine was a stretched Anglia unit, up to 1340cc, which, in a car weighing 955kg (almost 200kg more than the Anglia and 100kg more than a Cortina MK1) was taxed to the limit and many broke their crankshafts when touching the 78mph max speed. In July ’62, the stronger and more powerful fi ve-bearing 1500 took over. 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 fi rst ‘Compact’ family car‘, a point no doubt hinting at the Ford’s heavily American-infl uenced styling that never suited the car as well as it did the smaller Anglia. The magazine’s testers liked thecar’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”.

The loftier Motor magazine reckoned that the handling deserved “either exceptional praise or condemnation”. Not that most owners drove this family car so hard to be fair. 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.

Coupe coup

Then of course there was the coupe spin off called the Capri, lest you thought that the 1969 Cortina-based car was the first so badged! Certainly Ford was later keen to airbrush the original from history, yet the Capri had a lot more going for it compared to the Classic, especially in the looks department; the sleek fastback boasted real Stateside glamour. Basically a Classic in far sexier clothes, Capri was an optional 2+2 insofar that the rear seats were simply thin cushions you chose as accessories; otherwise it was a two-seater with an even more capacious boot and a load bed that would have done a hard working pick-up proud! Initially in 1340cc and then 1500 cc guises, there was also a Capri GT which, at £900, used the same mechanics as the farcheaper go faster Cortina and was launched two months before that £767 saloon in February ‘63. Despite its pretty good performance, to match its dashing looks, the Capri was a slow seller. Only 11,143 were made; just 6868 Capri 1500s and only 2000 GT versions. In its fi nal year (1964) less than 500 were sold – a far cry from its later namesake which shifted almost two million over a 20 year life span. As with all coupes, you pay more money for less car and perhaps the motorist back in the early 60s wasn’t so swayed by having a cool image as he or she certainly is today. Autocar compared the 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 coupe. With virtually no further development during their lives, Classic and Capri stood little chance of big sales; besides Cortina was the car Ford, rightly, thought pointed to the future.

The Classic and Capri were equally as unpopular on the used forecourts during the 60s and 70s; the old fashioned looks of the former turning many buyers away in favour of a Cortina. Yet the Classic was just as good a car, even though that heavy gauge metal rusted just as badly and just as quickly. You don’t see many Classics or Capris around these days which is sad. There’s a real ‘what’s one of those’ factor about them, although the latter has found a good following with the custom brigade, thanks to its Americanised looks no doubt. In fact, a concours 1500 went for almost £10,000 at auction late last year… In contrast, the Classic looked as though it was a throwback to the 50s. 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…

When The Car Was The Star

Dagenham was a master of product placement, so it comes as a shock to realise that, apart from a prominent role as villain’s transport in a ‘62 Edgar Wallace B-fi lm The Set-Up,  the Consul-Classic saloon’s main claim to cinematic fame is in the 1969 Danish cult comedy Olsen Banden. Asides from that, your best bet of spotting one of the most distinctive post-war Fords on screen is to check the backgrounds of Dr No or The Italian Job. However there is one true starring role for the Consul Capri in the anarchist-surrealist 1967 French road movie Weekend.

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