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Ford Capri

Ford Capri Published: 2nd Aug 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 2.8i or 3.0 V6
  • Worst model: 1.3/1.6
  • Budget buy: 2.0 especially sporty models
  • OK for unleaded?: Needs additive
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4375 x W1700mm
  • Spares situation: Mechanicals good, panels improving
  • DIY ease?: No problem
  • Club support: Very good
  • Appreciating asset?: Fairly flying
  • Good buy or good-bye?: V6s have Aston character
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Britain’s Mustang almost keeps its word with their style and sportiness. Plenty around still and mostly fair value although prices for rarer RS models are soaring. An uncomplicated classic that’s easy to own

Built to emulate the huge success of Ford’s Mustang in the States, the Capri was our pony car and, there’s a ‘British Mustang’ for most budgets and tastes although values are rapidly rising for best ones, especially as this ‘Cortina coupé’ is celebrating its 50th.

History

1969 Capri introduced, largely based upon a mix of Escort and Cortina Mk2 running gear with engine sizes spanning 1.3-2.0-litre V4 and three dedicated trim packs, X L and R which could be selected singularly or paired up although R pack was for the 1300, 1600 and 2000 GTs only.

1970 Zodiac-powered V6 added to range, similar trim packs but flagship model was new 3000E.

1971 Raft of improvements with the headline being the uprating of old V6 to liberate an added 10bhp, plus better breathing and gearing. First special edition launched; a 2000GT with Vista Orange paint plus extra trim – 1200 were built. The following month Crayford launched its Capri convertible, badged Caprice, around 30 of which were made.

1972 Facelift sees claimed 151 changes including major suspension tweaks, better interior as well as new 1600cc engine taken from the Cortina. The 3000E replaced by GXL badge.

1973 The millionth Capri built (an RS2600). At the same time, the RS3100 was introduced. A motorsport special, it used the old 3000GT bodyshell with certain motorsport tweaks for Group 2 racing; 248 were officially completed.

1974/75 Capri II appears, a three door hatchback based on original platform while revisions saw new flagship Ghia option. The following year, GT was replaced by the now rare S and old V4 is replaced by Escort RS2000 engine.

1978 MkIII surfaces with major styling and aerodynamic changes but little mechanical alterations.

1980 1600L-based GT4 special edition launched.

1981 2.8i replaces evergreen 3-litre with new Granada EFI engine and a retuned chassis. Calypso, Caberet and Cameo derivatives arrived in the showrooms for lower rank ranges. 1982 Tickford Capri shown at the NEC Motor Show; a turbocharged 2.8-litre (205bhp) with reworked chassis and disc brakes all round – but it didn’t go on sale for another year. 1983 Five-speed gearbox made standard fit on top 2.8i and soon after on the 2.0-litre models. By end of ’84, only 1600 Laser and 2.8i versions remained. 1986 December 19th marked the end of an era when the last of the 1,886,647 Capris was built; a Brooklands 280.

Driving and what the press thought

Chalk and cheese is perhaps the best way to describe Capris which are four or six-cylinder powered. Opt for the latter and you won’t find performance much of an issue and it gives it in a muscle-bound manner that no four-pot can match. The earlier Essex V6 is the lustier but the German 2.8 is sweeter and crisper. The 2.8i was an excellent revamp in every area. A pure old school, salt-of-the-earth performance car where Aston Martin comparisons are not so far-fetched; a good 2.8i will keep up with your average DBS6, no sweat.

The worst aspect has always been the Capri’s brakes, which can be a bone of contention, not reassuring, prone to pulling to one side and display the classic Capri shimmy. Also thanks to rather primitive rear suspension (cleverly well harnessed on the Tickford it must be said), you need to be wary if your first Capri experience is behind the wheel of a six-pot example and the roads are remotely wet… although general handling is agreeable rather than sporting, mainly the softer Capri IIs although power steering became a welcome V6 option.

The four-pots are good too if GT powered, even the 1300GT which was regarded as plucky although the 1600GT is the more flexible. The original 2.0 V4 isn’t exactly a classic engine but it isn’t as bad as it’s painted out to be even though it’s hardly a smooth operator.

All good fun then! And that’s what the press broadly thought too – initially anyway where the sheer performance of the 3-litre shamed many sports cars, although the rest of the car came into criticism, especially the hard ride and lousy gearchange, the latter a real rarity for Ford but this was due to the Zodiac transmission that had to be used (the superb 2000E gearbox used on other Capris couldn’t stand the torque, claimed Ford).

Pitching a new Capri II Ghia against a Mustang II Ghia, Motor back in 1975 unequivocally went for ours as a “clear cut and easy winner” while almost a decade after its launch Autocar still hailed the 3.0S as “the best performance-for-money sports car on the market” after running one as a long term test car. It was even more enthusiastic about the 2.8i calling it a “straightforward gutsy motor car with plenty of performance – ergonomically near perfect” although in a comparison test against the dearer Porsche 924, Alfa GTV6 and Mazda RX7 deemed the Ford’s brakes “the least likeable, being far too prone to front locking”.

Around the same time Car still felt the Capri good enough to remain in its ‘Interesting’ section of its famous GBU buying guide hailing it “A truly fast, tough, driver’s car”, although a few years later with the pocket rocket hot hatches ruling the roads, its spin-off, Supercar Classics, thought that the final 280 was now – after almost 20 years! – very much a yesterday’s car that should be dead and buried, although, grudgingly, the writer (ironically an ex Motor editor who ran one of the very first 3-litre Mk1s-ed) admitted that “for all its many deficiencies the [Brooklands] 280 still possess a raw-edged charm”.

Classic caring

As the Capri used a mix and match of Ford’s massive parts bins, maintenance remains very easy and apart from the Bosch fuel injection system (hardly high tech now) holds no fear for the DIY owner with special tools a rarity although some spares for the old ‘Essex’ Wee units are becoming scarce. The fusebox suffers from poor connections thanks to its location under the bonnet on the offside. If any electrical gremlins strike this should be your first port of call. Connection problems also affect the rear wash/wipe action because the tailgate contacts corrode. Fine emery paper is normally all that’s regularly required.

Best models

Mk1s wanted for their style, (pre-summer ’72 facelift perhaps slightly less so) then it’s the MkIIIs (chiefly 2.8i) but Capri II is least liked for some strange reason even though the now highly desirable S and ‘Midnight Capri’ special edition models surfaced. Few people will take to the sluggish 1300 models unless it a rare GT which is as lively as a standard 1600. Bear in mind that the majority of Capris will have been modded or uprated to some degree now, perhaps out of parts necessity but this is no bad thing.

Watch what you’re buying. With engines ranging from 1.3 to 3-litres, uprating Capris was a very popular pastime. In general, swapping the four-cylinder engines is straightforward (but bear in mind that some transmission gearing may be wrong if not swapped as well) but dropping in a V6 is far more involved (the shell was strengthened) and so many were done half baked; a genuine V6 model is much better to drive.

Improvements

Key thing here is not to think about making up a V6; you need so many parts that it just isn’t worthwhile or even practical these days. It’s a different matter when it comes to tuning though; better heads, extra carbs and spicier cams are all worthwhile, as long as you don’t overdo things. A Kenlowe fan is worthwhile to reduce the risk of overheating on any model, but mainly V6.

More importantly though, the V-configuration engines have fibre timing gear, which can disintegrate, leading to the engine being wrecked. Steel timing gear can be fitted instead, at around £60 for the parts. It makes sense to do the work when the engine is being fettled anyway. Fitting later brakes and five-speeds from the 2.8i is a good ploy on all and there’s no shortage of suspension upgrades to make Capris handle well.

Pony power

Pinto engines are renowned for noisy camshafts due to infrequent oil changes and blocked up spray bars which lubricates the valve train. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to adjust the valve clearances but if there’s already too much wear you’ll have to replace the camshaft along with its followers for around £100. Vee Capris have unstressed engines although Essex units have one or two weak spots. The oil pump is driven from the distributor by a hexagonal shaft which sometimes breaks when starting from cold. There’s no way of telling if the unit is worn without dismantling the engine, but if it breaks in use the consequences are serious.

Another weak point on the Essex engine is the fibre timing gear, which breaks up after 30,000 miles. If the car you’re looking at has had steel replacements you’re lucky, but as they cost around £200 many owners don’t fit them.

The Cologne V6 suffers from similar problems as the Essex, especially silted up water jackets. The injection system is normally reliable, but early problems on these fuel injected cars generally stemmed from the engine’s wiring loom.

Values and specialist view

The days of cheap and cheerful Capris are well and truly over, especially the rare GT and RS models, so advises leading Capri experts Tickover of Kent (01322-839303 [email protected] tickover.co.uk), who had ten in its workshop at the time of writing. Captivating Capris, especially Mk1s, can sell for £25,000 upwards and even the strangely less Capri II can command up to ten grand, none more so than the special ‘Midnight Capris’ where only a handful are left.

Most common, due to their newness, are the MkIIIs and you may be able to pick up a quite reasonable work in progress 2.8i or earlier 3000S for around £7000 or so. Proper RS3100 and rarer German RS2600 models (watch for fakes) are gold dust and command £50,000 upwards. Restorations are now relatively easy thanks to good parts supply but expensive so don’t run away with the notion that an easy buck can be made. The smaller the engine, the less desirable the car, but as so few Mk1 Capris of any type are available, it’s a case of buying what you can f nd. Although the engine fitted is important, it’s essential to buy on condition first and foremost.

Clive Tick says parts quality, like the cars on the road, is ever improving, the only exception being trim but eventually bits do crop up. A lot of owners are buying them for old times sake, he adds.

I bought one

Actually, Capri fan Clive Razey has three, spanning each generation; a Mk1 1600, a Mk3 2.8 Injection and this beautifully restored Capri II 3.0S which was purchased some 10 years ago for £1300 in a very sorry state. Now it’s insured for more than 10 times that after a restoration when sourcing Capri body panels wasn’t easy, unlike today. A member of the Capri II Register and a Ford fan to the bone (his daily is a Focus ST), this is Clive’s favourite Capri because “it’s the most fun”.

I’m selling one

John Kelly has only owned this V6 Capri for a year but sadly needs to sell it due to space and storage reasons; he also has two Stags (one for 30 years) and his father’s old Vauxhall Cavalier. Looks are deceptive with this particular car, as it looks like a modifi ed 3.0S but is in fact, a later 1981 2.8i! Offered at £7900 you can call him on 0770 881652.

What To Look For

Capri corrosion

The most likely area for rust is in the front wings, so check for filler in the area around the headlamps and along the edge which meets the front doors. The wings are welded on and original ones are very hard to track down; quality repros are available from Ex-Press Steel and Magnum.

The front MacPherson strut top mountings aren’t as badly afflicted by rust as other Fords, but look for plating. Also look at the inner wings, inside edges of the bonnet and the area around the grille. V6 cars have an additional triangular strengthening plate at the top of the strut mounting under the wing and if it’s missing the car may not be what it seems.

Bodged sills are common so give them a close inspection; it’s essential to take a good look underneath to make sure there isn’t any advanced rot. The most likely area to have corroded is the rear spring hangers. Tailgates corrode along the inner bottom edge and the rear wings sometimes rot just behind the rear wheelarches. The rear arches themselves are a notorious rot area and are generally far worse underneath than on the surface. Floors can also rust and so can the metal around the rear light clusters.

Running gear gripes

Four or five-speed manual gearboxes were available depending on model and on most versions there was also the option of the Ford C3 three-speed auto. From ’83 the 2.8i was fitted with a five-speed, but the fourspeed units are more reliable and smoother in operation. Whichever is fitted there’s a good chance second ratio will be worn. The gearchange bushes also wear, leading to a sloppy change and the bearings also wear after 70,000 miles or so.

A transmission vibration signifies the propshaft centre bearing has worn. If the bearing isn’t replaced (expect to pay around £60) the gearbox rear bearing will be damaged along with the diff ’s bearing. The diff itself is resilient however but a special lubricant was specified for the 2.8i Special and 280 Brooklands, fitted with an LSD – if normal EP90 oil has been used the LSD will soon pack up. Jack the car up at the back and turn one of the wheels. The wheel on the opposite side should turn the same way – if it turns the opposite way a normal rear axle has been fitted.

The bushes in the inner track control arm anchorage break up, leading to a shudder through the steering as the car goes over bumps. Replacing just the bushes is tricky so many owners replace the whole track control arm (TCA) at around £45 a pair. If the car is sagging on one side at the rear, it’s probably because one of the leaf springs has worn and the leaves may even be cracked. As long as there’s no major corrosion it’s not difficult to repair.

Apart from Tickfords, all Mk3 Capris had a disc/drum braking system. The set-up does a reasonable job but if a disc has been overworked, warping in the process, there will be juddering from the front as the brakes are applied. Infamous Capri steering shimmy, and brakes pulling, can be impossible to cure and wheel balancing seems hyper critical on this car.

Three Of A Kind

Toyota Celica
Toyota Celica
They’re now starting to be recognised as classics, but most have rusted away or been over-modified. They’re still relatively unknown though, so you’ll get a lot more car for your money than if you take the Capri route plus there’s six generations – classic and contemporary – to mull over and usually dead reliable.
 Opel MAnta/ Vauxhall Cavalier
Opel MAnta/ Vauxhall Cavalier
Cavalier prices are even lower than for the Celica, although there aren’t many left. Manta values are a tad firmer, but at least you’ll be able to find one as car survived until late 80s with good fuel injected GT/E. Mechanicals are easy enough to rebuild, panels or trim not so. Handling is their forté.
Volkswagen Scirocco
Volkswagen Scirocco
Long recognised as a classic, the Scirocco is hard to find in Mk1 form but easier in Mk2 (1982 on). These later cars are more usable albeit have less character, plus parts supply can be an issue although it’s effectively just a reclothed Golf. Very good value and latest Scirocco is a modern classic


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