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Ford Capri

Ford Capri Published: 23rd Mar 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 2.8i Brooklands
  • Worst model: Mk2 Auto
  • Budget buy: Mk2s
  • OK for unleaded?: Needs an additive usually
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L4341 x W1700mm (Mk2)
  • Spares situation: Reasonably good
  • DIY ease?: It’s an old school Ford
  • Club support: Very good
  • Appreciating asset?: Yes, especially RS models
  • Good buy or good-bye?: As above!
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Big-engined versions of The car you always promised yourself almost keep their word with lusty performance and Aston-like character. Plenty around still and relatively good value although prices for rarer RS models are soaring. A fine uncomplicated performance classic

HISTORY

1970 A year after the Capri surfaced the real hero arrived that March, albeit Zodiac powered! The iconic V6 range was further topped by a plush and potent 3000E and the arrival of this slingshot did the sports car market a lot of harm as the Ford left even TR6s choking on their exhaust fumes.

1971 A raft of improvements surfaced with the headline being the uprating of the old Zodiac V6 with a racier camshaft and porting to liberate an added 10bhp and give this family-friendly Ford almost 120mph top speed – sensational stuff back then.

1972 The Capri was facelifted, with 151 changes that included fairly major suspension tweaks, a standard bonnet bulge on all models, bumper-mounted indicators, larger front lamps with bumper-mounted indicators and rear lamps incorporating a reversing lamp. There was also a new dash, better seats and more.

1973 The millionth Capri was built (it was an RS2600), then four months later the first- generation Capri was replaced by the second generation. At the same time, the RS3100 was introduced. A motorsport special it used the 3000GT bodyshell with certain motorsport tweaks for Group 2 racing; 248 were officially completed.

1974/75 MkII appears, as a hatchback. A whole host of revisions were dialled in to the running gear while revisions saw a new flagship Ghia option. The following year the GT was replaced by the S version which also boasted a sportier suspension.

1978 The most functional of the lot; the MkIII. The number of changes between the MkII and MkIII Capris was relatively small, as the development of the car took less than a year. Its roots lay in a concept shown at the 1976 Geneva Motor Show called the Modular Aerodynamic, which was a cross between a MkII and a Vauxhall DroopSnoot!

1981 Developed by Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations, the 2.8i remains the greatest road-going Capri care of its sweeter if not gustier Granada-soured engine topped by fuel injection for some 160bhp. Equally significant was the major retuning of the chassis and brakes – along with ultra low profile Goodyear NCT tyres – which transformed the ancient chassis and its handling. Inside, sports seats with tartan trim which matched the door cards cheered up the dated cabin.

1982 Highlighting its baby Aston tag was the special run Tickford Capri, complete with turbocharger generating a storming 205bhp which allowed it to do a genuine 140mph! Disc brakes all round were part of the package along with a limited-slip diff and revised rear axle location to help put the power down – but it didn’t go on sale for another year.

1983 At long last a five-speed gearbox was made standard on the 2.8i and soon after on 2.0-litre cars as well.

1984 That October the injection 2.8-litre Specials packaged up goodies such as a limited slip differential, leather cabin and colour-coding details, plus seven-spoke alloys – and all for £9500.

1986 December 19th marked the end of an era when the last Capri was built. Like all of the last 1038 Capris it was a Brooklands 280, which meant it had leather trim, metallic green paintwork and 15-inch spoked alloy wheels: 1,886,647 Capris had been made.

DRIVING AND PRESS COMMENTS

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 although if you are looking for Alfa-like finesse then you won’t find it with any Capri, bar the Tickford perhaps. What you do have is a pure old school salt-of-the-earth performance car where those Aston comparisons are not so far-fetched; a good 2.8i will keep up with an average DBS6, no sweat.

The worst aspect has always been the brakes, which can be shockingly poor, prone to pulling to one side and display the classic Capri shimmy, so it’s wise to invest in some uprated anchors if everything is stock but a tad worn. Thanks to rather primitive rear suspension (cleverly well harnessed on the Tickford it must be said), you need to be very wary if your first Capri experience is behind the wheel of a six-pot example and the roads are remotely wet…

Other dynamic bonuses of the bigger- engined V6 models are power steering, five-speed manual, fantastic ventilation, easy controls and supportive seat comforts from the front Recaros. Expect 20-24mpg from a good 2.8i, but less from the 3-litre, especially if driven hard.

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 rarity for Ford but this was due to the Zodiac transmission that had to be used (the superb 2000E ‘box 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 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 (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”.

Big-engined Capris were ripe for tuning and there was no shortage of specialists turning their hands to making them a truly Fast Ford. Some, such as Jeff Uren and Superspeed fitted Mustang V8s but the old Essex V6 still had a lot to give. Motor felt the word ‘tuning’ was an insult to the 218bhp turbocharged Broadspeed Bullit “Not tuned – orchestrated” was how the late lamented weekly described this totally re-engineered car that at £3062 was faster than a BMW CSL which cost more than double the Ford back in 1973.

Other tuning exercises weren’t always as successful and some magazines reckoned while they appreciated the added power wrung out of the V6, the lusty nature of the unit was sacrificed as a result.

IMPROVEMENTS

A Kenlowe fan is worthwhile on any Capri, to reduce the risk of overheating. 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. Uprating the brakes with vented discs and performance callipers has to be the priority, even if the car is otherwise left standard. Rear suspension mods are also worthwhile, to help put the power down.

Talking of which, there aren’t many things that haven’t been done to the Cologne 2.8 unit either. From a Turbo Technics conversion to high lift camshafts. Beware though that conrods are a weak link, and that the Siamese ports on the heads will restrict breathing. Later Cologne 2.9s have improved portomg, but the heads are not interchangeable. Burton Power can sell you an uprated head, which when used an uprated cam should boost your Capri to 200bhp. Ford USA offered a 4.0 V6 related to the European Cologne unit – and the crank fits the 2.8. This effectively strokes it up to 3.5-litres, and torque is upped from about 160lbft to 240lbft – a 50 per cent increase! The 2.9 crankshaft found in Scorpios will fit into a 2.8 block with a few mods. As the added capacity is down to stroke, this will give a 2.9 Cologne engine with added torque.

The Essex lump is a bit of a bad breather so better carburation (Weber DF15 or triple 42 DCNFs) and exhausts help a lot before you attack the cylinder heads and fit a racier camshaft for around 175-180bhp. Rear finds, but Ford produced its X-Pack tuning parts around at the end of the 70’s and rich pickings they are. But if you find a well serviced V6 zippy enough and want to keep it pretty much how Ford made it, simply fit superior 2.8i brakes and suspension bits advises Clive Tick.

Prices

To put it bluntly, the days of cheap and cheerful Capris are almost over, especially the rare GT and RS models, so says leading Capri experts Tickover of Kent, who, as brothers Clive and Angus Tick, has been specialising in them for more than two decades. Clive told us that owners are now prepared to spend big money on their cars as a result (one enthusiast spent a reported £59,000 to restore a facelifted Mk1 3000GT, one of only three left and rarer than a GXL) to see a return citing a hardly exceptional RS2600 that recently sold at a German auction for 49K Euros.

Top Capris, especially Mk1s, can sell for £25,000 upwards and even the once unloved Capri II are commanding pretty strong money, none more so than the special ‘Midnight Capris’ (traditional JPS colours although some also in white) where only five are left.

The most common Capris are the Mk3s and you may be able to pick up a quite reasonable 2.8i or the earlier 3000S (but not the end-of-the-line Brooklands) for around £5000 and say a grand less for a Capri II Ghia Auto, as most were.

Ignoring the RS versions, the GXL and the 3000E Mk1s command similar money and five figures for top cars isn’t unknown witness a Mk1 3000E which recently went at auction for more than £11,000 and a special South African V8 Parena selling for over three times as much.

Okay, so at the risk of contradicting ourselves, yes you can still find cheap Capris but their condition will be suspect and usually modded and bodged in an era where originality is now becoming increasingly critical on many classics and Capris are no exception. Spares are in fair supply but prices for some obscure parts are soaring; a dash top for a Tickford Capri recently sold on eBay for £1100!

What To Look For

GENERAL

* Check out as many as possible as standards vary, as will originality. For example, early pepper pot alloy wheels were usually ditched by owners and are hens’ teeth now to obtain.

* Thankfully Ex-pressed Steel is producing Capri body panels and most of what you need (inner panels, bulkheads, floors, A posts etc) is available. Mind you, it’s costly with chassis legs almost £900 a side (plus fitting) and wings £200 a pop.

* There’s many which started life as a 1.6 or V4. While relatively simple to upgrade to V6 power, there’s more to a genuine version than simply that bigger engine under that massive bonnet.

* None of the interior trim was durable. If you’re after replacement bits you’re going to have to scour autojumbles to find stuff. The dash top is a weak point and are very hard to find in good order.

* Fusebox suffers from poor connections thanks to its location under the bonnet. If any electrical gremlins strike this should be your first port of call. Problems also affect the rear wash/wipe.

TRANSMISSION

* Four or five-speed manual gearboxes were available depending on model. From 1983 the 2.8i was equipped with a five-speed manual.

* Whichever is fitted there’s a good chance second gear will be worn. The bushes also wear, leading to a sloppy gear change and the bearings also wear after 70,000 miles or so.

* The Ford-built C3 automatic isn’t especially durable, the key to lengthening its lifespan being regular oil changes. Replacement gearboxes can be found but not easily, with specialist repairs expensive.

* A vibration from the transmission signifies the propshaft centre bearing has worn; a £60 fix.

* The diff itself is resilient. A special lubricant was specified for the 2.8i. Jack the car up at the back and turn one of the wheels. The wheel on the opposite side should turn the same way.

BODY AND CHASSIS

* 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 Mk1 types are very hard to track down; repros are available but some don’t fit too well although Ex-pressed Steel is lifting the quality of replacements.

* The front MacPherson strut top mounting isn’t as badly afflicted by rust as earlier Fords, but it’s worth checking after all those decades! 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 – perhaps it’s a 1.6 or V4 convert, as many were back in the 1970s.

* The car’s A-posts corrode and the weight of each door doesn’t help prevent the doors from dropping. Check the fit of each door where it meets the B-post but any dropping could be down to weakened A-posts or worn hinge pins.

* 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 which need a special check.

* Chassis rails, box sections and front cross-members let go too and are probably welded up by now. When you’ve finished your shift of crawling around, get up and feel for bubbling under that vinyl roof…

* Tailgates on Mk2s and Mk3s 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. Boot floors can also rust and so can the metal around the rear light clusters. Facelift 1973 doors fit earlier cars but the handles are in the wrong place inside.

ENGINE

* The oil pump is driven from the distributor by a shaft which breaks. There’s no way of telling if the unit is worn without dismantling the engine. A check that’s worth making is to see if the sump is straight, as if the car has been jacked up by its sump the oil pump will be damaged.

* Another weak point is the fibre timing gear. Steel replacements are best, but as they cost around £250 many owners don’t fit them. It’s also worth doing a compression test as blown head gaskets and warped cylinder heads aren’t unheard of. Look for 120psi.

* Corrosion in the water jacket is a common Essex ailment, which is why you need to check the condition of the coolant. Yearly it should be flushed through and the coolant replaced but many owners don’t bother.

* The Cologne unit suffers from the same problems as the Essex, especially silted up water jackets. The injection system is normally reliable, but early problems generally stemmed from the engine’s wiring loom. Due to the positioning under the wheelarch, fuel pumps often corrode and the casing becomes porous; replacement pumps are more than £100.

SUSPENSION AND BRAKES

* 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 £35 a pair.

* If the car has been lowered it’s worth buying adjustable TCAs to cope with the changes – but at around £200 a throw most owners stick with the standard ones and replace them regularly.

* If the car is sagging on one side at the rear, it’s 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 the 101 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.

* Incidentally, RS 3100 anchors are unique to that model and as a result rare and expensive. However ,don’t be surprised to discover 2.8i ones have been installed across all ranges as it’s a worthy mod that’s also cost effective.

Three Of A Kind

OPEL MONZA
OPEL MONZA
Logically, you’d have to put the smaller, lovely looking Manta against the Capri but none were ever officially fitted with a big six. The larger Monza (a hatchback or saloon) was however, as was Vauxhall's Royale. It’s a similar car but with the emphasis more on luxury not power, whereas the top Monza came fuel injected and with five-speeds making it a genuine 2.8i rival but with a lot more class. Due to their lack of popularity, this stylish German is great value as well as higher quality car than the Ford.
RELIANT SCIMITAR
RELIANT SCIMITAR
Reliant made use of the V6 before Ford in the Scimitar Coupé and them famously the GTE, the latter which remained in production until the 1980s. In several respects it was better than the Capri care of a better rear suspension and the option of overdrive, something which Ford never offered. An overall more sporting car than the Capri and one could argue prestigious, too yet Scimitars remain cheap classics. Pre 1975 cars more sporty to drive, afterwards they became bigger and flabbier.
AUDI 100S
AUDI 100S
If the Capri was a scaled-down Aston, then Audi's delightful 100S Coupé is a DBS look-alike. Launched in 1969, the model only ran until 1977 and only offered 1.9-litre power, but performance is better than you'd expect and they cruise extremely well. Front-wheel drive, the handling remains one of the car's best traits while build was up to BMW standards. Strong value for what they offer, but they are rare finds and spare parts are becoming harder to find, so buy a project with care.

Verdict

As boxer Henry Cooper used to say, “A good ‘big un’ beats a good ‘little un’ and much the same can be said about Capris. The V6 turns a pretty and perky family- friendly fastback into a genuine mini muscle machine that’s as easy to drive, own and maintain as an Anglia. The Capri has shed its council house image and is now a cult classic that’s up there with the best of them.



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