The cars : Ford Capri development story

The car you always promised yourself…

The Ford Cortina lineup

THE car industry had been going through some liberating times during the 1960s. Fuel was plentiful and cheap, and the Americans were making the most of the situation – offering buyers plenty of V8s to choose from. Even the entry-level ‘college’ cars were packing big (by European standards) six-cylinder engines.The car that epitomised the attractive youthfulness of the American car-buying public was the Ford Mustang – a sporting legend designed for the young free and single. Originally based on the Ford Falcon, the first Mustang rolled off the production line in March 1964 and straight into the arms of public acclaim.

Within weeks of its launch, the Mustang had generated huge waiting lists, and it had become the new cult car for a new generation. Within 18 months, it went from zero to a million sales, and a legend was born. By the time the Mustang was fully up to speed in the USA, Ford of Europe was already looking at doing the same thing over here – making a ‘Pony Car’ out of one of its mass-market saloons…

Development of the European Mustang came under the codename, ‘Colt’ in 1964 – a reference to the car’s role as a baby Pony Car, and was initially undertaken by the engineering team at Dagenham. As the project continued towards its July 1966 sign-off, an increasing amount of co-operation with Ford’s engineering and design department in Cologne resulted in the Capri being the second Pan-European Ford after the Escort.

Ford Capri prototype
…and by late 1966, it looked more like this. The characteristic semi-circular rear-side windows were a last minute change… (Picture: Andrew Elphick collection)

In typical Ford fashion, development was a swift and efficient operation, despite the swooping styling needed changing at the last minute to incorporate the horseshoe shaped rear window line, in response to unfavourable customer clinic comments. As it happened, in this case, the customers were absolutely right, and that uniquely shaped rear window became a Capri styling trademark, which remained with the car for the rest of its life.

Despite CAR magazine’s rather off-hand assertion that the Capri was little more than a ‘Cortina in drag’, the new car actually boasted a bespoke platform developed in the UK that comprised of the best bits of the Escort and its larger brother, the Corsair. Engines choice depended on where the car was being sold- in the UK, you could have either the 1.3- or 1.6-litre versions of the long-lived ‘Kent’ engine, alongside the forgettable 2-litre V4, and crackerjack ‘Essex’ 3-litre V6.

The German versions, on the other hand, used its own V4 and V6 engines, the former in 1.3-, 1.5-, 1.7-litre form, and the latter in 2- and 2.3-litre form. Talk about an abundance of choice. Considering it was a sporting car, Ford decided to launch its vitally important new car in the depths of winter – in Belgium. The January 1969 Brussels Motor Show might not seem the most glamorous location to unveil a car, but despite the winter gloom, the world’s press warmed very quickly to the Capri.

Ford Capri was a useful holiday companion
Early Mk1 Capris had plenty of pulling power, and were marketed very much on that basis…

Ford would have dearly loved to use the Colt nameplate for its new sporting car, but Mitsubishi beat Uncle Henry to the name, leaving marketing gurus fishing through the filing cabinet of defunct names – and drawing out the Capri moniker following its short career on the rump of the short lived Classic-based Coupe of 1961-1963.

Sales kicked off in February 1969, and Ford soon found itself in the fortunate position of having yet another sales hit on its hands – and thanks to a memorable advertising campaign which was cleverly tailored to appeal to the young professional couples who the company wanted to buy the car. If the intention had been to replicate the North American success of the Mustang here in Europe, it soon became clear that Ford had succeeded in its aims. Being a pan-European venture, the Capri was rolling off the production lines at Dagenham and Halewood in the UK, Genk in Belgium (briefly), and the Saarlouis and Cologne plants in Germany.

Rival manufacturers no longer needed convincing that four-seat affordable Coupes were the way forward, and very soon, they all knuckled down to work on their own alternatives. Chrysler and BL’s most striking efforts never made it into production (R429 and Condor respectively), although we did get the Morris Marina two-door fastback… However, the rest made it further – and thanks to the success of the Capri, we ended up with such fine cars as the Opel Manta, Renault 15/17 and Volkswagen Scirocco.

The impact the Capri made on the buying public and popular culture as a whole was even bigger than on an industry that had been caught napping. Ford’s laser-sharp marketing gurus correctly figured that as buyers were becoming increasingly affluent – with many cars now being bought by companies in the UK and offered to their employees as inflation (and tax-proof) ‘perks’. They put out an inspired series of adverts, depicting the Capri in all manner of exotic locations, and added the unforgettable tagline, ‘The car you always promised yourself…’

They figured that married-with-children middle managers liked the glamorous image of the Capri, and desperately wanted to identify themselves with the ‘bachelor-and-leggy-bird’ lifestyle depicted in the cheesy advertising.

One of the greatest aspects of the Capri wasn’t so much about how it drove, or even the way it looked – but the keen pricing. At the time of its launch in the UK, the entry level 1.3-litre Capri would set you back a very reasonable £890 – nearly £100 less than one of the year’s other big launches, the Austin Maxi 1500. And that’s a lot of money in an era when you could buy a semi-detached house in Essex for £6000…

Having said that, the 1.3-litre Capri was a bit of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, with a 0-60mph time of 18.8secs and a top speed of 84mph. But none of that mattered, because it looked good, and made its driver feel like Jason King. Nevertheless, the road testers liked the Capri, and the normally sanguine Autocar proclaimed the 1600GT XLR as, ‘the best car Ford has ever produced.’ And although we consider the Capri a bit medieval today, its handling was blessed as some kind of minor miracle: ‘On corners, this Ford is quite unlike any other. It is balanced neutrally and in some ways feels like a four wheel drive car.’

We wonder how many GT40 owners would agree to the sentiment.

Originally, the 2-litre V4 sat atop the Capri range, but it was merely keeping the daddy’s seat warm. Towards the end of 1969, the 3-litre version was rolled out – out went the form-guide, and in came a new benchmark in performance for accessibly priced cars. Using the 2994cc 138bhp ‘Essex’ engine in the light Ford Capri bodyshell, the pretty if non-too flighty Capri became a genuine performance car bargain. For just over £1000, you got a 120mph top speed, and 0-60mph of less than ten seconds – in 1970, you needed to spend considerably more than this to get comparable levels of performance.

Ford Capri RS2600
Ford Capri RS2600 was a true competition thoroughbred.

But if the 3000GT wasn’t quick enough for you – then the RS2600 would have been right up your street. Featuring Kugelfischer fuel injection and 150bhp of muscular power, the special model was offered to customers on a limited in order to make Ford’s Group 2 activities in the European Touring Car Championship nice and legal. The RS2600 handled like a thoroughbred thanks to modified suspension, and was usefully quick thanks to the power boost and close ratio gearbox. Ford was never one for resting on its motor sport laurels, and within a couple of seasons, upgunned the RS2600 replacing it with the phenomenal RS3100. Although it was no more powerful than its predecessor, it was even more special…

The Capri went on to become one of the most successful sporting coupes ever built, and by 1973, a million had been built. Despite the roaring success, Ford developed the Capri continuously in order to keep it at the head of the pack. In 1972, it received suspension upgrades and a new interior, and the ghastly V4 engines, as well as the ‘Kents’ were replaced by the overhead cam ‘Pinto’ engine, as used in the USA.

In February 1974, the Capri Mk2 was introduced. After a run of 1.2 million cars sold, and with the post-1973 mood being rather glum in the wake of the oil crisis, Ford appeared to lessen the Capri’s glamour with the Mk2 version, and made it a whole lot more versatile with the addition of a commodious hatchback rear end, and split folding rear seats. So for all those, who said the Fiesta was Ford’s first economical hatchback, we present you with the Capri Mk2 1.3L…

The newer car built on the successes of the flamboyant original, but many purists felt that it looked a little on the ‘soft’ side. Perhaps it was the big and friendly looking headlights, penned by Peter Stevens – or maybe it was the fact you could now buy a Capri L, GL or Ghia – just like a Cortina or any other run of the mill Ford. Sales did take a hit with the new car, and although the 3000S, Ghia and JPS Special edition added much needed testosterone-fuelled appeal, it was clear that a little more va-va-voom was needed…

Ford Capri MkIII
Capri comes of age: styling tweaks applied to the former Mk2 model make the MkIII far more appealing in the showroom.

The final – and some would say ultimate – Capri came in 1977, and with the minimum of effort on Ford’s part, it put right just about all of the Mk2’s wrongs. Designated Project Carla, the re-invigorated car looked mean and moody, and proved that the Ford styling boffins had not lost their magic touch. In fact, it is hard to believe that in terms of styling, the only major differences between the Mk2 and Mk3 amounted to a re-profiled bonnet leading edge, some natty ribbed rear light clusters, and wraparound bumpers.

Once again, the Capri became the pushy young exec’s weapon of choice, and the ‘S’ versions did all they needed to impress potential buyers who may have otherwise been tempted to go and buy a Manta. The 3-litre version remained the performance bargain of the decade, which no rival could answer – and although the Essex engine was beginning to be seen as a bit on the long-in-the-tooth side, there was no denying it delivered the goods.

However, time wasn’t kind to the Capri. By the ’80s, buyers were beginning to see the Capri as a bit of a hangover from a by-gone era, and just like stragglers at an overnight party the morning after, turfing out time was upon us. Except the Capri didn’t give in to the ravages of time without a fight – despite the arrival of the new generation hot hatchbacks as epitomised by the Golf GTi and Escort XR3. Ford dropped the Essex engine in 1981, replacing it with the ‘Cologne’ V6 – this creating one of the coolest named cars in the world – The Capri Injection…

Boasting 160bhp and a 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds, the Capri was able, once again, to punch above its weight, and give the snobs from Germany and Italy a bloody nose… However, in real terms, that was it for the Capri. Final development was little more than a marketing exercise, with a raft of special editions seeing it into old age – you could buy the Calypso, the Cabaret, the Brooklands. But in an era of engine management and digital dashboards, uncle Henry’s European Pony Car has passed its sell-by date.

In 1987, time was called on one of the defining cars of a generation, and a run of nearly two million cars, the book was closed on a legend. The Capri was a social phenomenon and attracted a loyal army of fans during its lifetime – it was the introduction to Coupe motoring for many a young blade – and let’s not it’s rather lucrative Television career. The irony was that in 1989, Vauxhall launched the Calibra – truly a modern day Capri – and caused a storm with it.

Just as Ford had no answer…

Ford Capri 280 Brooklands
Ultimate Capri? The 280, known as the Brooklands featured 15in RS alloys and Recaro seats.

Thanks to Andrew Elphick

Keith Adams
Latest posts by Keith Adams (see all)


  1. “Just as Ford had no answer…”

    Ford did try and fight back against the Calibra with the Probe 2, an import of a Mazda-based US coupe which itself was the second iteration of a car initially designed to replace the Mustang. Unfortunately, it was seen as too US/Japanese to replace the Essex bruiser – the name didn’t help nor did another fantastic piece of car-casting from the petrolhead Steve Coogan with one of his intentionally irritating characters!

    Ford replaced the Probe with the Cougar, which was a Mondeo-based coupe, more in the vein of the original the Capri, but it didn’t sell well because coupe buyers were, at that stage, unfortunately going Bavarian.

    This is why it is difficult to find a mainstream marque (though certain ‘premium’ marques are now more mainstream than the mainstream…) coupe or large saloon.

    However, every now and then certain tabloid car magazines show a photoshopped rendering of a Focus-based coupe with the headline “The Capri is back!”, but this usually gets watered down to be a glimpse of the CC or the three-door model.

    There are, though, rumours of an official import for the next-gen Mustang, as Ford tries its One Ford strategy yet again across the board (which almost worked for the Escort Mk3, Mondeo Mk1 and mostly worked for the Focus Mk1 until the bloodlines split). Presumably Hybrid and TDCi options will be available, as running a V8 is no longer economically (or low oil resource) viable…

  2. Regardless of any criticism that could be levelled at the Cap-ri, the Mk2 was notable in that it set the template for many modern-day coupes – the idea that a young family man can have a stylish 3-door hatchback, that seats 4, has a large boot with a tailgate, and is available with the same level of comfort and safety as a saloon car all stems from the Mk2 Cap-ri… fact my next car will be from the same mould – the Alfa GT….. On the question of ‘will Ford ever replace the Cap-ri’ – Ford should, but somehow I don’t think it will – the RS versions of the Focus and Fiesta are extremely capable, and unless Ford decides to go after VW Scirroco sales, very successful (and cheap to manufacture) variants of existing cars.

  3. The moment Ford went FWD with the Capri replacements such as the Probe/Cougar was when they lost it in the Coupe sector (with the smaller Ford Puma being an exception), Ford should follow the example recently set by Toyota with its GT86 as to what a properly Coupe should be.

    Am actually surprised a Lotus Capri / Ford Capri Twincam was not considered for the mk1/2 considering the 1.6 Lotus Twincam engine was used in both the Cortina and Escort or that the mk3 never received a turbo 4-cylinder as an alternative to the Essex / Cologne V6s along the lines of say 150-165 bhp 2.0 Pinto / I4 or a 155-205 bhp 2.3 Lima.

  4. The Capri always looked great in all its generations. I particularly liked the MK2 Ghia & S versions in 2 & 3 litres. If I could have afforded a Capri back then I would have settled for a 1.6GL – not being greedy! It wasn’t till 1976 that the car I then aspired to own was the Cavalier Coupe, then Sportshatch that followed. Great times!

  5. As a teenager in the eighties I remember the 2.8 injection as a pretty cool car. Saw one quite recently – still a looker!
    Hard to believe the MkIII is just a tweaked MkII. In my eyes it looks so much better – somehow wider, longer, lower.

  6. The Capri Mk I & II was sold in the USA under Ford’s USA only Mercury brand to give them a car to attract younger buyers. It used the same engine as the Pinto, so no problem there. It came just as fuel prices jumped up in the 1973-74 oil crises, offered a sporty, ‘European’ car backed by a major NA carmaker and it looked good. Alas, our emmission standards, poor rust resistance, some parts not up to our poor roads and some too cheap to properly maintain them led to their decline by the early 1980’s.

  7. The Capri is actually my all time fave car, and I came very close to owning a Mk1 many moons ago, I had the cash in my hand but the garage had sold it the day before 🙁 I do hope to own one someday, preferably a 3.0S or Ghia, but they are now going for silly money

  8. A friend of mine had two Turbo Technics 2.8 Capris in succession . They were stunningly accelerative, if a touch noisy, and surprisingly reliable apart from a regrettable tendency to eat gearboxes . He was so enthusiastic about them that he kept the second for 18 years until 2004 when at the age of 57 he replaced it with that elderly fogey’s car ………..a Lotus Elise

  9. I bought into the marketing hype from day 1 and I’m still there – just love these cars….I had two Series 1’s – a deep red 1300L and a yellow/black 1600XL….The red one was bought second hand from a Jaguar showroom and was just a couple of months old….Despite almost 20 other ( and expensive ) new cars since then, I’ve never been so excited and felt so pleased with myself as the day I drove it home….Who cares that it couldn’t even out-accelerate a VW Beetle – it was heartbreakingly beautiful to look at parked outside our house….One evening, I was asked to collect an Italian work coleague from the airport and take him to his hotel….On the way, he told me his hobby was cars and motoring, and so I was absolutely convinced he was going to be impressed and fall in love with my gorgeous Capri….As he got out at his hotel, he said nothing, didn’t even look back at the car as he walked to the hotel door and I thought ‘ probably, he’s just jealous ‘….A year later, I saw him on TV – Vittorio Brambilla, driving around Monza in the Ialian GP….Jealous, did I say ?? A couple of years later we replaced it with another one, a mark-1-and-a-half, this time new, and yellow with the obligatory and fashionable black vinyl roof….Ordered and delivered with a sun roof, it was also stunningly attractive but in a more aggressive way – the original red one was just beautiful whilst the yellow one was also a bit sexy….We kept this one for almost five years and only sold it when we went to live / work in France….If I won the lottery, before the yacht and the Ferrari, I would buy a Brooklands 2.8, green, black leather, and then I could die happy….One day I will buy one,just wish it could be sooner than current finances allow….

  10. Every now and then, on a slow news day, and as Autocar does with the ‘Baby Jag’, AutoExpress reports that Ford is resurrecting the Capri when Ford wheels out a coupe concept at a motor show.

    However, with rumoured plans to introduce a proper RHD version of the Mustang, and with Ford concentrating on the small car and SUV sectors, it is unlikely.

    The Cougar, in my opinion, was a fine replacement. While it was RWD, so was the car it was based on (Mondeo v Cortina), offered US-coupe style while also being sold as a Mercury.
    Best looking saloon-based coupe of recent years has to be the 406 coupe or the Brera.

    In some ways the A5 is a spritual successor to the Capri, if the A4 is the modern Cortina.

  11. @10 Stuart – reading your comments almost had me drooling at your descriptions of the Capri’s you owned. I’ll bet the yellow 1600XL was Ford’s famous “Daytona Yellow”. My Dad very nearly bought a MK1 Capri 3000E (or was it GT?). In the end though he got a Mazda RX4 Coupe in 1973, which was also a lovely car.

  12. HD….

    Yes it was….Registration was PMB 7L….Bought it from a Ford dealer somewhere close to Manchester Airport but can’t remember the name….After a year or so, I bought some alloys, unusually for the day they were black ones, and it looked even better….

    The red one was registered SBA 132H bought from a Jaguar showroom on, IIRC, King Street in Central Manchester and with about 2k miles….First saw it surrounded by new Jags of all types, but shining under the spotlights I thought it was better than all those put together….

    Huge, huge smile on my face as I’m typing this !!

  13. @13 Stuart C. I know what you mean! Also agree that getting a Capri Brooklands 280 would be great. Like myself you seem to be able to remember all your old reg plates – and the memories that go with them. Good Luck…

  14. @4 Nate. At the press launch of the Capri in 1969 there were several cars fitted with the Twin-Cam engine. The press loved them but unfortunately they never made production-

  15. It’s also interesting that the 2.5 & 2.3 V6s were never used as a “gap filler” between the 2 litres & the bigger V6s.

  16. Ford Germany fitted the 2.0 and 2.3 litre V6 Cologne engines to the cars for sale across continental Europe. I cant remember if we ever got the Essex engine in any car over here (apart from kitcars!). IMO the Mk1 was using a 2.6 as top of the range, Mk2 and 3 the 2,8 with injection.

  17. Always a good looking car and a clever marketing tool, just as the Mustang used tame six cylinder cars as entry models, the Capri used a sluggish 1.3 model as the base of the range, just so people could say they owned a Capri, even if the car had no go at all. However, it was built to suit all pockets and most probably sold were the capable 1.6 and 2 litre models, the 2 litres offering decent performance in return for four cylinder economy.

  18. I bought a tatty 3.0 manual Ghia Mk2 back in the early nineties for £400 from the auctions as a ‘stopgap’ car. It was woefully underbraked and undertyred (the Mk2s all had the same brakes from 1300 to 3 litre) so I sold it a few weeks later – almost doubled my money on it! Replaced with a 2.8 injection Granada which was a far better car.

    A friend of mine had the 1300 version, it was incredibly slow and made an 1100 Escort seem like a ball of fire in comparison!

  19. I had a Paris Blue 1.6 Laser , a Diamond White 2.0S , a Diamond White 2.8i Special and a 280 ‘Brooklands’ , love the Capri , just a shame they are so expensive now or i would have another!

  20. The car I never promised myself….

    The Mk1 was a nice looking car but the Mk2 lost the plot and the Mk3 was only marginally better.

    I remember the Mk1 1.3 being barely faster than my Hillman Imp, and definitely slower through the bends. I also remember repairing catastrophic rust in the sills and rear wings.

    The cooking 1.6 was a sheep in wolf’s clothing, the 2.0 was acceptable and the 3.0 and 2.8i were pretty good. But the live rear axle would tramp like made when you gave it some welly and it was no better than a contemporary Cortina in the handling department.

    Triumph of style over substance other than the V6s … and I’d still rather have a Dolly Sprint.

  21. Just noticed the orange Capri MK1 at the top of this feature says “Capri 2600GT”. Yet the text says the German market got a 2300 engine as the largest(?)

  22. Thanks Richard… very useful to know. The Capri was very much a car providing sporty looks, but on a budget. No wonder it enjoyed success in those days.

  23. Often wonder why they kept the 1.3 L on for so long as everyone knew this was a joke.
    A far better idea in the early eighties would have been to have the XR3 engine in the 1.6 and have fuel injection on the 2.0.

  24. @26 I think all manufacturers list a feeble engine as a starting price (not sure on the actual availability even though in the price lists), It drags the punter in the showroom, However The Salesperson could then bump the price up by selling the more common bigger engines (In the Capri’s case the 1.6 or 2.0) remember it wasn’t so long ago you could still buy a VW 2.0 SDi non Turbo Diesel that couldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding, Marketing Men always know Best.

    I often wondered why Ford didn’t discontinue the old Pinto Engines, (1.6 version at least) when they had the Constantly Very Harsh Escort Engines, I think the 1.8 Sierra/ Early Granada Engine’s were CVH? But then again the old Pinto Lumps (Camshaft aside) usually out lived the newer CVH unit.
    However I think Ford wanted to kill off the Capri (original XR4i was meant to be its unofficial replacement) but sales kept in production, probably why it didn’t receive many updates.

  25. I know some “cooking” models were tax specials for certain markets.

    Opel offered the Manta with a 1.2 engine, which must have been interesting to drive.

  26. Hello…I currently own a 1971 Ford Capri, engine from Cologne, Germany…I am in the United States and have searched many hours for some good sites for any kind of specs or technical data on her…if anyone out there has any suggestions it would be greatly appreciated…I love working on her and driving her, Eve, but actual data would be so helpful…
    Thank you & Have a great day

  27. It was a shame the Capri died BUT VW’s Golf GTI 8v and 16v literally bit it up the rear end and showed the car buying public how to do it basically with a bit more get up and go and a much classier inside and a bit of high powered oomph to the proceedings too.

  28. Hi all. I’m from South Africa. In the early 70’s a guy by the name of Basil Green upgraded the mk1 capri to run the same speed as a ferrari at that time. His company fitted a 302 V8 with a top loader 4 speed box and 292 diff all this was sanctioned by Ford UK. 550 units were made I have one. Its value in Rands is around R250,000.oo


  30. We in the USA lost the real Capri after 1978. Ford came out with the Fox Body Mustang/Capri and she was just a simple knock off. I so enjoyed working on these gems back in the 70’s and would love to have a V6 4 spd Capri today. They were excellent for a Ford!

  31. I had a white(ermine?) 1969 H registration Capri that I bought for £500 in 1980.
    It was a 1600 GT Kent engined model with a sliding metal sunroof and a tan coloured interior if memory serves.
    For it’s day it was reasonably quick and In the dry handled well but this changed drastically even after just a shower. You really had to respect how light the back-end was and drive very delicately.
    I can still remember the novelty of the windscreen washers being activated by the floor mounted foot pump, the Rostyle wheels and the sunroof open on sunny days. As a 19 year old I really thought I’d arrived.

  32. Read that Ford US viewed the 3rd generation Fox-body Ford Mustang as World Car and at one point wanted to sell it in the UK in right-hand drive, though given the Mustang would have been larger than the Capri one wonders how Ford could have further adapted the Mustang to the UK market at the lower-end of the range below the V8.

    Can potentially see the 2.0 Cosworth YB and Cologne V6 (including Cosworth) being used along with the Ford I4 DOHC engines, though not sure what else especially in the event the Mustang is well received enough for Ford to consider a right-hand drive version of the 4th generation Ford Mustang and beyond.

  33. The Mustang was UK available, presumably on special order.

    The A-Z of Cars of the 1970s, mentioned it was available with the Cologne 2.8 V6, among American units of 2.3 4 cylinder (bored out Pinto?), 3.3 straight 6 & 4.2 V8.

    I can’t think of too many cars with 4 different engine configurations!

  34. Aside from the V8 the only suitable engines on the US Mustang’s of that era have for the UK market are the 2.3 Turbo and possibly the Cologne V6, assuming the US anti-Smog equipment is removed from the V6 and uprated to Euro-spec beforehand.

  35. Little remembered now, but the Colt name was used by Mitsubishi in England in the seventies( possibly as it sounded less Japanese). They also had a competent Capri rival called the Celeste that in 1.6 litre form could do over 100 mph, came fully loaded with equipment( a Ghia for the price of an L), was very reliable and looked good. Wonder how many of these Japanese Capris are left now.

    • I remember when Mitsu’s were marketed as COLT in the UK and I do recall the Colt Celeste, along with the Sigma saloon & Sapporo Coupe – actually nice looking cars in their time. I would suspect very few if any Celeste’s survive to this day.

    • I had a Celeste 1600 for several weeks while waiting for a new company Alpine GLS, drove like a truck and had awful seats and a distinct lack of oomph.

  36. The differently shaped rear side window on the mock-up looks very contempory now, what with the modern trend for lots of metal in the rear quarter . . .

  37. The Mark 2 Capri was a masterstroke, using a hatchback when most cars its size were still saloons, making a Capri capable of transporting a wardrobe while still looking cool. Always looked very nice in black with a gold stripe( I think this was a special edition around 1975 called JPS).

  38. I remember the black / gold striped MK2 Capri as well… very nice. It was available around the same time that the F1 John Player team was in vogue. I think it was called the Capri 2000S & 3000S? The Ghia spec Capri’s were also nice aspirational cars

    • You could get the John Player Special in uprated 1.6 litre tune, giving the car performance over 100 mph, or as a 2 litre. Also the gold carpet and beige cloth sears added to the appeal. Very much a car for the disco era and a nice car to drive.
      As I’ve said before, the Capri was a masterstroke for Ford, whose sixties cars were very hit and miss, and formed part of Ford’s strategy to become top dog in Britain, which they did in 1976. Ford’s mixture of simple engineering and attractive body styling in the seventies certainly paid off.

      • I agree with all that Glenn… I was very much into Capri’s in the Disco days! I didn’t realise the JPS version was available in 1.6 too. I had lots of experience driving Ford’s as company cars back then – Good times

      • My Dad bought a mk2 when they first came out, a 1.6GT, TJM147N with a sports plus pack which gve it fabric seats, a map reading light, overiders a twin pin stripe and sports road wheels. In redish orange with a black vinyl roof it looked the part. One of my early memories is heading to Fort William in it…. me my sister, mum and Dad aling with my grandparents and a trailer in tow! No wonder it ate camshafts. It was replaced with a new S reg 2.0 S mk3 which was a far more reliable machine.

  39. I had a Celeste 1600 for several weeks while waiting for a new company Alpine GLS, drove like a truck and had awful seats and a distinct lack of oomph.

  40. Always considered a Cortina in drag – but its engineering in terms of suspension and rack and pinion steering came from the Escort – developed in parallel with it, whilst its floor pan came from the longer wheel base Corsair. By the time the Capri MK2 arrived the Cortina had moved on to the MK3 that shared nothing with that earlier generation of Fords, having all coil springing and a platform shared with the Consul/Granada.

  41. Probably one programme more than any other made big Fords cool in the late seventies, The Professionals, and kept the Capri’s sales high into the eighties. Watching the show now brings back memories of when most schoolboys wanted a Capri 3000S, and their dads wanted a Granada Ghia like Major Cowley’s. Also a Ford Escort RS 2000 made an appearance in some episodes as Doyle’s personal transport, another hot Ford for people whose budget couldn’t run to a three litre Capri.

    • As a kid watching the professionals I can remember that it was 50 50 for what the kids at school wanted when they could drive. I was always a capri man (though I wanted a later 280 as it looked the best) , while my brother always wanted the rs2000. Though the early episodes of the professionals were bl cars, and if they had not fudged up the delivery of cars for filming maybe the capri would have disappeared earlier from UK streets and we would have wanted a white dollie sprint or blue tr7. I remember that Ford signed up to Dempsey and Makepeace, and even though that was rather naff, it did help sales of Escort cabrolets.

      • The first series saw Bodie and Doyle using Dolomite Sprints and a TR7, while Cowley has a Rover 3500. These were considered desirable cars in 1977, but problems with supply and reliability saw The Professionals switch to Ford, and this coincided with a rise in audience figures for The Professionals. Obviously Ford were enjoying a boom in sales in the late seventies, but product placement in The Professionals must have helped sales of the Mark 3 Capri.

        • Availability of the cars for the series was proven by the appearance of Doyle in a brown Rover P6, Cowley in a Black princess and Bodie driving an 1800 too

          • Forgot to say that it was a gold Ford Capri Mk2 3000 Ghia and a Biege Ford Granada used first before the famous 3 appeared on the Professionals. The Rs2000 disappeared in series 4 and was replaced by another Capri. Do you also remember the burgundy coloured cortina estate that they chased a criminal in with Cowley desk on top?

  42. I remember the episode with the Cortina,quite amusing to watch. Also the Mark 2 Capri with its gold( or bronze) body and cream vinyl roof appeared in an episode last night.

  43. What made the Cologne V6 better compared to the Essex V6 for Ford Europe to ultimately continue with and even further develop the German built V6, instead of opting to either continue / further develop the British built V6 or even opt for the US developed Vulcan V6?

    • The Capri and Granada were withdrawn from UK production and built solely in Cologne which is probably the reason why the German engine won. Also the cologne engine was chosen by Ford USA for models like the Mustang, who used a version for a while. Ford were trying to rationalise it’s costs in the 70s, with the US designed 4 cylinder pinto unit replacing the smaller unique v engines in both UK and Germany

      • So basically there was nothing inherently wrong with the Essex V6 compared to the Cologne V6 other than being a victim of rationalisation, with the former basically having roughly the same development potential as the latter?

        • To my knowledge yes – there was actually some commonality with the Cologne and Essex engines as they had been part of the late 50s and early 60s plan to bring Britain and Germany together to develop models. But because they never pushed fully by Ford USA until the Escort project they went their separate ways. Remember the Cortina and Taunus models had been planned together originally, just that because they had not been forced to corporate fully the cars took different roots (though the styling similarities are there to see).

          • Have read of modified Essex V6 utilizing parts of the Cologne V6 enabling the former to grow up to 4-litres, perhaps Ford UK and Ford German working together on a merged V6 (with scope for dieselization) would have butterflied away the awful V4s in favour of larger separate pre-Pinto inline-4s.

            The following Curbside Classic article* suggests Ford Germany’s original plan was to develop a more conventional Kadett A-sized front-engined RWD with a Glas-like 1.0-1.2-litre OHC engine under the NPX-C5 project, before Ford US pushed the Cardinal project onto Ford Germany – where it became the P4/P6 Taunus. *- Google: Automotive History: The Real Story of How the American Ford FWD Cardinal Became the German Ford Taunus 12M – From Dearborn With Love

            Not sure whether Ford UK was involved with NPX-C5 since apart from the proposed engine, it was to slot below the mk1 Ford Cortina years before the appearance of the mk1 Ford Escort, which makes one wonder if the original plan to merge Ford UK and Ford Germany was for Ford Germany to utilize the Cortina to replace the Taunus P1 while Ford UK was to use NPX-C5 to replace the Ford Anglia (similar to the Vauxhall Viva HA and Opel Kadett A sharing a great deal of commonality with each other).

            Ford US’s original plan for the Cardinal project meanwhile was similar to both the Lancia Fulvia as well as BMC’s own 18-degree V4/V6 SOHC project, with Ford’s own narrow-angle V4 project being a 20-degree 1.4-litre V4 SOHC. Before Ford US opted for a 60-degree V4 OHV layout on the basis it would readily lend itself to a V6 variant, despite BMC demonstrating a narrow-angle V6 was feasible years before Volkswagen developed the VR6.

            Not sure what Ford UK made of the US-developed Cardinal project, though they unlike Ford Germany managed to rebuff Ford US’s attempts to push the Cardinal project onto them.

    • IIRC the Essex V6s were quite heavy as they had been planned with a diesel version in mind that was never made.

      Ford moved the tooling to South Africa so it wasn’t a total loss.

  44. Nate – Cardinal was forced onto the Germans, but UK was also pushed to take it to. After the debacle that was the Classic, the UK went their own way but the overall styles were a combined project which is why their is similarities between the Taunus and the Cortina. In fact project Saxon was supposedly a UK/German collaboration, but never saw the light of day.

    • Cannot see either the Kent or the Essex V4 fitting into a UK Cardinal project aka Taunus P4/P6, no doubt there was pressure on Ford UK to take it.

      That said the Cortina and smaller NPX-C5 projects would suggest collaboration between Ford UK and Ford Germany would have happened more organically without the presence of the Cardinal project (or necessity of the UK/Germany to develop V4s) had the latter remained limited to North America (and possibly even South America in place of the Renault 12-based Ford Corcel).

      The NPX-C5 project could have been Ford Europe’s equivalent of the Vauxhall Viva HA and Opel Kadett A.

      • Not sure there. To my knowledge the NPX-C5 was actually a rear engined coupe looking thing similar to what volkswagen were going to produce, and I think Britain would have done the same as they did to Dearborn and stuck two fingers up. It was probably also what Germany got Cardinal, as Henry Ford II hated rwd cars and probably told the Germans to take it or leave it. He was not known for his diplomacy, my old man met him once and said he was rather rude.

        • Also previous thought NPX-C5 was rear-engined too based on the initial garbled information, however the following Curbside Classic article Zebo posted clarifies the project was to be a more conventional Opel Kadett A-sized front-engined RWD car to be powered by a Glas-like 1.0-1.2-litre OHC engine (despite appearing to be a contemporary if not quite a precursor to the Glas OHC engine) .

          • Henry Ford II clashed a lot with Lee Iacocca over many issues, one being the Fiesta needing to be a FWD car, supposedly it took a demonstration of a Fiat 127 fitted with Fiesta bodywork to get the green light.

          • Heard a bit about Henry Ford II’s reluctance to approve the mk1 Fiesta and clashes with Iacocca.

            During the Bobcat project that led to the mk1 Fiesta, there was one fascinating front-engined RWD proposal known as the Cheetah which was based on a shortened Ford Escort platform (which brings to mind the front-engined RWD Toyota Starlet P40/P60 along with the Toyota Publica P30).


          • Thanks for the link Nate, The Mazda 323 was another small RWD hatchback around at the time, along with the Sunbeam & Chevette.

            The AMC Gremlin was created but cutting down a Hornet chassis.

          • Speaking of AMC, it is a pity neither Austin/BMC or Nash (later part of AMC) collaborated further beyond the (speculatively A40-A55 Cambridge-based) Austin/Nash Metropolitan.

            The assumption being the Metropolitan is replaced by an early-60s Marina (with Capri-like coupe) whose development and replacement butterflies away the Gremlin, yet doubt either BMC or AMC saw any reason for such a tie-up even if both were possibly roughly the same size as each other.

          • By the early 1960s most of the other American makers had introduced compacts & the Metropolitan had lost it’s niche.

          • Agree to some extent yet Ford planned to produce the Cardinal in the US, GM imported the Viva / Kadett to the US and Canada (with consideration given to a Chevrolet version) while Chrysler tried selling the Simca 1100 in the US.

            A Marina-like successor to the Metropolitan could have worked better (at least theoretically) provided it was more akin to the later Australian-built Leyland Marina in terms of featuring a newer lighter 1500-2000cc+ 4/6-cylinder engine to replace the heavy B-Series. The involvement of another company like AMC could have potentially sped up development for an earlier alternate E-Series.

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