The cars : Tickford Capri 2.8i Turbo

Keith Adams tells the story of the Tickford Capri, and how it made it from drawing board to production…

Tickford Capri (3)

Back in 1981, former Gold Leaf Team Lotus and Yardley Team BRM Formula One driver John Miles was a member of Autocar’s Road Test Team. Miles, who died on 8 April 2018 due to complications following a stroke, also had a popular column in the magazine called ‘Miles Behind Wheel’ that specialised in improved versions of ordinary cars.

Autocar’s Editor-in-Chief, Steve Cropley, recalled how “One of his better-known projects was to devise a cheap, highly effective rear suspension mod for the Ford Capri that improved its handling tremendously” in this article which was published in May 2021.

Miles purchased a 3.0-litre Capri from Ford’s Press Department and used this car as a test vehicle for a number of the modifications which he developed over a distance of 25,000 miles. He installed a very modified 3.2-litre engine and, most importantly, modified and tweaked the suspension. Miles’ development work meant that he was widely regarded as being one of the most knowledgeable people about the Ford Capri’s handling.

John Miles saw the Capri as a vehicle which, with minor changes, would continue to live on for decades. He, more than anyone, was instrumental in pressuring Ford into agreeing to assist in the manufacture of the Tickford Turbo Capri.

Miles, due to his involvement in modifying the Capri’s suspension, was (and proved to be correct) aware that different or alternative suspension settings could be improved even further with a change of tyres. Contact was made with Tom Northey (at Pirelli), who at this time was trying to attract publicity for the P7 tyre.

Discussions with Northey eventually led to contact and various letters being exchanged with Victor Gauntlett (Owner of Aston Martin) and Ford. An insight into the extent of the modifications which John Miles had in mind can be gained from a letter which he wrote to John Waddell Vice-President, Public Affairs at Ford on 25 September 1981, in which he observed:  ‘Considerable aerodynamic and suspension modifications are envisaged, so that the car may no longer be too easily recognisable as a Ford’…

Tickford Capri (1)

More meetings with John Waddell, Victor Gauntlett, Tom Northey and Bob Lutz followed and an agreement was reached in principal. It was proposed that Tickford would put up half of the amount required for development of a prototype for assessment, some £25,000-30,000, plus the price of a Capri 2.8i! The other half was to be contributed by a department of Ford.

Rumour has it that, after Ford’s withdrawal from the project, which forced Tickford to ‘go it alone’, and the sad demise of the 2.8T, Victor Gauntlett wrote a personal cheque for £3000 to John Miles. What commenced as an extremely exciting project, sadly ended on a sour note for many people involved, more so for John Miles than most.

The fact that the Tickford Turbo Capri ever reached the production stage was thanks to the commitment, enthusiasm and dogged persistence of a few people involved directly. A year after the meeting (lunch) between Victor Gauntlett of AML, Bob Lutz (Ford of Europe) and John Miles, the running prototype appeared at the 1982 NEC Motor Show.

The car received enthusiastic and exciting reviews and attracted much favourable attention. The car, which would cost around £14,000, was capable of 140mph and had lapped the Millbrook Test Track in Bedfordshire at more than this speed.

The car had 205bhp, and it took an Aston Martin Vantage to beat it from rest to 100mph. The Tickford Capri also came with a rear disc conversion, and was dressed with an extrovert body kit – and the option that one could order a tailor-made car, with or without the body addenda.

Keith Adams


  1. I remember driving one of these when it was new, as a salesman at Stormont in Tunbridge Wells and we had it as a demonstrator.

    Went like a rocket but was really just a fast Capri.

    As I recall we didn’t sell it and it went back to Tickford.

    Not pretty but I always felt that if they’d done the car but left off the body kit it would have done well.

  2. I don’t think it helped that soon after the bodykit was on sale by Kat for any old Capri.

    I remember seeing it at the 1982 motor show and being underwhelmed even as an 8 year old! I think it was a mistake basing it on the Capri which lets face it was a bit of a dinosaur by then, it would have been far better basing it on the Sierra XR4i.

    Keith – it sounds like there was some interesting background to this story, it would be good to hear more details.

  3. The body kit takes the great looking 2.8 injection Capri and spoils it. The mods look after market, boy racer.

  4. They should have just turbocharged the Cologne, and tweaked the suspension. That blunt front most have played havoc with the cooling too, and the bodykit looks like something a Gary Boy would glue on, when bored on a Sunday afternoon

  5. I dunno, it looks horrid now, but it’s entirely in keeping with 1982, and as a 10 year old I got a thrill seeing it in the latest glossy car magazines down at the local library.

  6. From the second sketch they would have been better off making the front end a lot more aerodynamic in the style of say the Vauxhall Firenza Droopsnoot / Vauxhall Calibra or Renault Alpine GTA.

  7. It did refresh a very elderly design, and whilst the bodykit might not be everyone’s cup of tea (mine included) it was pretty crisp and well-fitted. It certainly looked more dignified than the run-out Opel Manta of about that vintage.

    There is (or was) a similar looking B reg Capri in this neck of the woods (dunno if its a Tickford or a KAT kit) driven by a rather low-grade soapbox preacher who used to harrangue shoppers in the town centre with some random bits of scripture (no this isn’t an anti-religion bash, but if you’re going to preach, at least have a coherent message). I think he was finally ‘moved along’ with some of the other colourful characters, such as Clive the busker, who sang Elvis songs very out of key and in a very strong Gloucester accent, and a bloke with ‘Black and Tan’ tatooed to his forehead, who would play random notes on his flute, then glare at people. At least we’ve still got our allocation of pissed-up Glaswegian tramps in the bus station.

  8. The Tickford Directors loved the Capri, a massive image of a pale yellow Tickford Capri hung in the Boardroom at Tanners Drive until Prodrive purchased the comapny in 2000.

  9. I am definitely in the minority here, as I loved this car when it was launched, and still do today… I think the pics on this page are a bit unflattering, but even so… 🙂

  10. Love Capris, love Capris with power, love Capris with sorted handling, love Capris with contemporary bodykits. I used to like most things in Street Machine with KAT kits on, so it’s a style I like (more than the bewinged and beflared German ones) – my own Mk 1 Capri had what I think was a “Cologne” wide arch kit and 2.0 pinto, sadly expired at the hands of a ‘friend’.

    In the top ten of cars I’ve driven, let alone owned, the Capri has a place just for how I felt when I had one.

  11. As a capri fan and former owner of a lovely white 2.8 special these bodykits ruined the classic good looks of the car especially when fitted with the standard 13″ pepperpots as in the picture!!!!!

    Harry Webb(Sir Cliff)had a silver one and snooker promoter Barry Hearn had a white one,both have been up for sale in the last year with no takers.

  12. Chris Baglin, I beg to differ. The Tickford Capri was OTT, the Manta just right. I remember driving my GTE from Pontypool to Bristol via Gloucester when the Severn Bridge and railway were both shut due to high winds, watching trucks leaning to one side in the wind, and wondering what the fuss was about. It even held on road over crests in the road – vertical roadholding! Sadly, a mate bent it and wiped a skirt off on one side. The reduction in yaw stability was huge. {The trip to Bristol, incidentally, was to see Jim Randle talking about the XJ220.}

  13. The Tickford Capri was as 80’s as white trainers and tracksuits tbh, which is probably why Keith likes it LOL

  14. I owned a Turbo Technics converted capri 2.8i,with a skorpion X-frame kit on the rear axle,it was a properly sorted handler and very quick till i burned an hole in a piston!

  15. 1982, I was at engineering college in Brum (now a Uni) my car was a 67 1500 Cortina, most of the rest of the class had Mini’s, Escorts etc. One lad was a bit of a rich kid…he had a brand new Tickford Capri…it was cool at the time. He progressed to a 944 if memory serves, I got a 1976 Granada…

  16. The more I look at the Tickford Capri, the more I think it could be the bridge between a modern recreation and the classic, providing that hook for the oversized bumpers and plastics apparently needed on a modern car.

  17. Easy to forget how long ago all this was & how out of context they seem now! There were some pretty questionable things being flogged at the time & this sits level pegging with most! Have owned several 2.8 capris & xr sierras & have to say that stock styling wins for me every time but beauty is in the eye of the beholder….some very interesting engineering went into the conversion which seems to be generally overlooked. Wasn’t the bloke who designed the body kit also responsible for the KAT kits? Sure there was some mention of legal action at the time.

    Amazing to think that the Cortina was still in runout when this was going on!

    Excellent stuff – i’ll have mine without the body kit though!

  18. Its quite a thought to think that Classic Car Magazine has one of these for sale in Canada for £80,000 in the classifieds!

  19. The ultimate Capri. Having owned two of these fine vehicles, and still own build no. 25, I can honestly say that Tickford Capri is the finest most luxurious production Capri made. They look fantastic, both inside and out. The body kit is tightly fitted and really gives the car a sense of purpose. It also improves drag considerably. At 0-60mph in 6.4 seconds, top speed of 140mph it was considerably quicker than the stock 2.8i Capri, and the Sierra Cosworth in certain bands. This was an extensively modified Capri, not just a fast Capri with a bodykit. Attention to detail is evident everywhere. If anything the car is too much Aston Martin, and not enough Ford, which is why it failed to reach original production estimates. However, this is what makes it a true collectors car. They are worth circa £25,000 for a concours example. Not bad! Before you mock it, try it, if you’re ever lucky enough to have the chance, as there are less than 50 left on the roads, possibly nearer 40.

  20. Have to say I agree about the styling being a product of its time. I was lucky enough to own two turbo technics 230bhp conversions. The first was the best car I ever owned, so tight and the power was incredible. The second was on an E plate and tbh was a dog. I actually had the chance to buy a tickford from a BMW dealer in Warwick in the mid 90s. It was British racing green and around 7 grand. I later read an article (fast ford I think) about that very motor saying it was probably the best conversion that tickford ever did as it had been completely rebuilt by them as opposed to being a donor car sent over by Ford. Probably worth a fortune now but I really did not like the colour. BRG was not for Capri’s!! I agree about the Tickford being a modified vehicle too. A lot of work had gone in under the skin whereas my TT capri’s were pretty much off the shelf conversions. I did one for my brother some years ago and it worked out well. Given the choice it would have to be the Swaymar turbo for me. Spoke to Stuart Speed who owned that car amongst a lot of other exotica and he said it was the fastest car he had ever owned!!. Frightening car for the era and who needs a walnut dash when you are kicking the backside out of pretty much everything on the road; even today. Keep talking guys

  21. I enjoyed looking through this, but bear in mind that this was over 30 years ago. The Capri was by then unloved, on run out and past its sell by date. The Tickford was done on little budget and under duress by the Aston Martin designers and engineers that worked on it in a very short space of time as a quick ‘look see’. It and subsequent Turbo Technics, Kat and other conversions went like stink, for the time, and offered amazing bang for your buck and then looked pretty cool – this was the 80’s remember. take a glance at your current pride and joy and remember to look at it in 30 years time. The Capri has a place in history and the conversions were of their times. You’ll see their legacy in cars that followed, so don’t be too hard on the old thing.

    • Could not agree more with SteveV. I read a stat around the mid 80s which postulated that (at that time) most people over the age of 25 had either owned, driven or been a passenger in a Capri!!! It was always a car that polarised opinion. To a certain extent I have lost my passion for cars but even today when I see a well looked after Capri I am transported back to what for me were happier, less frenetic days. As for the conversions I think the Capri was always onto a loser as no matter how well done they were (Aston Martin Tickford for goodness sake!) the detractors would always come out with “Yeah but its still just a Capri”. We are all a product of our respective time guys and I am glad the Capri was a part of mine.

  22. The only Capri to have is either in gold or metallic silver and be a 3000S and owned by an organisation called CI5 . This is my Capri of choice in commonn with most schoolboys of this era. Failing that, a metallic red Granada Ghia 2.8 injection with a phone in the back.

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