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