Concept and prototypes : Ford Capri (1966-1968)

The Ford Capri Mk1 underwent a remarkably short development programme, as these images clearly show. However, more than that, the company knew what it wanted from the final product – and stuck to its guns throughout development 

Here is a set of images that charts the Colt programme from styling sketch to production reality.

Words and pictures: Andrew Elphick

Ford Capri Mk1: Styling sketches

Sketches from 1964 had a distinctively American feel about them.
Sketches from 1964 had a distinctively American feel about them
Early sketches had a transalantic feel, oddly echoing the work going on over at GM on the new Mustang rivals - the Firebird and Camaro. One even has shades of the front driven Oldsmobile Toronado.
Early sketches had a transalantic feel, oddly echoing the work going on over at GM on the new Mustang rivals – the Firebird and Camaro. One even has shades of the front-driven Oldsmobile Toronado
Here we see the shift from GM F-body wannabe to what we know as Capri. The kicked up quarterlights are still present, but the grille (which would influence the new compact Escort) is still in design hell stage; maybe there was a Corvair in Dunton at the time?
Here we see the shift from GM F-body wannabe to what we know as Capri. The kicked up quarterlights are still present, but the grille (which would influence the new compact Escort) is still in design hell stage; maybe there was a Corvair in Dunton at the time?

Final sketches to scale models

The notchback was easily rejected; the coupe style became the definitive article.
The notchback was easily rejected; the coupe style became the definitive article
Ford Capri prototypes
…but not before making it into scale model form

Ford Capri prototypes
Looking more akin to the finished article – note the date of July 1965, nearly four years before launch

Honing the Capri

Miniature model in the windtunnel.
Miniature model in the wind tunnel
Ford Capri prototypes
With the design chosen and refined, it’s time to build the full-scale clay model

Nearing production

April 1966, and it would seem that the Capri's design is now finalised – aside from the rear-side window profile.
April 1966, and it would seem that the Capri’s design is now finalised – aside from the rear-side window profile
It's still there! On this yumping pre-production Capri, the quarterlight still has its kick and not the production curved item? Did a visiting member of the board stamp their feet and demand the change at the eleventh hour?
It’s still there! On this yumping pre-production Capri, the quarterlight still has its kick and not the production curved item. Did a visiting member of the Board stamp their feet and demand the change at the eleventh hour?
Ford Capri Final testing...
Final testing…

34 Comments

  1. I have in my loft orginal pictures of the many clay model varients of the mk1 capri
    the final 3 designs
    Interestingly no one is interested in them

  2. It is fascinating that the 1965 mockups were so much better looking than the eventual mark 1 product, which frankly was awful compared with the later Capris

    • Don’t know if many would agree with you there. I’m not what you’d call a Ford man but I’ve always thought styling was their real strong point, in the 60s and 70s at least. They really knew how to make a desirable car and people certainly bought them.

  3. Although the final MKIII Capri is considered to be the best, the MK1 & II were a good starting point. Indeed when the first Capri launched in ’69 it looked futuristic compared to other makes – and competitors didn’t have an equivalent rival product at the time / and in the price band.

    My Dad nearly bought a Capri 3000E (I think) but ended up buying a Mazda RX4 coupe in 1973

  4. Ford’s selling point in the seventies was the styling of their cars. Mechanically the cars were conservative and smaller versions of the Capri and Granada didn’t perform as well as they looked, but they looked good and someone in a Capri 1600 L could imagine he was driving a 3000 S. Certainly after the failure of the 1966 Zephyr, Ford never made another mistake with the styling of their cars.

      • @ KC, I was referring more to the period from the late sixties to the early eighties, but Ford did drop the ball a few times. Remember the lukewarm reception the Sierra had in 1982, although sales did pick up when buyers got used to the styling, but the real flop was the 1990 Escort. This looked completely drab, inherited the dated and noisy engines from the Mark 3, and sales fell away until Ford tried to rework the car.

    • I’ll go along with that. The smaller engine Capri’s were very much “sheep in wolfs clothing” but the sporty looks helped get over that. The trim level of a 1.6 XL or GL offered reasonable internal features too.

      Turning to the 1990 Escort. This car was facelifted at least twice. I had a ’91 1.4 LX company car which had a sunroof / rear spoiler and 2 tone paint etc to make it look more enticing. Despite its shortcomings it lasted up to 106K miles under my care.

      • One thing most people will agree on, all three versions of the Capri were good looking cars and the Mark 2, with its hatchback, was the first Ford to feature a hatch and gave the car a huge amount of luggage space. One Mark 2, I do remember was a special edition in black and gold with gold velour seats and an uprated 1.6 engine that gave it 100 mph performance.

        • I remember being on a family holiday in Scarborough, 1975 I think, and walking past a small town centre Ford dealership every day en route to the beach. They had one of those JPS tribute Capris outside for the fortnight we were there. I admired it greatly.

          • @ standhill, cheers, I knew the name had something to do with a tobacco company, just couldn’t remember which one. It was a nice looking car with a decent hike in performance and an excellent colour scheme
            Also another thing Ford excelled at, the special edition. Get something like a Mark 2 Escort 1.3L, add a radio, velour seats and metallic paint and charge the same as the L, and the buyers turned up in large numbers.

    • I was a big fan of the Mark 2, a good looking car that looked excellent in metallic gold with a black vinyl roof. My dad had an 8 year old 1.3 GL in this style when he had to find a cheap car when he was retired early and it served us well for a year and all it needed was a respray on one of the wings and a new radio( one courtesy of a scrapped Cortina for a pound).

      • I always thought the mk2 was not as crisp as the mk3. My teacher ar school had a 3.0 ghia in silver which looked good but the basic models didn’t look as good. My uncle had a 1.6 gl but it still looked good, a bit like the mk1, and didn’t look like a cheaper version.

        • Mix up here, I was talking about the Mark 2 Escort of the 1.3 variety, not the Capri. However, all Fords from the seventies were quite stylish and helped them to sell.

          • @Glenn… Right, I follow you now. In hindsight I don’t think the Capri MKII in GL trim was available as a 1.3 litre anyway.

            Turning to MKII Escorts, a friend had a Ghia which was quite luxurious on the inside and looked good with the square headlamps.

      • Like all Fords, there was a Capri to suit most budgets. One of my ex colleagues had a MKII 1.6 XL in light green metallic with black roof. With the rear seat down it was a useful load carrier as well as looking sporty. My favourite was the 1.6 GL or 2.0 Ghia, with alloys. Still love seeing the Capri 3000S in “The Professionals”

      • Back in the late eighties I ran a mk2 Escort 1.6 Ghia. On a number of occasions, after a late shift, I gave a lift to a fellow student nurse who lived nearby. On each occasion she would compliment me on how nice the interior ambience of the car was. Mind you, she and her husband had a Lada estate so I suppose the bar was set on the low side.

  5. I remember the black & gold striped Capri MK II well. It was rolled out during the hey day of the John Player Special F1 Racing team. Yes – an aspirational car. I have a photo of one in a car book.

    Indeed Ford were masters of limited edition cars especially at run out time. eg the Capri Carousel and Cabaret

  6. Ford really were the place to go for company car buyers and private buyers who wanted a British badged car without the baggage or condescension you’d have if you bought a British Leyland car in the late seventies. Sticking wood and velour in a run of a mill car like a 1.3 Escort made the buyer feel special, like he was in a far more expensive car, and then there were special editions where an L badged Ford would get some luxuries like a radio and tinted glass and a name like Firefly, but priced the same as an L specified Ford.
    Reliability wise, I’d rate Ford as middle of the road for the time, with starting in cold weather being an issue on some cars, and also it depended where the car was made, with German Fords being more reliable than British cars. However, if a Ford did go wrong, it was simple and cheap to fix.

    • By the mid 80s the Cologne and Saarloius built cars were no better built as Dagenham had started to match the quality they were putting out

  7. Another nice Ford of the past was the Escort MK1 1300E. It came with metallic paint, vinyl roof, wood trimmed dash & door cappings, fabric seats and sports wheels (rev counter too I think). I guess it was the fore runner of the MKII Ghia.

    • Remember a very nice 1300E in metallic purple that belonged to a workmate of my Dad. I wanted it for my own.

  8. One Ford from the 80s-90s I always liked was the Orion Mk2 (Escort with a boot). The basic trim was boring, but the top end Ghia or 1600E versions looked classy.

  9. The Mk. 1 & 2’s were sold in the USA under the Mercury brand to give them a ‘sporty’ alternative to the Mercury version of the Mustang, the Cougar. They actually sold in ok numbers and gained sails in the 1973 oil crises. By the late 70’s, the euro imports were dropped and the Capri name put on Mercury’s version of the Mustang. The Capri name was also used as a model name for Ford’s luxury brand Lincoln in the 1950’s.

    • Ford dropped the Capri due to the poor exchange rate which hit BL and many other Euro brands at this time. The original Cougar was a slightly longer wheelbase version of the mustang, with the same sporting bent but in a higher price bracket. In 1970 it was joined by the Capri as a sporting compact (love American parlance) and was like nothing else Ford offered in its range in the US. All imports came from Germany, and was the first Ford branded car with a v6 engine stateside. During its run it was never marketed as a Mercury, just as as a marqueless Capri, or for the second generation Capri II.

      In 1974, the Cougar name was shifted to the a Torino, Elite, Montego based car and was now a personal car, not a muscle car, leaving no Mercury entry into this market. The Capri II was stopped being manufactured in 1977, with left over stock being sold well into 1978. However it was at the time the second best selling import into the US after the VW Beetle. The name Capri was then reused when Mercury launched a version of the Fox based Mustang, as Cougar was still used as a personal car name.

      • While the Capri never gained Mercury badges they were sold though Mercury dealers.

        Years earlier the Vauxhall Victor FA were sold at Oldsmobile showrooms but differently badged.

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