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Ford Capri: The European Classic That Made Itself

The content of the following paragraphs will be evident to those who have already reached out to the world Ford Capri previously. The extensive bibliography on this Ford model, as well as the first book published in Spanish dedicated to this now classic sports car -"Capri, ce n'est pas fini", of Personal Edition, and from whose extract this article is derived-, is already known by fans and fans of this vehicle.

However, the text offered here wants to make known, especially to those who lack references regarding the Ford Capri, the main data of its development, key pieces to be able to encompass it in an era in which more attractive lines prevailed than consumption, powerful engines compared to precarious stabilities and scarce brakes.

And of course, it pretends to be a first contact so that those who have never approached this classic that has made, on its own merits, a hole in the history of motorsports: By its birth, by its permanent struggle with its North American predecessor (Mustang), For its particular development and evolution, and for countless other reasons, the Ford Capri is worth taking a closer look at. I am sure that he has never left anyone indifferent and that, as time goes by, he will continue to win the admiration of those who, until now, did not know him well.

Capris MkIII and MkI in Chinchón, Madrid
A Capri MkIII (on the left) and a MkI in the Madrid town of Chinchón (By Alberto Ferreras)

Ford Capri projects and development

In late 1964 Ford USA, after the overwhelming success of the mustang, Launched in April of that same year in the United States (around 100.000 were sold in the first four months), it began to develop the idea of ​​a vehicle for the European market, based on the same concepts: irresistible style, flexibility almost infinite in options and a very low price. Taking the mechanical and structural basis of the Cortinas, the first premise of the marketing department was as simple as it was evident: to create a vehicle "Extremely pretty."

The Ford Capri, offered four years later to the British public as «The car you always promised yourself» (in Spanish dealers it appeared as "The car you've always wanted"), it would thus become the European version of the American Mustang. This comparison was denied by Ford during the studies of the project, although the company's own personnel frequently referred to the car making that similarity. The paradox is confirmed when, when reviewing the first sketches of style, they appear coded as "Colt" (colt), a name that made the future Ford Capri a true "son" of the Mustang (wild horse).

The Colt project It would continue its journey until in 1966, just two years after its launch, it began to show a scale model in London, Milan and Cologne, to begin to know the opinion of the public regarding the vehicle. The result is more than satisfactory, and there is only one negative comment that is repeated in many of the opinions reflected: "the rear seats give a feeling of overwhelm."

One of the first 1/1 scale models of the Capri and the final body of the MkI. Note the difference in the rear windows (Photos: FoMoCo)
One of the first 1/1 scale models of the Capri and the final body of the MkI.
Note the difference in the rear windows (Photos: FoMoCo)

After completing the study office of Ford in Great Britain, directed by John Hitchman, urgent final modifications of the bodywork, mainly in the aforementioned rear seat windows to adopt the classic curve in the shape of a C or D - depending on which side you look at it - everything seemed to be definitely prepared for the launch of the new Ford Colt. But a last-minute search of the records prior to the registration of the model found that the name had already been used by Mitsubishi on a car launched in 1963 (in fact, the current version of the model is still sold today under the same designation. ).

Finding a new name became the top priority, but always bearing in mind the following premise: having been used before by Ford in a sports vehicle with sufficient relevance and, as I could read in a recently published text, that it maintained the intention of "Baptize the new car with a designation associated with a robust and powerful animal, and the small Italian island of Capri owes its name to the male goats that have inhabited it since ancient times." Romanticism, legends or speculation of one kind or another, the truth is that, in November 1967, the name of the vehicle that was the coupe version of the Classic in 1962 was taken up again, and the new Ford sports car was definitively announced as "Capri". .

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Birth and evolution of the Capri

The production of the Ford Capri started at Ford's plant in Halewood, UK, in November 1968, and later in Cologne, Germany. Before being officially exhibited, a unit was shown in Cyprus to the motor press on the condition not to publish anything about it until it was time for its final presentation. Days later, on January 24, 1969, it made its first public appearance at the Brussels Motor Show, where it was kept hidden under a large white cover. The ceremony was presided over by King Baudouin I of Belgium. That same day the press described the “newborn” Capri as “the car of his wildest dreams”. A day later, the magazine «Autocar» practically offered a monograph referring to the vehicle. The print run was sold out after a few hours.

Actually, his outward appearance was attractive and little seen, which soon brought together a high number of followers. This, together with the repeated comparison with the Mustang from which, as is known, inherited the "fastback" line, it ended up becoming another representative of the 2 + 2 "ponycar" concept for the general public, as it was built in different versions, from the quiet 1300s to the sporty RS 2600s of the MkI series. In fact, the key to its initial success was none other than the wide range of options offered to potential follower customers of this automotive segment.

Up to a total of 98 options could be included in the purchased vehicle (12 body variants combined with 11 engines, although some were not offered on standard models). It was the idea used in the Mustang since its inception: versatility and simplicity to accommodate a wide range of engines and finishes, starting from a base model. On the Capri it worked too. All had coupe bodywork, Mcpherson front suspension and rear leaf springs attached to a rigid axle (the key to the car's characteristic behavior in fast driving, especially in curves), rack steering and front disc and rear drum brakes - always rare. .

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The independent trunk is one of the hallmarks of the MkI (Photo: FoMoCo)
Capri MkI, "ponycar" to the European. Its success would be sensational (Photo: FoMoCo)

First series: Ford Capri MkI

The first series, named MkI (1969-1974), It mounted a range of engines that ranged from a 1298 hp, 61cc, in-line four-cylinder with Kent-type overhead valves to a 6cc, 2994 hp V150 that gave the 3000 GT a top speed of 190 km / h. The today valued RS 2600 model, manufactured in Germany especially for competition homologation, ended up with engines of up to 3.4 liters and 400 hp destined for Group 2 (one of those vehicles, belonging to the official CS team that ran several championships between the years 71 at 73 with Álex Soler-Roig at the wheel, it is still preserved in Spain). It would be the RS 3100, punished since its appearance by the oil crisis, which would definitely contribute to its short-lived existence, which would put an end to this first stage, of which was sold 1.200.000 copies, record figure for a sports car of these characteristics.

During the first three years of production of the MkI there were practically no external modifications, since one of the keys to the sales success was based on its attractive line. However, the novelties arrived in September 1972, and the changes were so numerous (151 in total) that the vehicles that included them are considered as intermediate between the first two series and are unofficially called "MkI 1/2". In fact, these changes, especially interior and mechanical, remained in force in the Capri II and even in the last MkIII.

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Alberto Ferreras

Written by Alberto Ferreras

Alberto Ferreras (Madrid, 1968) developed his professional career in the newspaper El País since 1988, where he worked as a graphic editor and editor of the supplement Engine until January 2011. Graduated in Photography, he was a finalist for the Ortega y Gasset Award of ... View all

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