HILL­CLIMB MK1 CAPRI

As with all the best sto­ries, this one be­gins with a Mk2 Es­cort and ends with Scotch. But per­haps not in the man­ner in which you may ex­pect.

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS -

Zetec-pow­ered and trick-sus­pended Capri dis­tilled for the hills and by­ways of Blighty and be­yond.

At the age of 16, Andy Bower bought him­self a Mk2 Es­cort; a ’79 two-door in which he learnt to drive, paint, weld, swap en­gines, mod­ify and customise, and it laid down the path to­ward him be­com­ing an en­gi­neer.

Andy and his Es­cort were in­sep­a­ra­ble — it served for harsh win­ter com­mutes, pan-Euro­pean road trips and count­less track days; it kissed the Armco at the Nür­bur­gring, earned 40,000 miles in his ten­ure, and re­ceived a few miles of weld­ing wire over their 11 years to­gether. And then, at the 2009 Retro Rides Gath­er­ing, the car rolled on track and it was all over. Which came as a bit of a sur­prise.

Andy, how­ever, is a prac­ti­cal man. “I bought a kit car chas­sis and was go­ing to sus­pend the Es­cort shell over it,” he re­calls. “Then I bought a very rough Mk2 Es­cort es­tate and planned a low long-roof us­ing the Zetec run­ning gear… then one day in 2011, Lauren — my part­ner in silly car-buy­ing es­capades and now also my wife — con­vinced me that a Capri would be much cooler. I was still an Es­cort fan through-and-through, but the pre-facelift Mk1s were go­ing up in my de­sires. Plus maybe the longer wheel­base wouldn’t be a bad idea, given how the Es­cort met its demise…”

In­ter­est­ing project

And so with the de­ci­sion ef­fec­tively made, Lauren pre­sented a Mk1 race Capri she’d hap­pened across on­line, which Andy best de­scribes as ‘in­ter­est­ing’. It ticked a few boxes — roll cage, Wil­woods, ex­tin­guisher sys­tem, slicks — but was a long way from pre­sentable.

“It looked like it’d been painted by Ste­vie Won­der, when he was late for an im­por­tant date,” Andy laughs. “But it was a bar­gain even if it was rot­ten, so I went for it. First im­pres­sions on buy­ing it were pretty good; it even had a scru­ti­neer­ing sticker from Don­ing­ton Park in the win­dow — proper race car!”

Maybe so, but there are race cars and there are race cars. Once Andy be­gan to wrap his mighty en­gi­neer­ing brain around his new ac­qui­si­tion, it be­came ev­i­dent that some­body had been pa­per­ing over a few cracks.

“The body was weak around the cage mounts, and the re­in­force­ment plates weren’t fit­ted cor­rectly,” he re­calls with a gri­mace. “The in­sides of the doors had been cut out us­ing a hacksaw blade, rather than a hacksaw — they were like a box of knives. And as for the front of the chas­sis rails, they were about as strong as a damp pa­per doily! I was later con­tacted by a guy who’d been at the car’s only race meet, and ap­par­ently it man­aged about a lap in prac­tice and half a lap in the race be­fore over­heat­ing. The scru­ti­neers were clearly in a good mood the day it got passed as race fit.” Still, the in­ten­tion was never to buy a turnkey racer. What Andy had, while frilly and ques­tion­able, was cer­tainly a de­cent start.

At this stage, the York­shire­man in him came to the fore. He sold off all the de­cent parts that he didn’t need, to­talling around £1500, and ended up with the car ow­ing him mi­nus £100. Can’t re­ally ar­gue with that, can you? And with that mojo boost, it was on with the build!

Solid base

Well, not quite. He had to cre­ate a place in which to build it first. Never easy, is it? “The barn I had space in at the time was re­ally an old cow shed — there are moun­tain sides which are flat­ter,” Andy grins. “I ended up putting down 32 posts into the ground and build­ing a sus­pended floor on top — a build ta­ble, if you will. I could then start to strip the car down and get on with weld­ing it up — and to be hon­est, it wasn’t bad. It’d ob­vi­ously had some love many moons ago, and had some very neatly welded-in pan­els. Things didn’t get dif­fi­cult un­til I started on the sus­pen­sion…”

“THE CAPRI HAD BEEN PAINTED BADLY, BUT IT WAS A BAR­GAIN EVEN IF IT WAS ROT­TEN SO I WENT FOR IT!”

This is an area wor­thy of your time, and we’ve de­tailed the think­ing be­hind it in the box­out for you. Suf­fice it to say, it’s sim­i­lar to Mk2 Es­cort Group 4 spec, and at the same time it’s a tril­lion miles away in an­other uni­verse. The gen­eral lay­out is Es­cort-based, but ev­ery el­e­ment had to be ei­ther ex­ten­sively mod­i­fied or cus­tom-fab­ri­cated. In essence, you’re un­likely to come across a Mk1 Capri with a more con­sid­ered and fas­tid­i­ously-en­gi­neered chas­sis.

“Once the sus­pen­sion was done, it was fairly easy to get the car to­gether for a shake­down build,” says Andy. “I threw it to­gether and we painted it in red ox­ide the day be­fore RRG 2014. It made it, ran up the hill re­li­ably, and even han­dled pretty well straight out of the box — miles bet­ter than the Es­cort ever did. Then it went back into the shed…” Why? Oh, they’d bought a house to do up. As if they weren’t busy enough.

Dur­ing this in­ter­lude, Andy and Lauren set their minds to choos­ing a colour scheme for the Capri. And one evening, whilst dis­cussing his en­thu­si­asm for old Jäger­meis­ter liv­er­ies while en­joy­ing a glass of Bruich­lad­dich whisky, the two things got sort of mud­dled, and the idea to paint the car like the bot­tle that was sit­ting on the ta­ble was born.

“I floated the idea on the Retro Rides forum, and the re­sponse was amaz­ing — user, Jayvoa cre­ated a spec­tac­u­lar Pho­to­shop of how it’d

“THE FI­NAL CHAPTER IN THE STORY WAS TAK­ING THE CAPRI ALL THE WAY UP TO IS­LAY WHERE THE DIS­TILLERY IS”

look, which sealed the deal,” Andy grins. “I’d prob­a­bly never have gone through with it un­til I saw that im­age. And Lauren, be­ing a mar­keter and good with words, con­tacted the dis­tillery and sent them the Pho­to­shop — and they loved the idea! Within days I had all their logos sent to me, and even a fresh bot­tle of Lad­die Clas­sic, ‘to get the right colour from’. Well, you have to do these things prop­erly, af­ter all.”

Andy’s at pains to point out that the car isn’t of­fi­cially spon­sored by Bruich­lad­dich, of course. No, think of this more as an homage, a unique side­step from main­stream vin­tage liv­er­ies.

See­ing red

The colour was handed to a paint sup­plier to cre­ate a per­fect match, while Andy and Lauren set about strip­ping off the harsh red ox­ide — some­thing that, er, they’d rather not talk about. Hor­ri­ble job, that. But af­ter three days and two ma­chine pol­ish­ers, the shell was prepped, the car was painted, and the vinyl-cut­ter was fired up to cre­ate the cus­tom logos. The fin­ished prod­uct is pretty sen­sa­tional, isn’t it?

“The fi­nal chapter in the story was tak­ing the car all the way up to the is­land of Is­lay where the dis­tillery is,” Andy beams. “The guys were fan­tas­tic, we had the car parked up in their court­yard for the whole week and they even ar­ranged a spe­cial bot­tle for me to com­mem­o­rate the car.”

And if you think that all sounds charmed, it wasn’t quite the fi­nal chapter. The next step for Andy was to get a job at As­ton Martin, where his col­leagues soon found out about the car and con­vinced him to start com­pet­i­tively hill­climb­ing with them. But that’s an­other tale for an­other dram…

Words Daniel Be­vis Pho­tos Matt Woods

Com­pe­ti­tion-spec in­te­rior is a mix of styles. De­spite the lack of com­forts, Andy and Lauren have driven it all over the UK.

NASCAR-style Cir­cle Rac­ing rims sub­tle and dif­fer­ent.

Cus­tom dash pod con­tains the bare es­sen­tials.

Switchgear re­lo­cated.

Blue/white looks great.

Bruich­lad­dich whisky in­spired the dis­tinc­tive liv­ery. Andy: As­ton Martin en­gi­neer in the week, Capri driver at week­ends.

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