CAPRI RS2600 RALLY CAR
Ex-Walter Röhrl Mk1 saved from the grave by his former co-driver.
The story of this Capri begins back in the early ’70s when the Kleint tuning company in Hamburg, Germany, run by Erni Kleint, produced a number of Capris to take part in European rallying under a semi-works agreement — much like the one that Ford UK would have great success with in later years when Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport operation ran the World Rally Team.
For the 1972 Olympia Rally (to celebrate the Munich Olympics that year), Kleint built two RS2600 Capris to 230 bhp spec and it was one of these two cars registered HH RD 250 that would introduce a rally legend to the world. Behind the wheel of this RS a young Walter Röhrl would show the potential that would later make him a double world rally championship winner.
To the great surprise of the crowds and the press, the 24-year old skier-turned rally driver worked his way to the head of the timing sheets and led the Olympic for many miles… until
an engine failure put an end to his challenge with just three stages to go.
Spectating on the event as Röhrl took on the stars of the time, such as Rauno Aaltonen and Hannu Mikkola was another young rally fan, Christian Geistdörfer. Little did Christian know, at the time, but within five years he would become Walter’s co-driver as the pair became a dominant force in world rallying, and, 40 years later he would get the chance to own the very Capri that was blasting the opposition apart in front of his eyes.
Missing in action
“It started with a phone call from Jochi Kleint, Erni’s brother and a well-known name in German rallying,” Christian says. “For many years, the Kleint Capris were thought to have disappeared, with various stories of engine fires, crashes and other fates becoming them.”
“There were rumours, however that one of the cars had been sold on and turned in to a road car, though its whereabouts for many decades was a mystery. That phone call led to Jochi inspecting an RS Capri in a barn, that had a non-standard engine and an auto gearbox… and a lot of rust,” Christian continues, “but it also had all the body modifications such as an exhaust tunnel, repositioned fuel filler and all of the strengthening additions that Kleint had built in to its cars. A check of the chassis number, and, most telling of all, the presence of some old numberplates with the registration HH RD 250 all added up to the unbelievable discovery that Jochi was looking at Walter Röhrl’s long-lost Capri!”
Jochi, himself, did not have the time to take on the massive amount of work that would be involved in bringing the very poor condition Capri back to life, but he knew a man who, perhaps could… that would be Christian.
“So, I bought the Capri,” Christian says, “but it wasn’t until it was back in the workshop and inspected that the full nightmare of how much work would be involved was revealed. The shell was like Swiss Emmental cheese and you couldn’t believe where the rust had got in to. Behind the dashboard, the metal was like paper and crumbled
away. But by using old photographs of the car and drawings that Jochi still had of when Kleint modified the car, the body was slowly brought back to solid over the next three years by Christian Torst, who is an expert with old Ford competition cars, especially Escorts.
“A lucky find was a patch of metal inside that still had the original blue and yellow paint covering it,” Christian adds, “and this was given to a paint specialist to match up perfectly the original shades for the respray that followed the mammoth metalwork job.”
As well as reconstructing the body, Christian also had to find and source many of the parts for the recreation, most of which had long gone when the RS was turned in to a road car. And such things as an RS 2.6-litre V6 engine, a five-speed ZF gearbox, and all the rally equipment aren’t items that can be picked up off the shelf.
“Even when the parts were found and bought,” Christian says, “fitting them to a modified shell took two or three attempts, with extra fabrication often needed. Bilstein came to the rescue with rebuilding the suspension and springs, while the Girling braking system was completely rebuilt using the correct callipers and new lines.
“One of the hardest parts to find were the tyres,” he notes, “as 235/60R13 inch is a very unusual size today. We eventually found some made by Blockley Classic Tyres.”
Inside the dash was nearly complete and has a well-worn patina to it with a period Speedpilot timer and Halda Tripmaster back in place. The centre console with its fuses and switches was reproduced using old pictures to help and the seats are replicas of the unsalvageable originals with in-date harnesses for safety. The original roll cage was still present and this has been retained after a clean and repaint.
“The most expensive part of the build was the engine, of course,” Christian says, “but this had to be correct, so we trusted the work to a company called Eichberg, which has been building and tuning classic Ford engines since the ’70s. It is an exact copy of the carburettor’d V6 that powered the RS back in 1972 and with 230 bhp, the power is all there to be used again.”
Since the resurrection of HH RD 250 has been completed, Christian has been busy showing the car at various events and hopes to use it in the future, perhaps as a zero-car on some historic rallies. “Jochi, Walter and I had a great day at the Automotorsport Show recently,” he says, “where Walter got a chance to drive the Capri again on what was the first stage of the Olympic Rally all those years ago. His verdict was that driving the car was ‘like a time journey’, even down to the incredible noise the gearbox makes!”
“THE ENGINE IS AN EXACT COPY OF THE V6 THAT POWERED THE RS IN 1972. WITH 230 BHP THE POWER’S THERE TO BE USED”
Christian’s patience in hunting down the right parts means the Capri’s interior is equipped just as it should be.
Eichberg built the 2.6 Cologne — complete with triple DCNF carbs.
Right: it’s been a mission but Christian’s happy the RS is back on the scene again. The RS Capri with Walter Röhrl at the wheel in 1972.
Baby Atlas has been rebuilt, with the correct ZF LSD.
Retro-style bucket seats more than look the part.
With the rally clocks back in place, this Capri is ready to compete again.