MER­CURY CAPRI V8

Over-pow­ered, and over there.

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS - Vik­tor Benyi Pho­tos Dan Furr Words

Read­ers of a cer­tain vin­tage will re­mem­ber the 1973 oil cri­sis. Mem­bers of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Arab Pe­tro­leum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries (OPEC) pro­claimed an oil em­bargo tar­geted at na­tions per­ceived to be sup­port­ing Is­rael dur­ing the Yom Kip­pur War. Canada, Ja­pan, the Nether­lands, the United King­dom and North Amer­ica were the pri­mary tar­gets of OPEC’s ac­tion, which was later aimed at Por­tu­gal, Rhode­sia and South Africa. When del­i­cate ne­go­ti­a­tions saw the end of sanc­tions in March 1974, the price of oil had in­creased to six times its pre-em­bargo value. Yikes!

While all af­fected coun­tries felt the pinch, the USA was hit harder than most, not least of all due to the wide­spread pop­u­lar­ity of gas-guz­zlin’ V8s in the land of Un­cle Sam. “I re­mem­ber my fa­ther de­cid­ing to part with his 1966 Dodge Charger due to how ex­pen­sive it had be­come to keep on the road,” re­calls re­tired mil­i­tary man, Blane Evans. “He wanted a fast­back coupe with low run­ning costs, and the 2-litre Capri fit­ted the bill per­fectly.”

From 1970 through to 1978, the Capri was im­ported to North Amer­ica di­rect from Ger­many un­der the Mer­cury brand (see box­out). State­side road safety leg­is­la­tion de­manded chunky im­pact bumpers, in­di­ca­tor lamps in­te­grated into the front grille and side-mounted lights fit­ted to the front wings and rear quar­ter pan­els. RS3100-style quad head­lights were also a dis­tinc­tive fea­ture of the

“MY DAD WANTED A FAST­BACK COUPE WITH LOW RUN­NING COSTS, AND THE CAPRI FIT­TED THE BILL PER­FECTLY”

im­ported Blue Oval, a model shipped with the 1.6-litre Kent lump be­fore an op­tional 2-litre unit (as fit­ted to Blane’s fa­ther’s Capri) was of­fered, a pow­er­plant which be­came the stan­dard en­gine at the time of the 2.6-litre Cologne V6’s ar­rival on Amer­i­can shores. Later, the 2.3-litre in­line-four and 2.8-litre V6 were of­fered, but a se­cond global oil cri­sis in 1979 – an event trig­gered by mas­sively re­duced oil pro­duc­tion in the wake of the Ira­nian Rev­o­lu­tion – saw Ford stop im­port­ing the Capri to Amer­ica. In­stead, fac­tory bosses in Detroit con­cen­trated their ef­forts on re-imag­in­ing the model as an up­dated ver­sion of the con­tem­po­rary Mustang. Bah!

Blane and his brother, Skip, loved the Euro­pean-styling of the Ford their fa­ther bought. “It wasn’t the most pow­er­ful car in the world, but it was a lot of fun and an un­usual sight on Amer­i­can roads. The ex­am­ple I’m in pos­ses­sion of to­day, first came to my at­ten­tion in Los An­ge­les more than 20 years ago,” he tells us. “I was at­tend­ing a fam­ily func­tion when I spot­ted a 1974 Capri sit­ting on a drive­way op­po­site the house I was vis­it­ing. I knocked on the owner’s door and asked if he’d like to sell the car, which at that point was fin­ished in an un­ap­petis­ing shade of brown. To my sur­prise, the guy obliged. $500 later, I was the clas­sic Ford’s new owner!”

The Capri was driven back to Blane’s home in San Diego, but he quickly re­alised the nu­mer­ous Bronco-based builds he was work­ing on wouldn’t per­mit the time or space the new ar­rival re­quired for the am­bi­tious V8 con­ver­sion he had in mind. “I of­fered my pur­chase to Skip. He drove it for a cou­ple of years be­fore mi­nor me­chan­i­cal faults en­cour­aged him to re­tire the car from the road. He fully in­tended to carry out the re­quired work, but life got in the way, lead­ing to the Capri re­main­ing mo­tion­less for the next 18 years,” he con­firms.

Tak­ing over

As time rolled by, Blane found him­self itch­ing to take on the Capri. “Ev­ery now and again, I would ask Skip if he wanted to part with the car. To my de­light, he even­tu­ally agreed. Within a week of ar­riv­ing back in San Diego, it was stripped to a bare shell and was be­ing read­ied for a new lease of life as a street-le­gal track weapon with specification in­spired by the fa­mous Mustang V8-en­gined Per­ana Capris built by South African Ford tun­ing leg­end, Basil Green.”

To that end, a stroked 5-litre V8 was built and fit­ted along with a mod­i­fied T5 gear­box and a nar­rowed Ex­plorer rear driv­e­train set-up. Keep­ing the clas­sic Ford on the straight and nar­row (lit­er­ally) is a set of coil-overs paired with Eibach springs, a Team Blitz ad­justable anti-roll bar, poly­bushes and sticky Hankook Ven­tus black cir­cles wrapped around stag­gered Vin­tage Wheel Works 15s.

The car’s most ob­vi­ous change con­cerns its for­merly brown body­work. Now coated in a cus­tom shade of orange based on a tint from the Dodge colour cat­a­logue, the awe-in­spir­ing fin­ish is en­hanced by the pres­ence of black side stripes with sil­ver key­lines and be­spoke steel bub­ble arches which pro­mote an in­creased track width. There’s an NRG In­no­va­tions sun strip too, a fea­ture which hints at how Blane’s fruity Ford found it­self on dis­play at the Spe­cialty Equip­ment Mar­ket As­so­ci­a­tion (SEMA) Show held at the Las Ve­gas Con­ven­tion Cen­tre a few months ago.

“One of my neigh­bours is a Subaru nut with a crazy fast Im­preza,” he con­tin­ues. “He popped over to bor­row one of my tools and saw the Capri in my garage. He asked if I was think­ing about ex­hibit­ing the car at the show. I replied by say­ing that SEMA cars are dis­played by in­vite only. Next thing I knew, he pre­sented me with doc­u­men­ta­tion amount­ing to spon­sor­ship by

NRG In­no­va­tions, a com­pany with a trade pres­ence at SEMA and a de­sire to use my car as a show­piece tak­ing pride of place in the Con­ven­tion Cen­tre’s north lobby!”

Tak­ing a look

The briefest of glances at the pho­to­graphs on these pages is all that’s re­quired to con­firm Blane’s Capri is a show­stop­per, but that didn’t stop many of his fel­low coun­try­men ask­ing what it was they were look­ing at! “Event at­ten­dees from the UK, South Africa, Ger­many and New Zealand recog­nised the car as be­ing a Capri, although they were sur­prised to see it on dis­play, un­aware the model was sold in the USA dur­ing the 1970s. Many of the Amer­i­can show-go­ers, how­ever, had no idea what the Ford they were gaw­ping at was, such was the low vol­ume im­port of the model in pe­riod.”

Re­gard­less of whether they were fa­mil­iar with the Tango-tas­tic shape of the V8-pow­ered bel­ter, feed­back was over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive, with praise heaped on the at­ten­tion to de­tail ex­e­cuted in ev­ery as­pect of the build, in­clud­ing the car’s cabin, a roll-caged func­tional race car cock­pit. “I don’t in­tend to com­pete with the car, which is why I’ve done the min­i­mum of what’s re­quired to re­tain its road-le­gal sta­tus, a move which has en­abled me to drive to the track and back when­ever I feel the need for speed,” says Blane. Proof, if proof be needed, that when it comes to the world of clas­sic Fords, less can of­ten mean more!

“AT THE SEMA SHOW PRAISE WAS HEAPED ON THE AT­TEN­TION TO DE­TAIL EX­E­CUTED IN EV­ERY AS­PECT OF THE BUILD”

Rear axle is from a Ford Ex­plorer — now short­ened and up­graded to suit the Capri. Neatly re­trimmed Re­caros dom­i­nate the in­te­rior — as does the ex­ten­sive roll cage. Quad head­lamps were stan­dard on US-spec Capris, though Blane’s up­graded his with LED units.

The trick 5.6-litre Ford V8 looks right at home in the Capri’s spot­less en­gine bay, helped by Blane’s clever at­ten­tion to de­tail.

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