Capri MkIII

We track down a 2-litre Capri that’s been re­turned to its former glory by a self-con­fessed Ford fan.

Classics Monthly - - Contents - WORDS IAIN WAKE­FIELD PHO­TOG­RA­PHY CHRIS FROSIN

The owner of this Capri fi­nally bought the car he al­ways promised him­self.

The fi­nal in­car­na­tion of the Ford Capri is now firmly es­tab­lished deep into clas­sic ter­ri­tory, al­though the big money now tends to in­vari­ably go on the V6 pow­ered mod­els, such as the 280 in­jec­tion and the later Bri­tish Rac­ing Green ‘Brook­land’ ver­sions. Al­though the MkII 2.8-litre gained the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing the bad boy of the Capri range with re­gards to han­dling, it was the 2.0-litre with the 100bhp in­line-four Pinto en­gine un­der its long bon­net that was the vol­ume seller.

This blue oval-badged coupè pro­vided a de­cent level of room for four pas­sen­gers, while a rea­son­able amount of pace made a MkII 2.0-litre Capri a more ex­cit­ing op­tion than an equiv­a­lent pow­ered four-door sa­loon with a Cortina badge on its bootlid. Over the years, the Capri man­aged to live up to Ford’s early mar­ket­ing mantra of be­ing ‘the car you al­ways promised your­self’, as Ford of Europe pro­duced three ver­sions of this stylish coupé over an 18 year pro­duc­tion pe­riod and sold nearly two mil­lion of them.

One Ford en­thu­si­ast who al­ways promised him­self a Capri is Mike Gib­son, the owner of this re­cently re­stored 1982 2.0-litre Ghia. Mike bought his MkII Ghia just over 10 years ago and reck­oned it was in a rough con­di­tion. “It was noth­ing like it is now and the first thing we did was to book the car into a lo­cal bodyshop for an ap­praisal be­fore hav­ing it re­sprayed,” said Mike as he added that he orig­i­nally wanted to have a few mod­i­fi­ca­tions done to the car, but was per­suaded to keep it orig­i­nal.

“It was re­ally be­cause it was a Ghia that I de­cided to keep it orig­i­nal, al­though I later found out that the ma­te­rial used for the seat fac­ings and door cards was a bit spe­cial,” smiled Mike be­fore go­ing on to add that Ford only used the ma­te­rial on about 50 Capri Ghias. When asked why, Mike ex­plained how the up­hol­stery line for the Capri had run low on the cor­rect type of fab­ric, so the Granada’s part bin was raided to keep pro­duc­tion go­ing. “I’ve since been told that only a hand­full out of the 50 Capris with this ma­te­rial are known to sur­vive,” smiled Mike as he opened the driv­ers’ door so I could have a bet­ter look in­side.

Tak­ing a peek around the cabin it was easy to see why the Capri sold so well, as there’s a de­scent amount of space in the back for two adults even with the front seats pushed back to ac­com­mo­date a tall driver and a lanky pas­sen­ger. A gen­uine four-seat coupé, the Capri quickly be­came a firm favourite among ex-sports car own­ers with a grow­ing fam­ily look­ing for some­thing more prac­ti­cal and when the cov­ers came off the MkI back in 1969, the Mus­tang in­spired Capri was an in­stant hit.

It was all change in 1973 when the MkI re­ceived a ma­jor facelift, the re­vised model be­ing iden­ti­fied by a pair of larger head­lights and sep­a­rate in­di­ca­tors. Al­though the Capri was a top seller for Ford, the heav­ily re­vised MkII was in­tro­duced the fol­low­ing year and this more prac­ti­cal ver­sion had a larger cabin area with a rear hatch ac­cess­ing a de­cent sized boot area. A shorter bon­net on the MkII al­lo­cated more space to the cabin, while other changes in­cluded a new dash­board lay­out and fold­ing rear seat backs. En­gine op­tions ranged from the 1.3-litre Kent, 1.6- and 2.0-litre SOHC in­line-four Pinto and a 3.0-litre V6.

The 2.0-litre Pinto was car­ried over into the third gen­er­a­tion Capri that broke cover in 1978,

but this ro­bust in­line-four wasn’t with­out its prob­lems. Through­out the 1980s, Pinto-pow­ered Fords used to reg­u­larly an­nounce their ar­rival by a reg­u­lar ‘tak-tak-tak’ sound com­ing from the rocker cover due to a worn camshaft. If the oil and fil­ter weren’t changed reg­u­larly in these en­gines, the spray bar sup­ply­ing lu­bri­cant to the over­head camshaft and the as­so­ci­ated fol­low­ers would be­come blocked with car­bon de­posits and starve the camshaft of oil.

Asked whether the 2.0-litre Pinto en­gine in his Capri had suf­fered from this prob­lem, Mike said it ran fine, but last year the en­gine was taken out and re­built. “When the en­gine was dis­man­tled, the only prob­lem I found was that all the rings had seized in the pis­tons,” ex­plained Mike as he added that strip­ping the en­gine down was all bread and but­ter stuff to him as he’d re­cently re­tired as a plant fitter.

Con­sid­er­ing Mike had ear­lier told me how his car was in pretty poor shape when he bought it, the in­te­rior has sur­vived re­mark­ably well judg­ing by the con­di­tion of the dark blue fab­ric cov­er­ing the seats. The up­hol­stery ap­peared to be vir­tu­ally un­marked and al­though Mike won’t ad­mit it, he’s a per­fec­tion­ist where his Capri is con­cerned. While our snap­per Chris and I were look­ing at the car, Mick apol­o­gised that we weren’t pho­tograph­ing a con­cours ex­am­ple and we shouldn’t look to closely at his car. This keen owner was ob­vi­ously over crit­i­cal about his Capri, as this was prob­a­bly one of the clean­est 2.0-litre pow­ered MkIII’s I’ve seen in a long time

While look­ing around this car’s im­mac­u­late en­gine bay, I asked Mike what made him choose a Capri and as he went to turn the en­gine off told me how his wife had al­ways fan­cied one. “I use to work as me­chanic and know how re­li­able these cars are when they’re main­tained cor­rectly, so wasn’t too wor­ried about work­ing on one,” ex­plained Mike be­fore go­ing on to tell me what had been done to the car be­fore it was re­painted.

Stand­ing back while Chris got on with point­ing his cam­era at the Capri, Mike ex­plained how it was all the usual Ford stuff that had to be re­placed be­fore the new paint went on. When asked what this in­cluded, Mike told me how his Capri had needed two new front wings, as well as lo­calised re­pairs to both the rear whee­larches. “We also fit­ted a pair of sec­ond-hand doors and al­though the front scut­tle on both sides had to be re­paired af­ter the wind­screen came out, the front valance, bulk­head and all the floors were fine”.

Mike’s been an ac­tive mem­ber of the Notts and Mans­field Capri Club for over six years and finds be­long­ing to the club is a great start­ing point when it comes to track­ing down hard-to-find parts. Be­fore go­ing for a drive, I asked Mike how dif­fi­cult it is to source parts for the Capri and he ex­plained that al­though me­chan­i­cal parts are rea­son­ably easy to find, lo­cat­ing old new stock pan­els was a chal­lenge.

“There are quite a few pat­tern pan­els avail­able for the MkIII, but these can be ex­pen­sive. Magnum Clas­sic Ford Pan­els (01706 359666) of­fer a de­cent range of full and re­pair pan­els for these cars and they should re­ally be the first port of call for any­one think­ing about restor­ing a Capri.”

Ford is well know for not sup­port­ing its older mod­els when it comes to spares and ac­cord­ing to this keen owner, the most dif­fi­cult parts to track down for the Capri are bits and bobs for the in­te­rior, such as switchgear. Mike’s very lucky with his car, as the padded plas­tic dash­top has sur­vived in­tact. Ex­ces­sive ex­po­sure to sun­light can play havoc over time with the ma­te­ri­als used to make these parts and un­marked re­place­ments in the cor­rect colour are al­most im­pos­si­ble to find.

Back in­side the car, turn­ing the ig­ni­tion key fired up the Capri’s 2.0-litre Pinto unit on the first twist and the in­line-four im­me­di­ately set­tled down to an even (and quiet) tick­over. Mike reck­ons these cars are gen­er­ally easy to live with and don’t re­quire any spe­cial­ist main­te­nance to keep them in good or­der. "My Capri flies through the MoT every year and the only heavy me­chan­i­cal work that been done to the car was to over­haul the en­gine. The gear­box still feels slick and all the ra­tios can be se­lected with­out any fuss,” com­mented Mike as we set off on a brief test drive back to his home in Belper.

De­spite the fine con­di­tion of his car, Mike’s not pre­cious about driv­ing it in the rain, al­though we did man­age to get back to his house be­fore the heav­ens opened. One of the nice things about driv­ing a Capri is look­ing down the long bon­net and this Ford feels much larger than it re­ally is, es­pe­cially when ma­noeu­vring in a tight space. Out on the open road, the 101bhp 2.0-litre power unit can be a bit noisy when ex­tended, but with fuel be­ing sup­plied by a twin choke We­ber, the power keeps on com­ing as the revs steadily rise. Straight-line per­for­mance in a 2.0-litre Capri is still im­pres­sive, but when it came to the bendy bits, ex­pe­ri­ence told me to ease up.

This was be­cause I once owned a MkII Capri and re­call be­ing caught out sev­eral times by the way­ward an­tics of the Ford’s live rear axle and leaf spring rear sus­pen­sion set up.

No such prob­lems dur­ing this brief drive, thank good­ness, and a cou­ple of miles be­hind the wheel of Mike’s Capri Ghia soon had the memories flood­ing back of a young Wake­field plough­ing up and down the MI in a one-year old bronze coloured com­pany MkII 1.6-litre GT – happy days in­deed.

Mick’s ob­vi­ously done a lot of work to his Capri to bring it up to this stan­dard and he’s jus­ti­fi­able proud of his car. Ac­cord­ing to Mick, the Capri doesn’t need any spe­cial­ist knowl­edge to keep it road­wor­thy. How­ever, sourc­ing a good one can be dif­fi­cult and bar­gains are a thing of the past, as Capri prices con­tinue to steadily head north, re­gard­less of what en­gine lies be­neath that in­stantly recog­nis­able bon­net.

Due to sup­ply is­sues at the fac­tory, the fab­ric used to cover the seats in this Capri came from the Granada pro­duc­tion line.

Owner Mike Gib­son un­der­sates the fine con­di­tion of his Capri.

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