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