FORDS THAT COULD HAVE BEEN…
The Capri and the Mustang both made it to the showroom floor, but what about Ford’s idea to combine the two and build a Capri-Mustang…?
Most of us have forgotten, I think, that the first-generation Capri was not originally meant to have big and powerful engines as ‘flag-ship’ derivatives? 1.3-, 1.6- and 2.0-litre four-cylinder types were planned, but nothing more than that. But then came the rush to develop the RS2600 and 3.0-litre versions for motorsport, and the rest is history…
Official history, for sure, but not quite all of it. Step forward at this stage, the inventive crew at AVO, where anything seemed to be possible in the early 1970s. AVO started by developing Escorts (RS1600s, Mexicos and RS2000s) for manufacture in the UK, and then Capri RS2600s to be built in Germany. It was then, with great ambition, and with everything seeming to be possible, the team began to think of even more ambitious models to expand the AVO range.
With the swish new Capri Mk2 already being planned, and with both the RS2600 and 3.0-litre models proving to be great successes, Stuart Turner’s planners turned their thoughts to the future. Essex V6 engines were proposed for inclusion in Cortinas, turbocharged versions of that engine were being developed, and in those heady pre-Energy Crisis times an even more amazing engine transplant was then considered…
A contact with Ford South Africa had mentioned the enterprising Basil Green Motors operation, where ambitious Ford model/engine transplants were already on sale. So why not match his efforts, in house, in the UK? If V8 engine Mustangs (some with engines of up to 7.0-litres) were being designed in the USA, why not try to do something similar, but less ambitious in the UK? Why not shoe-horn a USA/Mustang
type V8 (the 4.7-litre ‘Windsor’) into the Mk2 Capri ?
Physically it seemed to be possible, for the Capri engine bay was spacious enough (just!) to accept it, while AVO thought they could enlarge the transmission tunnel, if necessary, to install a suitably hefty fourspeed transmission. The fact this would result in a rather costly package did not bother them too much (they were still at the ‘Why don’t we…?’ stage), but they knew they would have to provide a bigger front-end air intake for an enlarged radiator, which meant that a comprehensive surface re-style would be necessary.
At this point, though, a private enterprise Capri project by Dave Brodie attracted a great deal of interest. Intended for British club racing, and fitted with a 3.4-litre Cosworth GA type of V6, it had a glassfibre shell, lower than standard, with stunning front and rear wheel arch extensions and a massive front spoiler. Ford Design (that’s ‘styling’ to you and I) looked at it, bristled, effectively said that they could do even better, and began to scheme up a similar shape which could also accommodate a USA-sourced V8 engine up front.
Some people say that this could not possibly be done, but there was even another private-enterprise Capri conversion which Colin Hawker produced, which had no less than a Cosworth 3.0-litre DFV V8 F1 engine in the same engine bay! An illustration in one of Jeremy Walton’s magisterial Capri books provides crystal clear proof of this.
This, though, is where the misery of the Energy Crisis (which erupted in October/ November 1973, just before the Capri Mk2 was ready for launch), of ever-increasing British cost inflation, and a general slump in AVO sales, all conspired to kill off the CapriMustang project.
Amazingly, that type of Capri had already been built, in significant numbers, in South Africa. Supported by Ford South Africa, Basil Green Motors, using the add-on model name of Perana (not Piranha, for there were trade mark clashes to be considered), had already built V6-engined Cortinas before Dagenham had even considered it, and had worked on several related Ford models, before the original Capri Mk I went on sale. Using 5.0-litre versions of the ‘Windsor’ V8, which were imported from Ford Australia, the Capri Perana was built in limited numbers between 1970 and 1973. It was so successful that individual machines won the 1970 and 1971 South African Championships.
Just imagine what could have been, if the Energy Crisis had not killed off so many promising projects…
This is the Brodie-inspired Mk2 Capri of 1974. Ford Design liked what they saw, and might have produced something similar for a Capri-Mustang
Ford-USA’s V8 ‘Windsor’ engine fitted neatly into the engine bay of Capris
The South Africans did get a V8 Capri, called the Perana, so a Capri-Mustang was certainly a viable prospect