Three-litre Capri – a very Bri­tish GT

Motor Equipment News - - OEM - By James Ste­wart, parts mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist, Ford New Zealand

How to make a sports car?

Cre­ate a pretty coupe shell with a long nose and a short boot. In­sert the largest en­gine in your prod­uct range, sort quickly and re­lease to the pub­lic.

The UK Ford de­sign team in the late ‘60s fol­lowed the above in­struc­tions when they cre­ated the V6 Capri.

They utilised the en­gine and trans­mis­sion out of the land whale Mark 4 Ze­phyr/Zo­diac, fit­ted a pair of ex­trac­tors, in a short time they ti­died up the shift link­age, and re­vised the gear ra­tios. For the rear axle the Tran­sit­based dif­fer­en­tial was fit­ted with long ra­tios and nine-inch drum brakes. The Mark 2 Cortina floor pan was redesigned and fit­ted with the pretty coupe body.

The front sus­pen­sion is a mix­ture of Es­cort, Mark 2 Cortina and be­spoke, the brakes were shared with the AVO Es­corts (pos­si­bly the AVO Es­corts “bor­rowed” the Capri brakes)

The early gen­er­a­tion Capris utilised the six-dial dash out of the Es­cort GT/ RS, the steer­ing wheel could be leather, and in the front there was a pair of sump­tu­ous bucket seats.

With the as­sis­tance of some in­sight­ful ho­molo­ga­tion, the Capri en­joyed a long and very suc­cess­ful com­pe­ti­tion ca­reer.

To win on the race tracks of Europe the three-litre MK1 Capri needed a big­ger, more-pow­er­ful en­gine; a spe­cial ver­sion was pro­duced and duly ho­molo­gated as an RS3100.

The RS3100 was pro­duced in re­sponse to the Group 2 reg­u­la­tions of the time as the freshly ho­molo­gated RS3100 could be now be en­larged to 3,500cc and fit­ted with al­ter­na­tive cylin­der heads. Ford con­tracted Cos­worth which cre­ated the fear­some 3.4-litre Cos­worth GAA. This very rare four-valve al­loy headed beast was re­puted to be good for 450 plus HP (more than 336kW)..

Pri­mar­ily de­vel­oped as a cir­cuit racer very early in its ca­reer, the Capri was en­tered in some rally cross events with a ver­sion of the Fer­gus­son For­mula four-wheel-drive sys­tem.

In the early ‘70s in New Zealand the im­ple­men­ta­tion of emis­sions reg­u­la­tions se­verely emas­cu­lated the pre­dom­i­nantly Aus­tralian-sourced per­for­mance/ mus­cle cars of the day. Even the on­ce­fe­ro­cious 351C was now strug­gling to make 200hp de­spite gob­bling more fuel than ever, although re-tim­ing the camshaft and re­cal­i­brat­ing the ignition and car­bu­ret­tor re­stored most of the per­for­mance – but that is a tale for another time.

Into th­ese emis­sions-stran­gled mar­ket the English-sourced three-litre Capri was a rel­a­tive breath of fresh air. A solid per­former, well ca­pa­ble of 180km/h, and with rea­son­able for the day off-the­mark ac­cel­er­a­tion

A num­ber of driv­ers seek­ing per­for­mance in their new steeds were forced to aban­don their now stran­gled V8s, and tem­po­rally adopt the lit­tle V6.

My Capri was an early ver­sion with the small rec­tan­gu­lar head­lights; it was fit­ted with the sin­gle rail box and the early gear ra­tio re­vi­sion.

The Capri is re­mem­bered as a friendly old an­i­mal, easy to drive quickly while re­main­ing quiet and com­fort­able.

The three-litre V6 is equipped with an auto choke 40DFA We­ber, a tap of the ac­cel­er­a­tor to set the choke fol­lowed by a quick churn of the starter, and the V6 rum­bles into life.

When warm the Heron-headed mo­tor is re­spon­sive to the throt­tle, pro­vid­ing a sat­is­fy­ing rasp when the throt­tle is blipped.

With the heavy “Es­sex” V6 un­der its long bon­net, the chas­sis was in­clined to un­der­steer. When press­ing on at­tempts to counter the in­her­ent un­der­steer with a prod on the ac­cel­er­a­tor frus­trat­ingly re­sulted in the inside rear wheel spin­ning rather than neu­tral­is­ing the un­der­steer.

With the V6 hap­pier op­er­at­ing in the meat of the torque band as op­posed to run­ning at the red line, the Capri had more of the de­meanor of a GT rather than a “grab it by the scruff of the neck and throw it about” per­son­al­ity that was the na­ture of its smaller sib­lings.

Per­versely, you could fang the car down a gravel road, hav­ing a ball. Surf­ing the torque of the re­spon­sive V6, flick­ing through the well-spaced ra­tios of the sweet-shift­ing box while the gravel-in­duced lack of grip mit­i­gated the ten­dency to lift the inside rear and al­lowed the car to be throt­tle steered at will. Progress was not the most rapid, but the grin fac­tor was im­mense

The sta­bil­ity pro­vided by the longish wheel­base en­sured that only the most ham-fisted of rock apes would get into trou­ble giv­ing the Capri a burst on a loose sur­face.

I re­call emerg­ing from a dairy armed with some liq­uid re­fresh­ments for my­self and her la­dy­ship, and was some­what sur­prised to find a black and white flat roof Cortina parked be­hind the Capri.

It was a hot day and we had just tra­versed the Can­ter­bury plains and had halted at the first two-horse town for some refreshment.

“Do you re­alise I have been chas­ing you since the High­way 79 turn-off?” asked the Ter­rance the TO.

I don’t ex­pect my re­ply of “Had I been aware of your pur­suit you would never have caught me” was en­tirely what he was ex­pect­ing. After a pleas­ant (for this type) dis­cus­sion, I duly was is­sued with a TON and we were both on our var­i­ous ways.

The above anec­dote was in­cluded not to show that not all the TOs were un­pleas­ant in­di­vid­u­als, but to high­light the way the big-en­gined Capri was able to ef­fort­lessly cover ground at pace.

The flat roof Cortina was con­sid­ered a rea­son­able per­former in its day, but even when driven in anger it could not cover the ground as swiftly as the gen­tly waft­ing Capri.

The big en­gine, small body, phi­los­o­phy car­ries over into the mod­ern range of to­day’s Ford ve­hi­cles. Wres­tle a Fo­cus ST out of the sweaty palms of your lo­cal dealer and head out of town; the Fo­cus ST han­dles de­light­fully, and is well ca­pa­ble of gob­bling up large dis­tances in com­fort and ease.

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