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It had worked for the Mustang in the USA… why couldn’t it also work over here? The Capri was, famously, the Blue Oval’s attempt to repeat the trick it had pulled off on the other side of the Atlantic, with its ‘personal sports car’, the wildly successful Mustang of 1964.
That the Capri was codenamed ‘Colt’ while being developed in Britain and Germany from 1965 was a clear reference to what Ford was hoping it could also emulate in Europe. Using the Cortina for its underpinnings, with its engines ranging from 1.3 litres through to the whopping 3.0-litre V6, the Capri was cultivated using customer clinics. This produced its trademark feature, the reverse C-shaped side rear window, after back seat passengers complained of claustrophobia. It also meant that when the car was launched in 1969, it was exactly what the public wanted.
‘The car you always promised yourself’ – the enduring international promotional tagline for the Capri at the start of its life – was launched at the start of 1969, in 1300, 1300GT, 1600, 1600GT and 2000GT versions, the latter using the engine from the Corsair. Although it was first and foremost a sports car (although maybe not in lethargic 1300 form), Ford also promoted the practicality of ‘the family size fastback’ – a sleek and stylish coupé that also had decent boot space and could successfully fit two adults in the back seats too. That wasn’t the case with most sports machines.
Further appeal was added by custom options – the X-pack (£32 12s 0d), L-pack (£15 0s 4d) and R-pack (£39 3s 4d) – so that owners could individualise their Capris. An XLR spec Capri – with its matt black bonnet, door sills and boot panel, among many other goodies – was about as cool as it could get for an inexpensive sports coupé.
Later in 1969, the V6 engine from the MkIV Zodiac was squeezed under the Capri’s bonnet – which meant it having to adopt a bulge to clear the air filter. The 3000GT could reach 114mph if pushed hard enough. It was complemented by the 3000E in 1970, as an ‘executive’ option that packed in all the options including a vinyl roof.
The same year saw the RS2600, which definitely wasn’t aimed at executives but rather those who wanted a very fast, very specialist Capri to go racing with. A series of limited edition special models appeared in subsequent years, with eyecatching paint shades such as orange, emerald green and black with red and gold side body stripes. Well, it was the 1970s after all.
The range was slightly facelifted in 1972, with new front and rear lights, restyled grilles and bonnet bulges across the range, even if they weren’t actually needed.
Dashboards, steering wheels and seats were restyled inside. The 1600 models had their OHV engines swapped for overhead-camshaft Pinto units, which gives a little extra pep.
The last significant MkI Capri was the big boy – the RS3100 of 1973, of which just 248 were built. These 148bhp homologation specials were capable of 125mph, with 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds. By then, the MkII Capri was almost ready to be unleashed, and with its smoothed out flanks and boot making way for a hatchback, it looked quite different, even if the overall profile was the same.
The reign of the MkI Capri – one of Ford’s most significant European models – ended in 1974.
‘The last significant MkI Capri was the big boy – the RS3100 of 1973, of which 248 were built. By then the MkII was almost ready’
More humble Capris came with steel wheels and chrome hubcaps. This design was reserved for sportier models. Workmanlike, sporty and traditionally British – all in one neat and cleverly designed dashboard and fascia package.