JEEP CHERO­KEE

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - News -

The XJ Chero­kee set the tem­plate for SUVs. Here's how to get some of the ac­tion.

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.

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