Ford prices are in the ascendancy, especially for those of the sporting variety. This Capri MkI will return much more fun and interest than a bank ever could
Why put money in the bank when you could just buy a decent Capri?
The Capri is one of those cars that improved with age. That’s not often the case with long-running models, which so often lose some of their original sparkle with every facelift, but by its MkIII incarnation, ‘the car you always promised yourself’ had become very sexy – a proper boy’s-own sports coupé. In 2.8-litre V6 engined form, it was a wild child of the 1980s, and the MkIII is generally the Capri most often still seen around.
So it’s a nice trip down Blue Oval memory lane to be presented with a pristine-looking MkI, with all its 1960s flourishes intact. The sports wheels, the excesses of chrome, the stick-on grilles, and the distinctive swathe line curving down past the rear wheel arch almost in a reflection of the most famous Capri feature, the C-shaped rear side window. It is a reminder that the Capri was born into an era when the more flamboyance there was, the better a car was perceived to be. If only this one had a vinyl roof too.
Inside, it’s definitely down to sports coupé business. Aside from the wood on the well-equipped dashboard and down the strip of the centre console, it’s very black inside. Resolutely so – the carpets, seats, door cards, dash and switchgear are all dark and businesslike.
Still, it puts you in a more performance-orientated mood, as you gaze over a bonnet that looks even longer from inside than it does from outside. There’s not much to distract from the most important aspect of driving and enjoying the Capri – although all the gauges (six, with the speedometer and rev counter dominating) do cause the eye to wander when you turn the key and they flicker into life.
Whatever the looks, the drama is a little lacking with these earlier cars, at least in four-pot form. There’s no throaty roar from the exhaust when you fire things up, just a sedate and pedestrian burr, reminding you that this Kent engine was the same, in configuration if not capacity, as that of family Anglias and Cortinas.
At least in GT form here, Ford tweaks have endowed it with 88bhp. That doesn’t sound much, in today’s world when even humble hatches have similar reserves, but in the context of the period this car was born into, it was lively enough. And it still proves that way today. Acceleration is brisk enough if you poke the accelerator with enough enthusiasm. But you do need to press hard to provoke it, for this is, if not a sheep in wolf’s clothing, then perhaps an obstinate ram or slightly-miffed goat.
Ford gearboxes have often been noted for their slickness, and this four-speeder can be slipped through all of its ratios with consummate ease – there’s no baulkiness or resistance at all. That does leave you wishing for the absent fifth, though, but that wouldn’t materialise until the 1980s. So at higher speeds, the Capri does give the impression of being a little strained. The hard ride doesn’t help occupants completely relax either.
Where the charisma comes in is on corners. The quite rudimentary rear suspension means the rear end can feel a little skittery on bends, especially in the damp. The best option is to slow down into the approach – and fortunately, the front discs are quite effective – and then accelerate out. Even with only a modicum of muscle, applying the power with the front wheels turned can make the world go unexpectedly sideways.
But once you’re used to the Capri and the foibles it can demonstrate, it does become a very easy and enjoyable drive. In this example, the family underpinnings are obvious, but there’s enough extra excitement injected – much of it just the Capri’s compelling aura itself – to give this 1600GT some additional fizz.