Back in BlaCk
It turns out that a new fuel-injected engine was just what this ageing rocker needed for its successful comeback tour, says Chris Hope
Life isn’t always blessed with second chances, but the Capri, a coupé that had enjoyed phenomenal success since the Sixties, but whose popularity was sliding by the early Eighties, definitely enjoyed a comeback mid-way through its third generation.
As beloved as the three-litre Essex V6 was by Ford fans, it was no longer capable of meeting increasingly stringent emissions regulations. This could have spelt an end for beefy six-pot Capris, but a solution came courtesy of Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering (SVE), which mated Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection to the 2.8-litre Cologne V6, producing an engine that maintained the Essex’s hallmarks, while being more efficient and more refined.
In the same way that Brian Johnson injected fresh energy into AC/DC, a rock band that could have disappeared following the tragic death of its frontman Bon Scott in 1980, the Cologne engine reinvigorated the Capri.
AC/DC would go on to sell 50 million copies of its album Back in Black, and the Capri would live on for a further five years, ensuring that it became a classic in its own lifetime.
Which brings us neatly on to the subject of this week’s Five Trials classic – an allblack Capri Injection Special. From the outside, it’s difficult to focus on anything but this particular car’s colour scheme, as the paintwork serves to emphasis several subtle details, such as the sunken quad lamps, arrowhead-shaped bonnet bulge and swage lines that run along the entire length of each side. It also camouflages the rather cumbersome side rubbing strips and chunky bumpers, fore and aft.
It should have a set of burgundy and silver decals on its rump and along its flanks, but its previous owner removed them. A replacement set of has been procured from Capri Club International so the car’s next owner can decide whether or not to apply them.
Inside, it’s basic in the extreme. Granite grey is the dominant colour – that, and more black. The sloped dashboard, which falls inwards towards the front of the footwell rather than jutting outwards, not only adds to the uncluttered, minimalist feel but creates a sense of airiness within the cabin. From the lack of switches to the fabric pattern of simple diagonal stripes, it’s all rather workmanlike.
The Capri sounds just as you might expect – it ticks and snarls, growling progressively as the revs build, only to emit a rasp as you lift to change gears. Enthusiasts of the Essex threelitre might argue that the Cologne loses out in the aural stakes, but as far as most Fast Ford devotees are concerned it still sounds superb.
Simply put, it looks like a muscle car in miniature and it barks like one, which is why the unexpected lightness to all of the controls comes as something of a surprise. The powerassisted steering is light and precise with zero play and it’s a doddle to change ratios cleanly and crisply. A few further miles reinforces my thoughts that the Capri is supremely userfriendly; sure, it’s fast, but it’s how the Cologne V6 pulls without hesitation that really impresses. Whether you short-shift or make full use of the rev range to delight in the V6’s throaty roar, the result is the same – it builds speed without complaint.
This particular Capri is an Injection Special – an update of the 2.8i which most notably saw the addition of a limited-slip differential, further improving its excellent cornering characteristics. The Capri remains impressively flat through even tight bends and grips remarkably well, quickly inspiring the confidence to attack corners with gusto. The seven-spoke RS wheels are shod in chunky tyres, which perhaps go some way towards explaining why the Capri feels so sure-footed.
The trade-off for this is a primitive feeling ride; the suspension does little to dampen the feedback of road imperfections. It’s a good thing, then, that the half-leather Recaro seats are so comfortable and do an excellent job of holding you in place.
Perhaps the biggest challenge with a V6-engined Capri is handing one back. It not only passes our Five Trials challenges with flying colours, but even in today’s market good ones are still worth every penny.
Plain, plasticky and simple – the Mkiii’s interior is as basic as they come. The third-generation capri was designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, hence details such as the sunken headlamps.