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

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Driving - Pho­tog­ra­PhY lau­rens parsons

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.

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