MERCURY CAPRI V8
Over-powered, and over there.
Readers of a certain vintage will remember the 1973 oil crisis. Members of the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) proclaimed an oil embargo targeted at nations perceived to be supporting Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and North America were the primary targets of OPEC’s action, which was later aimed at Portugal, Rhodesia and South Africa. When delicate negotiations saw the end of sanctions in March 1974, the price of oil had increased to six times its pre-embargo value. Yikes!
While all affected countries felt the pinch, the USA was hit harder than most, not least of all due to the widespread popularity of gas-guzzlin’ V8s in the land of Uncle Sam. “I remember my father deciding to part with his 1966 Dodge Charger due to how expensive it had become to keep on the road,” recalls retired military man, Blane Evans. “He wanted a fastback coupe with low running costs, and the 2-litre Capri fitted the bill perfectly.”
From 1970 through to 1978, the Capri was imported to North America direct from Germany under the Mercury brand (see boxout). Stateside road safety legislation demanded chunky impact bumpers, indicator lamps integrated into the front grille and side-mounted lights fitted to the front wings and rear quarter panels. RS3100-style quad headlights were also a distinctive feature of the
“MY DAD WANTED A FASTBACK COUPE WITH LOW RUNNING COSTS, AND THE CAPRI FITTED THE BILL PERFECTLY”
imported Blue Oval, a model shipped with the 1.6-litre Kent lump before an optional 2-litre unit (as fitted to Blane’s father’s Capri) was offered, a powerplant which became the standard engine at the time of the 2.6-litre Cologne V6’s arrival on American shores. Later, the 2.3-litre inline-four and 2.8-litre V6 were offered, but a second global oil crisis in 1979 – an event triggered by massively reduced oil production in the wake of the Iranian Revolution – saw Ford stop importing the Capri to America. Instead, factory bosses in Detroit concentrated their efforts on re-imagining the model as an updated version of the contemporary Mustang. Bah!
Blane and his brother, Skip, loved the European-styling of the Ford their father bought. “It wasn’t the most powerful car in the world, but it was a lot of fun and an unusual sight on American roads. The example I’m in possession of today, first came to my attention in Los Angeles more than 20 years ago,” he tells us. “I was attending a family function when I spotted a 1974 Capri sitting on a driveway opposite the house I was visiting. I knocked on the owner’s door and asked if he’d like to sell the car, which at that point was finished in an unappetising shade of brown. To my surprise, the guy obliged. $500 later, I was the classic Ford’s new owner!”
The Capri was driven back to Blane’s home in San Diego, but he quickly realised the numerous Bronco-based builds he was working on wouldn’t permit the time or space the new arrival required for the ambitious V8 conversion he had in mind. “I offered my purchase to Skip. He drove it for a couple of years before minor mechanical faults encouraged him to retire the car from the road. He fully intended to carry out the required work, but life got in the way, leading to the Capri remaining motionless for the next 18 years,” he confirms.
As time rolled by, Blane found himself itching to take on the Capri. “Every now and again, I would ask Skip if he wanted to part with the car. To my delight, he eventually agreed. Within a week of arriving back in San Diego, it was stripped to a bare shell and was being readied for a new lease of life as a street-legal track weapon with specification inspired by the famous Mustang V8-engined Perana Capris built by South African Ford tuning legend, Basil Green.”
To that end, a stroked 5-litre V8 was built and fitted along with a modified T5 gearbox and a narrowed Explorer rear drivetrain set-up. Keeping the classic Ford on the straight and narrow (literally) is a set of coil-overs paired with Eibach springs, a Team Blitz adjustable anti-roll bar, polybushes and sticky Hankook Ventus black circles wrapped around staggered Vintage Wheel Works 15s.
The car’s most obvious change concerns its formerly brown bodywork. Now coated in a custom shade of orange based on a tint from the Dodge colour catalogue, the awe-inspiring finish is enhanced by the presence of black side stripes with silver keylines and bespoke steel bubble arches which promote an increased track width. There’s an NRG Innovations sun strip too, a feature which hints at how Blane’s fruity Ford found itself on display at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show held at the Las Vegas Convention Centre a few months ago.
“One of my neighbours is a Subaru nut with a crazy fast Impreza,” he continues. “He popped over to borrow one of my tools and saw the Capri in my garage. He asked if I was thinking about exhibiting the car at the show. I replied by saying that SEMA cars are displayed by invite only. Next thing I knew, he presented me with documentation amounting to sponsorship by
NRG Innovations, a company with a trade presence at SEMA and a desire to use my car as a showpiece taking pride of place in the Convention Centre’s north lobby!”
Taking a look
The briefest of glances at the photographs on these pages is all that’s required to confirm Blane’s Capri is a showstopper, but that didn’t stop many of his fellow countrymen asking what it was they were looking at! “Event attendees from the UK, South Africa, Germany and New Zealand recognised the car as being a Capri, although they were surprised to see it on display, unaware the model was sold in the USA during the 1970s. Many of the American show-goers, however, had no idea what the Ford they were gawping at was, such was the low volume import of the model in period.”
Regardless of whether they were familiar with the Tango-tastic shape of the V8-powered belter, feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with praise heaped on the attention to detail executed in every aspect of the build, including the car’s cabin, a roll-caged functional race car cockpit. “I don’t intend to compete with the car, which is why I’ve done the minimum of what’s required to retain its road-legal status, a move which has enabled me to drive to the track and back whenever I feel the need for speed,” says Blane. Proof, if proof be needed, that when it comes to the world of classic Fords, less can often mean more!
“AT THE SEMA SHOW PRAISE WAS HEAPED ON THE ATTENTION TO DETAIL EXECUTED IN EVERY ASPECT OF THE BUILD”
Rear axle is from a Ford Explorer — now shortened and upgraded to suit the Capri. Neatly retrimmed Recaros dominate the interior — as does the extensive roll cage. Quad headlamps were standard on US-spec Capris, though Blane’s upgraded his with LED units.
The trick 5.6-litre Ford V8 looks right at home in the Capri’s spotless engine bay, helped by Blane’s clever attention to detail.