Posted in Corgi, majorette

Ford Capri – a contentious classic

I was supposed to be making my next page or post by now, but here I am, rewriting a previous one, because WordPress screwed up and deleted it. Chrome then proceeded in doing everything it could to prevent me recovering and editing the post, so that it took me two computer restarts and damn near an hour before I could get to this point.

Fortunately I managed to recover a lot of what I’d written before, but that doesn’t stop the amount of anger I have at having lost an entire morning’s work.

Well, let’s get on with it then. Today I’m showcasing two vehicles – both Ford Capris.

Love it or loathe it, the Ford Capri defined an era and a generation.

Codenamed “colt”, Ford of Europe couldn’t have made their desire for a European Mustang any less obvious. By the end of the 1960s Ford was at an all time high, churning out rally icons as the Cortina, Escort, and of course the Le Mans winner, the GT40.

Aiming to consolidate this racing reputation with their regular, value-for-money automobiles, along with everyone’s childhood desire for a Mustang, the original driver’s car, the Capri was introduced in 1969.

Within five years, a million mark I Capris were shifted. So clearly it did something right.

Engines ranged from 1300cc up to 3 litre, with myriad trim packages. so there was a Capri for everyone. My grandad had one, and my dad had two – but my mom always thought it was loathsome with that long, impractical bonnet!

In 1974, the Mark II appeared. The sex appeal was still piled on, and no doubt the commercials were no less sexist and derogatory to women (something we suffer regularly in the male-dominated car world) and the car received more attractive lines – but the sales had already begun to decline. The Mk II was more suited to every day driving than the boy racer reputation the MK I had earned itself, due in part to the 1973 oil crisis. The bonnet was shortened, the back was hatched, and the cabin was enlarged. But in 4 years only 400,000 Mk IIs were shifted, compared to the million or so of its predecessor.

In 1976, the Golf GTI arrived to kill off the Capri.

Then the TV show The Professionals helped to further “blokify” the Capri image – here was a car trying to shed its beer and chips proletariat heritage, cursed to death by its initial success.

Despite their efforts, and with their final swan song the limited edition Capri 280 at £12,000, they couldn’t stop the terminal decline in sales. In 1986, after nearly 2 million made, the last Capri rolled out of the factory, and then the waiting game began – and nobody is really sure whether or not we can consider the damn thing a classic car.

I say we can – it’s a great shape, and one of the original cool coupes. And I dare anyone not to take a second look when one goes past.

I have two Capris – a Majorette MK II, and a Corgi MK III.

I prefer the Majorette. Squishy suspension and good detailing, particularly around the boot, gives it good collector appeal. I like that they’ve given good attention to the bonnet bump and the front grille, too. The gap between the wheel arches is quite large, making it look a bit awkward and sit high, but with working suspension that is pound to happen. Red metal body with a white plastic roof permanently attached, mated to a metal baseplate as with most vintage majorettes. The front detailing on the grille is also very clear, and I love when Majorettes have a cast metal number plate.

Next, we have the Corgi. Corgis do have a reputation for being collectible, but this one is a bit of an oddity. Firstly, you have these weird, severe fenders at the front and back, a huge spoiler, and a large front splitter, giving the Capri a very muscular, racing-car look. But the paint is a bit incongruous – black, with “Homefire” branding on it (i looked up Homefire on the internet, and discovered it’s a coal seller – what they were doing branding toy cars is beyond me).

The car is a metal body that feels of good, strong quality and is coupled to a plastic baseplate. It feels very heavy and while it doesn’t have the same attention to detail as the Majorette, the grille is distinctively Capri-like and it runs nice and smooth. The white interior colour is very bland, and while it isn’t terrible, the interior piece is nothing to write home about.

N.B. I recently learned that this car is based off the Zakspeed Capri used by the eponymous motor racing team, founded in 1968 by Erich Zakowski.

Ford Capri Facts

  • One of the Capri’s most recognisable features, the curved rear window, was a last minute change by the design time.
  • Philip T. Clark was the designer – one of the chief designers of the Mustang.
  • The Mk I Capri was mechanically alike to the Ford Cortina.
  • The reason they never used the name Colt was because it was trademarked by Mitsubishi.
  • The Capri was sold in North America not as a Ford but as a Mercury. It was called “The sexy European”.
  • In August 1973, the 1,000,000th Capri, an RS 2600, rolled off the production line.
  • On October 31st 1974, the Mark II was introduced, but the Mark I would continue in production for another 8 months.
  • The Mark III Capri introduced in 1978 was one of the most stolen cars of the 1980s and 90s.
  • Delboy had a green and pink Ford Capri in Only Fools and Horses.
  • As sales declined in the 1980s, Ford concentrated its attention on Britain, where the car still had cult following – after 1984, Ford Capris were only produced in right hand drive for the UK market.
  • ARK 666Y is one of the most famous Ford Capris – because it’s haunted! Check out their website here. (Warning – there’s sound.)
  • In the US, all Capris between 1970 to 1978 were imported from Germany. After 1978, they were replaced with rebadged and modified Mustangs, capitalising on the name.

 

Featured image: Ford Capri I by Mike Roth. Flickr. Original

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Author:

Graphic designer, writer for Classic American auto magazine, journalist.

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