The Ford Capri is a fastback coupé built by Ford Motor Company between 1968 and 1986, designed by American Philip T. Clark, who was also involved in the design of the Ford Mustang.

It used the mechanical components from the Mk2 Ford Cortina and was intended as the European equivalent of the Ford Mustang. The Capri went on to be a highly successful car for Ford, selling nearly 1.9 million units in its lifetime. A wide variety of engines was used in the Capri throughout its production lifespan, which included the Essex and Cologne V6 at the top of the range, whilst the Kent straight-four and Taunus V4 engines were used in lower specification models. Although the Capri was not officially replaced, the second-generation Probe was effectively its replacement after the later car's introduction to the European market in 1994.

While Ford marketed the car as "Ford Capri – The Car You Always Promised Yourself", the English magazine "Car" described the Capri as a "Cortina in drag".

Production of the Capri began in November, 1968, according to Jeremy Walton's 1987 book, 'Capri – The Development & Competition History of Ford's European GT Car' and the FIA, Recognition No. 5301, at Ford's Halewood plant in the UK and on 16 December 1968 at the Cologne plant in West Germany.

It was unveiled in January 1969 at the Brussels Motor Show, with sales starting the following month. The intention was to reproduce in Europe the success Ford had had with the North American Ford Mustang: to produce a European pony car. It was mechanically based on the Cortina and built in Europe at the Halewood plant in the United Kingdom, the Genk plant in Belgium, and the Saarlouis and Cologne plants in Germany. The car was named Colt during its development stage, but Ford was unable to use the name, as it was trademarked by Mitsubishi.

Although a fastback coupé, Ford wanted the Capri Mk I to be affordable for a broad spectrum of potential buyers. To help achieve that, it was available with a variety of engines. The British and German factories produced different line-ups. The continental model used the Ford Taunus V4 engine in 1.3, 1.5 and 1.7 L engine displacements, while the British versions were powered by the Ford Kent straight-four in 1.3 and 1.6 L form. The Ford Essex V4 engine 2.0 L (British built) and Cologne V6 2.0 L (German built) served as initial range-toppers. At the end of the year, new sports versions were added: the 2300 GT in Germany, using a double-barrel carburettor with 125 PS (92 kW), and in September 1969[6] the 3000 GT in the UK, with the Essex V6, capable of 138 hp (103 kW).

Under the new body, the running gear was very similar to the 1966 Cortina. The rear suspension employed a live axle supported on leaf springs with short radius rods.[6] MacPherson struts were featured at the front in combination with rack and pinion steering (sourced from the Ford Escort) which employed a steering column that would collapse in response to a collision.

The initial reception of the car was broadly favourable. In the June 1970 edition of the Monthly Driver's Gazette, tester Archie Vicar wrote of the gearchange that it was "...in Ford fashion easy to operate but not very jolly". In the same review Vicar summed up the car as follows: "Perhaps with a bit of work it can be given road-holding and performance less like an American car and more like a European one".

The range continued to be broadened, with another 3.0 variant, the Capri 3000E introduced from the British plant in March 1970, offering "more luxurious interior trim".

Ford began selling the Capri in the Australian market in May 1969[8] and in April 1970 it was released in the North American and South African markets. The South African Models initially used the Kent 1.6 engine and the V4 2.0 version of the Essex. although a Pinto straight-four 2.0 L replaced it in some markets in 1971. An exception, though, was the Perana manufactured by Basil Green Motors near Johannesburg, which was powered first by a 3.0 Essex engine and then by a 302ci V8 Ford Windsor engine after Ford South Africa began offering 3.0 Essex-engined options.

All North American versions featured the "power dome" hood and four round 5​3⁄4" U.S.-spec headlights. They carried no "Ford" badging, as the Capri was sold by only Lincoln-Mercury dealers (with the Mercury division handling sales) and promoted to U.S. drivers as "the sexy European".

Hans Heyer 1973 with Ford Capri at the Nürburgring

The Capri was sold in Japan with both the 1.6 L and 2.0 L engines in GT trim, and sales were helped by the fact that this generation was compliant with Japanese government dimension regulations. Sales were handled in Japan by Kintetsu Motors, then an exclusive importer of Ford products to Japan. The 2.0 litre engine required Japanese owners to pay more annual road tax in comparison to the 1.6 litre engine, which affected sales.

A new 2637 cc version of the Cologne V6 engine assembled by Weslake and featuring their special all alloy cylinder heads appeared in September 1971, powering the Capri RS2600. This model used Kugelfischer fuel injection to raise power to 150 PS (110 kW) and was the basis for the Group 2 RS2600 used in the European Touring Car Championship. The RS2600 also received modified suspension, a close ratio gearbox, lightened bodywork panels, ventilated disc brakes and aluminium wheels. It could hit 100 km/h from a standstill in 7.7 seconds.[10] The 2.6 L engine was detuned in September for the deluxe version 2600 GT, with 2550 cc and a double-barrel Solex carburettor. Germany's Dieter Glemser won the drivers' title in the 1971 European Touring Car Championship at the wheel of a Ford Köln entered RS2600 and fellow German Jochen Mass did likewise in 1972.

The first Ford Special, was the Capri Vista Orange Special. The Capri Special was launched in November 1971 and was based on the 1600 GT, and 2000 GT models. It was only available in vista orange and was optional dealer fitted with a Ford Rally Sport boot mounted spoiler and rear window slats – a direct link to the Mustang. The Special also had some additional standard extras such as a push-button radio, fabric seat upholstery, inertia reel seat belts, heated rear screen and black vinyl roof.[11] There were only 1200 Vista Orange Capri Specials made. One of the last limited editions of the original Mk I, was a version that came in either metallic green or black with red interior and featured some additional extras, such as cloth inserts in the seats, hazard lights, map reading light, opening rear windows, vinyl roof and for the first time a bonnet bulge was fitted to the sub-3.0-litre models. This special edition was only available with a 1.6 or 2.0 engines and had the full title of GTXLR Special.

Mk I facelift

The Capri proved highly successful, with 400,000 cars sold in its first two years. Ford revised it in 1972. It received new and more comfortable suspension, enlarged tail-lights (replacing the one sourced from the Escort Mk1) and new seats. Larger headlamps with separate indicators were also fitted,[12] with quad headlamps now featured on the 3000GXL model.[13] The Kent engines were replaced by the Ford Pinto engine and the previously UK-only 3000 GT joined the German line-up. In the UK the 2.0 L V4 remained in use.

In addition, North American versions received larger rubber-covered bumpers (to comply with US DOT regulations) for 1973.

In 1973, the Capri saw the highest sales total it would ever attain, at 233,000 vehicles: the 1,000,000th Capri, an RS 2600, was completed on 29 August.

On 25 September 1973, Ford gave the green light to the long-awaited RHD RS Capri, replacing the Cologne V6 based RS 2600 with the Essex V6 based RS 3100, with the usual 3.0 L Essex V6's displacement increased to 3,098 cc (3.1 L; 189.1 cu in) by boring the cylinders from the 93.6 mm (3.69 in) of the 3.0 L to 95.25 mm (3.75 in).[15] Unlike its predecessor, it used the same double-barrel 38-DGAS Weber carburetor[16] as the standard 3.0 L, and reached the same 150 PS (148 bhp; 110 kW) at 5000 rpm as the RS 2600 and 254 N⋅m (187 lb⋅ft) at 3000 rpm of torque.[16] The RS 3100's ride height was one inch lower than other Capris, and also featured other unique modifications such as gold pinstriping, a ducktail rear spoiler, a re-drilled crossmember to move the suspension arms outward to provide negative camber which also made it necessary to have special wider flared front wings, heavy duty springs with Bilstein gas dampers at the front and rear, competition single rear leaf springs, special bump rubbers and spacer blocks, a small front air dam and larger 9.75 inch front ventilated disc brakes. These modifications made the RS 3100 very stable at high speeds but several reviews also complained about its rough ride.[17][18] Only 250 RS3100s were built for homologation purposes between November 1973 and December 1973 so its racing version could be eligible for competition in the over three-litre Group 2 class for the 1974 season [19] However, the car was still competitive in touring car racing, and Ford Motorsport produced a 100-model limited edition with this new engine. The Group 2 RS3100's engine was tuned by Cosworth into the GAA, with 3,412 cc (3.4 L; 208.2 cu in), fuel injection, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder and 435 hp (324 kW) in racing trim.[20] The car also featured improved aerodynamics. Besides the racing RS3100, the GAA engine was also used in the Formula 5000 racing category.

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