It is forty years since the millionth Ford Capri rolled of the production lines. sadly today there are less than 2500 of the the cars left insured in the UK.
To venerate the Ford Capri as Britain’s first sports coupe, can seem a trifle hollow. After all, it was a ruthlessly calculated enterprise to produce a European pony car, its sporty persona precisely cut to the millimeter, its design details, based broadly on the Mustang pony car, distilled by endless Ford design committees.
And yet a car emerged that us Brits, especially, took to our hearts for its easy style, four seats, low running costs and often macho performance, give or take the furry dice. We loved the Capri so much that, in its twilight years of 1985 and ’86, it was made solely for the British Market. Here was a sporty – as opposed to ‘sports’ – car tilted at baby boomers. Loosely based on the preceding Consul and Cortina frame, the engineering was straightforward because the Mark 1 Capri shared many unseen components with the Escort. That meant a front mounted engine and rear-wheel drive.
Later provision was made for 2- and 3-litre engines never offered in the Escort, but even the lowly versions were splendid fun to drive. The groovy fastback styling was a winning amalgam of wide-opening doors, low roofline, and a distinctive side profile including that hockey stick-like crease, rounded side window shape, and fake air intakes. The cockpit took plastic and fake wood and melded them into a pseudo-sports car cocoon.
To the fortunate few owning exotic sports coupes such as Lancia’s and Porsches, the Capri was a neo-Detroit horror. To the many who could never afford such cars, however, the trusty Capri was the answer to a prayer. Ford’s advertising slogan for the January 1969 launch: ‘The Car You Always Promised Yourself’, complete with blonde girl on arm, was as sharp as the Capri’s black vinyl roof and pretend alloy wheels.
In 1970 alone, one in four of all European Fords sold, almost 250,000 was a Capri. The millionth car was built in August 1973, although it only continued to be British-made at Halewood on Merseyside until 1976.
The Capri was a true motoring price leveller. Just as the model T put the common man on wheels, so the Capri gave the hard-up family motorist, everyday motoring thrills.