As we commented in a brief paragraph devoted to the Racing Car Show recently, the converted Capri appears to be the modified car for 1971. At the Show both BVRT and Broadspeed displayed sophisticated versions of the 3-litre, though the manner in which they were decorated may have put off the very people who could afford these 120-plus m.p.h. machines.
We were unable to borrow the BVRT car, the Lancashire based preparation specialists having no demonstrator: in fact the author has seen a replica of the BVRT show car lurking in the City of London, but that has not helped him to secure such a car for road-test. The subject of this feature is, therefore, the Broadspeed Bullit, the test car being insured for £2,400 and equipped with nearly every optional extra that Broadspeed can provide. However, the performance and handling of “our car” would be much the same as the more basic Bullit models costing £1,825 when based on the 3000GT and £1,995 when the plusher 3000E version of the Capri is used as a starting point. Last year we tried a 1600GT Capri with many of the handling and appearance items which now appear on the Bullit and this “Mini-Bullit” with 110 b.h.p. and roughly the same number of m.p.h. to serve as top speed, is still available at a basic cost of £1,575.
The Bullit name is an adaptation of the film title Bullitt, which is highlighted by a gripping car chase over the massive jumps and inclines of San Francisco city. The stars of the film were the cars, which included a Shelby Mustang that seemed to catch everyone’s imagination with its brutal performance blending in so accurately with the somewhat bloody film theme. The winged front and slatted rear window are examples of glassfibre wares which are like those that can be ordered as part of an option pack for the Boss Mustang in the USA. The back slats serve no useful purpose, but they do not seem to restrict the already limited rearward vision unduly, and they do add to the car’s individual looks when combined with the Ford black vinyl roof-top.
Before we go into the items which have increased the car’s performance, comfort and handling to the point where a new name can be fully justified and an appropriate price tag, perhaps we ought to look at the results. The straight line performance is impressive, the acceleration up to the UK speed limit being as good as, or slightly better than the 4.2-litre Jaguar ‘E’-type. Top speed is well down on the Jaguar though, but in practical UK use the Bullit’s extraordinarily precise handling and high standard of road adhesion would be hard to beat, unless you have a glassfibre bodied two-seater wearing one of Mr. Chapman’s little green badges.
Really, where the Bullit scored so heavily with our staff was in its unique blend of handling, braking and power, which complement each other to produce one of the best balanced cars it has been my pleasure to drive. Apart from the initial price, which is not particularly high when compared to the Lotus and Jaguar company in which it can mix without blushing, the snag one pays for turning a simple machine into a formidable device is in fuel and possibly oil consumption. On the latter point we suspect that the engine was deliberately running on wide clearances for maximum performance, for the exhausts produced a fine blue haze whilst idling, though a specific check over a 100 mile period showed no change in dipstick reading at all. Feather-footing the throttle gave close to 20 m.p.g. and perfectly docile performance whilst the car rumbled its menacing way around town and country. However, the enjoyment of that smooth acceleration curve up to and beyond 100 m.p.h. will return something less than 17 m.p.g., despite the fact that the car feels entirely unstrained until 6,000 r.p.m. is exceeded—the magic “ton” being approximately 5,000 crankshaft revolutions a minute.
Standard equipment with a Bullit conversion starts off with legally required items such as seat belts (inertia reel variety), four months road tax and number plates. The exciting parts start with a Stage 2 engine conversion giving a claimed 190 gross b.h.p., which corresponds to an installed (DIN) figure of 170 to 175 b.h.p. at 6,500 r.p.m. Modified cylinder-heads using standard parts and compression are included along with a high-lift camshaft, re-choked and jetted carburetter and appropriate inlet manifolding, new gaskets and bearings, plus a clever exhaust system incorporating a crossover, or balance pipe close to the engine down piping. The balance pipe has the effect of giving a small power bonus (approx. 4 b.h.p.) when incorporated into a more effiicent twin pipe system and also smooths out the exhaust note so that it never intrudes unduly upon the car’s occupants, or those outside.
Broadspeed director and founder of the conversion side, Ralph Broad, told us how the firm was established in 1927, to continue as successful BMC dealers and subsequently as competition experts when Broad took over the business from his father during the 1950s. By the early 60s, Broad had switched his allegiance to racing Ford Anglias in Group 5 trim, so that the business subsequently followed on their success with Ford products. Today the concern are Ford Dealers and AVO Dealers as well, operating from £250,000 modern premises at Southam, not far from Banbury. Broad says that the main clientel for the car have come from the professions.
The suspension, steering and braking modifications are successfully aimed at making the ride more pleasant, yet firmly controlled, whilst the crossmember is removed, rebushed and re-installed to give 2 1/2 deg. of castor (the Ford setting is almost without castor in the interests of light steering on a nose-heavy car) and a shade of negative camber. Armstrong Adjustaride 22 telescopic shock absorbers are fitted at the rear. The car sits slightly lower on its haunches and a smaller diameter roll-bar is fitted at the front to cut most of the car’s normal understeer down to the point of astonishingly neutral handling for its 43/57% weight distribution.
The braking changes consist of reduced rear drum lining area and DS11 pads, the front to rear brake balance is dramatically altered, with the result that we never managed to lock the wheels, whereas the standard product is certainly capable of this vice, given a panic situation and poor road surface. Summing up the changes the company had made to the Ford, Broad said, “our object is to try and make the car follow the road in the same way as we make it follow the throttle”.
The last group of standard Bullit items were all primarily aimed at improving the looks… in one way or another. The front of the Capri has a new lower panel incorporating recessed quartz-iodine driving lamps from Lucas and similarly treated reflective number plate: the air dam is also incorporated, but this £9 foil can be moved from Capri to Capri without bodywork damage. Normally, a pair of Cibie Caprima headlamps, also with quartz-iodine bulbs, would be installed as well but they had most regrettably been removed for our test. A special paint job is also part of the work, using a standard Ford colour as a base for a contrasting pin stripe and black bonnet job which extends around the rear side windows. Finally, the basic price includes those rear window louvres.
Optional extras on our Bullit were a set of five Minilite wheels with 6 in. rims (195 section Goodyear G800 GP tyres were fitted) which cost £120, a pair of fabulously comfortable Restall bucket seats with cloth centre sections at £50; prototype centre console holding stereotape deck (£50), clock, oddments compartment and two rocker switches—the console being priced at £20. A sturdy and small diameter leather rim steering wheel looking very functional in all black (£11), the vital and efficient, though noisy when cutting-in, Wood Jeffries fan (£17); dual note air horns which could be switched from one note pattern to the other in a brilliant move which is obviously designed to frighten fellow road users into baffled submission and costs merely £9.45. From Ford there was a sunroof, the rest of the items of extra luxury coming from the selection of a 3000E as a building base.
Broad laid on a very convincing display of the Bullit’s abilities before we left the rural Southam air. We were able to watch as the engine pulled from a shade over 1,000 r.p.m. in fourth gear, which is a speed of 20.7 m.p.h. on the production 3.22:1 final drive, to 2,000 r.p.m., at which point the exhaust takes on a more urgent note, pulling the Capri up to 110 m.p.h. and approximately 5,500 r.p.m. in the same gear.
Settling into those superb seats for the first time we found all that we needed was easily operated by the movement conferred by the inertia reel belts. We particularly admired the neat installation of the electric fan warning light alongside the handbrake’s similar light. Production instrumentation was retained, the water temperature normally staying within the centre of the dial unless the car was consistently cruised in excess of the standard rev. limit at 5,750 r.p.m. Oil pressure stayed steady at 60 lb. per sq. in., save when the level was low in the sump and the gauge immediately showed its distaste for such a state of affairs by swinging during acceleration and cornering. The steering column lock on the 3-litre is not as badly sited as those on the GT6/Spitfire range, but when it refused to yield to all but a skilled Ford Boreham mechanic I found myself echoing colleague Andrew Marriott’s sentiments on these fiddling devices. Surely any car-thief worth his ill-gotten gains can unlock the steering just as quickly as they can admit their unlovely presence to any other part of a car?
Starting hot or cold never gave a moment’s trouble and, thanks to that electric fan, warm up was much improved and the horrible whine of the standard Capri’s mechanical effort banished. Acceleration is of the flashing variety in the Bullit and the improvement over the standard product is thoroughly worthwhile, the latter car hardly qualifying as a motorised mimser anyway. Those who like facts and figures can add up the seconds saved throughout the range from the tables at the end. Far more important to the tester was that the runs were made with no effort and only the slightest indication of axle tramp. On the road we found that the other traffic was apparently all travelling at 00.1 m.p.h. and this led to a few interesting exercises in testing the Bullit’s brakes and dodging ability, both of which are in that legendary bracket where it is found that the car assists one out of trouble, instead of dropping the unfortunate conductor into the mire, should he plumb the depths of stupidity.
In fact, the Bullit is so much fun to drive that it would probably bore you all to recount its perfect balance whilst cornering on the limit (strictly a test track exercise if officialdom is in the habit of writing unpleasant things within the blank pages of your licence), uncanny peace whilst cruising at anything below 110 m.p.h.—and it’s mainly the sunshine roof which upsets the harmony, the buffeting from this source being bearable, but not particularly pleasant, at a steady 120 m.p.h.
With the wide power band provided third gear can cover that 34 m.p.h. second gear gap between the two ratios. The maximum of close to 95 m.p.h. in third gear gives one an idea of the effortless and efficient overtaking capabilities offered. The time of seven seconds which it takes to accelerate from 50 to 70 m.p.h. in fourth gear also effectively illustrates the car’s flexibility and is 0.7 sec. faster than the standard Capri 3-litre, which shows that the camshaft and breathing arrangements have not suffered at low speed, whilst providing 6,500 r.p.m. and tyre melting take-off. The gearchange was completely acceptable and seemed to be above the average UK standard, though Broad is hoping to produce a closer set of ratios which would probably have the effect of making this Bullit a match for all but the hottest American pony cars, until 80 or 90 m.p.h. at least, when the effect of six or seven litres is bound to make itself felt.
Judged overall, the Capri suffered more than its fair share of minor ailments which would be rectified by Ford under warranty (the bonnet lock jammed intermittently as an example) but surmounted these by its excellent performance and general balance. The car we tried is just an example of Broadspeed’s talents, for the intention is to tailor each car exactly to the customers’ requirements. Seating, steering wheel design and even a camshaft for automatic transmission can all be specified, as can a £40 limited slip differential which would really ice the cake. With an enormous variety of Ford variations on the Capri theme that are available and the sophistication that Broadspeed can offer, I think the modified 3-litre Capri could well carve out a highly desirable niche in market and make a lot of owners extremely glad they are keen enough to have their production cars improved.
m.p.h. .. seconds
0-30 .. 2.8 (3.0)*
0-40 .. 3.9 (5.0)
0-50 .. 5.5 (7.2)
0-60 .. 7.2 (10.2)
0-70 .. 10.1 (13.6)
0-80 .. 12.9 (17.8)
0-90 .. 17.3 (25.6)
0-100 .. 23.2 (39.8)
1st .. 42 m.p.h. (39)*
2nd .. 60 m.p.h. (53)
3rd .. 94 m.p.h. (83)
4th .. 126 m.p.h. (114)
Overall m.p.g.: 16.6 (19.2)
Standing quarter mile: 16.1 sec.
Speedometer error: 3 m.p.h. slow at 70 m.p.h.
Converter: Broadspeed Ltd., Banbury Road, Southam, Warwicks.
Prices: Commece at £1,825, test car valued at £2,400.
* Figures in brackets refer to a production Capri 3000 GT XLR.