The Ford Capri 3000GT XLR

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Enjoyable Motoring in the V6 Version

A critical road-test report on the exciting new Ford Capri, which people will insist on calling a Baby Mustang or the pauper’s E-type, was published in Motor Sport for March this year. The car then tested was the 1600GT XLR version and I concluded a generally favourable write-up by saying that I awaited with interest an opportunity to try the forthcoming 3-litre V6 and the twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder Cosworth versions. The last-named remains elusive in spite of hints of an extended test being possible but at last I have been able to sample the V6 Capri.

I am convinced that the big-engined model represents the stylish Capri in its nicest guise. Ford’s 60 deg. V6 93.7 x 72.4 mm. (2,994 c.c.) power unit for which 136 (net) b.h.p. is claimed at a modest 4,750 r.p.m. (with 181 net lb./ft. torque at 3,000 r.p.m.) requires no introduction and we have had a good deal to say about its installation in Cortinas, non-Dagenham Capri conversions and even in Transit vans in recent issues. Now we have tried the Capri in “official” V6 form and very good it is.

There is an especial pleasure in driving behind a smooth vee engine which opens up with the characteristic wuffle of sound from intakes and exhausts and while eight cylinders are even better, the effect with six is very satisfying, although quite different from a punchy four which makes crisper noises and needs more use of the gear lever. By putting their fine V6 power pack into the 21.2 cwt. kerb-weight Capri Dagenham is able to offer a very refined motor car, with lines which are not to everyone’s taste but which tend to grow on one, which has a top speed of 115 m.p.h. and which will dispose of a s.s. ¼-mile in the brief time of 17½ seconds, allied to such impressive pick-up figures as 0-60 m.p.h. in 25.2 sec., 50 to our legal limit in top in 7.7 sec.

Impressive as these figures are, maximum speed is restricted by an axle ratio of 3.22 to 1, which is rather low for the 3-litre engine, while acceleration through the gears suffers because the employment of Mk. IV Zodiac gears brings gappy indirect ratios of 10.19, 7.13 and 4.55 to 1, so that with 38 m.p.h. available in 1st with the crankshaft rotating at 5,800 r.p.m. (where the red area on the tachometer begins), there is an unpleasant gap between the 52 m.p.h. available at this reading in 2nd gear and 85 m.p.h. under the same circumstances after getting into 3rd. Once into top, the lazy engine, geared to run at 3,280 r.p.m. at 70 m.p.h., is in its element.

Criticism has been levelled at the V6 Capri on these grounds, and is indeed justified, but I think perhaps too much is being made of it. The whole joy of such a smooth-running, moderately revving engine is the great surge of acceleration in top gear and instead of stirring about in the box I preferred to go straight from, say, second into top, there being little need dramatically to exceed 4,000 r.p.m. in the lower gears in normal driving. Indeed, above 1,000 r.p.m. the engine pulls away well in the highest ratio. If one does use the gearbox the change will be found to be good but more notchy than some other Ford boxes. But I was very pleased to discover that the central lever is correctly positioned, instead of being unpleasantly far back along the console, as in the Reliant Scimitar and Gilbern Genie, for instance. Ford have, indeed, provided an altogether excellent, if rather low, driving position on comfortable, Ambla-upholstered seats with reclining squabs. if the correct positioning of the gear lever has been achieved by getting the long power pack well forward, and if the extra 100 lb. or more in this location has increased understeer, not to worry. This 3-litre Capri is so accelerative that there should be little need to rush it up in the gears or to hurl it at corners. Driven thus, as one did the pre-war Ford V8s and as today’s enormous wallowy American automobiles are best driven, the aforesaid deficiencies, arising from adapting components from various Ford models to the ultimate Capri, hardly add up to more than mild irritants. The clutch is light.

Those who have expressed a craving for an American-style car with European handling and braking and compact dimensions have their prayer answered in the V6 Capri. Its stiffer suspension, more so than on a 1600E, has not improved the always notorious Ford ride and this has had its effect on road-holding, over bad surfaces and cornering, which lack the precision expected of fast European-type cars. However, pitching is well controlled and the up-and-down ride less pronounced than on a Cortina, although too much so for proper comfort. The hard springing does, however, get the increased power on the ground and ensures roll-free cornering. If one drives the Capri as suggested, mainly using its enormous performance for straight-line squirts, the sub-effects of the suspension are less of a disadvantage.

Understeer can be blotted out by using the power available but I imagine that on wet roads this needs to be done with some skill, although 185-70H 13 in. Goodyear low profile G800 Grand Prix tubeless radials on the 5 in. rims of handsome Rostyle wheels ably assist traction.

The average owner will presumably buy his Capri in this V6 form to enjoy effortless pick-up and the eyeable effect of the ensemble. From this viewpoint particularly, this car is assured I would think of a considerable sales-success.

There is some unwanted sound from the region of the back wheels and at times an alarming resonance from the region of the boot, the fuel tank possibly acting as an amplifier when nearly empty, but generally the running is quiet, the engine inaudible at idling speed. The Girling servo disc/drum brakes are deceptive, seemingly weak at first, they were later found to be powerful and progressive but somewhat spongy and squidgy and inclined to squeak. There is no need to recap. on the details of the Capri in XLR form, except to say that the lamps switch below and ahead of the air vent on the r.h. side of the facia, beside the handbrake or warning light, is ridiculously “fumbly” and that the Aeroflow ventilation does not seem as effective with this body as it undoubtedly is on the Cortina, which is a disadvantage as there are rightly no ¼-windows. The heater is fully up to Ford standards but resolutely refused to be turned off and the full-beam from the Lucas sealed-beam headlamps very effective, but the cut off anaemic. Demisting is good. The Capri can be regarded as a four-seater except for very large or finicky extra passengers. There is no cubby-hole but an under-facia shelf is fitted and the instruments comprise a 140 m.p.h. speedometer properly calibrated every 10 m.p.h. and which also has metric calibrations, up to 180 k.p.h., the matching tachometer going to 7,000 r.p.m., and very small recessed dials for volts, heat, tank contents and oil pressure, the last-named normally showing approximately 60 lb./sq. in. All these, with the radio and heater controls, are accommodated in a padded binnacle, on an imitation unpolished wood facia. Central press-tumblers bring in two-speed wipers, spot and fog lamps, two-speed blower and panel lighting but are much too “fumbly”, and a rather heavy foot button operates the screen washers. There is the usual Ford three-purpose r.h. stalk control. The black interior trim and detail is as on the previously tested Capri, and very decently contrived. There is an accurate Kienzle clock down on the console, illuminated at night. The self-locking luggage boot is partly filled by the ugly 14-gallon fuel tank, which is refuelled from a lockable cap under the ugly circular flap on the o.s. of the body. It is well known that the Capri comes in all manner of permutations—”mine” carried a BRSCC transfer, although I do not belong to this club. My spell with this smooth and accelerative Capri was most enjoyable but I would thank the driver of a white Volvo not to flash abnormally powerful headlamps at me because I passed a slow van on the nice bit of country road which links Chobham with Chertsey—with V6 Capri acceleration I could have done this safely in a fifth of the available space. However, some people are never content just to get on with driving their own vehicles . . . I did not check the range but the Capri had done 242 miles before I refuelled, although the needle on the gauge was then well into the reserve segment. Full to dry, nearly 300 miles should be possible, which is decidedly useful. The 8.9 to 1 cr. permits the burning of 4-star petrol and this averaged out at 21.3 m.p.g. The Weber-fed engine started at once on its automatic choke and is free of flat spots. Under the prop-up bonnet nearly all the serviceable components, even the plugs, are accessible. Checked on the very easy-to-use dip-stick, oil consumption was found to be approximately 400 m.p.p. The test car had a rather pointless anti-dazzle mirror, which was loosely mounted, the n/s door had to be slammed shut, and there was a faint tap from the engine.

All in all, this 3-litre Capri is a notable Ford product. Its sporting demeanour is heightened by the small leather-covered steering wheel, twin exhaust tail-pipes, a swivelling map lamp—and the power lamp on the long bonnet. The steering requires 3½ turns, lock-to-lock, and its rack and pinion mechanism is entirely acceptable, there being sensible castor return and very slight feed-back. It has been described as heavy steering but I found it perfectly acceptable. As tested the price is £1,427 12s. 8d., which is a considerable saving over some of the Capri’s rivals which have pinched its V6 engine, even if they are a bit more accelerative, more economical and somewhat faster—W. B.