Road Test

The Ford Capri 1600GT XLR Coupe

Candid Comment on the Latest Car from Ford of Britain

Nearly everyone seems to be talking about the Ford Capri and Warley must have done its public relations well, because, when we took over a Capri 1600GT on the day when these new Fords first appeared in dealers' showrooms, it attracted comment almost everywhere, from people who seemed to know more about the car than we did.

This long-promised new Dagenham-sponsored model, built at Halewood, can be described as a close-coupled four-seater coupé somewhat resembling a baby Mustang, built around well-tried Ford components, mostly of Cortina and Escort origin. It owes nothing to the original Mustang car which Ford of America built as an experimental sports car some years ago; incidentally its adjustable pedals and controls, used since by Marcos, are absent from the stolidly-conventional Capri. The new Ford comes in many permutations of engine size and type and body trim and equipment, on the American formula—it is Ford's proud boast that they could build 1¼ million Capris in the 26 basic models without any one being precisely the same!

So let me hasten to explain that the car we tested was a 1600GT, engined like that version of the Cortina, with the XLR custom pack—that is to say, with reclining seats, bucket rear seats, brake warning light, dipping mirror, dual horns, reversing lamps, sculptured (ugh!) road wheels with 5 in. rims, leather trim on the steering wheel, map light, fog and pass lights, some stuck-on goodies, like those dummy air vents on the body sides (do they mask thin panelling?) and a locking fuel-filler cap. But the two-tone paint job did not mar the Saluki Bronze finish of the two-door body and the second interior lamp and the covers on the auxiliary-lamps were missing, perhaps to convince us of the aforesaid "individuality" claim.

Anyone who has driven a Cortina GT can visualise what a Capri feels like. It is longer in the wheelbase, lower, and the rear suspension has been stiffened up. Naturally this gives better road clinging, but the ride remains lively and lurchy, there is still some transmission snatch, and the back seats are not what I would call comfortable, although they accommodate two average-size grown-ups in reasonable spaciousness. The back axle has been prevented from tramping on take-off, but it makes its rigid presence felt over bad bumps, thumping and sometimes making the Capri's tail hop sideways, which, with the noise, can tire a driver on long runs. Road-holding is good, but naturally not in the superlative (Elan) category. The nose runs out mildly but in fast cornering the tail finally breaks away gently, without much warning from roll. The test car was on Goodyear G800s, which were reasonable on wet roads and impossible to spin under acceleration on dry roads, but which gave poor traction on snow—I had to abandon the Capri on a gradient a Renault 4L climbed unaided.

The steering, with a small, low-set wheel having a thick leather-gaitered rim and too-prominent padding over its three spokes, is fairly light, with effective castor return, but is a trifle too low-geared. There was some wheel shake at times, from rack-and-pinion gear asking 3 5/8 turns, lock-to-lock, with no lost motion. The aforesaid harsh ride results in body shudder over rough going.

The noise level is somewhat high, with the engine making that eager Cortina-sound when accelerating. It runs to 6,000 r.p.m. before entering the danger area on the tachometer, and if the Capri is cruised legally in Britain there is nearly 2,000 r.p.m. in hand, before the "red" is entered.

The Capri GT seems less responsive than the equivalent Cortina; which is to be expected with higher gearing and some extra weight. This is borne out by the acceleration figures, which show this Capri model to accelerate slightly less effectively than a Cortina 1600E up to 80 m.p.h.; rather disappointing from a new sporting car. It has the 3.77 axle from the Corsair 2000E so the Capri GT is probably overgeared; it will pull away without fuss from as low as 1,500 r.p.m. in top gear. The engine is smooth and responsive, just as it is in the Cortina GT saloon, and petrol economy is good, presumably because the Capri has a notably low wind-drag factor. Whether you like the styling will be a matter of personal choice. We have provided pictures taken from various angles, not intended necessarily to humour the new Ford, so you can judge for yourselves. Some people thought the bonnet too long—it will later have to cover the 3-litre V6 engine (and that should outdate the Savage overnight!), but it is certainly low. I dislike the odd shape of the back windows, the bulgy curves of the Opel-like tail, and the ugly circular flap over the fuel filler.

Almost as soon as we had taken performance figures the snow came, so the Capri spent a strenuous long week-end en route to the Midlands and back, from Radnorshire. It took all this in its stride and let in none of the weather, but the Fomoco screen washers eventually packed up. The driver sits low in a comfortable, but hard, seat, which has an easily adjustable squab which hinges forward after a second lever has been operated, to give access to the back compartment. The sloping screen pillars are rather vision-obstructive. The gear-change is very good—as in a Cortina. The clutch is reasonably light and I thought the servo disc/drum brakes faultless, although after the long weekend they felt less smooth. The engine, however, commenced promptly in zero temperatures.

The interior of the Capri is new. Gone are the Cortina's ¼-lights, useful oddments-box between the front seats, and sensible cubby-hole with its nicely-shutting lid. Indeed, stowage is confined to an under-facia shelf and back shelf. The instrument panel is completely revised. Gone is the binnacle above the facia containing the smaller dials. These are now very small, and very deeply recessed in the main panel, in its wide, padded nacelle, but still easy to read, being shielded from reflections. They comprise an accurate-reading fuel gauge, voltmeter, thermometer and oil gauge, identified by International symbols of petrol pump, battery, domestic thermometer and an oil-can. Although the Capri is said to have been designed in Britain, the fuel gauge is labelled "Tank". Fitting, maybe, for a mini Mustang . . .

The 120 m.p.h. speedometer with total and decimal-trip mileometers has k.p.h. calibrations in tiny inset figures and the needles of this, and the 7,000 r.p.m. tachometer, are steady-reading and move in identical planes, which we used to think very posh.

The minor controls consist of six horizontal push-rockers, four in an upright line, respectively for two-speed wipers, panel lighting/roof lamp, and the two auxiliary lamps. There is another for the two-speed heater fan, on the heater-control panel which is to the left of the instrument nacelle, with the compact radio above it. The last of these switches, for the side and headlamps, is badly placed down below the right side of the instrument nacelle, where it is decidedly "fumbly". The well-known Cortina r.h. stalk does for turn-indicators, lamps-dipping and flashing, and the horn or horns, which is all right for simplicity, if not for precision control. The ignition key-cum-steering lock inserts in an out-of-sight lock on the steering column, close to where the choke knob is also located—more fumbling. Normally I do not think a competent driver should need little lamps to tell him his brake is on or his choke out. But as the Ford Capri's choke is hidden away, I would have thought that the warning light for the perfectly obvious, between-seats hand-brake would have served much better as a choke warning light. Another bit of casual planning concerns the switch for the panel/roof lamps. In one position it lights the instruments, in the opposite position it illuminates the car. To extinguish these lights it adopts a position which is the "off" position on the three adjacent switches. So there is some excuse (I hope, for I did this) for driving about thinking the roof light is faulty and won't go out. I am told this switch is being replaced with a more ordinary one, but this will sorely spoil the symmetry?

A foot-button works the screen washers—or did until they got tired of squirting. There is a map-lamp on a flexible arm in XLR cars, to make Capri citizens feel like rally competitors. The doors didn't shut quite flush with the body; they have neat plated pull-out interior handles, good arm-rests-cum-pulls, in black leatherette trim, like the screen sill back shelf, and seats, and press-down inside locks. The external locks are in the press buttons—which can be infuriating.

The boot may look small but it took three suitcases, and much else besides. The lid is key-opened but self-supporting. The petrol tank lives on the boot wall—they say that there is no ash-tray above the back seat's folding central arm-rest, because to drill a hole for it would puncture the fuel tank! I object to a filler cap which has to be unlocked, but this is what this de luxe Capri has. The heavy bonnet releases from an inside handle and has to be propped open. It reveals the splendid Cortina GT engine, with Weber carburation and that efficient-looking four-branch exhaust manifold. There are six accessible fuses; plugs, oil filler, battery, and dip-stick are also easy to reach. The oblong headlamps did not seem powerful enough for a 100 m.p.h. car. The fuel tank is supposed to hold 10½ gallons. I saw it filled to the top of the filter neck, and then drove 228 miles before the fuel gauge needle was half-way across the red low-level sector. It finally ran dry after 261½ miles. So those are the ranges. Over the previously-mentioned winter week-end the consumption came out at 27.5 m.p.g. of four-star petrol. Wheelspin may have flattered the odometer, but extra gear-changing would wipe this out, so that can be taken as a pretty average figure. The sump appeared to be overfull at the start of the test but was normal after 800 miles, when perhaps a pint of oil had been used. Normal oil pressure is fractionally below 40 lb./sq. in.

What else? There is the excellent Aeroflow ventilation, the usual good Ford heater, a Kienzle clock well placed on the slim tunnel between the seats and lit at night, coat hooks, a Triplex laminated screen, a vanity mirror on the n/s vizor, and a gaiter on the gear lever, which slipped down. Wingard seat belts were fitted. I dislike the imitation wood facia and the bogus wood finish on the plastic transmission covers. The name "Ford" is more prominent on the body than "Capri", which is interesting.

Ford of Britain should have another big-seller in the Capri. Anyone who likes the Cortina GT but does not need a full-size saloon will presumably want to go-Mustang, especially as the new Ford rides and handles better and has "fastback" appeal, while being more spacious than many 2 + 2s. I am a great Cortina enthusiast, so I approve of the Capri I600GT, which is very pleasant to drive and quick about the place, although the lively ride makes it tiring over B roads. I await with interest the opportunity of trying the 3-litre V6 and the twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder Cosworth versions.—W. B.

The Ford Capri 1600 GT coupe

Engine : Four cylinders, 80.9 x 77.6 mm. (1,599 c.c.). Push-rod-operated overhead valves. 9.2-to-1 cr. 82 net b.h.p. at 5,400 r.p.m.
Gear ratios : 1st, 11.2 to 1; 2nd, 7.6 to 1; 3rd, 5.3 to 1; top, 3.78 to 1.
Tyres : 165 x 13 Goodyear G800, on bolt-on steel "sculptured" wheels.
Weight : 18.1 cwt. (kerb weight).
Steering ratio : 3 5/8 turns, lock-to-lock.
Fuel capacity : 10½ gallons. (Range 261½ miles—see text.)
Wheelbase : 8 ft. 4¾ in.
Track : Front, 4 ft. 5 in; rear, 4 fr. 4 in.>
Dimensions : 13 ft. 11¾ in. x 5 ft. 4¾ in. x 4 ft. 2¼ in. (high).
Price : £798 (£1,129 13s. 2d., inclusive of purchase tax, XLR options and seat belts).
Makers : Ford Motor Company Ltd., Dagenham, Essex, England.

Performance Figures

Acceleration :
0-30 m.p.h. .. .. 3.8 sec.
0-40 m.p.h. .. .. 6.2 sec.
0-50 m.p.h. .. .. 8.8 sec.
0-60 m.p.h. .. .. 12.4 sec.
0-70 m.p.h. .. .. 17.0 sec.
Standing mile ¼-mile .. 18.8 sec.

Maxima in Gears :
1st .. .. .. 36 m.p.h.
2nd .. .. .. 52 m.p.h.
3rd .. .. .. 74 m.p.h.
(Speedometer was accurate to 60 m.p.h.)

Fuel consumption .. .. .. 27.5 m.p.g.