The Capri is made practical

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The stylish Capri has become one of Ford’s best-sellers since its introduction in 1968 and would possibly have sold many more had practicality not been sacrificed for styling. No such criticism can be levelled at the new Capri Mk II, announced at the end of February: a third door has been added to the tail of the all-new body-shell to create what is very nearly an estate car without losing the traditional fast-back tail.

In common with other manufacturers Ford have had to pull in their horns during the Crisis, an early casualty being the cancellation of the proposed Capri announcement in Cyprus. Thus we monthly magazines had to be satisfied with a very brief acquaintance with the car on Ford’s test track on the old Boreham Airfield/post-war racing circuit, next door to the famous competitions department. A more elaborate announcement in Torquay is planned too late for our schedule, thus this brief announcement must be written without the aid of Ford’s usually comprehensive Press pack, indeed, with very few details at all other than engine specifications.

Mechanically the range retains the same well-known package with one or two modifications. The basic shape is pretty well the same as the old model too, though every panel is different. It replaces all the Mk I Capri variations except the RS 3100, announced only a few months ago, which remains in production with the old body shell at Halewood of necessity for competition homologation purposes, a most peculiar anomaly.

The passenger area remains unchanged, which means that rear seat access through the two doors is still difficult and even medium height rear seat passengers need to adopt a permanent stoop to afford themselves sufficient headroom. It is the luggage arrangement in which this Capri’s selling hopes lie: the complete flat section of the tail down to waist level, incorporating the rear window (heated in the case of all except the cheapest models) hinges upwards and is self-supporting with the aid of Maxi-type hydraulic arms. Capacity is claimed to be 8.1 cu. ft. with the rear seats up, when luggage can be piled higher than in the old self-contained boot, and a useful 22.6 cu. ft. when the rear seats are folded. “Seats” is used in the plural, because in the more expensive versions separate back-rests are fitted la Scimitar, allowing one passenger to be carried while the other seat is folded flat for extra stowage. In common with true estate cars this estate/saloon has the drawback of leaving all luggage exposed to people with fight-fingered tendencies. Reliant offer a cover for the luggage compartment of the Scimitar and Ford would be wise to do likewise.

Electric windscreen wiper and washer are provided for the rear screen, another commendable crib from the GTE.

Ford offer the usual confusing selection of L, XL and GT options, but one blessing is that the top of the range Mk i models, the GXL and E have been combined into one model, the Ghia. Engine options start with the 1300 pushrod, available in L guise only, the 1600 overhead camshaft engine with one Ford single-choke carburetter and 72 bhp in L and XL form, the same engine with improved camshaft and twin-choke downdraught Weber carburetter and 88 bhp in form only, the 2.000 overhead camshaft engine offering 98 bhp in GT and Ghia form and the 3-litre 138 bhp V6, likewise as a GT or Ghia. The 2-litre V4 engine has disappeared from the Capri range into the relative obscurity of Transit vans.

All models have disc front brakes and have servo-assistance all round on all except the 1300 which has 9.5 in discs as against 9.625 on the 1600s and 2000S and 9.75 on the 3000s. Rear drum sizes are 8 in x 1.45 in on the 1300, 9 in x 1.70 in on the middle range and 9 in x 2.29 in on the 3000. Dual brake line systems are fitted for all markets.

McPherson strut front suspension and leaf-sprung live axle are retained. Modifications are restricted to softening the springs to give a better ride and replacing the subsequently lost roll stiffness by adding a rear anti-roll bar, similar thinking to that applied to the latest Cortinas.

Frankly, thrashing an automatic 3-litre and a manual 1600 round the long, fast bends of Borcham Airfield gave little indication of the cars’ true behaviour on the road. The standard 1600 felt fairly gutless, a good case for fitting only the GT engine into this model, without the GT tag to frighten the insurance companies. It handled well with less inclination to arrive at oversteer on the limit than the old model, but the rear suspension gave a peculiar and unaccountable lurch as it approached the transitional point. The 3-litre, now with a separate exhaust on each side of its tail, but no more power, remained very fast, even in automatic guise. Steering was not unexpectedly fairly heavy, understeer remained on these high speed corners, but was not excessive and along with the excellent roadholding of the latest Pirelli radials, should keep most owners out of trouble.

What Ford have done is to mass-produce their own version of a Reliant Scimitar GTE. At the top end of the scale the 3-litre might well hit GTE sales and lower dawn the scale it should make inroads into Maxi and Marina sales.

-C.R.

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