Oct 12 2009 Ian Johnson
Not all sunshine for early Capri
WHEN we hear the name Capri it is understandable that the mental image of the 1970s classic Ford springs to mind.
But there was another Capri which was built in the early 1960s which, to many, was just as important as the later car.
Launched in 1961, the Ford Consul Capri took the UK by surprise. It embodied sweeping American lines in a pretty coupe body. There was nothing else on the UK market that looked like it and it gave an option of a much more glamorous model than the more conventionally-styled Consul.
It was a variant of the Consul Classic and is now a rare item for collectors. The gem of the range was the GT version of 1963 which managed to squeeze 78bhp out of its twin-carburettor 1498cc engine, meaning nearly 95mph flat out.
Out of the total production run of 18,716, a mere 2002 were GTs, hence their value to Ford fans.
The Capri Project was code named "Sunbird" and took design elements from the Ford Thunderbird and Galaxie Sunliner models from the USA. It was instigated by Sir Horace Denne, Ford's Sales Director who wanted to add a little glamour to the product line.
The Consul Capri went on sale to the domestic British market in January 1962. The bodies were sub-assembled by Pressed Steel Fisher, with only final assembly taking place at Dagenham. The body was well engineered but proved complex and expensive to produce.
With new production methods, time demands from Ford HQ at Dearborn and a need to match opposition manufacturers in price there were financial problems from the start because the Capri GT was expensive at a hefty £900. That was a lot for a Ford at the time because for £70 more you could have had the luxurious new Zodiac
But the Capri offered many then unusual features, such as four headlights, variable speed wipers, 9.5in front disc brakes, dimming dashboard lights and a cigar lighter. The four speed transmission was available with either a column or floor change.
Initially fitted with a 1340cc, three main bearing engine the early cars were considered underpowered and suffered from premature crankshaft failure. I remember one disgruntled owner of an early Capri saying he got more poke from his Popular.
Engine capacity was increased in August 1962 to 1498cc and this engine was a major improvement.
Although the Consul Capri's production life was only a few years it certainly made its mark. Ford never attempted anything so overtly over the top again in the UK having learned a significant financial lesson.