It never ceases to amaze me how something that was, within my lifetime, so ubiquitous, can simply disappear. It seems like only yesterday that the roads of Britain were chocked full of what now seems like interesting stuff: Cavaliers, Vivas and Chevettes, Cortinas and Granadas, Renault 5s, Fuegos, 14sand 24s, Scimitars, Dolomites and Spitfires, the occasional Alfasud, an X-19 or Mirafiore, the odd Yugo, a lesser-spotted DAF, or even, on a clear day, a Lancia Beta. They’re all gone now, specks of rust on the wind, or worse, victims of the recent government sponsored cull on motoring heritage, the only lasting benefit of which was the crushing, en masse, of the wretched Metro.
Being, I am reliably informed, a prematurely grumpy old man, I often find myself harking back to the days of such automotive variety, bemoaning the uniformity of current design trends. Trundling along the A23, picking my way through the assault course of speed cameras and potholes, I was constantly reminded of just how bland cars have become when I spotted something I wouldn’t have looked twice at a few years back, but became the highlight of my journey: a Mark II Capri.
A quick look at the 1965 Ford UK range revealed a gaping Mustang-shaped hole, with only the Lotus Cortina offering a roadgoing taste of the marque’s sporting prowess. With Jim Clark hustling his Lotus Ford to glory at Indianapolis; proving unstoppable in the aforementioned green-striped Cortina; and the ongoing development of the GT40 into a quadruple Le Mans winner, the time was right for the introduction of a European equivalent to the car that had broken all sales records in the US. ‘Project Colt’ would hit the showrooms in February 1969, and became an instant success, production continuing for eighteen years, though for the duration of that time it divided opinion.
"the Capri radically altered people’s expectations of sportscar ownership, yet somehow retained many of the elements that made such cars fun. "
I must confess I always had a soft-spot for the ‘Mini Mustang’, most likely the result of watching Bodie and Doyle screeching around West London in The Professionals (it just wasn’t the same when they got that Escort), and John Wayne jumping Tower Bridge in a bystander’s showroom fresh Mk II in Brannigan (“I waited a year for delivery”). The Capri was fast, reliable, comfortable, handled well and, most importantly, remained affordable. It’s a notion that we’re entirely used to today, that of the everyday sportscar, but back then if you didn’t fancy getting soaked and frozen in the winter, or boiled by an overheating engine in the summer, you really didn’t have many options – to purchase such a car was to undertake an endless battle against the elements, and then there were the day to day maintenance issues... Of course the naysayers might try to dismiss it as just another soulless Ford, but the Capri radically altered people’s expectations of sportscar ownership, yet somehow retained many of the elements that made such cars fun.
Love it or hate it, the Capri became a true motoring icon, and it’s sad to see that only 304 examples remain on British roads.
You can see the Wheeler Dealers spruce up a Capri on Shed (18th July at 1pm).
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