Joined: 15 Mar 2007
|Posted: Thu Feb 19, 2015 11:43 am Post subject: news article on the Capri
|Wheels Classic Cars: Capri from Ford
The Ford Mustang that launched in April 1964 as an early 1965 model was a runaway success for Ford Motor Co.
By fitting an attractive, sporty, long-hood, short-deck 2+2 body to the well-proven Ford Falcon platform, Lee Iacocca’s Ford Division created a new class of affordable vehicle called the pony car.
The Mustang was so popular in North America that Ford thought the idea might be successfully transplanted to Europe.
Personal coupes, as they came to be called, selling at reasonable prices had not yet really caught on there, with a few exceptions like the MGB GT.
Since the days of the 1928-1931 Ford Model A British and German subsidiaries had usually been left to design their own cars to make them more suitable for European motoring conditions.
But the American pony car idea seemed so good that Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn, Michigan sent product planner Stanley Gillen to Europe to investigate whether such a car would sell there.
His report was positive and in 1965 Gillen was assigned to begin work on the project with Ford of England.
Called the Capri, it was introduced in 1969. It was faithful to the Mustang concept, a low, long hood 2+2 unit construction coupe body fitted to existing running gear. Like the Mustang it offered a wide range of options.
While the Capri was conceptually a smaller Mustang, there were differences. Whereas the Mustang’s front suspension had A-arms with high-mounted coil springs, the Capri used MacPherson struts.
Both had solid rear axles and leaf springs and the Capri had rack-and-pinion steering.
The Capri’s 2,560 mm (100.8 in.) wheelbase was more compact than the Mustang's 2,743 (108), and at 4,262 mm (167.8 in.), it was 351 mm (13.8 in.) shorter overall.
The Mustang was also much heavier at 1,270 kg (2,800 lb) compared with the Capri's 968 (2,135 lb).
There were German and British versions of the Capri, the same car but usually with existing engines from their respective product lines.
Displacements would ultimately range all the way from 1.3 to 2.8 litres, and power went to the rear wheels though a four-speed manual transmission.
While the Capri was originally intended for the European market only it turned out so well that Ford decided it might appeal to North Americans. They started importing them in 1970.
The Capri that arrived was neither purely British nor German. The North American version was built in Germany powered by the English Ford Cortina 1.6 litre, overhead valve four that was already emission-certified for North America in the Cortina. The German engine wasn't.
Since Ford dealers sold the Mustang the new Capri went to Lincoln-Mercury franchises. Although advertised as ‘The Sexy European,’ the performance didn't prove very sexy. Road & Track (6/70) recorded a lethargic zero to 97 km/h (60 mph) in 17.3 seconds and top speed of 145 km/h (90 mph).
Although L-M dealers sold more than 30,000 Capris in the first year, a record for imported cars, Ford quickly recognized the need for more power.
The remedy was the optional German-built 2.0 litre overhead cam four for 1971, also available in the Ford Pinto. This improved performance considerably with R & T (2/71) recording zero to 97 (60) in 11.5 seconds and top speed of 174 km/h (108 mph).
With its new-found power Capri sales moved into the 60,000 per year range, encouraging Ford to offer even more power. For 1972 the German-built Ford 2.6 litre overhead valve V6 became available.
Acceleration again improved, although not dramatically. Zero to 97 (km/h) (60 mph) dropped to 10.4 seconds, and top speed rose to 177 (110) (R&T 3/72). The anaemic 1.6 litre was discontinued and the 2.0 litre became the standard engine.
Capri’s 1973 sales exceeded 100,000, outstanding for a specialty import, but by the mid-1970s the lustre began to fade. All cars suffered from tightening emissions and safety requirements that made them heavier, thirstier and less driveable.
Thus, even with the V6 enlarged to 2.8 litres for 1974 (also offered as a Mustang II option), the Capri’s performance and fuel economy declined.
The Capri along with other German cars was also suffering from stiff price increases brought by the rising strength of the German currency vs. Canadian and United States dollars. This contributed significantly to slower sales.
A second-generation hatchback Capri came out in 1976 and was imported until 1978, but never enjoyed the success of the original.
For 1979 the imported model was gone and the name was switched to an American-built Mustang clone called the Mercury Capri.
The Sexy European had an excellent start but gradually grew fatter and heavier. In the process it lost some of its sex appeal, so it was discontinued.