|1.||Prehistory, 1950-1960: The Hot Rod Lincoln|
|2.||1962-64: The British Invasion|
|3.||1966-67: The Missing Mercury|
|4.||1970-78: The European Capri|
|5.||1979-1986: The Mutant Mustang|
|6.||1991-1994: The Australian Convertible|
Ford's Lincoln division sold a car called the Capri from 1950 to 1960. They had nothing in common with the later European sport coupes, with one exception: They were also successful race cars.
The Cosmopolitan Capri was a two door coupe, with a custom interior and padded canvas top. This large luxury car had a 125 inch wheelbase and weighed more than two 1970 Capri 1600's! The '50-51 Lincolns shared the "upside down bathtub" look common in the late '40s. It was powered by an antediluvian flathead V-8 originally used in Ford trucks. It displaced 336.7 cubic inches, and produced 154 HP at 3600 RPM. (Don't try swapping one into your European Capri--it weighed almost 1000 pounds!) There were three transmission choices: a 3-speed manual, a 3-speed manual with overdrive, and a 4-speed automatic. Believe it or not, the 4-speed automatic was GM Hydra-Matic!
"In the second,third and fourth Carrera Panamericana, the cars had no rival in the International Standard Class. Lincolns took the top five places in 1952, the top four in 1953, and first and second in 1954. Major credit for the race preparation goes to Clay Smith, a gifted mechanic who was tragically killed in a pit accident in 1954. Smith had help from publicity-conscious Ford, which supplied him with "export" suspension, Ford truck camshafts, mechanical valve lifters, special front wheel spindles and hubs, and a choice of two optional rear ends. The higher axle enabled a Lincoln with a stock engine to top 130 mph. The 1952 race winner, Chuck Stevenson, actually finished the 2000-mile grind from Juarez to the Guatemala border nearly an hour ahead of the Ferrari that had won the year before." "Cars of the 50s" by Richard Langworth
Even today, the Lincoln Capris are still racing. Rick Martin, of Darrtown, OH won the big stock class in the 1991 Carrera Panamerica Classica driving his 1954 Lincoln Capri. Fritz Kott of San Diego, CA has also won this race in a Lincoln Capri. Rick tells us that the car will still do 132 MPH on the straights from Esconada to San Philipe, Mexico. He also takes his car out drag racing occasionally, and has recorded 16.97 second quarter miles, with a top speed of 81.24 MPH.
The Capri was the "base" model Comet, with minimal chrome. Numerous options were available, though, which could make these cars much more interesting. Engines ranged from a basic 200 cubic inch straight-6, to a 289 cubic inch V-8, up to a 390 cubic inch V-8.
We still have very little information on these Capris; If anyone else does, please let us know.
|Mark I "Facelift":||1973||1974|
The European Capri sport coupe is a significant classic. It was originally conceived as a "Mustang for Europe". Just as the original Mustang was a Falcon compact sedan chassis with nice 2-door body work, the Capri was a British Ford Cortina chassis with nice 2-door body work. It was nicely proportioned, with a long hood and a short trunk. The wheelbase was fairly small at 100.8 inches. Into this body, Ford put quite a variety of different engines: the 1600cc Kent Crossflow, the 2000 OHC, various Cologne V-6s and the 2.3 liter "Lima" OHC 4 cylinder.
Differences Between Capris in North America and the Rest of the World
The Capri was badged as a Ford in most of the world, but in North America it was sold through Ford's Lincoln-Mercury dealerships. This was evidently done to bolster Mercury sales, which were sagging at the time. Capris in North America are therefore registered as Mercury Capris, though they do not carry any Mercury badges. Mercury Capris do not have any "FORD" lettering on the hood or trunk. Mk I Capris have "CAPRI" lettering on the hood, whereas Mk II Capris have "CAPRI" lettering in the grille.
"Federal" Capris had to meet numerous US emissions and safety regulations.
A number of the German "Cologne" engines didn't make it to the US either. The smaller the 2000 and 2300 cc V-6s and their 1300 and 1700 cc V-4 cousins were not imported to North America. No RS-2600s were ever brought to the North America officially, but we have some conclusive evidence that a few made it here anyway: We own one!
Do You Remember Back When Things Were Rotten?
The 1970s were a bad time for cars in general in North America, and an especially bad time for performance cars. Primitive emissions controls badly degraded the performance of American muscle cars and pony cars, and the added weight of federally mandated bumpers and catalytic converters made things worse still. On top of this the 1973 Energy Crisis suddenly made gasoline very expensive. Octane ratings also dropped precipitously, adding insult to injury. The low-octane fuel combined with the emissions controls forced newer cars to have low compression ratios (reducing both power and fuel economy) and made older, high-compression cars all but unusable.
Inflation was another unpleasant fact of life in the 1970s. Prices for nearly everything escalated rapidly, and cars were no exception. The price of a European Capri nearly doubled between 1970 and 1977. In some cases, it was possible to sell a used Capri for more than its original purchase price!
As if all that weren't enough, the Federal government imposed the unpopular 55 MPH national speed limit in 1974. In theory, this was in response to the energy crisis, but we were sometimes lead to wonder if something more nefarious was involved. This was not a good time to be an automotive enthusiast.
Yet somehow, in this auto-hostile environment, the Capri managed to thrive. Its small size and light weight made it easy on gas, and yet reasonably quick. Handling and braking were a revelation to those used to American behemoths. While the North American specification Capri did suffer from the heavy hand of Federal regulation, it managed much better than many of its contemporaries. The Capri was one of the few bright lights in a very dark time.
The European Capri was taken away from us in 1978, even though production continued in Europe until 1986. It is remembered fondly by former owners and still commands the loyalty of a small group of dedicated Capri fanatics.
The only engine available in the US was the British 1600 cc "Kent" crossflow 4-cylinder. Only one version was available, and it was equipped with an Autolite 1250 1 barrel carburetor (yech!); it was essentially identical to the European low compression 1600.
One difference was the addition of the "Imco" (Improved Combustion) exhaust emission control system, which was used to meet the then new Federal emission regulations. Its intent was to reduce lean misfire while decelerating. It included a "decel valve" that allowed fuel to bypass the carburetor's throttle valve, and an extra distributor diaphragm to retard timing. Both were activated by high manifold vacuum. Unfortunately the decel valves had an annoying tendency to leak air as they aged, which caused exactly the kind of lean misfire they were intended to eliminate!
Power ratings for the 1600 listed in the Capri Owner's manual were 75 HP at 5000 RPM, and 96 ft-lbs of torque at 3000 RPM. Compression ratio was listed as 8.4:1. Even at the time this seemed rather optimistic; Road & Track's June 1970 test report rated the 1600 at 71 HP at 5000 RPM and 91 ft-lbs at 2800 RPM, with a compression ratio of 8.0:1. The lower compression ratio is confirmed by the 1970 Capri Shop Manual. Reading "between the lines" of the Shop Manual suggests that the 8.4:1 figure represents the "high" end of the normal production tolerance. Perhaps the 75 HP, 8.4:1 ratings were a case of "specsmanship". Recent published data indicates that the 1600's power was more like 62 HP, but much of the discrepancy may be due to the change from "gross" power ratings to the more realistic "net" power ratings that occurred in the early 1970s.
Perversely, the 1970 Ford Pinto 1600 may have been equipped with the much superior 1600 GT engine, though we have not been able to confirm this.
A few intrepid Capri owners obtained the necessary parts to convert their Capris to the much superior European 1600GT specification.
Transmissions & Drive Train
The rest of the 1970 Capri's drive train consisted of an excellent "Dagenham" 4 speed manual transmission and a 3.89:1 rear axle.
Wheels & Tires
Standard wheels were 5J x 13 inch steel "Rostyle" wheels; standard tires were 165SR13 radials, with 185/70SR13 radials optional.
Two trim levels were available: Base and Decor.
Straight line performance was, in a word, BORING, especially when compared to contemporary US "pony" cars. Even Toyota's economy-oriented Corona could easily outrun a Capri 1600 to 60 MPH, although in the quarter mile the Capri fared somewhat better. Still, the Capri was light and handled very well. The brakes in particular were much superior to most other cars available in the USA. Road & Track's June 1970 report expressed concern about the Capri's lackluster straight line performance, but gave high marks for its styling, handling, braking, transmission, and interior quality.
The public evidently shared Road & Track's enthusiasm: Over 15,000 1970 Capris were sold in the United States, despite the late introduction, underpowered 1600cc engine, and lack of an automatic transmission.
Two engines were offered in 1971: the 1600 cc "Kent" crossflow 4-cylinder, and the new 2000 cc SOHC.
The first 2000 engines had a 9.0:1 compression ratio, and were equipped with a Weber 32/36 DFAV 2 barrel carburetor. The power rating was 100 HP at 5600 RPM, and torque was 120 ft/lbs at 3600 RPM.
In 1971 all US Capris were fitted basically the same kind of emission control devices that were used on the 1970 Capri 1600. At this stage they had little impact on performance.
Transmissions & Drive Train
Transmission options for 2000cc Capris were Ford's excellent German "Type F" 4 speed, or a Borg-Warner Model 35 3 speed automatic. Early 1971 2000cc Capris used a 3.89:1 rear axle, but this was soon replaced by a 3.44:1 axle. This taller rear axle allowed the 2000 to get better fuel economy than the 1600. Even more surprising, the Capri 2000's 0-60 time was actually improved by the taller ratio!
Wheels & Tires
Wheel and tire options were unchanged.
Two trim levels were again available: Base and Decor. They were essentially the same as they were in 1970.
A factory sunroof was optional. Dealer installed air conditioning was also available on the Capri 2000.
A 1971 Capri 2000 with the manual transmission had surprisingly good straight line performance, especially if the ignition timing was adjusted creatively. Handling and braking remained superior to most contemporary American cars. Fuel economy was, for its time, a revelation - typically 25 MPG (US) around town, and well over 30 MPG on long highway trips.
Many Capri enthusiasts in the USA (including LHW & DRW) consider the 1971 Capri 2000 to be the most enjoyable Capri model ever sold in the USA. The advertised price of a 1971 Capri was "under $2400", and a Capri 2000 with manual transmission could be purchased for about $2700.
Color choices for 1971 were: Dark Green Metallic with Tan or Parchment interior, Medium Blue Metallic with Dark Blue or Parchment interior, Red with Black or Parchment interior, Silver with Tan or Black interior, Yellow Gold with Black or Parchment interior, White with Black, Tan or Parchment interior, and Medium Brown Metallic with Tan or Parchment interior.
The introduction of the 2000cc engine and automatic transmission boosted sales significantly; over 53,000 Capris were sold in the USA in 1971.
Three engines were offered: the 2.6 liter "Cologne" V-6, the 2000cc SOHC 4-cylinder, and the 1600 cc "Kent" crossflow 4-cylinder, The 1600cc and 2000cc models suffered power reductions as changes were made in the name of emission control.
The US 2600's power rating was 107HP, and torque was 130 ft-lbs.
All 1972 Capris sold in California were equipped with additional emission control equipment to meet that state's more stringent standards. This equipment varied with engine type and transmission.
Transmissions & Drive Train
Manual and automatic transmissions were both available with the 2600 V-6 and 2000 engines. Part way through the 1972 model year the Ford C4 automatic transmission replaced the Borg-Warner Model 35. The standard rear axle ratio was a 3.22:1 with the V-6, while the 2000 retained the 3.44:1 ratio. The Capri 1600's transmission and rear axle ratio were unchanged for 1972.
Wheels & Tires
Standard wheels were 5J x 13 inch steel "Rostyle" wheels. Standard tires for the 1600 and 2000 were 165SR13 radials, with 185/70SR13 radials optional. Standard tires for the 2600 were 185/70SR13 radials.
Two trim levels were again available: Base and Decor. They were essentially the same as they were in 1970 and 1971.
New option packages for the 1972 Capri included the "GK" trim package. It featured protective body moldings, bright wheel trim rings, bright wheel arch moldings, and "GK" identification badges. The complete package is evidently quite rare; Neither of us have never seen a Capri with "GK" badges.
The 1972 Capri 2600 V-6 had noticeably better acceleration than the 1971 Capri 2000, but it also had a more pronounced tendency to understeer due to its heavier engine (though the 2600's extra power could generally be used to induce oversteer). The 2600 also suffered from carburetion problems in hard right turns, as previously mentioned; the 2000 was free of this fault. The Capri 2600's brakes were little better than the 2000's, using identical 9.62" front rotors and wider 9" x 2.25" rear drums.
The introduction of the 2600 V-6 really pushed US Capri sales into high gear: Well over 80,000 were sold in 1972.
New Safety Features
Several new safety features were unique to the USA.
For the first time the Federal government required a 5 MPH bumper on the front of all cars, plus stronger side impact protection. Ford came up with a clever and interesting 5 MPH bumper for the Capri: The original chrome bumper was reinforced with a steel pipe, which in turn was mounted on two shock absorbers connected to the bottom of the car. We know from first hand experience that this worked well. Through most of 1973 the Capri still had an unreinforced bumper in the rear, but very late in the model year a steel tube was hung beneath the original chrome bumper - a very ugly kludge indeed.
Steel reinforcements were added in the doors for side impact protection.
Another new safety feature for 1973 was retracting seatbelts.
Two engines were offered: the 2.6 liter "Cologne" V-6, and the 2000cc SOHC 4-cylinder. The US Capri 1600 was dropped at the start of the 1973 model year. The 3.89:1 rear axle ratio was dropped at the same time.
As in 1972, all Capris sold in California were fitted with a variety of additional emission control devices.
Transmissions & Drive Train
The remainder of the drive train was the same as in 1972: A choice of 4 speed manual or optional 3 speed automatic transmissions with both engines; 3.44:1 rear axle on all 2000s; 3.22:1 rear axle on all 2600s.
Only two trim levels were offered in 1973: Base and Decor. The Decor Group included dual horns, a rear window defroster (mandatory in some states), a console with an integrated clock, reclining front seats, bucket style rear seats, vinyl covered steering wheel and gearshift knob, and an adjustable map light. The vast majority of Capris were sold with the Decor Group. Other options included a black vinyl roof and a manual sun roof. The item with the greatest appeal to enthusiasts was the Instrument Group, which was at long last available on the Capri 2000.
Wheels & Tires
Wheel and tire options were unchanged.
Body colors for 1973 were Dark Green Metallic, Medium Blue Metallic, Red, Light Green Metallic, Medium Gray Metallic, Yellow, Medium Brown Metallic, and Copper Metallic.
Unfortunately the door and bumper reinforcements added a couple of hundred pounds to the weight of the car, and acceleration and braking suffered accordingly.
US Capri sales peaked in 1973, with over 113,000 sold.
Two engines were offered: the revised 2.8 liter "Cologne" V-6, and the 2000cc SOHC 4-cylinder.
This was the last year of the Holley 5200 on the V-6.
As a result new emissions controls, the 2800 actually had a LOWER maximum horsepower than the 2600 (105 vs. 107). The 2800 did have more torque (140 ft-lb at 3200 RPM vs 130 ft-lb at 3400 RPM), and the peak occurred at a lower RPM.
The most significant exhaust emission control devices added in 1974 were the "Thermactor" air pump system, and the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) system.
Transmissions & Drive Train
Initially 2800cc Capris used the 3.22:1 rear axle from the earlier Capri 2600; later, a 3.09:1 rear axle was introduced. Otherwise the rest of the drive train was only slightly changed for 1974. The automatic transmission's gear ratios were revised. Ford literature also shows a new set of gear ratios for the 2800 V-6 manual transmission, but from speedometer/tachometer readings the Capri 2800's ratios appear to be the same as the those used in the 1973 Capri 2600. If anyone has authoritative information on this, please let us know.
New Safety Features
The Capri's seatbelts were upgraded for 1974. The buckle is mounted on a stiff cable, making it harder to lose. The other side got a one-piece seat/shoulder belt, replacing the awkward two-piece unit.
New Federal bumper regulations also took effect in 1974 requiring 5MPH bumpers at both ends. As a result the Capri received large, heavy plastic covered bumpers mounted on shock absorbers. They increased the Capri's weight substantially.
The claimed Ford kerb weight was 2509 lbs, for the V-6. DRW's 1974 Capri 2800 was officially weighed at 2480 lbs in 1995.
Wheels & Tires
Wheel and tire options were unchanged.
Two trim levels were again offered in 1974: Base and Decor. The base Capri 2000 was upgraded slightly, gaining the full instrument group as standard equipment. The Decor Group was unchanged from 1973, and as before the majority of Capris were equipped with the Decor Group.
Factory installed air conditioning was available as an option for the first time in 1974. Other optional equipment was unchanged.
Body colors for 1974 were: Medium Green Metallic, Medium Blue Metallic, Red, Medium Brown Metallic, Silver Metallic, Yellow, Copper Metallic, and Light Beige. Most of these were new colors; only the Medium Blue Metallic, Yellow, and Copper Metallic were carried over from 1973.
The added weight of the 1974 Capri completely negated any performance gains that might otherwise have resulted from the 2800's increased torque; in fact, the 1974 Capri 2800's acceleration was actually slower than the 1973 Capri 2600. The 1974 Capri 2000's acceleration was absolutely pathetic when compared to the earlier Capri 2000.
As bad as things were for the Capri, it was still better off than many American cars. DRW uncovered this quote, which illustrates the point:
"However, the Capri is in nowhere near the predicament that the new Mustang is from this standpoint: It weighs about 3100 lbs. compared to the 2575 of the Capri. Recent road tests of the two cars - both fitted with the 2800 engine - demonstrate the detrimental effect "overweight" can exert on performance. The same publication tested a '74 Mustang Mach I and a '74 Capri - the difference in 0-60 times was a full three seconds." (Petersen's "Complete Book of Engines ", 10th edition, Petersen Publishing Company, Los Angeles, CA USA, 1974 ISBN 0-8227-0060-3 pg 63.)
The Mustang II did get a V-8 before its timely demise in 1978, undoubtedly because too many V-6 Capris were outrunning the V-6 Mustang!
To which LHW adds: Even a V-8 equipped Mustang II was hard pressed to outrun a V-6 Capri! (I speak from experience!)
Despite the numerous styling changes the new Capri II was immediately recognizable as a Capri. The "U-shaped" rear quarter windows, the long hood/short deck profile, and the quadruple headlight arrangement all remained.
Interior changes were surprisingly few. The dashboard and front seats were virtually identical to those in the "facelift" Capri, though some new materials and colors were available. The rear seats were also similar to the earlier ones, apart from the changes needed to accommodate the new rear cargo area. Split folding rear seats were available as an option, which gave the Capri II much more cargo carrying capacity than the 1970-74 model.
Chassis and running gear changes were also astonishingly few; in fact many parts for the 1973-74 models also fit the Capri II. The fuel tank, which was previously mounted in the trunk, was moved to the more common location underneath the spare tire well. The odd 2 piece drive shaft was replaced by a one piece drive shaft.
While the Capri II was heavier than the previous Capri, most of the additional weight was carried on the rear wheels; front/rear weight distribution actually improved slightly, to 53%/47%. As this implies, handling was not adversely affected, except for the previously mentioned increased tendency to overheat the brakes.
Curiously, the Capri II was available as a 1974 model outside North America. We're not sure why North America received it so much later, but it's likely that the delay was due to the changes needed to make the Capri II conform to US emission control and auto safety regulations.
Two engines were offered: the 2.8 liter "Cologne" V-6, and a new 2.3 liter "Lima" SOHC inline 4, which replaced the 2000cc SOHC engine.
The "Lima" engine made its debut in 1974 Mustang IIs and Pintos. As noted above, the 1974 Capri had to make due with a much-watered down 2.0 OHC.
The "Lima" SOHC engine strongly resembled the earlier 2000, but it was actually a completely new design. It so strongly resembled the 2000 that some say that the only significant differences between the two were that the Lima is slightly larger, and has four cam bearings instead of three. The engine was developed in the USA and was first used in the Pinto. Strangely, Ford moved the entire engine plant from Lima, Ohio to Brazil early in the production run.
The 2.3 liter retained the Holley 5200 carburetor, but ignition was now electronic. Emission control systems were comparable to those used on the 2.8 liter V-6. Power rating was 88 HP at 5000 RPM, and torque was 116 ft-lb at a respectably low 2600 RPM. As these figures imply, the 2.3 was less willing to rev than the old 2000. On the other hand, it could be easily replaced by a 2.3 turbo from a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe or an SVO Mustang...... Up to 190 HP. A potential hot rod?
Solid state "breakerless" electronic ignition was introduced on both engines.
Still more emission control systems were added. The most notable was the catalytic converter, which proved to be very effective in reducing emissions of carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons.
Though it was not obvious at the time a turning point had been reached: The catalytic converter made it possible to reduce emissions without reducing engine power. The 1976 Capri II 2.8 V-6 was rated at 109 HP at 4800 RPM, with torque of 146 ft-lb at 3000 RPM - both improvements over the 1974 2800 V-6. This was the first time that a US Capri engine's power rating actually improved from one model year to the next.
Despite improvements, the emission controls still extracted a penalty. The catalytic converters were quite heavy, (and the V-6 had two!) which contributed to the Capri II 2.8's 2777-2826lb curb weight. This weight gain almost exactly cancelled the increased engine power, and it also contributed to an unfortunate tendency to overheat and warp the front brake rotors. The vacuum operated control systems were also quite complex, resulting in the "plumber's nightmare" appearance of the US Capri II engine compartment. (I know that there's a Capri engine in there somewhere under these hoses...) Ford still did not bring the fuel injected Capris to the US, even after a prototype Capri II 2.8 injection was successfully tested in early 1976; considering that the fuel injection might have solved some of the emissions problems, this seems inexplicable. Finally, the emission control systems frequently caused what were euphemistically referred to as "drivability problems" The 2.8 V-6 often suffered from a particularly annoying off idle stumble; stalling during the warmup period was also common. Another decade would pass before reliable computer controls coupled to fuel injection would solve these problems, unfortunately much too late for the Capri in the US.
Transmissions & Drive Train
Transmission options consisted of the excellent 4 speed manual used in previous Capris, or a Ford C-3 automatic transmission (replacing the C-4). Ford literature again refers to a different set of manual transmission gear ratios for the V-6, but we are not sure that the Capri II 2.8 actually did have the alternate ratios.
The 5 x 13 steel wheels with either 165SR13 or 185/70SR13 tires were carried over to the Capri II. Aluminum 5 1/2 x 13 wheels were standard on the Capri II Ghia and optional on other models.
The front brakes from the 1974 Capri 2000 were retained on the Capri II 2.3, but the Capri II 2.8 received larger 9.75" front rotors. The rear drum brakes on both models were identical to their 1974 counterparts.
Four trim levels were available in 1976: Base, Decor, "S" and Ghia.
Body colors for 1976 were White, Black, Dark Red, Yellow, Orange, Dark Brown, Metallic Silver, Metallic Blue, and Metallic Green. An optional vinyl roof in black, dark brown, or white was also available. Interior colors were Dark Brown, Black, Light Tan, Red and Black, and Dark Brown and Parchment. The black "S" models had a Gold and Black interior.
The Capri II also maintained the previous model's excellent fuel economy. Starting in 1975 all US cars received fuel economy ratings from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
|"49 State"||California only|
|2.3 liter 4 speed||24 MPG||34 MPG||20 MPG||31 MPG|
|2.3 liter automatic||22 MPG||31 MPG||21 MPG||32 MPG|
|2.8 liter 4 speed||18 MPG||28 MPG||16 MPG||27 MPG|
|2.8 liter automatic||18 MPG||25 MPG||17 MPG||23 MPG|
In my (LHW) experience the EPA highway rating for the "49 state" Capri II 2.8 with manual transmission was fairly accurate, while the "City" rating was perhaps a little pessimistic.
The US Capri was little changed for the 1977 model year. The "II" was officially dropped from the Capri name, but the 1977 Capri was still usually referred to as a "Capri II".
For 1977, Ford introduced its infamous "triple stalk controls" for the lights, wipers, etc. I (DRW) personally liked the switches on the dashboard better. I (LHW) actually grew to like the triple stalk once I got used to it.
On the mechanical side, one noteworthy change was the introduction of the notorious Motorcraft 2700VV Variable Venturi carburetor. It was used on all 2.8 liter Capris sold California. Although it was still possible to meet California's more stringent exhaust emission regulations with a standard carburetor, the new 2700VV held the possibility of combining low exhaust emissions with better drivability and improved fuel economy. Ford also had a sound business reason for using the 2700VV on the Capri: They had invested a considerable amount of money in the 2700VV's development, and needed to get it into high volume production. While all this made sense at the time, subsequent events revealed the 2700VV to be too complex and rather trouble-prone.
A more positive change was the introduction of a "high energy" version of the electronic ignition.
The "Decor" trim level was dropped for 1977; the Base, Ghia, and S versions were retained.
The Capri's price had risen substantially by 1977; a Capri 2.3 with manual transmission now cost approximately $4600, or nearly $2000 more than a 1971 Capri 2000.
California tuner Bob Winkelmann went even further: In association with Ford's Performance Products he developed conversion kit for the 1600 which featured an 11:1 compression ratio, a hotter camshaft, and two Weber 40 DCOE carburetors. Engine output was boosted to 125 HP @ 6000 RPM, 121 lb-ft @ 5100 RPM. 0-60 MPH time dropped to 9.2 sec, and the 1/4 mile took 17.0 sec with a final speed of 82 MPH. Fuel economy naturally suffered badly. In late 1970 the Plus 50 kit sold for about $600.
Hallmarks of the RS-2600 are a 150 HP Kugelfischer fuel-injected Cologne V-6, slightly flared front fenders, FAVO 4-spoke wheels, special seats, special steering wheel, monoleaf rear springs, and RS badges. Unlike other European Capris brought to the US, the RS-2600 had "FORD" lettering on the hood, instead of "CAPRI". The RS-2600 also had "FORD" lettering on the trunk.
Since Group 2 rules did not require that it be sold anywhere outside Germany, the car was designed expressly for the European market, and it was not designed to meet US regulations. No RS-2600s were ever brought to the US officially, but we have some conclusive evidence that a few made it here anyway: We own one! We're not quite sure how, or under what circumstances they came to the North American continent. We have only anecdotal evidence. Some may have been sold through Mercury dealers, others may have been imported privately. Ford may have used some RS-2600s for testing. Since the RS-2600 did not meet Federal regulations, its history here is necessarily murky. As far as we can tell, those brought here were identical to the German RS-2600s.
The prototype was featured on the cover of the January 1977 issue of Car and Driver magazine. They liked the styling and the finish, but of course, noted that it was no faster than a regular Capri II in a straight line. They recorded a 0-60 time of 10.3 seconds, with the engine in stock trim.
The article noted that there were also plans to offer optional uprated engines for the Capri II R/S: three dual-Weber versions with 122, 136 and 149 HP, a big-valve version with a 316 degree cam, and 10:1 compression producing 160 HP, and culminating in a turbocharged 2.8 liter V-6. Ultimately only the prototype received one, evidently after the Car and Driver article was written; all the other Capri II R/Ss were completed with standard US specification 2.8 liter engines.
We're not quite sure where the nickname "RS 2800" came from, however every owner of one these cars we've ever met has called it that. The name does not appear in any of the advertising brochures, articles, or other documentation we've found.
For a short time, the Capri II R/S could be obtained from selected Lincoln/Mercury dealers, until the Capri II R/S program was abruptly cancelled. Apparently, the program suffered from both quality control and financial problems. Fewer than fifty were sold. Fortunately several still survive, including the turbocharged prototype.
These cars could be ordered through any Lincoln/Mercury dealer with or without installation.
Their news release included the following copy:
" Combining full front and rear fender flares; front air dam; rear spoiler; gate-shift console; popular "SHADOW" rear window louver; special graphics; and other features, the S/3 Capri offers the same low, wide and flowing "competition look" of the Grand Touring Championship race cars, but in a practical conversion that's completely street legal.
Recently introduced to a group of leading Southern California Lincoln Mercury dealers, the S/3 Capri was unanimously chosen over a competitive model, and will be available through Lincoln Mercury dealers from coast to coast.
Designed at Roger Chastain Associates' Long Beach facility, the S/3 Capri will be produced first in the firm's Signal Hill, California plant for the West Coast, then in other plants for the Central and Eastern states."
The release then goes on to briefly describe Mr. Chastain's racing career. The Chastain S-3 was featured on the cover of the July 1976 issue of Hot Rod magazine. The September 1976 issue of Road & Track also had a short article on the S/3 by Thomas Bryant. According to this article, the S/3 also featured 7 inch wide aluminum wheels (gotta fill those big fender flares with SOMETHING) with 50 series tires.
Road Test magazine tested a Chastain S/3 in its March 1977 issue. They recorded a 0-60 time of 11.9 seconds, covering the quarter mile in 18.4 seconds, with a trap speed of 74.5 MPH. They noted that this was about a second slower to 60 MPH than a standard V-6 Capri. Apparently, the S/3 package weighed about 200 lbs, bringing the car's weight up to 2870 lbs, which, no doubt affected its performance.
In 1977 the full S/3 package with installation cost about $3500, which included both the S/3 package and the "handling package".
The really big change was under the hood, in the form of an AiResearch turbocharger. This boosted power to approximately 180HP in the "tame" 7 PSI boost version, or approximately 200HP in the 9 PSI boost version (Rokstock did not publish "official" power ratings). Straight line performance was quite impressive: 1/4 mile times of under 16 seconds were reported with the 7 PSI boosted engine. A leather steering wheel and deep Carrera bucket seats completed the RSR package.
Unfortunately the RSR could not be purchased through through the dealer. Rokstock would either convert a standard Capri II to the RSR standard, or sell parts without installation. It was also possible to buy parts for partial RSR conversions. In 1979 Rokstock charged about $7000 for a full RSR Turbo conversion.
Road Test magazine tested a Rockstock RSR Turbo in its March 1977 issue. They liked what they found. The 180 HP version recorded a 0-60 time of 7.3 seconds.The RSR covered a quarter mile in 15.9 seconds with a trap speed of 88.6 MPH.
In 1972, Oliver Jones raced a 1971 Capri 2000 in a few Trans-Am Two-Five Challenge events, and was not terribly successful against 2.5 liter cars.
Horst and Harry
In 1973, Horst Kwech and Harry Theodoracopulos campaigned a modified racing RS-2600 in regular Trans Am, and also in IMSA's TO class. This was the same car that Brian Muir and John Miles drove to a controversial victory at the Paul Ricard Circuit in France the previous year. The car was extensively modified for Trans Am by AUSCA Inc of Libertyville, Ill. It sported the ducktail spoiler that the European Group 2 Capri RS-2600 so desperately needed in 1973. It also had significant suspension and braking improvements. Yashica Camera was the primary sponsor. The car was powered by a modified Weslake 3.0 liter RS-2600 engine said to produce 330 HP, but in Trans Am they ran against the usual American 5 liter V-8 pony cars, and turbocharged Porsche 934s. It was hard to beat the pony cars' two liter displacement advantage, or the Porsche's turbocharger.
Horst and Harry didn't have much success in Trans Am. They first raced the Capri at Lime Rock on May 5, 1973, but they broke an axle. They had more success at Mid Ohio, leading most of the race until another axle broke. At Watkins Glen, the car crashed and was "destroyed". The car was rebodied, but used mostly for display after that.
The car was replaced by another racing Capri, this one from Broadspeed.
Horst and Harry were persuaded to switch to IMSA later that season. In IMSA the competition also included Porches. "We feel the Capri can be competitive in the Camel series" Harry said, "especially against the Porsches. We don't give up anything in handling, and we've got more power than they have."
Despite starting only five of the ten IMSA races, they placed second overall in three races including Road Atlanta, and third overall in one. Each of those was a class (TO) victory.
Horst and Harry returned to IMSA in 1974, but in 1974, the TO class that they had been so successful in the previous year was abolished. The Capris now had to race directly against the fastest Porsches and Corvettes in the GTO class.
Some time in 1974 Harry Theodoracopulos obtained three RS-3100 race cars (including one the team built from scratch), and raced them for several years in the United States. The drivers were again Theodoracopulos himself, and Horst Kwech. In the IMSA series they managed a second place at Laguna Seca in May, but at this point they may still have been using the RS 2600. From there things degenerated badly, with the next best finish being 9th at Lime Rock in September. The team recorded a number of "D.N.F.'s" during 1974. Clay Dopke, who was associated with the team at this time, described the radically tuned 480 HP V-6 engines as "time bomb motors", with a typical life expectancy of only a few hours.
Horst Kwech left the team in 1975, but Harry Theodoracopulos raced the Capris in several IMSA events with little success.
IMSA Racing After Horst and Harry
Also in 1975 Tom Spencer drove a small displacement Capri in IMSA GTU class at Mosport.
In 1978 Diego Febles campaigned an ex-Theodoracopulos RS Capri (most likely the homebrew RS 3100) in IMSA's GTO class. By this time GTO was no longer the top IMSA class, and Febles made the Capri a serious GTO contender. He finished at least 6th in class in all five races he entered, and took the GTO class win at Lime Rock in May 1978.
Clay Dopke and J. Kurt Roehrig entered the RS Capri (possibly the J. Carl von Walthausen RS 2600) in four IMSA events in 1979-80, but they had little success.
John Huber also drove an RS Capri in the 1979 IMSA race at Road Atlanta, but we don't know if this was a former Theodoracopulos car, or if so which one.
Fortunately, several of these racing Capris still survive. The ex- Oliver Jones Capri 2000 is now owned by Ira Schoen of Pterodactyl Racing, and occasionally appears in SVRA vintage races. The ex- Horst and Harry RS-2600 is now owned by Ross Bremer of Old Fast Fords Racing. He raced it in a few SVRA vintage races in 1998-1999, but it is unlikely to race again.
The fates of the RS-3100s are somewhat murkier. One was fully restored to race condition by Brian Redman. He used this car to win the September 1999 Dodge Vintage Festival at Lime Rock, (in terrible weather conditions) against some notable Jaguar competition. Curiously, he did not use the Cosworth GAA engine, substituting a different Ford V-6. Another is probably in Columbia, as it was once in the posession of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar.
Capris were also campaigned in the lower SCCA classes, with the Capri 2000 being the most popular. We've heard that a fellow named Brian Moore won the SCCA runoffs in a Showroom Stock Capri 2000 in 1974. Generally, Capri 2000s did well against other 2 liter cars, but ran into problems against the Datsun 240Z with their 20% displacement advantage.
So if the thing was so successful, why did the Capri leave the US market?
Ford's official excuse was that the value of the Deutchmark was getting too large compared to the dollar, making it unprofitable to sell the cars in the US. It's true that the Deutchmark made German imports more expensive, but if this were a decisive factor, why did the VW Scirocco survive into the '80s? Ford also liked to say that there was no market for little sport coupes. If that were true, then how did Toyota sell so many Celica GTs and Supras? Another reason often cited was the increasing difficulty in making the Capri meet ever more stringent US exhaust emission, fuel economy, and safety standards. This has some validity, but VW, Toyota, Datsun, and Honda all managed adapt their small sporty cars.
My own (DRW) personal theory is that the real reason is that Ford was afraid of the Capri's nasty habit of blowing away contemporary Mustang II. The apparent reduction in Capri advertising after the introduction of the Mustang II certainly supports this theory. This could also explain the fact that no fuel injected Capris were brought to the US officially, despite the fact that fuel injection could have solved some of the emissions problems. While fuel injection was unquestionably more expensive than a carburetor, VW offered it not only in the Dasher and Scirocco, but also in the economy oriented Rabbit. I (DRW) believe that Ford (USA) simply couldn't stand the idea of its premier sporting car being beaten by this little upstart, so they got rid of it. I have actually seen a picture of a Capri-based Mustang that was tried as a styling exercise, (and it looked good!) but instead, we got a Mustang based Capri.
In 1979, we got the first of the Mustang-based Capris. Essentially, this was a third generation Ford Mustang (based on Ford's standard "Fox" platform) with slightly different fenders, a different grille, and different tail lights. These changes gave the car an appearance that was somewhat reminiscent of the Capri II, at least from the front. They certainly looked better than the 1979 Mustang. The Capri was only available as a hatchback, while its Mustang sibling was also available as a 2 door coupe.
The car was restyled in 1983, gaining a unique bubble on the hatch. These remained in production until 1986.
A variety of engines were offered in the "Fox" Capri, including the 2.3 liter "Lima" 4 cylinder: the 2.8 liter "Cologne" V-6; the 200 cubic inch pushrod inline 6; a new 3.8 liter V-6; and the good ol' "Windsor" V-8, in 255 and 302 cubic inch dislacements. Later versions of the 302 (also known as the 5.0 liter) V-8 were quite potent, and gave the Capri excellent straight line performance.
Handling was another matter. When equipped with the "RS" package the "Fox" Capri actually handled well, but it never felt as good as the old European Capri. The earlier Capri always seemed nimble and quick, while the newer version felt heavy and bulky. The "Fox" Capris were all rather noseheavy, which no doubt contributed to this feeling. This weight distribution also contributed to very pronounced understeer, with an abrupt transition to oversteer during hard cornering and braking. The 2.3 liter versions were a bit better in this regard thanks to their reduced nose weight, though even these carried about 57% of their weight on the front tires. The larger engined models carried roughly 60% of their weight in the nose. Another annoying characteristic was the power steering: It was fast, with only 2.5 turns from lock to lock, but it also had too much power steering boost and too little road feel.
Incidentally, the "RS" package could be obtained with any of the available engines. It featured a stiffer suspension and wider tires. The Michelin TRX wheel/tire package was an option on early RS versions. The TRX tires were excellent by 1979 standards, but the odd tire sizes (390 mm wheel diameter) were unpopular. They were subsequently replaced by standard 15 inch wheels and tires.
Weight was another big change. Ford touted the "lightweight design" of the new "Fox" Capri, but while it was much lighter than the Mustang II it was certainly not lighter than the old European Capri. For example, a 1982 "Fox" Capri was officially listed at 2722 lbs. Presumably, this was a base 2.3 liter car. It's reasonable to expect that more heavily optioned "Fox" Capris weighed substantially more. Even a Capri II V-6 Ghia (manual transmission) weighed only 2777 lbs. The weight difference should hardly be surprising, considering the much greater width of the "Fox" Capri.
Braking was also a bit disappointing. A 1981 sales brochure shows 9.3 inch front disks, and 9.0 x 1.75 inch rear drums. Compare this to the 1974 2.8 liter European Capri's 9.625 inch front disks and 9.0 x 2.25 inch rear drums. Considering the "Fox" Capri's typically greater weight, braking couldn't help but suffer. Later "Fox" Capris were fitted with larger ventilated front disks to correct this situation.
The 1979 "Fox" Capri's interior was something of a disappointment when compared to the 1970-77 European Capri. Although the new Capri was considerably larger than the old version, it had very little extra useful passenger room. Wheelbase was almost identical to the European Capri; most of the change size was an increase in width, and much of this was taken up by a large console between the front seats. The cargo area did benefit substantially from the added width, however, (30.3 cubic feet, vs. 22.6 cubic feet for a 1976 Capri II) and rear seat room was improved. Initially reclining front seats and split rear seats were not available on the "Fox" Capri, unlike the old European Capri. I (LHW) also found the dashboard styling less appealing than the older model's, though this is rather subjective.
Engine choices for the 1979 Capri consisted of the 2.3 "Lima" 4 cylinder, in 88 HP normally aspirated or 132 HP turbo form; the 2.8 liter "Cologne" V-6; and the 302 cubic inch V-8, fitted with a 2 bbl. carburetor.
2.3 Turbo Capris sold in California used a "feedback" carburetor and 3-way catalytic converter similar to those used on the standard 2.3 liter engine. w
In the interest of improved emission control, 2.3 liter Capris sold in California had different emission control equipment. They were fitted with the Holley 6500 "feedback" carburetor and a 3-way (HC, CO, and NOx reducing) catalytic converter. The Holley 6500 was similar to the earlier Holley 5200, but the vacuum that operated its power valve could be controlled electronically. A sensor in the exhaust monitored the fuel/air mixture, and this was used to continuously adjust the carburetor. In theory this allowed the fuel/air mixture to be held at exactly the ideal value, though at this point the technology was not completely reliable.
Transmissions & Drive Train
Transmissions options for all versions were 4 speed manuals, or 3 speed automatics. Unfortunately only the base 2.3 got the excellent box from the old European Capri; the Turbo 2.3 and 302 V-8 used a Borg Warner SR-OD 4 speed transmission. This rugged transmission could cope with these engine's higher outputs, but its gear ratios were not as nicely spaced as those of the old Capri's gearbox. They were selected more for fuel economy than performance. The spacing of the lower gears resembled those of a 3 speed transmission, and 4th was an 0.7:1 overdrive.
The 2.8 was initially only available with an automatic transmission. This was unfortunate, since the 2.8 made most of its power at relatively high RPM ande automatics work best with engines that make torque at low RPM. Straight line performance was predictably disappointing; Road & Track magazine obtained 0-60 mph times of 12.9 seconds, compared to 10.6 for a Capri II 2.8 with manual transmission. Ford evidently recognized the 2.8's need for a manual transmission, and one was introduced partway through the 1979 model year.
All Capris sold in California fared worse in the transmission department: Manual transmissions were only available on the 2.3 liter models.
Rear axle ratios were 3.08:1 with the V-8, and 3.45:1 with the other engines.
Wheels & Tires
Standard tires were B78-13 bias ply; the handling package upgraded these to BR78-14 radials. The much superior TRX package used 195/65R-390 Michelin radials on 390mm x 150mm alloy wheels. The TRX wheel/tire/suspension package was among the best available in 1979. Ford claimed a skidpad figure of 0.85 G for a TRX equipped Capri RS, which was quite impressive at the time.
The 1979 Capri was offered in three trim levels: Base, RS, and Ghia.
Color choices for 1979 were: white, light chamois, bright yellow, tangerine, bright blue, light medium blue, silver metallic, medium grey metallic, bright red, dark jade metallic, black, and medium copper metallic, plus three "glamour" colors: medium vaquero metallic, medium red metallic, and medium blue metallic.
Four engines were offered: the 4.2 liter "Windsor" V-8, the 3.3 liter Ford straight 6, and two versions of the 2.3 liter "Lima" SOHC inline 4: turbocharged and naturally aspirated.
Fortunately the 4.2 would accept much of the aftermarket performance equipment available for the 302, so it was possible to build a Capri with a 180-200 HP V-8; you just couldn't buy it from the factory.
Transmissions & Drive Train
The 4.2 V-8 was only available with a 3 speed automatic transmission, further diluting the Capri's performance image.
A positive change for 1980 was the introduction of a 5 speed manual transmission for the 2.3 liter models. This seems to have been done more to improve fuel economy than to bolster performance, however. This transmission was basically the SROD 4 speed transmission with an overdrive 5th gear.
|4 cylinder Turbo||4.07:1||2.57:1||1.66:1||1.00:1||?:1|
The base, RS, and Ghia trim levels were carried over from 1979 with few changes. The RS package gained a rear spoiler, improved door interior panels, and Recaro seats.
The 1981 Capri's interior was changed for the better: Seats with adjustable backs returned for the first time since the demise of the Capri II.
There were only minor engine changes for 1981. Four engines were still offered: the 4.2 liter "Windsor" V-8, the 3.3 liter Ford straight 6, and turbocharged and naturally aspirated versions of the 2.3 liter "Lima" SOHC inline 4.
Transmission & Drive Train
The only transmission available with the V-8 was a 3 speed automatic, much to the consternation of performance enthusiasts. The 4.2 liter Capri also used a stratospheric 2.28:1 rear axle ratio in the interest of improved fuel economy.
The RS 3.3's drive train consisted of a 4 speed manual transmission and tall 2.49:1 rear axle, no doubt chosen for cruising economy.
|4 cylinder Turbo||4.07:1||2.57:1||1.66:1||1.00:1||?:1|
Revised trim levels for 1981 were Base, GS, and RS. A "Black Magic" package was also available for GS and RS models.
The GS package replaced the Ghia. It added improved leather seats to the previous Ghia features.
The "Black Magic" package was apparently an effort to evoke memories of the late "Black Gold" Capri II 2.8S. It included black paint with gold trim and gold wheels (TRX, as on the RS models), and black/gold cloth seats. Suspension was the same as the RS model. There was also an unpublicized "White Magic" version, of which 575 were produced.
The RS package was changed very little for 1981; the only noticeable change was larger "RS" graphics. The one exception was the RS 3.3 liter model, which was available with the more powerful 97.5 HP engine. The RS 3.3 liter engine may have been a late addition, as it does not appear in the 1981 Capri sales brochure.
Color choices for 1981 were Black, White, Light Pewter Metallic, Medium Pewter Metallic, Bright Yellow, Pastel Chamois, Dark Brown Metllic, Bright Bittersweet, Bright Red, Medium Red, Dark Cordovan Metallic, Dark Blue Metallic, Medium Blue Metallic, and Medium Bittersweet Metallic. The Bright Yellow, Pastel Chamois, and Dark Cordovan Metallic were only available on the base and GS models. These two models could also be ordered with these special two tone paint schemes: Black with Light Pewter Metallic; Medium Pewter Metallic with Light Pewter Metallic; Medium Red with Light Pewter Metallic; and Dark Blue Metallic with Light Pewter Metallic.
Power windows and a T-roof were new interior options for 1981. Optional Recaro seats were again available in 1981 on all models except "Black Magic".
Wheels & Tires
Standard tires for the base, GS, and RS models were 175/75R14; 185/75R14's were optional, as were TRX 190/65R390's. The TRX tires and wheels were standard on the "Black Magic" and the mythical RS Turbo.
The Capri 4.2 V-8 remained an uninspiring performer. Despite the apparent "land speed record" gearing, top speed was only 108 MPH. Acceleration was predictably indifferent, with 0-60 MPH taking 11.2 seconds and the 1/4 mile taking 18.1 seconds. This about the same as the 1971 Capri 2000, a car with less than half the engine displacement!
The RS 3.3 liter was something of an enigma. It suffered a bit from the "jack of all trades, master of none" syndrome. With the full RS appearance treatment, it looked like a serious performance car. Straight line performance was reasonable for the era, but nothing to write home about: 0-60 MPH took 13.1 sec., and the 1/4 mile time was 19.1 sec at 74 MPH. It also suffered from the same axle hop under acceleration that plagued the V-8 powered models. Top speed was a mere 90 MPH. The car's relatively low weight (2640 lbs, only 17 lbs more than the Capri 2.3) helped produce reasonably good handling; the RS suspension package with its excellent 190/65-390 TRX tires also did its part. The brakes compared quite favorably to the old Capri II 2.8, requiring only 168 ft. to bring the RS 3.3 from 60 to 0 MPH. Fuel economy was a fine 30 MPH when cruising at a constant 55 MPH, but under any other driving conditions it was distressingly easy to pull economy down to (or even below) the EPA's 20 MPG "City" rating. Finally, with a typical (including popular options) price of about $11,000 it was nearly as expensive as a V-8 powered Capri.
The 5.0 liter Capri had three other welcome improvements: A 4 speed manual transmission (NO automatic available!), a limited slip differential, and rear radius rods. The radius rods effectively tamed the axle hop that hampered the 1979 V-8 Capri, and also improved handling by smoothing the power-on oversteer characteristics.
The much improved Capri RS 5.0 went from drawing board to production in only eight months - also quite an impressive performance.
All of the changes significantly improved the Capri's straight line performance. Car & Driver magazine managed a 0-60 MPH time of 7.5 seconds, a 15.8 sec 1/4 mile, and a 127 MPH top speed in an October 1981 test of a prototype 1982 5.0 liter Capri RS. Surprisingly, fuel economy remained quite reasonable, with EPA ratings of 18 MPG city, 28 MPG highway.
Transmissions & Drive Train
Transmission options were esssentially unchanged for 1982. The new 5.0 V-8 was only available with the SR-OD 4 speed manual transmission.
Rear axle ratio options were 2.73:1, 3.08:1, or 3.45:1 in limited slip form, or 3.45:1 with a conventional differential.
Wheels & Tires
The standard wheel/tire combination was again 175/75R14 for all models except "Black Magic", with 185/75R14 or TRX 190/65R390 as options. The TRX wheels and tires were again standard on the "Black Magic".
A larger 15.4 gallon fuel tank became standard.
Trim levels were again revised in 1982. Levels offered were Base, L, GS, RS, and Black Magic. The L package added low back bucket seats, a digital clock, improved sound system, upgraded interior trim and "L" badges to the base model. The GS, RS, and "Black Magic" packages were nearly identical to the 1981 versions. The unpublicized "White Magic" was also still available, and 348 were sold.
The Recaro seat option was extended to all models in 1982, including "Black Magic".
Body color choices for 1982 were Black, White, Bright Red, Medium Red, Medium Gray Metallic, Dark Blue Metallic, Dark Cordovan Metallic, Medium French Vanilla, Pastel French Vanilla, Dark Curry Brown Metallic, Medium Yellow, Silver Metallic, Medium Blue Metallic, and Medium Bittersweet Metallic. The following two-tone paint schemes were available on Base, L, and GS models: Black with Medium French Vanilla, Pastel French Vanilla with Medium French Vanilla, Dark Curry Brown Metallic with Medium French Vanilla, and Dark Cordovan Metallic with Medium French Vanilla.
Other styling changes included new taillights, and a slightly revised front grille.
The 1983 Capri also received some suspension refinements which reduced understeer, and a new V-6 engine.
There were several changes under the hood for 1983, and almost all of them were positive: The 2.3 liter turbo returned in a greatly improved form; the 5.0 got more power via a new 4 barrel carburetor; and an all new 3.8 liter V-6 replaced both the lackluster 4.2 liter V-8 and the ancient 3.3 liter inline 6.
Transmissions & Drive Train
Transmission choices changed slightly in 1983.
The V-8 received a "4 speed plus overdrive" manual transmission, which helped keep fuel consumption reasonable.
The 3.8 V-6 was invariably mated to a Ford C5 three speed automatic transmission.
The only transmission available with the 2.3 Turbo was a 5 speed manual (5th gear was actually an 0.86:1 overdrive). The standard rear axle ratio was 3.45:1.
The improved 5.0 V-8 could propel the Capri from 0 to 60 MPH in a brisk 7.8 sec, and the 5.0 Capri could reach a top speed of over 125 MPH.
The Turbo Capri's straight line performance was also quite good: 0-60 MPH took less than 9 seconds, and 1/4 mile times were in the low 16 second region. Fuel economy was also very respectable: EPA estimated city mileage was 22 MPG, with over 30 MPG possible on long highway trips. This was quite important at the time, as Ford like most of its domestic competitors was still struggling to meet Federal CAFE standards. The revisions to the base 2.3 improved its EPA city fuel economy rating to 26 MPG. Low speed drivability also enhanced.
1984 also saw the correction of a glaring omission in the interior: Split folding rear seats were offered for the first time since the demise of the 1977 Capri II.
Transmissions & Drive Train
Base versions of the 2.3 now only were available with a 4 speed manual or a 3 speed automatic transmission; the 5 speed was no longer offered. Fuel economy does not appear to have suffered: Its 1984 EPA fuel economy ratings were now 24 MPG city, 37 MPG highway with the 4 speed manual.
Other positive changes were the introduction of the Borg-Warner T5-OD 5 speed transmission, which replaced the "4 speed overdrive" derivative of the SROD; and the introduction of a 4 speed automatic transmission for the 5.0 throttle body injection engine. An odd feature of the T-5 equipped cars was the strangely curved gearshift lever. This was necessary to bring the lever within the driver's reach; the cockpit was placed so far back that the shift lever actually entered from almost directly under the dashboard!
Ford listed the following specifications for the 1984 Capri:
Exterior colors for the GS were black, metallic silver, Light Canyon Red, Dark Academy Blue Metallic, Light Desert Tan, and Oxford white. Optional "Glamour" colors for the GS were Medium Canyon Red, Light Academy Blue, Bright Copper, and Desert Tan. Exterior colors for the RS were black, metallic silver, Light Canyon Red, and Oxford White. The optional " Glamour" color was Medium Canyon Red. Dark Charcoal Metallic was offered only on the RS-Turbo.
Interior colors were Canyon Red, Academy Blue (GS only) Desert Tan, and Charcoal.
The 2.3 Turbo was again dropped, this time because of low sales. It
cost significantly more than the 5.0 HO liter V-8, which by now was far
Automatic transmission equipped V-8 models also received a power boost when the throttle body fuel injection was replaced by true multiport fuel injection. Horsepower rose to an even 200 @ 4000 RPM, but torque improved to 285 ft-lbs, topping even the 5.0 HO. Drivability and fuel economy were both improved, with estimated EPA fuel economy rising to 18 MPG city, 30 MPG highway.
Wheels & Tires
The TRX wheel/tire option was also discontinued. It was replaced by a package using 15" x 7" alloy wheels and 225/60VR15 Goodyear "Gatorback" tires, which provided comparable handling without the inconvenience of a non-standard wheel size.
The 5.0 liter model's suspension was also improved in 1985. The steering ratio was changed from 20:1 to 15:1. Nitrogen filled gas struts and shocks replaced the standard hydraulic items previously used. Anti-roll bar stiffness was increased, as were spring rates. Variable rate springs were now used in the rear. A Special Handling Package for Capri RS offered even stiffer front springs and anti-roll bar.
Three Capri models were offered in the "Fox" platform's final year: The Capri GS with 2.3 or 3.8 liter engines, and the Capri 5.0 liter.
The 5.0 liter engine was now only available in 200 HP fuel injected form. While its power rating was down a bit from the 4 bbl 1985 5.0 HO, but torque was up to 285 ft/lbs. Drivability was improved, and EPA estimated fuel economy improved to 19 MPG city, 32 MPG highway.
Transmission options for the 5.0 liter Capri were the T-5 five speed manual, or a four speed automatic. The 3.8 was again only available with a three speed automatic, while a four speed manual and three speed automatic were available with the 2.3.
The 5.0 liter models gained a beefier 8.8" rear axle instead of the 7.5" axle previously used. Axle ratios remained 2.73:1 standard, 3.08:1 optional.
Suspension changes were very minor for 1986, but the Special Handling Package was now standard on all 5.0 liter models.
Wheels & Tires
Standard wheels and tires on the GS models were 195/75R14, with 205/70R14 optional. The Capri 5.0 was only available with 225/60VR15's on 15x7 inch cast aluminum wheels.
Other options were limited to air conditioning, power locks, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with cassette player, Premium Sound System, a sun roof, or a T-roof.
Body color choices were Black, Oxford White, Sand Beige, Dark Sage, Bright Red, Silver Metallic, Smoke Metallic, Dark Slate Metallic, Dark Clove Brown Metallic, Light Regatta Blue Metallic, Shadow Blue Metallic, and Medium Canyon Red Metallic.
Interior color choices were Charcoal, Sand Beige, or Canyon Red on the Capri 5.0; Regatta Blue was also available on the Capri GS.
874 ASC/McLaren Capris were built between 1984 and 1986: 552 convertibles, and 322 coupes.
When Capri production ended in 1986, ASC continued production using the Ford Mustang.
Ford's wind tunnel testing revealed that Capris fitted with the "bubble" hatch had significantly less drag than its Mustang sibling, even if the Mustang was also fitted with a "bubble" hatch. The difference amounted to about a 2 MPH advantage in straightaway speed for the Capri, so once the "bubble" hatch was homologated the Mercury Capri became Ford's primary Trans-Am weapon. Mercury Capris dominated the series in the mid 1980s.
In 1984, Team Roush Protofab of Livonia, Michigan began running a pair of "Fox" Capris in the Trans Am racing series. The team owners were Jack Roush and Charlie Selix. The engine builder was Bob Kerns. Their drivers were Willy T. Ribbs, (who later drove at Indy) and Greg Pickett. Their major sponsor was Motorcraft.
Tom Gloy was also racing a Capri in Trans-Am that year, in his own car, sponsored by 7-11.
After a slow start of the 1984 season, Pickett won at Sears Point and Portland. He was third at Detroit, fourth at Brainerd, Minnesota, and second at both Trois Rivieres, Quebec and Mosport Park, Ontario. He won again at Seattle and the second Sears Point race (appropriately called The Mercury Capri Fall Classic). A broken gearbox lead to a disappointing finish at Green Valley, Texas, but he placed a respectable fourth at Las Vegas. He ended the season with 189 points, second overall, with four victories and two seconds.
Although he missed the first four races, Ribbs finished second at Detroit, and then won the Paul Revere 250 at Daytona Beach, and the next race at Brainerd Minnesota. After a DNF at Road America, he won again at Watkins Glen. A punctured tire prevented a good showing at Trois Riveres, but he placed third the next week at Mosport. He placed second behind Pickett at the second Sears Point race. He won again at Green Valley, Texas. Despite a disappointing finish in the final race at Las Vegas, he finished the season with 155 points, third overall, with four victories and two seconds.
Tom Gloy, like Pickett, got off to a bad start at Road Atlanta, but finished third at Summit Point. He was second behind Pickett at both Sears Point and Portland, and was the winner at Detroit. (A 1-2-3 victory for the Capris!) He was second at Road America and Watkins Glen. He won again at Trois Riveres, and placed fourth at Mosport. He placed second in Seattle. Brake problems held him down to a fifth place finish at the second Sears Point race, and he took fourth the next week at Riverside. Gloy left the race at Green Valley early due to a shift linkage problem, but he went on to win the final race at Las Vegas. Despite only three wins to the other Capris' four each, Gloy's six second place finishes helped to give him a total of 225 points and the championship.
With eleven Capri wins in sixteen races, Lincoln-Mercury easily won the 1984 Trans-Am Manufacturer's championship.
Roush prepared Mercury Capris enjoyed even greater Trans-Am success in 1985. Willy T. Ribbs returned to win seven races, while Wally Dallenbach Jr. won five races and at age 22 became the youngest Trans-Am series champion (Ribbs finished second overall). The twelve victories in fifteen races again handed the manufacturer's championship to Lincoln-Mercury.
Chevrolet posed a serious challenge to the Capri's Trans-Am dominance in 1986, winning five of the first six races. Lincoln-Mercury and Team Roush rose to the challenge, and Capris won four of the final five races to capture the manufacturer's championship for the third year in a row.
Additional information on the Capri's Trans-Am racing exploits can be found on the official Trans-Am page's history section .
In 1991, we got a small, Australian convertible, based on a Mazda 323 chassis. This car was also called a Capri. The origin of this car can be traced to the Ford "Barchetta" show car displayed at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show. The show car's Ghia designed body and Italdesign designed interior were refined and fitted to a modified Mazda 323 chassis. The Mazda chassis incorporated two features not found in previous Capris: Four wheel disk brakes, and a fully independent rear suspension.
The new Capri was first introduced in Australia in 1989, with a single overhead cam engine. It was apparently fairly wimpy, so North Americans didn't miss much. These early models are referred to as "Series I" cars.
The DOHC and DOHC Turbo versions came out in 1991. These are called "Series II" cars. These had airbags and other modifications needed to make them legal in the USA.
In 1994, the Series III was introduced. The body and suspension were slightly modified. Some parts, such as the tops and the bumpers, are not interchangeable with the Series II Capris.
Ford intended to use the Capri convertible to rival the Mazda Miata, which, as strange as it may seem, was also based on the same Mazda 323 chassis! The Miata was not really the right target for the Capri, for the two cars were actually very dissimilar: The Miata was a pure sports car, with only two seats and rear wheel drive. The Capri traded off pure sports car characteristics to gain practicality. It had front wheel drive, and was at least nominally a four seater. "Sporty, not sport" was the way Road & Track magazine described the Capri, and it was an apt description. The Capri was significantly less expensive than the Miata, and was in fact one of the least expensive convertibles available in the US. A removable hardtop was also available, although it was a fairly costly option.
There were two versions imported to North America: the base version, and the hotter turbocharged Capri XR2i. Both had Mazda DOHC 1.6 liter engines. The base version was rated at an even 100 HP at 5750 RPM, and 95ft/lb of torque at 5500 RPM, while the XR2i's turbo engine was rated at 132 HP at 6000 RPM and 136 ft/lb of torque at 3000 RPM. The compression ratios were 9.4:1 for the base model and 7.9:1 for the XR2i. A five speed manual transmission was standard. A 4 speed automatic was available only on the base version.
Instrumentation was (thankfully) analog, with a 125 MPH speedometer, tachometer, fuel gauge, water temperature gauge, volt meter, and oil pressure gauge.
The XR2i package also included air conditioning, a number of appearance items, and an upgraded suspension. Oddly, some reviewers found the XR2i exhibited more understeer than the base model; apparently those extra "comfort and appearance" items extracted a weight penalty. The steering mechanism was apparently the same in both the base and XR2i models: power assisted rack & pinion with a 17.6:1 ratio.
Both models had four-wheel disc brakes, with 10.2 inch vented discs in front and 8.7 inch solid disks in back.
The front suspension was a fairly conventional MacPherson strut system, with a stabilizer bar. The rear suspension was a fully independent trapezoidal link system, with MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar.
Road & Track ran a comparison test of the Capri XR2i and the Miata in its July 1990 issue. The Capri had better straight line performance than the normally aspirated 1.6 liter Miata. The lighter Miata naturally handled better than the Capri, though the difference in slalom speeds was actually fairly small (62.4 vs. 62.0 MPH).
The "sporty yet practical" Capri appeared to be just what the market wanted, and initial interest was high. Unfortunately, things began to go awry even before production started. An expected exclusion of convertibles from US passive restraint laws failed to materialize, and the Capri had to be redesigned at the last minute to include air bags. This delayed the car's US introduction by almost one year. Thanks to the production delays and subsequent poor marketing support from Ford, the initial enthusiasm waned. When it finally became available, sales were poor. It was discontinued after the 1994 model year.
Steel 14" wheels were standard on the base model, with aluminum 14 inch wheels optional. The aluminum wheels were standard on the XR2i. Tires were 185/60-14s in both cases.
1991 Specs from Ford's advertising brochure
Colors available were white, platinum, red, marine blue, "stratosphere" blue, green and charcoal. All cars had grey interiors. Leather seats were available as an option.
Prices ranged from about $15,000 to about $18,000. This was as much as $6,000 less than the Mazda Miata.
The Capri's price was lowered in 1994, perhaps to improve its edge against the Miata, or perhaps simply because of disappointing sales. Capri list prices now ranged from $14,500 to $17,000, or between $1,500 and $7,000 less than the Miata.
In spite of the improvements and lower price, sales continued to be disappointing. Apparently only 232 "Series III" 1994 Capris were built for the US market.
|Engine/Trans Combination||Engine Power (HP)||Curb weight (Lbs)||Acceleration, 0-60 mph (Sec)|
|5MT||5-speed manual trans|
|4EAT||4-speed electronic automatic trans|
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