Road Tests Sales Legends

Sales Legend: Ford Capri

Time 12:37 pm, August 15, 2009

capri5IN 1960s US, they had Steve McQueen. They had San Francisco. They had the Mustang. They had so much that was cool, and fun, and modern, and enviable. In the UK, we had Brian Blessed, Slough, and the Austin Maxi.

Thank the lord then for Ford. Ever the savvy marketeers, the mighty Blue Oval spotted an opportunity: To give us a Mustang! But, ever the realists, they knew a stonking great Vee engine wouldn’t work over here.

Nor would something fast and loud enough to terrify every single neighbour in Doris and Ernie’s estate. In fact, they would have probably finished poor Ernie off!

The answer? That was the Ford Capri. The Mustang with the heart of a Cortina. The everyman’s performance coop, with a 1,300cc engine and the safety of an L badge on the back. In so many ways, it was the car old Ernie always promised himself.

It was brilliant. Back in 1969, the market had never seen anything like it. Sure, you’d had sporty coupes. And you’d had boring old eco-boxes for those new-fangled motorways cropping up everywhere. But both? Together?

And all serviced by the man you knew so well at the local Ford dealer, who’d barely make you break into a pound note each time you visited. No wonder it flew out of showrooms.

With a 3.0-litre V6 driving the rear wheels, this was almost literally so. Suitably attired in GT Pack, of course (that was just one of 26 options buyers were given). But it was the sensible 1,300cc and 1,600cc models that shifted in greatest numbers. In L or GL trim, please.

Going fancy? Go on – make it a GLX. As for Doris, she only had eyes for the Ghia’s velour. To get a true handle on the sheer impact of the mighty Capri, imagine today, if Ford built another Coupe that looked just like an Aston Martin DB9. And sold it for the same price as a Focus Zetec. Well, you just would, wouldn’t you?

Over an 18-year lifespan, nearly two million car buyers did just that. Two million! Aided by the MkII in 1974, the MkIII in 1978, and a fair few smashed and bashed stunt cars used during filming for The Professionals and Minder.

Car Dealer Magazine has actually driven the very last off the line – a Brooklands Capri 280, which rolled off the ramp in December 1986. It’s a beauty. Yes, by ’86, the Escort XR3i had taken its place as the working man’s supercar. That model led to today’s cult Ford hero, the Focus RS.

But all three share the same genes. These include practicality, ease of use, sensible running costs, support by the country’s largest car dealer network… but, just enough to make them utterly, utterly adorable, too.

Now, 40 years on, the Capri remains a favourite with British car buyers.

It’s our Mustang; our everyday super coupe. Just as we love Brian Blessed, and wouldn’t be without Slough, so the Capri will retain its place in our hearts. We even wonder if a newly-thriving Ford’s considered bringing it back?


James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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