Ford Capri Mk1 Buying Guide

For years the original Capri was overlooked in favour of the later models, but now the first of the breed is among the most collectable

Ford Capri Mk1 Buying Guide

How much to pay

• Project £3000-5000 • Good £4500-10,000 • Concours £12,000+ •

Overview

Practicality ★★★★
Running costs ★★★★
Spares ★★★
DIY friendly ★★★★
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★★★

If it hadn’t been for the runaway success of Ford’s Mustang in the US market, the Capri project – initially called the Colt – would have never even been started. The US pony car led directly to the European one, and although the Capri was never anything like as successful as its American counterpart, a million sales notched up in fewer than five years was still pretty good going.

The Capri’s success was down to a multitude of factors, not least of all a huge model range that meant the car was affordable – in one form or another – for just about anyone. It was all down to the Cortina underpinnings, which allowed for a wide choice of engines, but the key to the whole thing was that the Capri looked fantastic. With that long bonnet, muscular detailing and a two-door notchback design that oozed style, it was the car everyone aspired to.

Rear-wheel drive and spicy six-pot motors also served up a tasty driving experience, even if the four-cylinder cars were a bit tame in comparison. But hell, it’s a Ford – so tuning bits were available from the corner shop and it’s still easy to buy parts to uprate the engine and running gear today, although the trend is now more for originality instead.

Your AutoClassics Ford Capri Mk1 inspection checklist

Engine

The Capri Mk1 came with a choice of Kent (1300, 1600), V4 (2000) or Essex (3000) engines; from 1972, the Pinto (1600) replaced the Kent unit. The Kent was offered in standard or GT forms, the latter featuring twin-choke Weber carbs and a four-branch manifold.

As the Kent engine’s lack of displacement means it has to be driven hard to make progress, this results in the rockers wearing, along with the camshaft and cam followers; a top-end overhaul is the only solution. Rattling from the front of the motor betrays a worn timing chain, while blue exhaust smoke and fumes from the oil-filler cap means a bottom-end rebuild is due.

The V4 engine’s oil-pump drive can fail without warning, and the fibre timing gear can break up; both will wreck the engine, but steel timing gear can be fitted. The balancer shaft bearings can also fail, making the engine very harsh. Head gaskets can give up, too, but repairs aren’t difficult.

Meanwhile, the 3.0-litre Essex V6 is an enlarged V4. It doesn’t have a balancer shaft, but the oil-pump drive and fibre timing gear can both be problematic. Overheating is common, often because of a blocked radiator, so look for cracks in the cylinder heads leading to oil and water leaks.

The Pinto engine can suffer from a worn camshaft because of a blocked spraybar; this squirts oil onto the camshaft lobes. Replacement spraybars are cheap and easy to fit; replacing the camshaft isn’t a big deal, either.

Gearbox

The four-speed manual ’box lasts 100,000 miles if not abused. The first signs of wear will be tired second-ratio synchromesh and noisy bearings; it might also jump out of gear. Juddering as you pull away points to weak transmission mounts or oil on the clutch. A tired release bearing is given away by whirring sounds as you depress the clutch.

If you hanker after one of the few automatic Capris that are left, the news is good in that the slushbox is reliable. Check that it’s not hanging onto the gears, that it shifts cogs smoothly and that the fluid isn’t black. If a rebuild is needed, it won’t break the bank.

Differentials last 100,000 miles between rebuilds. The first sign of wear will be whining, but the axle will last for thousands of miles after this has started. Steering wheel shake points to worn half-shaft bearings, although it could be a damaged axle. The Timken axle fitted to these cars needs special tools to set up, so it’s not fixable on a DIY basis.

Suspension and brakes

The only likely problems with the rack-and-pinion steering are worn track-rod ends and split gaiters. Vague steering and maybe some shakiness will be due to a worn flexible joint in the steering column; replacing it with a Mk3 item is your best bet.

While the front MacPherson struts can leak, knocking sounds on bumpy roads will be down to worn bushes in the strut tops or track-control arms. The rear leaf springs sag and the shock absorbers leak, but both are cheaply fixed. Until September 1972 twin radius arms were fitted to keep the back axle in place; later cars have a single-piece anti-roll bar. Both set-ups suffer from worn bushes, but repairs are straightforward.

The brake self-adjusting mechanisms can seize up on cars used sparingly, but freeing things off is easy. All of these Capris got front discs and rear drums with a servo fitted as standard on the 1600 GT and above; on lesser models this was an option. Incidentally, automatic Capris got larger pads and shoes than manual-gearbox cars.

Beware of examples fitted with over-sized wheels, which place extra strain on the suspension and wheelbearings.

Bodywork

The Capri’s crudely designed and constructed bodyshell is easy to inspect, but it can rust very badly. Virtually all Mk1s have been welded by now, some to a higher standard than others, so check panel gaps and shut lines very closely.

Home in on the metal around the headlights, trailing edge of each front wing, rear wheelarches and outer sills; lift the carpets to see what state the panels are in, as well as looking from the outside of the car. The rear quarter panels might be full of filler, and the A-posts and footwells might have dissolved if the front windscreen rubber has perished then leaked.

The door bottoms also dissolve, while the hinge pins wear badly, leading to the doors dropping as you open them; the same symptom can point to rotten A-posts. Finish off by scrutinising the front valance, inside edges of the bonnet and MacPherson strut tops. Any car that’s original here will have a production ID number showing.

Interior

Sagging seats and failed stitching are common, and the trim panels may well have seen better days. While original parts are long extinct, high-quality repro parts are available including seat covers, headlinings, carpets and trim panels.

Damaged or missing exterior brightwork will be hard to replace, with the exception of badges, which are readily available. Bumpers are a particular problem, especially for early Mk1s; these have just one number plate light aperture, while later cars have two.

The electrics tend to be reliable, but if there are problems with the loom you’ll have to get it rebuilt, as the Capri used a special connector that’s no longer available. The instrumentation and switchgear last well, which is just as well as these items are now unobtainable; check that the headlight switch works, as a lack of relay from new means it burns out. Front and rear lights are also hard to find, so check the condition of what’s there.

History

  • February 1969: The Capri is launched in the UK with crossflow Kent engines; German-market cars get a range of ‘V’ engines. The range comprises 1300, 1300 GT, 1600 and 1600 GT. All have disc brakes (the 1600 GT gets a servo), GT models get more power, a centre console and extra instruments. An automatic gearbox is optional on the 1600. Soon after, in the UK the V4-engined 2000 GT goes on sale with the same equipment and options as the 1600 GT. In September the 3000 GT is introduced with a V6 engine, bonnet bulge and twin exhausts.
  • 1970: The 3000 E arrives, with the same mechanicals as the 3000 GT. An XLR trim pack means opening rear side windows and radio. Kent-engined cars get modified cylinder heads, valve timing and carburettor jets to up power.
  • 1971: The Capri Special is launched; a 2000 GT with Vista Orange paint plus extra trim; 1200 are built. Crayford launches its Capri convertible, badged Caprice. Around 30 are built.
  • 1972: Limited-edition 1600 GT, 2000 GT and 3000 GTs are produced with special paint, extra trim and bonnet bulge, plus indicators in the bumper and wing, rear opening windows and either black with red stripe or emerald green with gold stripe paint schemes. The 3000 E is dropped, then in September the Capri is facelifted. There are 151 changes including suspension mods, a standard bonnet bulge on all models, bumper-mounted indicators, larger front lamps with bumper-mounted indicators, and rear lamps incorporating a reversing lamp. There’s also a new dash and better seats, and the 1600 Kent engine is replaced by a 1600 Pinto.
  • 1973: The millionth Capri is built; an RS 2600 in Cologne not long before the Mk2 replaces the Mk1. Before this, though, the RS 3100 is introduced using a 3000 GT body: 248 are made.

AutoClassics says…

The Capri is a nostalgia trip on wheels, and a very stylish one at that, which is why it’s so sought after. While values have increased significantly in recent years, you can still buy something worthwhile for reasonable money, especially if you stick with a four-cylinder car; the smaller the engine, the less the model is worth. The thing is, there are few Capri Mk1s left, so sometimes it’s a question of buying whatever you can find.

There are few V4-engined Capris available, and they’re best avoided because of poor reliability and a lack of parts availability. The four-pot Capris offer just as much style as the V6s but not as much performance. However, as you can pay such a big premium for a 3.0-litre car, if you’re buying just to go to the odd show and to enjoy the occasional local drive, a 1.6 or 2.0-litre model is all you need.

Cars that have been tuned sympathetically can make a really good buy, as the extra performance is welcome. But a lot of cars are tuned badly, because either they’re not set up properly or they’re fitted with sub-standard parts. Pin down exactly what you’re buying before you hand over any cash.

Specifications

Capri 1300 GT
  Power 75bhp
  Top speed 94mph
  0-60mph 13.5sec
  Economy 29mpg

Capri 1600 GT
  Power 93bhp
  Top speed 100mph
  0-60mph 12.0sec
  Economy 28mpg

Capri 2000 GT
  Power 113bhp
  Top speed 106mph
  0-60mph 10.6sec
  Economy 23mpg

Capri 3000 GT
  Power 144bhp
  Top speed 114mph
  0-60mph 9.2sec
  Economy 23mpg

Capri RS 3100
  Power 148bhp
  Top speed 125mph
  0-60mph 7.3sec
  Economy 22mpg

Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics

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