What do you love about a Ford Capri or a VW-Porsche 914? Could it be their underappreciated uniqueness, their joie de vivre? Well, the first Ford to feature a hatchback and the first German-built mid-engine sports car are celebrating 50th birthdays in 2019.
The Ford Capri – Muscular Style
The Ford Capri first rolls into the Brussels Motor Show in 1969. With muscular style and an affordable price tag, it is an immediate hit on the streets of Britain. The Capri fastback coupé is designed by American Phillip T. Clark, who was also involved in the design of the Ford Mustang. Using the mechanical components of the Ford Cortina, Mr. Clark envisions the Capri as the European equivalent of the Ford Mustang. In early advertising campaigns, the Ford Motor Company calls it, “The Car You Always Promised Yourself.” At the time though, Britain’s Car Magazine describes the Capri as a “Cortina in drag.” Dry British humor aside, this lackluster local review didn’t keep Ford from selling 400,000 Capri’s in the first two years alone.
A Variety of Engines
From the launch of the very first Ford Capri Mark 1, Ford wants the car to appeal to a broad spectrum of potential buyers and a variety of engines helped achieve this goal. Engines available on the Capri throughout its lifespan include the Essex and Cologne V6 in top models and the Kent straight-four and Taunus V4 in lower specification models. The initial continental models use the Ford Taunus V4 engine in 1.3, 1.5 and 1.7 L engine displacements. The models released in Britain are powered by the 1.3 and 1.6 L Ford Kent straight-four. The higher end models come with either the Ford Essex V4 2.0 L engine (built in Britain) or the Cologne V6 2.0 L engine (built in Germany).
First Ford to Feature a Hatchback
The first generation of the Ford Capri runs from 1969-1974. In 1972, the Mark 1 receives a facelift including new and more comfortable suspension, enlarged tail-lights and new seats. The Kent engines are replaced with Ford Pinto engines. Ford makes additional changes to the Capri’s sold in North America to meet U.S. Department of Transportation standards, including four round 5 ¾”-inch headlights and larger rubber covered bumpers.
The second generation of the Capri runs from 1974-1978. The Capri Mk II (or “Capri II”) is introduced in February 1974. Because of the oil crisis of 1973, Ford decides to make the Capri better suited for everyday driving with a shorter hood and larger cab, plus the adoption of a hatchback rear door. The Capri is the first Ford vehicle to include a hatchback, which becomes an increasingly popular feature for other car companies in Europe. Although the Capri Mk II is mechanically similar to the Mk I, it does have a larger body and a more modern dashboard, as well as larger front disc brakes, a standard alternator and a front air-dam on all S models.
The third and last generation of the Capri runs from 1978-1986. Although it’s sometimes considered little more than a Capri II with a facelift, the Capri Mk III has a front very similar to the Escort RS2000 with four headlamps and black slatted grille, along with a rear spoiler. These design elements are permeating Ford vehicles in Europe at the time, under chief stylist Uwe Bahnsen.