Top 25 Everyday Classic Cars: 20. Ford Capri Mk3

Ford Capri 280

The Ford Capri is definitely a car that evolved with the generations it was built to appeal to. When it started out as Europe’s equivalent of the Mustang it was the pride and joy of the disenfranchised youth of the 1960’s; the Baby Boomers who had nothing but time and testosterone on their hands. However, as the baby boomer generation grew from the wild and brash teens of the 60’s to the serious and hard working business executives of the late 70’s and early 80’s, so did the Capri; taking on a more stern look as it continued to endear itself to the same people who had initially bought them up like hotcakes back in their days of yore.

It was the BMW 3-Series of its day!

Despite the fact that the last Capri’s rolled off the construction line back in 1986, the number of Mk3’s you can find on the road today is astounding. While mechanically the car differed little from the Mk2 that preceded it, the Mk3 was able to perfectly combine style with substance, as well as making the overall package a lot more refined than the brash and rowdy Mk1 original.

The car is by far the best looking of the Capri’s, with the same sleek body but a serious looking expression that helps to compliment its more sombre nature. If anything, the latter day Capri’s looked far better than the concurrent generation of American Mustang (the dreary ‘Fox Mustang’). In terms of outward appearance and image, the car never compromised its principles; it’s chiselled looks immediately giving the discerning driver the impression of someone with money, but also someone with a bit of an edge.

Let’s be honest, performance was never the strong point of the Capri, especially the Mk3. Like the Mustang, the car was built more as a car to cruise the streets at night looking for a hot ride rather than a proper racecar. This is especially prevalent on models with the 1.3 or 1.6L engines, the best of the bunch being the 2.8L Cologne V6 and the 3.0L Essex V6. Of course many enthusiasts took to tuning the cars themselves to make them the ultimate speed machines. Either way, they’d still outdo your rival’s Vauxhall Cavalier at the lights, so there’s that. 🙂

To compensate though, the car is incredibly spacious for what it is; thanks in no small part to that useful rear hatch which replaced the cramped boot. Though it was the Mk2 Capri which first put a hatch on the car, the Mk3 maintained it and gave what was otherwise a somewhat small car the internal space it deserved.

Comfort and equipment, however, were somewhat below average; after all, this wasn’t a high-end executive’s saloon like the Ford Granada. Furthermore, the low ride-height and sports suspension meant that every bump in the road would be amplified about a thousand times through the cabin.

Perhaps the worst thing of all on the Capri Mk3 is the build quality. Like most cars of the late 70’s and early 80’s, industrial strife and a lack of incentive to build decent cars meant that even the Capri was not immune to the decadent attitude of the day. Panels would fall off, electrics would fail, roofs would leak and engines would frequently suffer from mechanical infidelity. As well as that, rust was still a pervasive problem for the car like most models of that time; though unlike the equivalent British Leyland model, the Capri would at least give you some time to get attached to your new buy rather than rusting away on the drive home from the showroom.

However, the biggest problem you’ll likely face today when it comes to buying a second-hand Capri are the conditions of the cars that have survived. Unlike many classics of this period, especially ones as specialist as executive saloons like the Rover SD1 and the Vauxhall Cavalier, there are still thousands of Capri’s roaming the roads in varying conditions.

While many have survived in generally stock form through the care and attention of enthusiasts, there are plenty which were heavily modified early on by people with a less than stellar knowledge of mechanics. The result is that there are many Capri’s which are only just being held together and have been flogged practically to death. Though cosmetically they may look good, internally they’re probably on their last legs and ready to explode at any time.

Rust is usually the most prominent sign of an abused car, with more focus being put into making it attractive to the opposite gender rather than its general upkeep. Check the front inner wing and the chassis as these are predominant areas where rust can accumulate. Avoid teen-modified cars especially as, like I said, they will not have seen much love in their hard working lives.

Stock models which have been kept in pristine condition will usually go for around £11,000 to £13,000, which, when considering what the car is and what it represented, makes for a magnificent bargain. These are also the ones you can truly guarantee yourself will be looked after and not break down at the first corner.

Overall though, the Capri, when you consider its age and the era in which it was built, is a pretty good buy. While trying to find one that hasn’t been modified to within an inch of its life is the reason why it falls down the list today, the car is still a genuine classic and a mint condition example can be yours for comparatively little money. The Capri was built to be the ultimate driver’s car for the UK, an anglicised version of the mighty Mustang which brings both performance and style to the stage.

It was brilliant then and it’s brilliant now! 😀


Scores

  • Comfort – 6/10 – Comfort was the Granada’s forte, this was built to be a sports car first
  • Practicality – 9/10 – Useful rear hatch allows for a ton of space internally
  • Reliability – 5/10 – A fair mix of cosseted family cars and clapped out bangers will keep you on your toes
  • Speed – 6/10 – It can deliver the speed, but not as much as you’d hope for
  • Handling – 8/10 – Fairly sure footed, but not a car to be thrown around too much
  • Looks – 7/10 – Though its more sombre design can be fairly appealing, most don’t consider it comparable to earlier models
  • Equipment – 6/10 – Fairly well-equipped for the time, but the early 1980’s toys are showing their age
  • Price – 8/10 – Pick up a cheap one today for next to nothing, though be wary of the quality
  • Value – 5/10 – The Ford badge has never really been one for holding its value, so prices will probably stay low for the foreseeable future
  • Total – 60/90 – Wins in practicality, but raises concerns for reliability.

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