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1981 Ford Capri 1.6 GL

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Estimate: £8,000 - £10,000

The Background

Almost everyone has some memory of the Ford Capri: whether it’s lusting after one as a youngster; idolising Terry McCann in Minder or Bodie and Doyle, both of whom drove one in The Professionals or a couple of bad guys who had them in Dempsey and Makepeace and The Sweeney. Can you see a trend emerging? 

The Capri was a car of its time and that time spanned some three decades, from the launch of the original in 1969 to the last version off the lines in 1986. During that time, it went through three iterations but retained its basic premise – slippery coupe bodywork over a monocoque chassis, front engine and rear-wheel drive with McPherson strut front suspension and Ford’s familiar live rear axle. 

The Mark 1 Capri was introduced in 1969 to try to bring some of the success of the Mustang across to Europe. Based on the Cortina’s mechanicals, it was available with a variety of engines, from a lowly 1.3-litre ‘Kent’ crossflow to the mighty 3.0-litre ‘Essex’ V6. It did well in motorsport, both in Touring Car categories and later, with the fearsome Zakspeed wide-arched Group 5 car. 

The second-generation, or Mark 2, Capri was introduced in 1974 and featured a full-size hatchback tailgate, as opposed to the lid of the Mk1. It was larger and roomier inside to broaden the car’s appeal to the European market. It also got the origins of the distinctive front end that would become so familiar and the mechanicals were very similar to the predecessor, although Ford’s ‘Pinto’ single overhead cam engine was used for the first time. 

The third and final version, the Mk3, was available from 1978 and was fundamentally an update to the Mk2 but many felt it sufficient to warrant a ‘new’ designation nonetheless. The twin single headlights were replaced by two pairs of circular lamps with a distinctive chin spoiler and wraparound bumper trim front and rear. A variety of engines were available, from a 1600cc version of the Pinto to the 3.0-litre Essex V6. Later, there was a 2.8-litre version of the ‘Cologne’ V6 in the 2.8i variant with its distinctive wheels and limited-slip differential. There was a host of other high-performance variants by renowned tuners of the day, including a Zakspeed limited edition turbocharged version, a similar approach by Tickford in the UK and another by British turbocharging specialists Turbo Technics. 

The series finished, in the UK at least, with the Capri laser which finally disappeared from showrooms in 1987.  

The History

Supplied new on May 5 1981 by Hanger Ford of Leicester in Stratos silver, the V5 document shows six owners prior to the current keeper. The current owner explains that the car was stored for eight years by its previous owner before being re-commissioned and resprayed in bright silver. It was purchased by the current owner as, though not a “Ford man”, he had become friendly with a group of Ford fans and had run a Mk1 Ford Cortina for some time. He has sold that when he became aware of this Capri and was planning to use it for summer motoring but his plans changed. 

When he originally put it up for sale, a touring-car driver and historic motorsport car preparer agreed to buy it to use it as a base for a replica 3.0S to run in the Gerry Marshall Trophy race at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting. The preparer described it as one of the best chassis he had seen when inspecting the car on a ramp. However, the Covid-19 crisis meant that the race meeting was cancelled, and the deal was off. 

The car is in what appears to be good, original condition; it uses the original Rostyle wheels, albeit painted in silver by the previous owner. It has a three-spoke steering wheel which appears to be original, matching the rest of the interior trim and the owner has sourced a genuine four-speed gear knob to replace what he describes as a “horrible” example that the car came with. 

The vehicle is presented with one set of keys – the original ignition key and two door keys which appear to be replacements. 

The Paperwork

The vehicle comes with surprisingly little paperwork. There is, of course, the V5 document in the current owner’s name and highlighting six previous owners. Also included is an original Ford Sure ‘Assurance’ handbook, a Guide to Ford Dealers in the UK, the current and previous MoT print-outs (including emissions data) and invoices for two wheel-brake cylinders and a timing belt. 

Since he has owned it, the current owner has installed new front brake discs, calipers and pads; new rear brakes shoes and cylinders; new rigid brake pipes all around and flexible pipes on the rear; and had the cylinder head skimmed, valve seats re-cut and the valve stem seals replaced. 

The Interior

The interior is in good, use-able condition with some elements of work that a keen owner would be able to undertake should they wish to be involved in its continuation. Featuring blue cloth upholstery and brown plastics, this GL variant sports a single speedometer with coolant temperature and fuel-tank level gauges in the second large instrument. There are warning lights for ignition/charging, oil pressure warning, main beam warning and handbrake. 

The dashboard panel is intact and not cracked, a common issue with these cars that suffer from sunlight damage just inside of the windscreen. The steering wheel feels good, with no play though obviously with no power assistance, the steering is heavy at standstill. The control for a manual choke conversion sits below the dashboard panel and works efficiently and the ash-tray suggests the car has never been smoked in – it certainly has none of the tell-tale odour of a smoker. 

The seat mechanisms work well; tipping to allow rear-seat passengers access as well as sliding forwards and backwards. The material appears in need of a clean but is largely intact, save for a small area of wear at the bottom of the right seat-back support on the driver’s seat and a similar patch of damage on the rear seat on the driver’s side, in the same position. 

The carpets appear in good condition with no damp patches and are covered with a set of non-genuine but quality black mats – the owner could not source blue ones. The cream perforated headliner is in good condition, though again it could benefit from cleaning and has one repair over the driver’s head. The sun visors show marks from previous storage which would likely be removed with a deep clean. 

The glove box and ashtray both appear to function but the latch for the centre-console storage area appears not to function and previous use has cracked the surrounding plastic. 

The only major issue with the interior is the rear parcel shelf. It has broken in what appears to be a very common place, where the support wires join. It has been repaired in the past but the current owner suggests it could benefit from a high-quality replacement version, which are available from Europe. The boot carpet is in very good condition and under the wooden floor covering, the spare wheel has also been painted. The boot area appears dry and sound, with no evidence of corrosion or water ingress.

The Exterior

Like the interior of the Capri, the exterior is in a solid, use-able and honest condition. It is clear that the car has been resprayed; the paint is bright and generally in good condition, with a pleasing shine – the owner recently machine-polished the entire car. However, there are several areas of reaction, overspray and slight runs below each door. 

The front of the car is in good condition – the owner recently replaced one of the twin-lamp headlights – and the front bumper and grille are in excellent shape. The wraparound plastic trim is present and also in nice condition, the owner replacing the old and worn black fixings with NOS items prior to sale. The rear bumper is also present, though its trim panels are not in quite as good condition as the front and there is evidence of some overspray. 

The side bump strips are non-original and are just self-adhesive plastic strips. The owner admits that this was one of the priorities if he were to keep the car – to source a set of NOS strips to finish off the exterior. 

Underneath, the car is in good condition, no doubt the result of extensive undersealing. There is evidence of several repairs in the floor panels but these appear to have been carried out well while areas such as the chassis runners appear undamaged, either by corrosion or impact. In the engine bay, the top of the bulkhead, the bulkhead itself and the tops of the inner wings are all in excellent condition, as are the chassis legs that run in the engine bay. 

The Mechanics

The car uses a 1600cc version of the Ford Pinto single overhead cam engine. It has had the automatic choke mechanism on the single carburettor replaced with a manual conversion which appears to work well. The engine starts promptly and picks up well when revved with no untoward noises, vibrations or smoking. It pulls away cleanly and while there sounds like a slight leak in the exhaust system, a brand-new pattern system is priced at around £70, according to the owner. 

There is a new battery under the bonnet and the recent MoT test showed the brakes to be in excellent condition and operation and the engine in good shape, as determined by the emissions data. 

The Appeal

The Mk3 Capri was a car of its time and that time was the 80s. Close your eyes for a moment and you can easily picture Bodie and Doyle racing across London to spoil yet another terrorist plot or Duran Duran fans piling into the four sculpted seats and heading off to recreate their own version of the video for Rio. 

However rooted in its time the Capri was, it is a firm favourite, among Ford aficionados and to the wider motoring world. There is no doubt that the sleek bodywork, the four round lamps, the bulletproof Ford mechanics and the sense of fun that accompanied the majority of the Blue Oval at that time are here in bucketloads. 

The use of – by modern standards – fairly archaic technology in no way hinders the experience – that live rear axle on leaf springs worked on every sporty car from the marque for decades and the front engine, rear-wheel drive layout is as iconic as the badge itself. 

This car sits perfectly between the hordes of ‘Project’ cars, that come in a series of boxes and would form the basis of a teach-yourself-how-to-weld course and concourse show ponies that only ever come out on baking hot days to sit in a field. It is a solid, “honest” example of the breed that is ready to use but offers a keen fan plenty of scope for tinkering. It doesn't require any major work, just minor attention to make it just right.
Vehicle specification
  • Year 1981
  • Make Ford
  • Model Capri 1.6 GL
  • Colour Silver
  • Mileage 77,509
  • Engine size 1593
  • Location Suffolk
Bidding history
10 bids from 5 bidders
  • benmors•••• £7,350 22/07/20
  • pianoma•••• £7,250 20/07/20
  • Stuart £6,750 18/07/20
  • pianoma•••• £6,500 18/07/20
  • benmors•••• £6,000 18/07/20
  • Stuart £5,250 18/07/20
  • pianoma•••• £5,000 17/07/20
  • franktu•••• £3,750 16/07/20
  • benmors•••• £2,500 15/07/20
  • Albertm•••• £500 15/07/20

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