It’s fairly common for people to say that it was their father who got them a foothold in the world of cars. Be it through tinkering on the driveway, or an active passion in motorsport, there have been many dads who have brought up, deliberately or passively, a budding petrolhead. Me? Yeah, I guess my Dad had a lot to do with it, and even now with his 1955 Ford Thunderbird, he’s still the source of much knowledge and passion for all things automotive.
My passion for cars wasn’t just garnered from my Dad though. It was the cars themselves, or more specifically, the Capris. As a new-born, I was brought back from the hospital in the back of a 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu, but that soon gave way to a green Mk2 Capri. I don’t remember that car, but I was exposed to it, so I guess I got a love for it by just being in it I guess?
The Mk2 was stolen, but brilliantly the police found it in a workshop, in one piece and with a load of shiny new parts in the boot. Quite the outcome. My parents didn’t keep it though and instead upgraded it for an Mk3.
My earliest memories, back from when I lived in Moston, Manchester, are of helping my Dad change a wheel on our blue Mk3 Capri 1.6. I remember vividly, despite being four at the time, that the car had Ghia alloy wheels. I remember giggling in the back seat as I was thrown around, unencumbered by a seat-belt (the ‘80s were a different time). I remember that car so, so well. It was the car that got me into cars. It was the genesis for my passion for all things automotive, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt the same back then. The Capri was a rakish, long-bonneted, power-bulged monster of a car. To four-year-old me, it was incredible. And, being four, it didn’t matter to me that it was the mid ‘80s, and as such, the Capri was actually falling out of favour, what with the arrival of the hot hatch. The Capri was, back then, a bit of a joke actually. Not to me though. Not to my impressionable little brain.
Alarmingly, that very car very nearly saw me become a partial orphan. My Mum, who worked nights, got in to go to work one evening and the damn thing exploded. Not set on fire. Exploded. I’m employing no hyperbole here. Thankfully she hadn’t put her seat-belt on yet, so could escape the blaze with only burns to her legs. I remember the next day my parents looking around what was left of the car, my Mum in tears, its charred hulk literally melted to the road. The council had to re-tarmac it after the recovery guys had chiselled it off the street.
Did this cause a childhood trauma that would put me off the Capri for life? No, of course not. Instead, at the age of fourteen, I went out and bought MCW 236P, a 1977 1.6L from the Loot for £40. Then, when my dad got angry about that and made me scrap it, I went out and bought a C-plate 1.6 Laser for £200. That one got vandalised and then scrapped, too. I was not a smart teenager.
The £200 Laser
I couldn’t drive them. At fourteen I had no godly clue how to drive, as I demonstrated with aplomb when I drove my Triumph Dolomite into a wall. Another car I bought for £40 without parental approval.
Driving my Capris didn’t matter though. I just wanted to own them; they were the car to me. So dear to me, but also so exciting, so emotive, so special. I adored them, and I wanted my name to be attached to one, irrespective of its condition. I’d sit in them and take things off and put them back on. I learned how a car goes together thanks to the Capri, and that’s special.
As the years rolled on, I had a lot of other cars, but always loved the Capri. I was 22 when I had my Mk2 Zodiac, a car that was way beyond my skill set, but also a car that was offered to me by my girlfriend’s brother for £500, so of course, I bought it. And then I swapped it with a local guy for a Capri, another 1977 Mk2, this time with a hot 2.0. It had no MOT, but I had the skill to just about fix it, so I did, and it became my daily driver. It was ratty. It was built from filler and weld. But it was mine, and I could drive it. it was my first Capri on the road, and despite it looking like it has been pulled from a hedge, people loved it. I loved it. It was motoring bliss.
I adored that car, and I loved that it was the car I brought my baby daughter back from the hospital in. Thankfully though, at now nearly thirteen she hasn’t bought any Capris for £40.
In the end, I opted to get rid of it in favour of something more sensible and family focused. It was a tough decision to make, but my blind love for the Capri didn’t leave so blinkered as to bring into question my daughter’s safety, so it had to go.
I wasn’t done with Capris yet though. A friend with a barn full of them was looking to liquidate, so offered me first dibs on what would be my final Capri – a 1976 3.0S. In black with gold stripes and a shouty twin-pipe stainless steel exhaust. It needed recommissioning, but at £500 I wasn’t going to pass up on it. I had a gold (tasty) roll cage fitted and I used it as my daily driver, which involved taking my giggling daughter to nursery. The Capri had been the basis of my childhood memories, and now I was affording that same experience to my daughter. Not only that, I used that car as my daily driver, and that involved going from Bristol to Kent and back quite often. But it never faltered. Not bad for a ‘barn find’.
In the end, a divorce saw me sell it, for £1,000 no less. The market for old Capris in 2009 wasn’t what it is today. I was sad about it, obviously, and frustratingly I have no idea where that car ended up. I hope it lived on. It deserved to.
Since then, I’ve been priced way out of the market. Capris now are fetching insane figures, even in rough and un-roadworthy condition. But that’s the way it goes, especially with an old Ford. The main thing for me is that I got to own a few. The Capri is a car that will always be dear to me, always special and always the bedrock on which some wonderful memories have been built. And as I type this, I know I’m not alone. I know there will be people reading this that can relate, that have been brought up with this once highly ubiquitous car on their childhood driveway. I also know that, like me, there are people who now celebrate a passion for cars because of the Capri. And that is something very, very special indeed. Happy 50th birthday, Ford Capri.