Maybe 1,600cc isn't the obvious choice for a Capri – but does it really matter?
By John Howell / Friday, 26 May 2023 / Loading comments
Now I am not a yank-o-phile by any stretch, but when it comes to cars – especially back in the day – things were just better over there, weren’t they? Take the Ford Mustang. When that was launched Stateside in 1964 as the people’s sports car, the smallest engine you could have was a 2.8-litre straight-six. And that was seen as a bit puny for a Pony.
Over here, we had the Ford Capri, instead. Same company, same ethos of bringing speed and style to the common man, and by the end of its production the biggest engine you could have was a 2.8-litre V6. And when the Capri arrived, a few years after the Mustang’s debut (in 1969), the entry-level engine was a 1.3-litre four-pot. That doesn’t carry quite the same carefree, take-to-the-open-road spirit, does it?
But this rather delectable Mk1 Capri isn’t chastened by the entry-level engine with the same CC as a small family car. It’s got the same size of engine you might have found lurking around under the hood of, well, a medium-sized family car. But you know what? I don’t care. I think this is a smashing example of our little pony.
I know a 280 in Brooklands green is more sought after, and last year an RS3100 smashed the previous price record for a Capri when it sold for £74,250, but that just makes this mighty 1.6 seem cheap at…oh, it really is less than half the price. Okay, cheap is pushing it, perhaps, but forget the badge for a moment. How many other pretty, ‘60s classics, with low miles and in this kind of condition, could you buy for under £30,000 today? Exactly, that’s my point.
And speaking of pretty, it just is. It still looks like the ‘The car you always promised yourself’, which, of course, was the tagline used to hook buyers in when this car was new. In some ways, it’s nicer than the RS3100. Now, wait a minute, just hear me out before you ball me out. The RS3100 may have been equipped with the firepower to give the BMW 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobile’ a run for its money in Group 2; and, yes, it was more than simply a Capri with a bigger engine; they also changed the suspension geometry, ride height, fitted gas-filled dampers, bigger brakes and more – but I’ve still never yearned to own one. Not even when they draped Jackie Stewart over the bonnet sporting a pair of sizeable flares.
It’s the looks. No, not Stewart’s, the RS3100’s. I just don’t think that big, black, ducktail spoiler suits it. Philip Thomas Clark, who designed the Mk1 Capri as well as the original ‘Stang, did a fine job. And in much the same way that a lot of late-‘60s designs were sullied by the ‘70s obsession with spoilers, the Capri looks best when its lines are left as pure as Clark intended. At some point, I will no doubt write about a Mk3 Capri, because I like the Mk3 very much, and mostly I like those with a spoiler. But I’m not being a hypocrite, I don’t think, because by then the Capri’s lines had evolved, and the size of the spoiler had shrunk. The Mk3 suits a spoiler, but the Mk1 doesn’t.
Right, with that ramble over, let’s discuss this actual car a little further. It’s a 1970 example, so quite an early one, and according to the advert, this is a two-owner car with a genuine 54,000 miles on the clock. I rather like the fact that it was registered to a lady: ‘Mrs Plastow of Cuddington in Buckinghamshire’. And that’s not me being a misogynist – quite the opposite, in fact. I love women who are keen on cars and keen on driving, and I’m imagining Mrs Plastow of Cuddington, Buckinghamshire, behind the wheel of her Capri, with a big, beaming smile on her face. She and the car’s next custodian certainly looked after it, too.
There’s nothing in the advert that says it’s been restored – just that it’s undergone a recent mechanical inspection and service, including a new set of boots. But look at it: bar the scruffy boot, which is a nice patina really, it looks like it’s never been used. Then there’s the spec. Fine, it’s got a 1.6 Kent engine. That means cast iron everything and pushrods, and a unit that was developed a decade before the Capri for the Ford Anglia. But come on, this car’s not for ragging around. It’s about escapism, which for me means meandering around sun-kissed country lanes between high hedgerows enjoying life at a gentler pace.
The rest of the spec is perfect, because white (not a colour I recall seeing much of for this era of Capri) looks bang on. How well does it go with those RS wheels and that tan vinyl interior? The only thing I’d wish for if this were mine would be a few more gauges. Otherwise, it’s a cracker.
SPECIFICATION | FORD CAPRI 1.6 (Mk1)
Engine: 1,599cc, four cylinder, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 4-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 64 @ 4,800rpm
Torque (lb ft): 86 @ 2,500rpm
Recorded mileage: 54,000
Year registered: 1970
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £29,990
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