50 years of Ford Capri: The Mustang for Europeans


A pony for provincial cowboys

50 years of Ford Capri: The Mustang for Europeans-Mustang

Ford Capri RS 2600: Sportier than most other coupes of its time

Source: Fabian Hoberg

Fifty years ago, Ford introduced the European answer to the Mustang. As a basic model, the Capri was a blender, but the souped-up RS version shows real racing car qualities – still.

I.On the radio, Heintje and Peter Alexander sang their scraps of weariness – alternating with pop songs by the Bee Gees and the Beatles. 1968 was a wild time, and not just in music. The whole world was in turmoil: the Prague Spring, the massacre in the Vietnam War, Europe-wide student protests, the murder of Martin Luther King and the assassination attempt on Rudi Dutschke.

At the good automaker Ford sales collapse in these troubled years. The stink is deep in the upholstery of models like Taunus 12 and 17M. To capture the spirit of the times, Ford is planning a small revolution – the Capri, a European answer to the American Ford Mustang.

The coupe should make provincial cowboys dream – and of course buy them. The planning began in 1964, the first more detailed information seeps through in 1968, when Ford begins to produce the Capri. Ford officially presented the car in January 1969. The new coupe was supposed to be called Colt – but Mitsubishi had already reserved this name.

The mini-Mustang comes with two doors, a long hood, a short rear, a trunk suitable for travel and a passenger compartment that is quite large for a coupe – enough space for young adults and small families. But the best part: The Capri is affordable. Thanks to the modular design, the basic price of the four-seater Fastback Coupe is only slightly higher than that of a well-equipped VW Beetle. Bargain hunters pay 6,995 marks for the 1300 with a meager 50 hp. With this engine a blender, yes, but a nice one.

50 years of Ford Capri: The Mustang for Europeans-London

The Ford Capri RS 2600 not only looks fast, it is fast too

Source: Fabian Hoberg

With 50 hp, the two-door does not accelerate faster than the musty sedans – but the drivers feel better. With the four equipment variants X, L, R and GT and different engines, you can choose between over 50 different variations. More than 210,000 buyers have bought it from the first year. Many refine their Capri with wide tires, spoilers and scoops.

Duels with Manta and Scirocco

In the following decades there were duels between Capri, Opel Manta (from 1970) and VW Scirocco (from 1974), held on country roads and at traffic lights. The strong Capri is often ahead, but never has the proll image of a Manta. It is true that many of his drivers also wear the hair on the back of their necks too long, their shirts too open and their schnauzers too bushy. But with a powerful engine, the car not only looks fast, it is fast too.

50 years of Ford Capri: The Mustang for Europeans-Rudi Dutschke

Six cylinders work under the hood of the RS 2600

Source: Fabian Hoberg

In contrast to the Opel Manta, the Ford can be a real sports car. It is only a blender in the basic version. While the Russelsheim Coupe in mass production is only available with four cylinders (apart from 27 models with Senator six-cylinder), six cylinders work under the Ford hood with a displacement of two liters or more. In the sporty models, carburettors give way to mechanical injection from Kugelfischer.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Ford was the brand to beat on the racetrack. All the greats in motorsport drive Ford: Lauda, ​​Glemser, Ludwig, Stuck, Maas, Quester, Winkelhock and Stommelen. In 1972 the Capri won the German racing championship and the European touring car championship. The ultra-flat Turbo Capris of Group 5 developed over 600 hp at the beginning of the 1980s. Even Walter Rohrl started his rally career on a Ford Capri.

Like the RS 2600 from 1972. The wide doors squeak slightly when they are opened, the sports seats clasp the hips, the deeply cupped steering wheel lies comfortably in the hands. The gear stick of the four-speed transmission protrudes from the center tunnel. A small turn of the tiny ignition key and the six-cylinder shakes, causing the matt black painted bonnet with the little hood to vibrate briefly.

50 years of Ford Capri: The Mustang for Europeans-Martin Luther King

The steering wheel of the RS 2600 is deeply dished, the speedometer only ends at 220

Source: Fabian Hoberg

The 2.6-liter six-cylinder made by Weslake develops 150 hp and accelerates the Capri to 100 km / h in 9.2 seconds, the top speed is 202 km / h. A sensation at a time when a 1200 Beetle spins in the right lane at full throttle at 116 km / h.

The corridors slide into the alley

The speedometer only ends at 220, with the rev counter the red area starts at 5800 revolutions. Next to it sit four round instruments with displays for water temperature, tank content, on-board voltage and oil pressure – most of the drivers stared at the round instrument cluster of the Beetle.

Switches for windshield wipers and lights are on the right, just in front of the radio. There is no other coupe that is more sporty. The Capri remains affordable even in the souped-up version, costing only 15,800 marks as the RS 2600. A not faster Porsche 911 T with 110 hp is significantly more expensive at 21,980 marks. Ford will sell over a million Capri by the time the model changes.

50 years of Ford Capri: The Mustang for Europeans-Mustang

The RS 2600 is not made for fast corners

Source: Fabian Hoberg

Due to the low seating position, the front end can only be guessed at, and the view to the rear is poor. To park you have to stretch your head so as not to deform the sheet metal. The chrome bumpers are missing from the sports model – old school weight optimization. On the other hand, the Capri is sporty even after 50 years.

The gears slide quickly into the right lane even without double-declutching, the injection obeys even the smallest of commands from the right foot and the steering works directly. Age is most noticeable in fast corners: when the body tilts sharply to one side like a ship on the high seas, the stern is looking for the exit from the corner and the direction can only be maintained with quick counter-steering.

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The robust, leaf-sprung rigid axle ensures good straight-line stability, it is not made for fast corners. Instead, it bubbles out of the exhaust, throaty deep, like a horde of soccer fans of 1. FC Koln at the next promotion party.

There was never an equal successor

In 1974 Ford modernized the Capri, giving it a more angular body, vinyl roof, bright colors and a large tailgate. This does not detract from the popularity. On the contrary, the Ford drives up more and more often in the film. John Wayne is pursuing Brannigan in a Capri criminal across London as a police officer. In the British series "Die Profis" the CI-5 agents Bodie and Doyle hunt gangsters with it.

In doing so, however, they also serve a lot of cliches. Not only in London, but also around Cologne. Where the third generation of the sports car was built until 1987, even if only for the British market. But already at the beginning of the 80s the sun was slowly setting for the Capri, almost like in the 50-year hit by Rudi Schuricke. Young adults are turning more and more to powerful compact cars like the VW Golf GTI than to the long sports coupe from Ford.

50 years of Ford Capri: The Mustang for Europeans-sports car

Long hood, short rear: the iconic shape contributed to the success of the Ford Coupe

Source: Fabian Hoberg

In total, Ford sold over 1.8 million Capri. There is no successor, at least no one of his own. The Ford Probe and Cougar models are just modified American cars that European customers have no use for. One thing is spared the Capri: The malicious jokes that are made about the Russelsheim counterpart and its drivers.

10 thoughts on “50 years of Ford Capri: The Mustang for Europeans”

  1. A car that immediately arouses my emotions, which only a few cars can do today. I would like to see a little more courage in the design. But it is certainly also due to today’s requirements on the subject of security.

  2. Thanks for the nice report and the pictures! For me it was only enough for the 20M P7b at the time. But with THE engine. The time was so beautiful ….!

  3. 2.6RS, my first car after I got my driver’s license. I immediately fell in love with the six-cylinder. Unfortunately, Ford has not further developed the great engines. Today I only drive my BMW M5, my Maserati GranTurismo and my Range Rover Sport SVR.

  4. Yes and no. Driving stability is determined by the rear axle. Whereby a rigid axle dangling from leaf springs has the opposite effect of straight-line stability.
    Rather, the front axle track values ​​are intended to prevent the wheels from flapping.

  5. Thanks for the nice report about the Capri. Two questions:
    Why shouldn’t the gears slide without double-declutching? In the 1970s, fully synchronized transmissions were truly the standard. Double-declutching to let the gears slip is certainly no longer needed in a car.
    The rigid axle guarantees good straight-line stability? Really now? What does one have to do with the other? Do cars with independent suspension drive shlangen lines? The rigid axle has the advantage that the wheels do not change their camber when cornering when the body is inclined due to the curve. The disadvantage of the rigid axle is its high weight, which is why it only works well on smooth roads and of course requires high unsprung masses.
    Please, please: Write more fact-based, less emotion-oriented. If in doubt, read it. Otherwise the result reads a bit lukewarm.

  6. A great report and I didn’t even know that there was an RS 2600. In my youth, the Capri was the car in general. Today you have to justify yourself when you buy a car based on its looks and image. Somehow the time was pretty great back then 🙂

  7. The decline of affordable coupes from mass-produced manufacturers continues to be a mystery to me. Can that really be justified with the image? Or is it also the manufacturer’s fault when they started giving the coupes front-wheel drive in the nineties? One is clear, rather coupe than compact.

  8. I had 3 Capris, first a 1300, later a 2.0 S V6, then a 3.0S. In addition to the sportiness, the suitability for everyday use was impressive. They were really nice cars.


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