Ford Capri MK1 2000 GT Review: Euro Pony Car

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By Ben Selby

There are many accolades you could bestow upon the cars which carry the name of Henry Ford. One of these accolades undoubtedly came to fruition during the 1960s. It was the accolade of bringing sports car looks and performance, at price the man in the street could afford.

The first Ford to nail this was the Ford Mustang. With an almost limitless list of options and looks which contrasted greatly to the floaty curb crawlers of the day, the Mustang was an overnight sensation.

Fast forward to 1968 and Ford Europe decided the UK and Europe should have a Ford Mustang of their own. Enter the Ford Capri, a car which Ford said “you always promised yourself.”

It was no secret Ford’s new European pony car took inspiration from the Mustang. The Capri’s textbook long bonnet, two door coupe styling complete with fastback rear three quarter was a dead giveaway. Plus, the man who designed the Capri, Philip T Clark, was also involved with designing the Mustang.

Underneath, the first Capris shared plenty with the more sensible Ford Cortina. The new car also followed the Cortina’s example and was named after an Italian holiday destination, Capri. The Capri was designed to cater for all manner of income brackets. This meant a great selection of powertrains were on offer.

From the humble 1.3L Kent four cylinder to the Essex or Cologne 3.0L V6, there was something for everyone. All versions were mated to a four-speed manual gearbox and in typical sports car fashion, drive was sent to the rear wheels.

In January 1969, the Ford Capri made its world debut at the Brussels Motor Show. Ford Europe’s take on the Mustang was lapped up by the punters, with the Capri selling 400,000 units in its first four years of production. Its handsome looks and sporty edge made it an instant hit.

Now, the average man in the street didn’t have to make do with a sensible four door, but they could have their own personalized sports coupe to suit their budget and tastes. Also, anyone bloke owned a Capri during its heyday found themselves with plenty of attention with the fairer sex. Or so Ford’s marketing department would have you believe.

The Capri also go the go-faster treatment with models like the coveted RS3100. Plus, those who wanted a bit of extra poke in later years would head to South Africa. Basil Green Motors of Johannesburg built special 302ci Windsor V8 Perana Capris to order, though that is another story entirely.

The Capri was also great on the track. Series like Group 5 and Touring Cars became a familiar Capri stomping ground. The Capri itself would go through a number of changes throughout its lifetime before production ended in 1987.

For many, the MK1 cars are the most iconic, which brings me neatly on to this New Zealand New MK1 2000 GT. Built in 1973, this MK1 features facelifted headlight and taillights, and a 2.0L Essex V4 engine producing 69kW and 141Nm.

To me, an early Capri always looks better in a bright colour and the yellow of this car is a welcome addition. It even complements the AA badge housed in the front grill to great effect. Despite that odometer ticking over 148,000 times since new, it has to be said the condition of this Capri is pretty tidy. Pop the bonnet and you realise just how compact that Essex V4 actually is. Small wonder those Perana boys could make the 302 V8 fit so well.

Inside, its very much early seventies, with dark grey and black being the dominate colour combo. If one could describe the Capri’s cockpit, it would be functional and driver focused. Ahead of you, two big white on black dials housing the speedometer and rev counter stare at you like a pair of binoculars. The speedometer may go all the way up to 220km/h, but the wheel heeled 2000 GT would top out at roughly 170km/h and would reach “the tonne” from a standstill in 10 seconds.

The seats are supportive but you do sit quite far back. There is also plenty of room to get comfortable. Aside from the original stereo cassette player, there is very little to distract you from driving, something which this almost 50-year-old Ford can still do well.

Turn key and the burble of that Essex V4 signals the Capri is ready to move out. What you notice straight away is the lack of power steering. While it lightens up and provides plenty of feedback at speed, those three-point turns give you biceps a bit of workout.

What is also obvious once you get to steady cruise is just how comfortable the ride is. While not overly soft, there is just enough softness in the suspension to make for a soothing yet sporty drive. Shifting through the gears via that silky manual gearbox is a delight, though this writer had to keep reminding himself the forward gears stopped at four.

The V4 doesn’t make the most exciting noise in the world, but it puts all its power down very well. Thanks to this, you can carry plenty of momentum through the corners. Providing you the work the gearbox well and keep the power on.

While I wasn’t quite prepared to go full Bodie and Doyle with squealing tyres, the Capri 2000 GT is still a fun classic driving experience. Be prepared to get involved though, this is not a car which will just bound along without you getting stuck in. You are on the front line here, you must drive it like you mean it, but once you do, you reap the rewards.

The Ford Capri is still an icon. However, what was originally marketed as the average man’s sports car, is something quite different today. These days, a Ford Capri, regardless of model, is no longer cheap and cheerful, but a bonafide blue chip investment.

The ones which haven’t been crashed or neglected have either been restored or lovingly preserved by devoted owners. This makes examples like this pretty hard to come by. Many examples are fast approaching the $60k mark and projected to climb higher still. Therefore, with “the car you always promised yourself,” maybe now is the time to make good on that promise?

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