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50 Years of the Ford Capri

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On September 8th, Ford will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Ford Capri, a car that has its claim to fame in other countries like France, Spain, and Australia. See why drivers everywhere tip their hats to the Capri.

Though the Ford Capri isn’t the most popular car in the U.S., it’s one of the automobiles that proved that pony cars had a place beyond American muscle. We’re celebrating the Ford Capri’s 50th Anniversary with an ode to the “European Mustang” that paved the way for Ford’s GT models.

Meet the Ford Capri

Ford Capri
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If you haven’t heard of the Ford Capri or have only heard of it briefly, no worries. Most people in the U.S. didn’t have an affinity for the Ford Capri like others around the world did. These cars were only manufactured from 1969 to 1978, but they made a lasting impression on those that got behind the wheel of one.

The Capri was Ford’s attempt to have success in Europe just like they had done in the U.S. with the Ford Mustang. A pony car for the Europeans, you could say.

The Foundations of the Ford Capri

Ford Capri
@braintax on unsplash.com

The Ford Capri was built off a Cortina, another popular Ford model that sold well in the U.K. Before it was named the Capri, it took on the name Colt but didn’t keep the name due to a trademark already taken by Mitsubishi.

Ford was determined for this fastback coupe to be affordable, yet powerful. To achieve this goal, Ford offered the Capri with several engine options alongside GT sport versions. It became a much bigger success than they foresaw with over 400,000 Capris sold in the first two years.

Ford Sees Success with the Capri

By 1971, the Ford Capri drew in interest for its capabilities as it won the European Touring Championship powered by fuel injection. It hit 100 miles per hour in 7.7 seconds and this win led to much of the success it saw over the next few years.

1970s Ford Capri RS rally car
1970s Ford Capri RS rally car on istock.com

In 1973, the Capri would see its highest sales throughout its production time with 233,000 cars sold in that year alone. With this triumph, Ford pushed to release a rendition of the vehicle known as the RHD RS Capri. The RS Capri sat about an inch lower than the years previous and featured a handful of special modifications like gold pinstriping and a ducktail rear spoiler. With these modifications, the Capri was even more suited to racing and soon became known for its ability to handle high speeds, albeit with a rough ride.

From this year on, the Capri was ready for racing and it would continue to develop into a touring racecar throughout its production years.

A Reliable & Sensible Everyday Driver

1974 Ford Capri
1974 Ford Capri by Vauxford on commons.wikimedia.org

After 1973, the oil crisis took a toll on auto manufacturing and Ford had to make a few strategic changes to the Capri to ensure its longevity. The 1974 Capri MK II featured a larger cabin and hatchback rear door, a smart choice as hatchbacks were becoming increasingly popular. During this time, drivers saw the reliability and sensibility of having a Capri, though sales of the vehicle would decline over the next few years which would lead to the last Capri hitting U.S. shores in 1977.

One Last Face Lift

The final Capri, the MK III, featured a heavy facelift that somewhat resembled the Ford Escort with a new grille design and “sawtooth” rear lamp lenses. At first, sales were looking up for the MK III, but Ford eventually switched its Capri selling tactics to focus on the U.K. market where a subculture was forming around these vehicles.

Ford Capri
@fordvenezuela on Twitter

Ford, as well as a few other car manufacturers, developed several different turbocharged models of the Capri during this time of receding sales that gave it a little more juice and flash.

Eventually, the production of the Capri in Europe and everywhere else would stop as many found other models like the Ford Escort to suit their needs better. Despite the lack of interest from everyday drivers in the ‘80s, the Capri would win the Deutsche Rennsport Meisterschaft race in 1981. Though this time, the race didn’t provide any real boost in sales.

Why Did the World Love the Capri?

Capris were found all over the world from the time of its inception until its discontinuation. From those looking for an affordable sports car to families who needed a little bit of get-up-and-go, the Capri made it possible for pony cars to make a name for themselves outside of North America. The GT, fuel-injected, and turbo Capri models turned the eventual hatchback coupe into something that car enthusiasts and families could enjoy, just like Ford’s Mustang.

And though the Capri is no longer produced, it still lives in the hearts and minds of drivers across the world who found love in an affordable pony car, one of the first of its kind in Europe. Click To Tweet

What do you think about the Ford Capri? Let us know in the comments below!

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Erin Maxson

Erin loves nothing more than a good road trip. To her, getting behind the wheel is one of the biggest adventures you can take because it can lead to anywhere. Alongside her Toyota Tundra, you'll find her co-pilot pup, Rory, and a 1976 Airstream Argosy in tow. Her motto: Life is a scenic road, take your time and enjoy the ride.

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