Six steps to buying a Ford Capri MkII/III Buying a Ford Capri in a world of mint restorations and big price tags. Soaring values have dramatically changed the buying landscape for this iconic coupé. Words Sam Dawson. Photography Julian Sandiford.
Buy a Ford Capri MkII/III No longer cheap to buy, but it’s a classic that’s actually becoming more owner-friendly with time. Learn how to buy a good one with our guide.
What to pay
1 Running projects start at £1500 for a four-cylinder, £3000 for a V6.
2 Cars in good condition with no major jobs needed start at £5000, with around £7000 required for a V6 at this level.
3 Genuinely mint cars fetch £10k, even more for low-mileage special editions. A show-condition 2.8 Injection Special is around £16k.
4 There’s a premium for pristine 3.0Ss and 280s – you’ll need at least £20k for either. At auction, £50k for a very low-mileage concours car isn’t unheard of.
‘As values of the rarer Capri V6 models escalated, the four-cylinder cars were viciously picked over by breakers. Now they’re rare too’
‘Mechanical parts ere shared with much of the Ford range, so finding oily bits is easy and cheap’
How to buy a £5-20k Capri wellUntil a few years ago, a cheap second- or third-generation Ford Capri made for affordable, unintimidating entry into classic car ownership. However, as values of the rarer V6 models escalated and Ford’s ambivalence concerning classic parts supply continued, the four-cylinder cars were viciously picked over by breakers.
Now they’re rare too, and prices have risen to hitherto unimaginable levels for good ones. But this also means restoration makes more financial sense than it used to. We’ve enlisted the help of Roger Chinery, a dealer in classic Fords via his Affordable Classics concern since the last Capri was ten years old; Clive Tick, whose Kent-based Tickover workshop has been restoring Capris since 1992; and Ian Melville of Specialised Engines, who’s been rebuilding Fords since 1977.
Which one to choose?
1 MkII Rationalised range accompanied Ford’s more subtly-styled three-door Capri in 1974, in base-model L, option-laden XL (renamed GL in 1975), sporty GT and luxurious Ghia flavours, accompanied by a choice of a 1300 Kent Crossflow engine, new 1.6 and 2.0-litre Pinto inline fours, or the 3.0-litre Essex V6.
2 S Initially appearing as the GTS – a 1975 special edition with JPS Lotus-inspired gold pinstriping based on the GT – the S ultimately replaced the GT, with a package of sports equipment including a glassfibre front spoiler and stiffer suspension.
3 MkIII The restyled MkIII of 1978 sported quad circular headlights, ribbed tail lights and an optional rear spoiler. Mechanically the car remained the same, although the new 88bhp 1.6S featured a new twin-choke Weber carburettor. The 3.0 V6 was confined to luxury automatic Ghia and sporty manual S guises.
4 Special Editions Calypso, Cabaret and Laser are the best known and command mild premiums. Cameo looked like a special edition but was a sub-L base model with no centre console. The 500-of 1980 1.6 GT4, with Zak-speed-inspired strobe-stripes, race-look dashboard and S-spec suspension, was the rarest of all.
5 2.8i/280 The Essex V6 was retired in 1981 and replaced by the 2.8-litre Cologne engine. Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering department fitted it with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection to create a 160bhp performance icon, the 2.8i, which gained an LSD in 1984. The Ghia was discontinued. A run-out special edition, the 280, was finished in Brooklands Green with full leather seats – 1038 were built.
Structure Although MkII/IIIs were better-protected than their predecessors, with wheelarch splash-guards and undersealing, check extensively for rust. Certain replacement body panels are very hard to find. New sills, wheelarches, door skins, tail panels and rear three-quarter sections are available from Ex-Pressed Panels at £400-1000, but unused front wings, bonnets and front valances are becoming rare. They turn up on internet auction sites and owners’ forums from time to time, but the going rate is around £400 per front-section panel, rising each time a new cache appears.
It often makes more sense to repair rust rather than replace panels. Capri construction has few complex sections, so light rust is fairly easily and cheaply arrested by most bodyshops. Comprehensively rectifying repairable surface rust throughout the bodyshell typically runs to a fairly reasonable £4000.
If it’s more extensive, it’ll be more like £10,000, so prepare to reject more seriously rotten cars. Bonnets rust through above the headlight housings, and the point where the A-post meets the edge of the footwell is also prone – lift the carpets to check it. The rear ends of the sills where the sunroof drains, the leading edge of the rear damper turrets, leaf spring mounts and the section above the fuel tank can all suffer. Because of the Capri’s straightforward design, it’s easy to check these things by looking underneath it with a torch. Sunroofs were popular, but the poor drainage system traps water in the roof panel behind them, causing rot. Repairing this involves patching and welding and will run to £2000. Pay extra attention to the front inner wings on V6 cars – they had reinforcement plates fitted to cope with the extra weight, and had a tendency to trap moisture and rust.
Engines The Capri shared its mechanical parts with much of the contemporary Ford range, including the Cortina and Sierra, so unlike the body panel situation finding oily bits is easy and cheap. Most engines – Essex, Cologne and Crosslow – are all strong motor sport stalwarts with big-end bearings that seemingly last forever, as do their slick gearboxes. Rebuild parts are readily available from Burton Power in standard form as well as tuned for racing and rallying. The Pinto engine is slightly more diicult to source parts for and breakers-yard Sierras are prized as a result. This scarcity means an increasing number of Pinto Capris now sport Ford Zetec engine transplants.
Provided they’re well-maintained, the standard Capri 1.6/2.0 shouldn’t pose any major problems – it’s a non-interference engine, so valves won’t meet pistons if the cambelt breaks and given that replacing a belt only costs £10, it’s a worthwhile precautionary procedure upon buying.
If you’ve always promised yourself a Capri, you need to move quickly. There are still bargains around, but even the smaller-engined models like this LS are hot property.
This is the 1.6 engine, but all the Capri power units are strong and simple to work on, mostly with good parts availability.
It’s best to buy a Capri with an interior in good condition like this one. Trim is increasingly scarce.
The panels that give the Capri its distinctive shape can be difficult to find these days, especially front wings, so you have to repair what you’ve got.
A handful of 1.6 Capris had Motorcraft VV (Variable Venturi) carburettors. These have a bad reputation that’s largely undeserved. Their diaphragms perish, but they’re easily rebuilt with new ones. If you don’t fancy having to do this, it a Weber from a 2.0-litre. The automatic choke on the 2.0 also comes in for criticism and many Capris thus fitted have had their dashboards butchered in order to it manual choke cables. The auto choke’s issues are usually down to the controlling bimetallic strip’s aluminium housing being neglected and filling with dirt – it’s easy to clean it out. The Pinto’s camshaft had a reputation for premature wear, but this has since been solved with better oil lubrication technology. If it has suffered though, new camshafts are available from Burton Power for £190.
Both Essex and Cologne V6s are simple to look after, easy to live with and have few foibles. The only real source of concern is the fibre timing gear on the Essex 3.0-litre, which can wear out or fail. Metal replacements are available for peace of mind for £164. Standard-tune rebuilds with new piston rings for all these engines aren’t offputtingly expensive – typically up to £1900 for a Crosslow, £2100 for a Pinto or V6.
Running gear and suspension Sagging at the rear is common, but fixing this is a straightforward case of replacing springs. Listen out for a rumbling sound from the rear suspension on the test drive. This can be a sign of a £50 wheel bearing on its way out or a worn differential. Wynn’s Differential Treatment Oil is recommended for avoiding the latter, but if it does need rebuilding budget £300 for a minor gaskets-and-seals job, and if the wear has damaged the crownwheel and pinion, double it.
Even though limited-slip differentials were standard equipment on 2.8 Injection Specials, not all will be fitted with them nowadays. These items are highly prized by rally drivers and can be fitted to Escort MkIIs, so many Capri owners sold them when their cars were worth less and retro-fitted the standard differential.
Trim Replacement interior trim is ultra-rare, especially for MkIIs – the ‘Marcasite’ cloth and vinyl used in the Seventies cars doesn’t wear well and the fabric isn’t available. MkIIIs are no easier to find replacement parts for, but the materials makes life a bit easier. The cloth used in the Eighties was harder-wearing and the optional leather seats, which often split along stitching lines on the bolsters, are easily repaired. Rubber parts are readily available from East Kent Trim. Door mirrors are rust-prone and tend to fall apart, but there is a cheap and easy ix – Austin FX4 London Taxi mirrors are the same design, in non-rusting aluminium.
Identity Commonality of parts and the desirability of special editions means faked Capris are not unheard of. From late 1990 Ford put a Vehicle Identification Number plate in the driver’s-side footwell; earlier cars have it stamped into the offside inner wings so make sure these haven’t been defaced or welded over and that it matches the one in the V5.
Owning a Ford Capri MkII/III
Paul Cott, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Paul owns the red 1.6LS in the photographs, but never considered himself a Ford man until he tried a Capri. ‘Two years ago, my wife was browsing a classic car website, found this Capri at a dealer in London, and said, “look at this, we’ve just got to have it” – she’d wanted one for years,’ says Paul. ‘Its condition was incredible – unrestored, unwelded, original paint and with only one previous owner who had bought it when he retired.
‘I’d always been a VW man and have a 1967 Beetle, but I prefer driving this and I cover more miles in it – 6000 in the past two years. ‘The wheels are the only thing that had corroded and needed replacing, and I’ve put electronic ignition on it for the sake of reliability. Parts aren’t really a concern though, and what’s out there is better quality than reproduction VW pattern parts.
‘I love how people come up to you and talk about it when they see it. The ownership community is a fast-moving, online-based world too, clustered around Facebook groups. There’s always someone willing to answer any questions you might have if you run into problems.’
Mark Swetnam, St Ives, Cambridgeshire
‘I’ve owned two Capris – both white – and bought my first in 1990,’ says Mark, who set up the online resource fordcaprilaser.co.uk, offering invaluable technical and originality advice based on two restorations carried out on his second car, a 2.0 Laser.
‘I’m not into concours, but the second restoration was to a higher standard with more money spent, because the car had been used as a daily driver and the pattern front wings, which didn’t it properly, had rotted. I found a set of genuine front wings in Northern Ireland and had them shipped over. They were covered in dents and restorers Quest Brothers said their pattern parts would be better, but I knew the genuine parts would be stiffer and sharper-lined, and crucially they weren’t rusty. Quest had to knock the dents out but they fitted better and needed a lot less filler. I also managed to get the very last genuine Ford bronze-tinted windscreen, which came to £400. ‘The Pinto engine is bulletproof and very tuneable – they can be made more powerful than the V6s, they’ll handle better and use less fuel. They’re great driver’s cars, and going for silly money now too – I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve told me they wish they’d never sold theirs.’
Connor Andrews, Spain
Connor’s Capri 1.6 isn’t just his first classic, it’s his first car. ‘I don’t think it would’ve been possible to find anything with more character, not just in the looks department, but the interior, the noise, and the driving position,’ says Connor. ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re in convoy with a 911, E-type, or DB5, the biggest smile from enthusiast passers-by is brought by the Capri.’
‘Mine came with a rust-bubbled wheelarch, front wing and headlight surround on one side, which was rapidly joined on the other side following a chance encounter with a deer. I have replaced the bodywork for the entire front end and resprayed the majority of the car for the purposes of paint matching during repairs.
‘Parts are plentiful and cheap, and it’s a forgiving car to work on. But unless you’re looking at the top end for the increasingly rare rust-free examples, you’ll likely have some work to do or money to spend, but you’ll never want to sell it.’
1986 Ford Capri Laser - £5000 ono
2.0 Laser, June 1986, Diamond White, manual and in good condition throughout. Mechanically feels good, original engine, electronic ignition fitted but I kept the old distributor. Interior in good condition, finished in cloth trim with matching door and quarter panel inserts. Factory fitted manual sunroof. Ford RS four-spoke alloy wheels in good condition fitted with good tyres. Bodywork in good order for year.