Few cars have quite a reputation and following as the Ford Capri. Penned by American designer Philip T. Clark, the Capri was meant to be the European market equivalent to the Mustang; a fastback coupe. Mechanically based on the Ford Cortina at the time, the Mark 1 Capri went on sale in December 1968, built at several Ford plants in the United Kingdom, Belgium and Germany.
Targeting a wider audience than the US-market Mustang, the Capri was offered with a range of power-plants that have since attained cult status; the Ford Kent in-line four, the Ford Essex V4 and V6 engines, and the Cologne V6. The Capri was sold in America, Europe and South Africa. Engine displacements ranged from the base 1.3 litre right up to the 3.1 litre Essex V6, and an oddball was produced (badged Perana) by Basil Green Motors in Johannesburg, South Africa that boasted a very American 5.0litre Windsor V8. The sole gearbox option was a four-speed manual.
The Mark 1 was facelifted in 1972, and the Mark 2 reigned from 1974 to 1978. A John Player Special edition was offered in 1975, with gold pin-striping and detailing on a black or white body as a homage to the Formula 1 liveried John Player cars. The Mark 3 came about in 1978 and stayed until 1986, with the 2.8 litre fuel injected model being the first regular Capri to offer fuel injection in 1982, producing 150bhp and a top speed of 210km/h. The gearbox remained a four speed manual. A turbo version of the 2.8 litre engine was also produced during 1981-1982, fitted with a single Garrett T4 turbocharged and boasted 188bhp and 230km/h potential. This was the predecessor to the famous Tickford Turbo which was a turbocharged 2.8 litre Cologne V6 that produced 205bhp and gave a 0-100km/h time of 6.7 seconds, as well as a luxury interior, one-off bodykit and other cosmetic trimmings. The Mark 3 was the last Capri and it was given a run-out with the “Capri 280” turbo models which was a limited edition finished in Brooklands Green paintwork and featuring a full leather Recaro interior and 15-inch seven spoke alloy wheels. Originally intending to make 500 of these, Ford eventually made 1,038. The last Capri ever to be made rolled off on 19th December 1986, and is owned by Ford’s heritage workshop in the United Kingdom.
The Capri we have here is driven (and raced at classic events, to boot!) fairly regularly. It even ran at Mahagastotte in April. Proudly looked after and driven (hard) by Mohan Perera of Kegalle, the car had an interesting passage to Sri Lanka. Mohan had joined a ship as a crew member which was skippered by Captain Shanthi Gunewardena. He was a car fanatic and his dream was to have a Ford Capri. Mohan fondly remembers the Captain pledging to “purchase a Ford Capri the next time we call at theUK”. This fateful call came in 1975, and the 1600cc “Ford Tawny Metallic” Capri was purchased there for the sum of £1,024. It was exempted from VAT as it was for export. The Capri was shipped on the “MV Lanka Rani”, departing the United Kingdom on 29th July 1975 and arriving at Colombo on 30th August 1975. It was registered on 1st September, with registration 6 Sri 7304.
The car was run and cherished by the Captain until his tragic death, after which it languished at the family home, falling into disrepair. The Captain had left instructions with his wife to “give it to a car lover”. It was thus how the car eventually came to Mohan’s hands. A full restoration was undertaken, commencing on 22nd October 2009 and completing just over a year later, on 27th October 2010. Large body panels were cut and restored with zinc coated 18-gauge sheets, and the bonnet was fabricated from scratch. The engine received a complete re-build at Viskam Engineering, including the water pump, hoses, belts and all ancilliaries. Brakes, suspension, steering and electrical system were all restored. The original sealed beam headlamps had long expired, so a set of original non-sealed beam headlamps were sourced and installed. The rear bumper was found at a Maradana breakers yard, while the front bumper was fabricated from scratch by Mohan, using stainless steel. Four original “Rostyle” wheel rims were sourced from a dilapidated Escort rotting away in a yard in Minuwangoda and were restored and re-painted.
Mohan proudly shows off the thick file containing every single detail of the car, from a lengthy typed account of the restoration, to the individual receipts and even the contact details for each party involved, be it a tinker, painter or engine restorer. On hearing it start up and drive around for our photo-shoot, you can see and hear just why Mohan loves the car so much. “Fords give me a special feeling!” he sums up.