FORD CAPRI MKIII
By Mark Nobes, chief editor
Top image: Orange Ford Capri MKIII S Coupe 1983 (public domain free for reuse)
No 80s website is complete without dedicating a page to Ford's iconic fastback coupe, the Capri. First launched in 1969, the Capri was the European equivalent to the Mustang (the designer of the original Capri, Phil Clark, created the horse logo for the Mustang) and became particularly popular with the working classes who couldn't afford a high end sports car. In the 70s, it was marketed as "The car you always promised yourself".
I had the pleasure of driving a Capri MkIII at the Ford garage where I worked in the late 80s. I remember how low to the ground you felt which made the bonnet seem even huger than it was. It was very spacious, too, and a very different drive to all of the other Ford models. Its quirkiness gave me an insight into why it had gained a cult following.
The design of the MKIII was known as "Project Carla" and began in 1976 with a limited budget of $480,000. It launched in March 1978 with 1300, 1600, 1600S, 2000S and 3000S engines. The single rectangular headlights were replaced with four round halogen headlamps, and there were new wings and a hooded bonnet, a rear spoiler, satin black wraparound bumpers (which were previously chrome) and improved interior and paint options.
This original artwork of a MKII Capri was kindly sent to us by Christoper Tupa ©. Check out his amazing work at http://www.ctupa.com Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/artofctupa/ TeePublic: https://www.teepublic.com/user/ctupa Redbubble: https://www.redbubble.com/people/tupa/shop
LS, Calypso and the Cameo special edition models were launched in 1981, although it was the 2.8i that really caught everyones attention.
In Europe, production of the Capri ceased in 1984, with only right-hand drive models still being built for the British market until its demise in December 1986.
TV Stars who Drove Capris
Initially, the MkIII sold very well, and the use of a 3.0 S model in the ITV crime drama series The Professionals helped to fuel its popularity. Both Bodie and Doyle drove one, as did Terry McCann in Minder and racing driver James Hunt. However, the popularity of the Capri declined as we progressed through the 1980s (particularly in Europe) as a new breed of smaller hot hatches started to to appear including the Ford XR2 and XR3i, Golf GTi Mk II, Renault 5 GT Turbo and Peugeot 205 GTi, to name but a few. In Europe, production of the Capri ceased in late 1984, however production continued until December 1986 in the UK.
1978 Ford Capri II S 3.0
Ford focused on the UK market during the 1980s, where the Capri gained a cult following, with sales mostly to private buyers rather than fleet buyers. This was advantageous to Ford as it meant they didn't need to offer discounts, making the profit margins higher.
Sadly, the Capri MkIII became a target for thieves, and it became one of the most stolen cars in the UK during the 1980s. This helped to fuel sales of the crook-lock and Moss car alarms.
From November 1984, all of the 1.6 and 2.0 models were known as the Laser, and featured new trim levels. As well as new instruments, they included a shark grey leather steering wheel and gear knob, colour-coded mirrors and grille, chequered go-faster stripes (along with fluffy dice these were essential in the 80s!), ridged rear lights and an electric aerial. Oh yes, it also had a digital stereo radio cassette player. Despite all of this, the Laser failed to stop sales of the Capri from declining.
The Last Capri
The very last capri rolled off the production lines on 19th December 1986 at the Cologne factory in Germany. It was a Capri 280 in Brooklands Green, bringing the final total to 1,886,647. UK production had ended in 1976.
1.3 L Crossflow I4
1.6 L Pinto TL16 I4
2.0 L Cologne V6
2.0 L Pinto TL20 I4
2.3 L Cologne V6
2.8 L Cologne V6
3.0 L Essex V6
New emmissions regulations meant that the Essex 3.0 V6 engine had to be dropped in 1982, and this was replaced by the all new 2.8 with bosch K-Jetronic injection, which increased the top speed slightly to 130mph (210 kn/h), and which helped to further boost sales. The chequered seats were replaced with velour.
An orange 1985 Ford Capri III Laser 1993cc at Hatfield Heath Festival in 2017
Seeing a Capri on the roads today is a very rare site, and if you happen to drive one, you will probably attract the attention of anyone over a certain age who has very fond memories of the Ford's iconic coupe.
MkI and MkII models are particularly rare as they suffered from rot. The MkIII had better protection, and, therefore, there are more of these available to buy.
Thinking of buying one? You should avoid a MKIII with a 1.3 kent engine as is is underpowered. A laser with five speed gearbox will have a better engine life and better economy. Capris built before 1984 were four speed as standard but optional 5 speed was introduced in 1983.
The average price of a second hand Capri ranges from around £5000 up to £15000 for a 2.8i in excellent condition. However, this will, of course, depend on not only the engine size, but also the mileage and condition. A pristine Brooklands can fetch around £25,000 to £30,000.
In 2017, a 1987 Brooklands 280 fetched a record £54,000, although had less than 1000 miles on the clock.