The badge was used in Europe, Britain and in Australia, all independently of one another. The Ford Capri was never sold in the US (at least not under that name). In the States, it was sold as the Mercury Capri, although for the first portion of its North American history, it was identical to the Ford Capri sold in Europe (and was actually manufactured in Germany).
Ford of Great Britain
The Ford Consul Capri manufactured by Ford of Great Britain was produced from 1961 through 1964, and was actually a variant of the Classic. It was a two-door coupe made available with several different powertrain options, including a 1340 cc inline four-cylinder, and a 1498 cc inline four-cylinder. Production was stopped after low sales amidst competition with the more popular Cortina, which was manufactured at the same time.
Ford of Europe
Ford of Europe manufactured the Ford Capri from 1969 through 1986. During this period, the Capri saw two new generations, and a contested third generation (it was not an “official”new generation, but a very, very heavy facelift). The final generation was also only sold in Britain, although manufactured by Ford of Europe in Germany, and were exclusively right-hand drive vehicles.
The Mark I – The Capri Mk 1 first debuted in 1969, and was ostensibly designed to bring to Europe what the Mustang had brought to the American market. This achieved significant results, at least at first. In fact, the response was so strong that the Mk 1 was eventually introduced to Australia and the US market (under different names, and in the US, under a different automaker nameplate).
The Mk 1 was a fastback coupe that was made available with several different engine options. These included a 1.3-liter, 1.5-liter and 1.7-liter option for the European market, while Britain received 1.3 and 1.6-liter engines. The company added sportier, higher-power options at the end of the first model year (the 2300 GT for the German market, and the 3000 GT for the British market).
After seeing significant success with the first generation, Ford gave the Capri a facelift in 1972 (this created the Capri B, as enthusiasts know it). The facelift was actually just shy of a brand new generation, and brought significant changes to the body, as well as a new engine (the Ford Pinto engine for the UK market, while the previous British Kent engine went to Germany). This also marked the high point for the Capri as a model – it sold 233,000 units in 1973, completing Ford’s sale of 1 million total Capris.
The Mark II – The Second Generation
The second generation for the Capri debuted in 1974 and ran through 1978. Called the Capri II, this model was significantly altered from even the face lifted Mk 1. It retained some of the mechanics, but gained a larger body and a layout more suited to everyday driving.
New engines joined the lineup for both European and British buyers. Germany saw the introduction of a 1.3, 1.6, 1.6 GT and 2.0 liter engines. Britain gained a new 3.0-liter engine to complement the original lineup.
This generation also saw the introduction of the John Player Special limited edition model. It debuted in 1975, and was only available in either black or white. Both colors featured gold pinstripes down the sides intended to mimic the F1 car, and the model also included complementary colored interior carpeting and seat fabrics, as well as gold wheels. A year later, sales declined enough that the Capri was pulled from the US market (where it was sold under the Mercury name).
The Mark III – The Third Generation
The third generation of the Capri didn’t comprise much more than a basic refresh of the Mk II. Production for this generation began in 1978 and was to stumble on until 1986, with the Capri never able to really recapture the excitement and popularity of the first generation. With that being said, the Mk III did earn the distinction of being one of the most frequently stolen vehicles in the UK (and cost drivers accordingly in insurance fees).
Significant changes were made to the body style, enough to give the car better aerodynamics and fuel economy than its predecessor. It also resulted in a sportier look and a slightly more aggressive stance. The quad-headlamp design was also introduced during this generation, a marked divergence from the square headlights of the Mk II. The Mk III did not receive any new engines or transmission. Instead, it carried over the powertrain options from the previous generation, with the 3.0 engine being the most popular.
An attempt was made to revive flagging interest in the Capris within the UK market during this time, with the vehicle being featured prominently on popular television programming, and a new special fuel injection version being offered in the early 1980s. A turbocharged version was also made available in Germany from 1981 to 1982.
As the marque wound down its lifespan, it was only sold in Britain (from 1984 until the end of production). These were right-hand drive only, and were made solely in Germany (production had actually been limited to Germany only since 1976).
The Capri enjoyed considerable popularity with the first generation, and the marque sold just over 1,888,000 vehicles throughout its lifespan. The popularity of the Mk I was never recaptured unfortunately, despite Ford’s efforts to market sport and racing-inspired versions of the car.
Did you own a Capri? Let us know your thoughts below!