There was always something exotic about the Halewood-produced Ford Capri.
Its name alone was sunny and cosmopolitan, unlike the more steadfast-sounding Anglia, Standard and Consul.
On TV, policemen and gangsters alike loved its sleek looks and raked rear window – the British embodiment of the legendary US Ford Mustang!
It was powerful too. The later Capri 3000s scorched down the motorways and dual-carriageways of the UK – twin exhausts and spoiler prominent for all to see.
It was certainly the car of choice for 1970s TV crime-busters The Professionals, played by Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw – and appeared in many scenes.
The first Capri rolled off the Halewood production line in December 1968. The car had been designed by American Philip T. Clark, who’d also worked on the Mustang.
Ford branded their new fastback coupe as ‘the car you’d always promised yourself.’ Car magazine were less complimentary. They described it as a Cortina in drag!
Buyers remained undeterred. The Capri sold 1.9 million units in its 18-year lifetime, making it one of Ford’s most successful marques.
There was great excitement at the car’s official launch at the Birkenhead shipyards of Cammell Laird in February 1969.
Reigning Miss Liverpool, Margaret Ashcroft, smashed a bottle of champagne on the bumper and the Capri Mk 1 rolled gently down the slipway – finally getting its tyres wet in the Mersey!
As Ford wanted the Capri to be affordable and appeal to a wide range of drivers, it was fitted with a variety of engines.
British versions were powered by the Ford Kent straight-four 1.3 and 1.6 litre engines. Top of the range was the Ford Essex V4 2.0 litre.
In September 1969, Ford introduced the 3000 GT. It was powered by the Essex V6 engine and capable of 138 hp. The iconic Capri 3000E, with its more luxurious trim, arrived in March 1970.
The running gear and rear axle on the new Capri was very similar to its predecessor, the 1966 Cortina. The rack and pinion steering came from the Ford Escort.
Ford knew they were on to a winner when 400,000 Capris were sold in the first two years of production. They made changes in 1972, fitting more comfortable suspension and bigger tail-lights and headlights.
The modifications clearly worked. The Capri registered its record year in 1973 with 233,000 cars sold. The millionth Capri, an RS 2600, was completed on August 29th.
But no matter how good the marque, there was always someone determined to improve it.
In February 1975, Mr Douglas Purser converted his 1600 Capri to run on coal – and periodically had to stop the car to shovel anthracite into the burner.
It wouldn’t have suited The Professionals!