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ROAD TEST – 1974 FORD CAPRI 3000

Posted by wp-admin on 17th February 2017


Of course this is all in my head and every time I actually get behind the wheel of a classic Ford I end up enjoying the driving experience precisely because they’re just so well-judged and competent at doing what they’re supposed to do.


The exception has been my sole experience with the Capri, which was another offering by Cherished Classics. That was a MkII 3000 Ghia automatic and, while it was a superb example of the car in perfect mechanical and cosmetic condition, the overall experience left me a little underwhelmed as a whole, simply because of that strange unsatisfying feeling that the Capri was neither fish nor foul.

Now I’m back at Cherished Classics and behind the wheel of what would have been that Ghia’s immediate predecessor –a Sapphire Blue 3000 GXL, which makes it the top of the Capri tree in terms of drivetrain and specification. With 75,000 miles on the clock this Capri is clearly well travelled (it has an Austrian toll road pass stuck in the windscreen to prove it) but the condition it’s in is incredible. After that mileage you’d expect a ‘Seventies car to be at least looking the worse for wear but this Capri looks like it has just rolled out of the showroom. The paintwork is immaculate, as is the interior. Running a hand under the wheelarches and sills reveals not even the beginnings of rust. This is all remarkable given that the car is so clean you can see the original, and incredibly patchy, factory-applied rustproofing, which seems to have been applied by a single quick pass with a spray gun waved vaguely under each wheelarch.


ON THE ROAD
Of course, the other Capri I’d driven was in similarly pristine nick, but it didn’t take long behind the wheel of this one for it to completely change my mind on Capris, or at least reveal that if the MkII isn’t for me, then the MkI certainly is. Much is the same – the unassisted, very direct and rather weight steering, the torque-rich delivery of the V6 engine and the rather under-specced brakes – but the key difference is the gearbox. This four-speed manual transformes the Capri because it lets you fully use that engine’s power exactly as you want. You get direct control over the power delivery and you simply feel more involved in the driving experience.


When not muffled by a torque converter the Essex V6 is a seriously punchy engine and the gearbox is light, direct and delightfully mechanical to use whether you’re going up or down. What this 3000 GXL is is a quick car with quick steering and a quick gearbox. That you’re also sitting in blue and black vinyl splendour in a comfortable and spacious cabin is the final piece of the puzzle. I even prefer the looks of the MkI, with the shorter bonnet, the different rear profile and, yes, the fake air vents in the rear quarter panels.

In other respects the Capri drives beautifully. The ride is communicative but comfortable and it doesn’t ride like a car with a leaf-sprung live rear end. There’s no hint of slack or wandering in either the steering or the suspension. As well as being entertaining the Capri was also an excellent and comfortable cruiser. It’s the complete package – no wonder the Capri sold so well!


VERDICT
In my ignorance I had always rather assumed that the hype around the Capri was largely down to Ford’s marketing department and up until now my experience with the model had only reinforced that. But driving this one which is, in every way, a Capri in its most original form, proves that there was some substance behind it all and that like many a classic, the earliest models seem to be the best.

TECH SPEC
ENGINE:               2994cc
POWER:              138bhp
TOP SPEED:         113mph
0-60MPH:             9.1 secs
ECONOMY:         19mpg
GEARBOX:           4-sp man

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