The best thing Ford did was to stick a V6 in the Capri. Dave Smith was paying attention and, four decades later, he’s fulfilled the dream of having his very own with this stunning Mk2 Capri.
When it launched in 1974, the Capri II was very much the sensible Capri. Still ‘The car you always promised yourself’, sure, but far easier to justify to a questioning spouse or concerned bank manager thanks to the fact that it had a larger cabin and a shorter bonnet, you could buy it with a dinky little 1.3-litre engine, and it had a sensible hatchback rather than a fiddly bootlid. That promise you’d made to yourself had become a more achievable dream.
However, the Capri II wasn’t all about being sensible. After all, if you wanted spacious practicality and favourable fuel economy, you’d buy a lesser-engined Cortina, wouldn’t you? So the genius of Ford’s marketing here was to apply the spec levels of the everyday models — L, GL, Ghia and so on — to the rakish coupé, while at the same time retaining the halo effect of having a brawny sports variant at the top of the range. And the further genius of the second-gen Capri, the genius-squared if you will, was that you could option the thudding 3-litre Essex V6 in two distinct guises.
If you were the type of person who wore their shirt unbuttoned to the midriff to expose a jangling collection of shimmering medallions, you bought the 3.0S, complete with fishnet Recaros and aggressive side-stripes. If, however, you wished to exude more of a clubman vibe and wanted people to think your hobbies included taking pot-shots at grouse and mooching around wine cellars, you opted for the Ghia: its vinyl roof and swanky innards spoke of Italianate chic, but it was every bit as much of a hooligan as its boy-racer sibling.
But what happens if you want to fuse the two? To take the class and finesse of the Ghia, and imbue it with a frisson of the aggression of the S, and create a sort of Ghia S effect? That’s what Dave Smith has achieved here with this searingly citrus-hued 3-litre, and the essence of it lies in repainting the 1974 in Signal Orange over its original Stardust Silver. The tale, however, is about far more than merely a respray. This car represents a fulfilment of a long-held dream for Dave — it was, indeed, the car he’d always promised himself — and once he got started on the project, the rabbit-hole turned out to be rather deep.
“I’d had a couple of Capris back in the ’80s,” he recalls. “I’d always wanted a 3-litre, but couldn’t afford the insurance at the time. I’ve mostly had Fords over the years and I’ve never been one to keep them standard…”
This particular car, however, did much to alter his perceptions. OK, he’s radically altered its aesthetic impact by painting it bright orange, as well as making a few other minor tweaks, but this Capri is essentially pretty close to standard. “It was all stock when I bought it,” Dave explains. “I found the car back in 2014; it all seemed to be in good condition so I went down London way with my Dad to collect it.”
The bones of the car were good, although the next chapter of the opus is pretty much as you’d imagine of a 1974 Ford: as Dave stripped it all down, he found more and more areas that required attention. Having taken it right back to a bare shell, he passed it over to Austen Grimley at AG Auto Refinish, who continued to find more rust as he further stripped it, until he came out with the phrase we all dread: ‘How far are you prepared to go?’.
“It was pretty far gone,” says Dave, with the wry grin of a man who’s been through the wringer and emerged bloodied but unbowed on the other side. “I gave it some thought, and told Austen to do whatever it takes!”
The wings proved particularly tricky to source, and the extent of the required repairs meant that it was a full eight months before the shell was shipshape and serviceable again.
“The end result looked amazing though, it was well worth the wait,” Dave beams, “although I did initially question whether I’d chosen the right colour. It looked very orange…”
It clearly was the right decision, of course — just look at it, it’s sensational — and Dave had plenty of time to let it mellow as he painstakingly reassembled what had basically become a huge Airfix kit. All of the chrome went on, and the vinyl roof, and this served to counterpoint the fierce orange superbly. “It took about three months to put it all back together,” he continues. “It has a standard Ghia interior, with a CD player hidden in the glovebox so I could keep the dash standard. And with it all back together, it was ready for the road!”
The sheer unfettered joy of having the car of his dreams fighting fit and ready to rumble plastered a huge grin across Dave’s face on every outing — and, inevitably, that age-old concept of mission creep started to probe at his perfection gland. The bodywork was stunning, the interior all-original, so he started having ideas about improving the oily bits. Not radically modifying or reworking, simply making it the best that it could be. So earlier this year, Dave hoiked the V6 out. “It was a bit leaky and untidy,” he reasons, “so it was stripped it, and any parts that were needed were replaced, and electronic ignition was fitted.
“The engine rebuild was finished in March, then I started adding the chrome and orange bits — it’s a stock Essex 3-litre, and it was originally an auto although someone along the line has swapped the ’box to a four-speed manual.” Arguably a sensible decision, as with the manual ’box the 3-litre is more than a match for the later 2.8i Cologne-engined Capris, as well as having that trademark Essex habit of rocking amusingly from side to side at idle.
It’s a similar story throughout the chassis, with the aim being to augment and enhance rather than markedly alter. Dave’s retained the standard rear suspension and brakes, while swapping the front setup for 2.8i struts and Princess four-pots, as so many enthusiasts have done before. The wheels are JBW Rallye Specials, which artfully mimic the popular Alleycats of the era. Every move has been made to evoke the spirit of the ’70s, and it shows. “The next move is to retrim the interior in the original fabric,” says Dave. “You can’t find the Ghia fabric anywhere, but my trimmer reckons he can find a way, so fingers crossed!” A to-do list like this can always grow as the pursuit of perfection spreads its roots deeper, but for now Dave’s simply enjoying every moment with his bright orange Ghia.
Point and shoot
“We use it as much as possible, and my son Alfie always points out when people are looking and taking photos,” he laughs. “It certainly gets plenty of attention.” As well it should. With the panache of the Ghia and the sportiness of the S, combined with a flawless and sympathetic finish, Dave’s created arguably the perfect Capri II. The ideal fusion of the silly and the sensible; the car he always promised himself.
See more photos and get the full spec on Dave’s Mk2 Capri in the September 2019 issue
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