Driving a race car on the street’s everyone’s dream, but hardly anyone gets to realise it. For others like Ricky Ferris though, you just get on and build it — like his Zakspeed Capri tribute.
One of the most memorable photoshoots I’ve ever done was the genuine Zakspeed Capri we snapped in their construction facility near to the Nürburgring in Germany. Sat in its workshop setting, it looked right and on the track, it’s so at home, it almost blends in, simply because the rest of the race cars it’s set to compete against are equally as mad. In fact, mad to the point of almost normality since we’re so used to seeing whopping spoilers and wings bedecked with mental graphics and paint jobs it kind of just is; if you know what I mean?
Being right up close though, you kind of think, how insane would this be to drive down the high street? To commute to work even but simply to drive it on public roads? You start to think, it’s possible — it’s only a Capri with a bodykit, after all. Cut this bit away, trim that and you’re there. And then reality sinks in and you think maybe it’s not such a good idea – how many people would trip over that front spoiler in Tesco’s carpark? And above all, you wouldn’t actually get much shopping in it.
Ricky Ferris though, now he’s as mad as, well a Zakspeed Capri — he doesn’t stop like the rest of us, when practicality rears its ugly head, he simply carries on and builds the thing! Nuts to the consequences, Ricky’s workshop mantra was one of doing it until it’s done — and then sticking it on the public highway and driving it, too! And I saw it do just that but for a very short time indeed because alas for us, Ricky’s now emigrated to the land Down Under, which gave me just a morning to photograph his Capri before he went the next day — and no, he hadn’t packed either.
Yes, you have seen this car before as it was the star of a Grafters feature a few years back. But it’s changed. “The minute you left after the Grafters photoshoot, I chopped the car up and hung the body from the ceiling,” grins Ricky. Which kind of highlights the builder mentality in Ricky — if it’s not right, you change it until it is and you’re happy with it. Back then, he’d continued with someone else’s project — the chassis was basically Capri but with the front rails cut off and the front and rear suspension subframes from a Mazda RX8 grafted in.
“The next stage was to have a whole load of box section steel delivered.” When you’re doing this sort of work though it seems daunting but there’s a logical sequence — build a substantial jig/platform on which to base it on — which has to be flat, level and out of winding, then set out the main chassis rails on to it, using the body as the datum. Handily, Ricky’s braced-up Capri shell could be raised and lowered until he’d made the main frame from that hoard of box-section steel. It’s transformed into a spaceframe by incorporating sections of the roll cage he’d had professionally built. “Really, I salvaged what I could because it wasn’t the most square piece of workmanship I’ve ever commissioned,” he admits, perhaps enforcing the home-builder’s adage: if it’s not right, do it yourself. And Ricky’s more than capable. In fact, very often it’s a case of confidence coupled with the best way to learn — have a go, get it wrong then learn how to do it right!
“Now I’ve built one, I know how to do it — I’d probably do it differently again, but I know what it takes to build a car now. I’m very public with this project — I like being truthful and letting others learn from the mistakes I’ve made — I’m not going to lie, I love it as much as I hate it!”
That pitching-in mentality has made Ricky realise the front and rear suspension systems weren’t up to scratch — so there’s now a homebuilt double wishbone set up at the front; designed and built by Ricky — the only bit of RX8 left is the hubs. Round the back though it’s still Mazda-based but again modified by Ricky and with custom dampers by GAZ.
It’s a similar tale with the bodywork — that was a bodykit Ricky bought but again, it wasn’t really all there, so he’s spent countless hours straightening it with a determined passion for getting it as close to a proper Zakspeed replica as he can. Even to the point of completely junking the rear wing section and constructing his own using a homebuilt former and a ton of glass fibre. It took hours and hours of research, studying photos and making card models but it looks dead right though, doesn’t it?
But as mad as the concept of a street-driven Zakspeed Capri is, Ricky wasn’t that keen on the loudness of the fully graphic’d up original. What he actually wanted was the stealth look of a be-winged black bomber only, “trying to get all those panels as straight as a black car demands would have been a nightmare – it was bad enough as it was and demanded months of work.” Originally, the front was a one-piece unit, which would have resulted in a simply huge expanse of fibreglass. So, he’s since cut the bonnet out so it’s removable and much easier to access that engine. The now more subtle paint covering the body’s a modified Fiat 500 grey although it’s got a mix of black in it.
Original Zakspeeds were of course powered by insane BD-series Cosworth four bangers with whopping great turbos. They weren’t actually that huge in capacity but they are pretty much out of reach financially, not to mention even more impractical on the street. The more
down to earth solution came by the way of a written-off Honda S2000 that Ricky bought out of a scrapyard.
“The bloke had obviously spent a fortune on it as it’s turbocharged too, using a kit of parts.” When we visited last, this was the engine of choice only he’s learnt a ton of knowledge since.
“Under the bench there’s a graveyard of Honda engines — there’s a lot of money down there and it’s all scrap,” he admits, but again, that’s the way it goes — the pursuit of knowledge often doesn’t come cheap in both time and money. It’s right now though because there’s 360 bhp on tap, nicely set up thanks to the cleverness of one Chris Todd.
Has it worked then? The concept of a street driven race car? “Well it’s impractical, it’s noisy, it’s a nightmare to drive because it’s too low, but it’s quick and basically stupid!” Sounds very much like a yes from us then — we reckon that’s a win!
Words and Photos Jon Hill
To read the full spec and see more photos, check out the February 2018 issue
Click here to see more Classic Ford feature cars.