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The ultimate incarnation of Ford’s classic coupe is the factory Capri Turbo model. We spend time with confirmed Caprioholic, Bas Verschuren and his rare Mk3, to see if it lives up to the legend.

capri turbo

I’m lying on the floor in a Dutch industrial estate, the air is light and clear and the sun is trying its best to suck my brain dry with an intense heat. As I stare through my camera lens at Bas Verschuren’s Capri turbo I realise I’m transfixed, mentally checking myself I regain composure and press the shutter.

Retreating to the shade of a non-descript industrial building I check the digital image I’ve just produced. Sure enough there I am staring again, so what gives with the space cadet attitude?

In Classic Ford we revel in the rare and unavailable, we covet what we can’t have and celebrate those models that teeter on the edge of extinction. Stood here now I realise that some readers won’t even know Ford made a factory Turbo Capri. Not a Tickford, not a 280, a Turbo.

The reality of the surroundings are very everyday, but when I look into my camera screen there is this wide-arched, winged dream staring back at me. It’s as though Ford intentionally made it extraordinary back the late 80s, knowing it wouldn’t sell in big numbers, instead choosing to do it as a kind of big ‘screw you’ — a rebellious swansong for the outgoing coupe.

Anybody who has owned a Capri will know that even the V6-engined cars are not that fast, not by modern standards anyway, but with the Turbo, Ford gave us the power we craved. Power to finally back up the looks without resorting to the V8 engine that some say it should have had.

capri turbo

For the love of Ford

Bas’ father may well have been a committed Opel man, but for Verschuren Junior there was an unerring pull towards Ford.

“I’ve always disliked Opels and I wanted a sports car, so I decided I wanted a Capri. My friend had one — a 3-litre Mk1 and I wanted one like that. I was in the army at the time, so I had a little money and I bought a 1.6 that lasted for two years.”

This was back in the late ’80s and Capris were still a fairly common sight. “When I got the first ones the parts were cheap and easy to find,” he smiles. “I drove like a mad man, so I needed the parts…”

Given that Bas has owned a Capri of one sort or another for 22 years, why stick with the coupe? 

“I got my first one in 1989 and I don’t know if there is anything better!”

Joining the Dutch Capri Club opened his eyes to the 3-litre model, so Bas moved on to one as soon as he could, ending with ‘RS everything’ from front to back after a restoration in the early ’90s. It was thirsty though, as Bas recalls: “That was a daily driver, which was a problem… One quarter of my salary was going into the tank.”

capri turbo

For sale

With 188 bhp the Turbo is the ultimate though, and when hunting for some 3-litre parts, Bas chanced on this one in 1997. 

“We were in Luxembourg at a meet. I saw the turbo and it had a small For Sale sign in the window.”

The one-owner Turbo was based in southern Germany, roughly 500 miles from Bas’ home in Holland. This meant two good things: one it was for sale because German laws had changed and the owner would have to fit catalysers and unleaded heads to keep the car; and two, German autobahns are great for test drives, as Bas remembers: “I drove it flat-out up the autobahn for nearly half an hour!”

The looks, the power and the ultimate rarity attracted Bas and 15 years on he’s still convinced. “At the time I was in love with the car, now I am loving the car.”

As only the second owner, this silver coupe has a full history which has got some remarkable records in it. 

“The first owner had a problem with the carb melting in traffic because of the heat. Ford fitted a new one, but within a few months it happened again. Ford said Zakspeed built the engine, we built the car so you have to go back to them.”

So he did. Zakspeed’s solution was to fit those non-stock bonnet vents to let heat out in traffic. They also fitted a pipe in from the bumper to the turbo, stripping then rebuilding the engine for good measure, too. How cool? That’s just the start as Bas leafs through pages of notes, letters and receipts going back to day one.

capri turbo

Deeply dished

Of course most of the history is in Bas’s name — for example, those gorgeous ATS rims. Nowadays we love the terms dish and wild offset, but these are nothing new to Bas.

“I was looking for a table,” he recalls as he reaches over and taps a pile of tyres with a grin, “But you can’t buy good tyres for the 13 inch wheels, so I decided to change to 15 inch. Better tyre choice, they look better, more modern but they are from the same period.”

Plus the 15 inch wheels aren’t over the top, at least not height-wise. “I had the 7.5 inch RS four-spokes and somebody I knew had these ATS in 12 inches rear, and 9 inches front, so I tried them. The 12s were just too wide for me, so I went 9 inches all-round.”

The Capri looks ballistic to us — the arches filled with those ATS rims and 225/50x15s. The only other external change Bas has made is the angel-eye headlight conversion using a BMW E30-sourced kit, adapted to suit. Underneath Bas has added compression struts to the front anti-roll bar, which is a necessity under German TüV law to enable him to fit those bigger wheels.

Looking inside the Turbo there are familiar sights — the rolltop seats could be in an RS1600i, yet they’re Turbo-only Recaro items and the four-spoke RS steering wheel shows signs of use. So how does it drive Bas? 

“When it boosts it is more ‘wow’. At first the handling was not so good, so I fitted some parts and now that’s good too. On the road a lot of bikers will come by and give me the thumbs-up — they pass, slow down and make me overtake so they can see both sides.”

Rare affair

For Bas it’s just enough to own it, though. “I used to smoke, but never in the house. So I had a chair in the garage and I used to sit there and have a smoke, just looking at the car. To enjoy it I don’t have to drive it.”

Bas is a happy man and rightly so. It’s enough for us that he’s found his ‘one’. Especially when you hear just how rare the Turbo model is.

“If you look under the carpet on the gearbox tunnel, when you read the numbers it all comes down to 155 cars built, but Ford or Zakspeed do not know. They say 200, but then when DTM changed the regulations there was no need to keep on making them. There are definitely 58 survivors, and there are 77 on the register in total.”

Never sold new in Holland, Bas had a battle to get it registered, with help from another owner Jan Eikenaar who went through the elongated process before him, convincing the Dutch authorities it was a standalone model after they wanted to group it in with the 2.8i. 

Looking at the original paint, original engine and interior and Bas, you know it’s not going anywhere soon, so the fight and work were more than worth it.

“If I sold it, what would I replace it with? It’s all I’ve ever wanted. The way I see it, I’m looking after it for this period, maybe in 50 years time my kids will be bored with it and it will be sold. But it will survive, it’s got this far. I have priorities though, I won’t give a kidney for it!”

So maybe the elusive Capri Turbo is greater than the sum of its parts? For Bas at least it’s a reality and my heat-frazzled head can go on day-dreaming because the chances of owning one are only going to get slimmer… 

Words and Photos Bryn Musselwhite

Get the full spec behind the Capri Turbo in the July 2012 issue

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