From Daily Driver To Restored Glory, This Ford Capri’s Been There And Done That
Photography by Jevgeniy Vyazovoy
Story by Dries Claesen
“Where does your story begin?”
For a lot of car enthusiasts the answer to this commonly lands somewhere close to the family tree, but that wasn’t my experience. I wasn’t out in the garage as a kid tuning carburetors with my dad, and in fact I didn’t even really get into older cars in a serious way until I started pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering.
At a certain point it all started coming together for me. I gained an appreciation for the way in which everything was combined into the car’s unified package: the mathematics and mechanical design that go into the engine and the rest of the drivetrain, the marriage of form and function that make up the body, and the craftsmanship of a quality interior all have so much to offer on their own, let alone in harmony.
My foray into vintage car ownership started in the form of a ’71 Ford Taunus GT Coupe (yes, it does look like a “Taurus” typo, but this was originally a European-market Ford, and named after Germany’s Taunus mountain range). I didn’t pay all that much for the car when I bought it in 2002, but living on a student’s budget at the time meant that keeping up with it was a little too expensive, so I ended up parting it out and taking the shell to the junkyard. I still kick myself over this unfortunate outcome, especially considering their current rarity. Oh well.
A few years later I had saved up some money, and of course the itch to have a car to work on felt increasingly important! I came across an ad during my search that particularly caught my attention: a 1973 Ford Capri Mk 1 facelift. Granted, it wasn’t the best listing—no pictures and no description—but it was close by, so why not dig in a little bit?
Apparently, the owner had kept the car stored in a high-end classic car garage in Brussels. I heard this and thought “Great, maybe that means it’ll be in really nice shape.” Not so fast; there had been a fire in the garage at some point, and the most valuable cars’ safe exits were prioritized of course, which meant that this Capri had quite a bit of smoke damage in addition to some big scratches from being hurriedly moved outside when it was eventually evacuated.
At the time this wasn’t a big bother to me, so I bought the car. It could have been a lot worse after all—when I picked it up from the garage I couldn’t help but notice a vintage Ferrari that looked like it’d been used by someone as a fire pit…
It was a total coincidence that my first two cars were Fords. Although they are popular here in Europe, I was casting a pretty wide net in my search that included quite a few Opels and BMWs along with the Fords. I am happy with my choice though, one because it’s a great car, and also due to Ford’s specific impact on Belgian car culture. Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Ford was very popular in my country: not only was there a massive plant in Antwerp (later moved to Genk), but more importantly, Ford’s Lommel Proving Grounds in the city of Lommel. Ford UK and Ford Germany were also attempting improved coordination between their ranges around this time, and Belgium had a lot of Ford activity as a result of its location between the two.
Ok, back to this specific Capri. For a few years I was using the car as my daily driver, and thoroughly just enjoying it for what it was. Cheap parts that were easy to find of course worked well with the constraints of my previously mentioned student’s budget, but more than that it was simply a great car to own. It always felt special. Back then it was not particularly fast, no, just a great amalgamation of sensations that left me happy every time I drove it.
It wasn’t long before I realized this wasn’t the kind of car that could sit outside all year. The growing rust helped to teach me that lesson fairly quickly! Not wanting to part with the car I’d grown so fond of, I decided that instead of selling it for something more practical I would do a complete restoration. I was out of school and working at this point, so why not? Taking the car off the road for a while also gave me the opportunity for some performance modifications that I’d been thinking about, namely changes to the engine, suspension, and brakes.
The engine has been completely torn down and rebuilt with low-end torque taking priority over horsepower that comes in at the upper end of the tach. It definitely leaves stoplights pretty quickly now, or at least according to my friends with BMWs! Fun car for sure, but if I’m honest it never felt all that comfortable at high speeds, so I also swapped out the gearbox for a 5-speed to assist with highway drives. In addition to the drivetrain work, the Capri now has larger calipers and disks up front—a braking setup borrowed from its big brother with the V6 engine. Same goes for the beefier sway bars underneath the car. I decided to leave the braking sans power-assist to retain the road feedback, which also comes through the steering wheel thanks to no power steering either. There’s something about that analog feeling that makes it worth being tough to park.
I followed a similar ethos in constructing the car’s appearance: keep it classic and period-correct. I’ve owned this Capri for nearly 13 years now, and it’s perfect in my opinion, in need of no further changes. Well, aside from regular fluids and maintenance!