Schuco - Ford Capri #816
(image courtesy of Brian Wiloughby)

Siku - Capri Police #V236
(image courtesy of Remco Natrop)

REI - Ford Capri #S-67(Siku casting)
(image courtesy of Brian Wiloughby)
Matchbox - Capri #54-D

Matchbox - Capri #54-D

Matchbox - Capri 'Hot Rocker'
Rolomatic #67
(image courtesy of Brian Wiloughby)

Matchbox - Capri 'Maxi Taxi' Rolomatic #72-E

Corgi Junior - Capri Fire Chief #56-A

Playart - Capri 1600GT
(image courtesy of Brian Wiloughby)

Schuco - Ford Capri II #874
(image courtesy of Brian Wiloughby)

Polistil - Capri II #RJ18

Majorette - Capri II #251

Corgi Junior - Capri III 3.0S #61-C

Corgi Junior - Zakspeed Capri #57-D

Zylmex - Zakspeed Capri #D71

Ford's Sexy European - The Capri
by Brian Willoughby
images by Doug Breithaupt

The Capri: 1969-1974

After witnessing the phenomenal success of the American "pony cars", it was only predictable that car manufacturers in the rest of the world would respond with vehicles that would attempt to tap into this new and flourishing segment of the automotive marketplace. Considering that its Dearborn-based parent company had been almost single-handedly responsible for birth of "pony car" concept, it could have only been expected that Ford Europe would quickly enter into a development program to create its very own version of the best-selling American Ford Mustang.

Christened with the developmental code-name of "Colt" (no doubt to reflect its relationship to and with the Mustang), the car would be, much like its American counterpart, make use of as many pre-existing production components as possible. As with the Mustang, it was decided early on that the most important aspect of the Capri (as the car would be named for production) would be the stylish statement it would make to and about the younger car buyers Ford hoped it would attract. In light of this strategy, Ford opted to tread over familiar ground and source drive trains from whatever other cars it had in production at the time. Consequently, the Capri's drive trains were all "borrowed" from Cortinas, Escorts, Zodiacs, Taunuses and later, the lowly American Pinto. And while the car was envisioned as a sporty coupe that could take on much of the lower-end sports car competition, it would be forced to soldier on with the standard (albeit decidedly low-tech and dated) Ford Europe suspension system of MacPherson struts in the front with a leaf-sprung rigid rear axle. Nevertheless, using these well-proven components did have advantages: they could still be easily tuned to give the car the desired character and the car would face few reliability problems due to new and untested engines and gearboxes.

With power trains already selected "off the shelf", Ford's next task was to design a car that would directly target its market. To accomplish this goal, Ford held numerous clinics throughout Europe to gauge the opinions of potential buyers to see what they wanted the car to be and look like. Such a concept was nothing new to the Americans; however, involving the buying public to such a high degree in the execution of the Capri's design was something of a new technique in Europe where engineers still largely dictated every aspect of a new vehicle. Yet Ford knew exactly what it was doing: the Cortina had been designed in this manner and soon after its introduction, it eclipsed every other car on the market to become the best selling car in the United Kingdom. If the formula worked out as planned, the resulting Capri should have been guaranteed to be a huge success and, of course, it was, selling over 1 million units in just five years.

The Capri's styling was contemporary (with some rather obvious cues borrowed from the Mustang) and unlike most of the dowdy and/or fussy vehicles that Dagenham and Cologne had previously produced. While some details such as the bloodline running through the center of the car and the fake cooling vents behind the doors dated rather quickly, the car's overall shape is still quite appealing even today. As a testament to the car's good looks, even base-model Capri fitted with narrow tires seemed to suggest a great deal of style and speed even while sitting still. Perhaps best of all, it managed to remain practical with ample passenger accommodation and luggage space, something that most sporty cars didn't even attempt to do. Yet what made the Capri so unique among European sports coupes at the time was the vast array of options that a customer could select from. Inspired by the American trend of "personalizing" cars, Ford allowed the Capri buyer to order a car that was as benign (with the 1300cc 4-cylinder) or aggressive (with the 3000cc V6) or as spartan, performance-oriented or luxurious as desired.

First generation Capris were built at both the English and German Ford plants; however, only German-made Capris were sold in the United States since it was felt that Cologne's quality control easily surpassed that of Dagenham's. Interestingly, while the car was sold through Mercury dealerships in the U.S. and frequently called the "Mercury Capri", it never actually wore the name Mercury anywhere on its body. In fact, the only name that appeared on the nose and trunk lids of American-spec cars was the word "Capri". In spite of Ford's slightly ambiguous approach to selling the car in the 'States, it went on to become one of the most popular imported cars of its day.

With all this success, it was only natural that diecast model makers would turn their attention to this sporty new Ford. Although its 1:66 scale line of models were too highly priced to make much of an impact on the toy car market, Schuco's model of the first generation Ford Capri is quite simply the best miniature anyone ever produced of the car in small scale. Perfectly sculpted, the Schuco Capri was offered in a variety of guises to correspond to the actual car and it featured well-fitting opening doors and perfectly scaled tires with separate chrome wheels. If you have only one Capri in your collection, try to make sure this is the one. Or if not the Schuco, find one of Norev's Mini Jet editions of the model made from the same dies. Reissued after the unfortunate demise of Schuco, Norev's Capri was identical save for different paint colors.

Also in Germany, Siku offered another high quality model of the Capri. Unlike the Schuco version, the Siku appears a bit "chunky" and heavy with wheels that always seem too large in diameter. Nonetheless, the body shape is accurate and the toy is extremely well made with opening doors. Scarce on today's antique toy market, the miniature was available in both civilian and an interesting police version. After serving its useful life with Siku in Germany, the dies for this model were sent to the Brazilian firm of REI where the model appeared in several new color variations. Curiously, the miniature retained the Siku name on both its base and wheels with only the "Made in W. Germany" removed. Even more curiously, the miniature pictured in this article wears a Porsche crest on its bonnet (and yes, it is original)!

Unlike the many "transitional" pieces that changed from regular to "Superfast" wheels, Matchbox's Ford Capri was one of the first miniatures Lesney produced from the beginning as a Superfast model. Sadly, this did not equate to an appropriate choice in wheel size and the oversized tires seemed to simply be placed on the model to draw attention to Lesney's new frictionless axles wheels. The first Capri Matchbox offered was #54, a stock version that was painted in a number of particularly tasteless (even for the early 1970s) colors such as a solid metallic magenta or a pink body complemented by a matte black bonnet (hood). The bonnet opened to show off a chrome-plated engine and at the rear of the model was a tow hook, though another version of the model, #67, dispensed with the engine compartment lid was fitted with a big block V8 that moved up and down as the model rolled along. Part of the "Rolamatic" series of Matchbox cars, "Hot Rocker" was retired only to be resurrected later during early 1980s during Lesney's financial difficulties as a Hong Kong-made (and unlikely) taxi. Renamed "Maxi Taxi" and assigned the catalog number of 72, the venerable old Capri casting's final lease on life was short, making this particular model a challenge to find today.

Since the Rockets range was Corgi's premier line of 1:64 scale diecasts, most new castings introduced while these short-lived models existed appeared in this line prior to being reintroduced as Corgi Juniors. Such was the case with Corgi's great miniature of the Ford Capri which appeared under the Rockets banner complete with the series standard gimmick of a removable chassis. Painted in factory correct colors, the standard Capri was complemented by a puzzling companion: the James Bond Ford Capri. No doubt issued as a tie-in with the most recent Bond film of the day (On Her Majesty's Secret Service), the curiosity of this miniature was that the cars that appeared in the film's race sequence were Escorts. Apparently, Corgi thought no one would notice or care. After its brief run as a Rocket, the Capri returned as public service car: while the Capri may not have actually been frequently used in such form, it made for a rather sharp looking Fire Chief's car in red and white.

Strangely, Asian diecast producers were almost completely immune to the Capri charms except for Hong Kong's Playart. Offering an eclectic mix of European, Japanese and American cars in its catalog, Playart's Capri 1600GT was based on the Dagenham-built cars and featured high quality construction and colors that would have been right at home on any early 1970's European Ford product. One of the rarer early Playarts, the Capri 1600GT is a prized model among both Playart and Capri collectors.

The Capri II: 1974-1978

Although it was still selling well, certain Mustang derived styling cues that the original Capri carried were beginning to wear a bit thin after five years. To silence the critics complaints concerning the Capri's looks, Ford introduced a completely restyled model, named, logically enough, the Capri II in 1974. Since the mechanicals were still serving the car well, the basic platform remained unchanged while the car's practical side was greatly improved by increasing interior room and adding a versatile hatchback to replace the original car's notch back with trunk styling. The shortest lived of the Capri series, the Capri II failed to be as popular as the original car with toy makers.

Once again, the best model of this car ever produced arrived from Germany by way of Schuco. Fitted with an opening rear hatch, the model captured the Capri II's look perfectly. Sadly, not long after this model's introduction, Schuco fell into financial difficulties which forced their 1:66 scale line of models to be discontinued.

One of the scarcest of all Capri models is Polistil's outstanding RJ-series model of the Capri II. Featuring opening doors and one of the most accurate body shapes, Polistil painted their miniature in a variety of metallic hues that were all the rage on 1970s cars. Yet accuracy and high quality do not always equal success in the highly competitive toy market and this line of well-made models had come and gone in only a couple of years.

While Majorette had often followed the popular trends in European motoring, it had been rather slow to bring a model of the best selling Capri to the market. In fact, Majorette completely ignored the first generation car though finally introduced an accurately shaped miniature of the Capri II. A static model with no operating features, it was a unique model in that its roof was made to mimic the oh-so-stylish vinyl roofs that were so abundant on coupes during the 1970s. Unfortunately, this roof made for some rather awkward proportions around the rounded rear side windows of the car and it somewhat detracts from an otherwise well-done model.

The Capri III: 1978-1986

When the Capri III appeared in 1978, few took much notice of the car since, after all, most people saw it as merely a Capri II with new front sheet metal. However, the update of the car included both the exterior and interior and allowed the same basic chassis introduced in 1969 to continue on for 8 more years. Eventually becoming viewed as something of a living legend, the Capri III was gradually moved up-market by eliminating the once plentiful power train and trim options and transforming the car into a powerful and luxurious coupe.

By the time the Capri III was introduced, many of the diecast toy manufacturers that had modeled the first generation car were now either defunct or in serious financial difficulty. Perhaps in light of this, only a handful of Capri III miniatures ever appeared on the market. By far the most prolific producer of Capri III models was Corgi Juniors and no less than three accurately shaped variations of Ford's sporty coupe were offered: a standard model 3.0S, a character toy version inspired by the car used in "The Professionals" television series and a racing version painted in the colors of the Italian airline "Alitalia." In addition to these Capris, Corgi also modified their die and added a huge front and rear spoiler along with widely flared fenders to generate a unique model of the Zakspeed racing Capris that had been so successful. One the few models ever made of the numerous competitive Capris, the Zakspeed makes a nice complement to all the stock variants that had proceeded it.

Although not overly accurate or very well made, Zylmex's Zakspeed-based Capri III racer was one of few other competition-modified Capris to appear over the years. Invariably painted black and sometimes with or without tampos, this model holds the unique honor of being the only 1:64 scale Capri model still in production.

When Capri production was brought to a close in 1986, Ford offered no replacement. It truly was the end of an era that had spanned an impressive 17 years. Although it has been slow in coming, the Capri is finally being viewed as a classic and many of the remaining examples are beginning to be lovingly restored. Sadly, at least in the U.S., few Capris remain as most succumbed to terminal rust. Yet all is not lost since diecast car collectors can have any number of Ford's "Sexy European" to grace their collections.

The following is a list of Ford Capri, Capri II and Capri III models in 1:64 scale:
Corgi Juniors 56 Ford Capri Fire Chief's Car
Corgi Juniors 57 Zakspeed Ford Capri III
Corgi Juniors 61 Ford Capri III 3.0S
Corgi Juniors 64 The Professional's Ford Capri III
Corgi Juniors 141 Ford Capri III "Alitalia"
Corgi Rockets 922 Ford Capri
Corgi Rockets 925 James Bond Ford Capri
Majorette 261 Ford Capri II
Matchbox 54 Ford Capri
Matchbox 67 Ford Capri Hot Rocker
Matchbox 72 Ford Capri Maxi Taxi
Norev 816 Ford Capri 1700GT
Playart 7150 Ford Capri 1600GT
REI S-67 Ford Capri 1700GT
Schuco 816 Ford Capri 1700GT
Schuco 834 Ford Capri XL Rallye
Schuco 874 Ford Capri II
Schuco 877 Ford Capri RS Rallye
Siku V310 Ford Capri 1700GT
Siku V236 Ford Capri Police Car
Zylmex D73 Ford Capri III Race Car