Was the Capri a model or a make? The car that burst on the scene at the start of the 1970s itself was gorgeously self-evident, a lively sport coupe that handled as good as it looked. It was a collaboration between the British and German designers of the most globally diverse of all car companies, Ford. Sport sedan aficionados throughout Europe all knew that this racy coupe wore the Blue Oval proudly on its bonnet. It was the Ford Capri and they loved it. But when it came to America, Capri’s many fans here were less clear what to banner this racy little coupe drove for. Was it a Ford? Ford dealers in the States already had a sporty coupe to sell. It was called the Mustang…and rumor has it, it did pretty well. So as with European Fords of the last decade, Capri was sold through the Lincoln-Mercury division. But was it a Mercury? No Mercury ever handled like a this. Things didn’t get any clearer over Capri’s two+ decades in America. It took different forms, spanning four generations and as many continents. It wasn’t really a Ford or a Mercury. We can only call it Capri, the subject of our next Makes that Didn’t Make It.
Fords from Europe
Ford Motor Company began importing English Fords to America soon after the end of WWII. For the first decade or so they didn’t import very many. Their presence in American showrooms was more a result of pressure applied by the British government under its “Export or Die” policy, rather than on any actual demand for the small, well designed, but poorly made cars.
Things changed abruptly in 1958. In the aftermath of the Edsel debacle, the parent company reorganized its brand structure. The Lincoln-Mercury Division was formed to sell the company’s larger, more prestigious offerings. L-M was also given the task of selling European Fords. This turned out quite well for dealers during the severe 1958 recession that lingered into 1960. Lincoln-Mercury sold nearly 100,000 English Consuls, Zephyrs and Zodiacs over the next few years. As the sixties arrived however, bringing with them the homegrown Ford Falcon and Mercury Comet compacts, sales of Fords from across the pond petered out.
That was too bad, because at about the same time Ford of Britain was introducing a nifty little coupe called the Consul Capri. The high volume Consul sedan’s ungainly backwards canted roof was ditched in favor of a sleek fastback and pair of tail fins. The Consul Capri looked a lot like a 5/8 scale American Ford Galaxy. It was a nice little car but lasted only a couple of years before the Consul line was replaced by a more modern Ford Corsair. An updated Capri version was not commissioned.