INTRODUCED in 1962, the Consul Capri was the ancestor of one of Ford's all-time classics. Yet because of high production costs and poor sales, the legendary name almost sank without trace.
The original Ford Consul was launched in 1950, and was the start of Dagenham's successful onslaught on the family saloon market. The company was also one of the first to use MacPherson strut independent front suspension, and the car had a modern unibody construction.
The Consul Classic (Type 315) was a smaller stable mate built between 1961 and 1963. It was intended to be Ford's flagship mid-size car positioned between the old model Prefect and the Zephyr Mk II. It was originally planned to be introduced before the new Anglia, but a shortage of engine parts meant that the project had to be put on hold.
When the launch finally took place it was to Ford's usual razzamatazz, and a series of parties were held at dealerships throughout the country. One of these apparently got out of hand when a boot full of scantily-clad ladies drew a crowd of 4,000 people instead of the expected 500. This created a minor civil disturbance, and the police had to be called.
The car was available in two- and four-door saloon guise, and there were two engine options. These were the 1.3 (109E) and 1.5 Straight Four (116E) versions of the Ford Kent engine.
The design was similar to the more popular Ford Anglia, and had the same distinctive raked rear windscreen. The car was unusual in that it was also equipped with front disc brakes, and the four-speed gearbox on the 1500 deluxe version had full synchromesh.
The car received good reviews with the general consensus that it was an elegant saloon offering good performance and economy. The 1.3 model proved to be the most popular version, and 111,225 cars were eventually built before the car was replaced in 1963 by the new Ford Corsair.
In 1962 Ford decided to launch a two-door coupe version of the Classic called the Ford Consul Capri (Type 335). This was also fitted with MacPherson strut independent front suspension, and a live axle on the rear using semi-elliptic leaf springs.
Just like the Classic, Ford chose to equip the model with many unusual features. These included variable speed wipers, a dashboard dimmer, a cigarette lighter and twin headlamps.
The design was certainly distinctive, and Ford's advertising men rose to the occasion proclaiming it as "the first personal car from Ford of Great Britain". The inspiration for its looks undoubtedly came from America, and featured the sweeping lines, pillarless roof and extravagant wings that were fashionable at the time. Even the boot was enormous compared to most competitors.
The engine options were the same as the Classic, although the car was initially only made available with the 1.3 litre unit. However, in 1963 a GT version was introduced with the engine borrowed from the Mk1 Cortina GT. Although it was also rated at 1,500cc this upgraded engine could deliver 78bhp thanks to a different camshaft profile. The cylinder head also featured larger ports. In addition, there were tubular exhaust headers, and a Weber double-barrel carburettor.
Unfortunately the Capri was very expensive to make, and sales were disappointing. This was partly due to the success of the last of the small Consuls, the bestselling Cortina. Launched in 1962 this car went on to have a fabulous career lasting twenty years.
After the Classic was replaced, the Capri managed to soldier on for another year, before it was finally withdrawn in 1964.
Fortunately for petrol heads the name lived on to fight another day, and rose from the ashes in 1969 as the Capri Mark I.