The Mk3 Capri is remembered by many as the model that killed off the Capri for good, enduring dwindling interest and the death of the breed in 1989. Although the Capri’s golden age was over by the time the mk3 was born, it was arguably the greatest of them all, with enduring looks and punchy performance.
The mk3 was only really a facelifted mk2, but it ticked all the boxes. A series of small tweaks transformed the Capri and recaptured the essence of the original. The most obvious improvement was the styling. Ford redesigned the bonnet so it hung over the headlamps, giving the mk3 a butch, scowling stance that complimented the brand’s macho image. It was a four-wheeled bar brawler with the performance to match. Although the Capri died on the mk3’s watch, it weathered the storm impressively well, remaining in production for almost nine years despite being reduced to UK-only sales.
This is where things get messy. The mk3 is a sucker for rust. The issue is so severe that finding visible signs of corrosion is the least of your worries. If there isn’t any you can see then the rust's probably been covered in filler, and you have no way of knowing how deep the problem goes. The wheel arches, sills, outer and inner wings, door bottoms, chassis rails, hinge mounts, suspension turrets and fuel tank are all prone to horrendous levels of rust. The mk3’s monocoque has been known to corrode severely, a no-no unless you want a money-eating project on your hands. Inspect the underside of the car thoroughly, as well as the lower parts of the bodywork, for evidence of ripples and decay. The front panel around the grille is another vulnerable area. The Capri is riddled with trouble spots so give the whole body a comprehensive inspection. Thankfully the Capri’s bodywork issues have been well-documented and a few specialists now cater for mk3 restorations. Replacement body panels are available at a price, but it’s wiser to fork out for a better example than to restore a doomed project car.
The Capri mk3 had a variety of engines to choose from. The most powerful options were the 3000S and the 2.8i. The choice comes down to personal preference. Some owners prefer the torquey 3.0-litre, while others enjoy the sprightlier 2.8i. While 1.3 and 1.6-litre options were available, the 2.0-litre Pinto was the more popular choice. The Capri’s engines should be long-lasting if they’ve been serviced and maintained properly. However there are still common issues to be aware of. The V6s have been known to occasionally blow their gaskets and suffer from warped heads, while the Capri is also susceptible to big-end knocks, blue smoke from the exhaust thanks to worn bores and rattles from worn camshafts (particularly the 2.0-litre Pinto). The camshaft issue is usually due to a clogged oil feed pipe. As with the bodywork, expect the worst, so check the engine and running gear thoroughly. This includes the HT leads, inspecting the condition of the coolant and the radiator for any overheating issues. Aftermarket spares are available and relatively inexpensive.
Ensure the synchros are working by listening out for crunching noises from the bearings, and make sure that the gears aren’t jumping out on the overrun. If you feel a vibration it’s likely a worn prop centre bearing.
There aren’t any outstanding problems with the suspension because the Capri was fitted with widely used Ford parts. Inspect the struts nevertheless to ensure they aren’t leaking and that the coil spring ends haven’t perished. Inspect the front struts’ top mounts for signs of wear and check the condition of the steering rack and the track control arm bushes. Also have a look at the rear shock absorbers for evidence of leaks and the rear springs for broken leaves.
Make sure the basic electrical parts are functioning by testing the heater, lights and washers. Sometimes the fuse box connections can play up, while injection issues are likely caused by sender problems.
Like many classics, replacement interior trim can be expensive and difficult to come by, so think carefully before buying a Capri with a tired cabin. Don’t buy an example with a worn interior if you’re not prepared to live with it. The seat bolsters are usually the first thing to go, especially on Recaros. The plastic dash tops are prone to cracking, and the head linings can become stained and worn.
The mk3 remains a wonderfully enjoyable car. It’s fast, easy to drive and dripping with presence. Beware of wet roundabouts, especially in V6 models, because the Capri is resolutely rear-wheel drive and can kick its tail out without much provocation. This is either exciting or pant-wetting, depending on your mood. Regardless, the Capri mk3 will make you feel like you’re in an episode of The Professionals whenever you slide behind the wheel - even if you’re off to the shops. This is the crux of its appeal. Make sure the steering feels direct and centred, and that there aren’t any unusual rattles and groans coming from the suspension, gearbox or steering rack.
Unless you’re willing to pay big bucks, it's likely you’ll have to compromise when choosing which Capri mk3 to buy. Due to the rust and interior issues you’ll probably have to put up with a few rust bubbles and loose bits of trim here and there, even on examples fetching good money. The trick is finding a car that only has surface issues, rather than bank-breaking corrosion. While 1.3-litre Capris are hard to come by because they were rarely bought back in the day, the 1.6-litre makes a good entry level mk3. A working example can be had for around £5,500, with project cars as little as £1,500. The 2.0-litre goes for around £7,000, while a show-ready car can fetch up to £12,000. The 3.0-litre and 2.8i models command the highest values, with the former starting around £9,000 for a good example and £16,000 for a mint car, while an average 2.8i goes for around £12,000 and hits the £17,000 mark for a show car. Ford also made a number of special editions, with the Brooklands 280 model the most sought after.
While there are specialists out there producing spare body panels and such, replacement parts are still expensive and difficult to come by, so be wary of temptingly cheap project cars.
The mk3 Capri wasn’t universally loved when it was new, but it has found a huge audience in the classic market and values are rising. Thirty years later and the mk3 is increasingly regarded as the best all round Capri, combining the sex appeal of the original with thunderous performance, improved refinement and fun, balanced handling. If you can look past the rust issues, you can have a charismatic classic on your hands for the price of a Fiesta.
Clubs & Websites