I’ve been in love with the Mk I Ford Capri since it appeared in the U.S. 50 years ago. My first car was my father’s 1973 Capri. He’d previously owned a ’66 Dodge Charger, but when the oil crisis took hold, he sold it and went the sensible route, opting for the 2.0-liter four and a four-speed. My brother, Skip, didn’t escape the Capri malady, either, and he spent many weekends autocrossing them back in the late 1970s and early ’80s.
I found my ’74 Capri in La Habra, California, more than 20 years ago. I purchased it for $500 and then offered it to Skip. He had it shipped to his home in Overland Park, Kansas, and drove the Capri for a few years. Eventually minor mechanical issues forced him to park it until he could sort them out. Well, as we all know, life gets in the way, and with other priorities, the car sat tucked away in his garage for 18 years.
The upside, of course, is that the storage preserved the Capri from the severe Midwest weather and the rust that surely would have claimed it.
After years of asking Skip what he was going to do with the Capri, in 2013 he finally agreed to give it to me on the condition I would bring it back to life. No problem, Skip. Mk I Capris came equipped with a 100-hp four-cylinder or a 120-hp V-6. Either way, I always thought them underpowered. Having been inspired by South African tuner and race car builder Basil Green and his 302-cid V-8–powered Capri Perana, I decided to convert my Capri into a V-8 monster.
I built the Capri with street and track use in mind, and it has been an absolute pleasure to design and build—a process that took nearly three years. The body has handmade wheel flares to house the fat 15-inch tires. All brightwork was deleted, and the whole thing is painted a custom color I call Vicious Orange. The engine is a built 347 stroker with 10:1 compression that runs on pump gas and makes 364 horsepower and 429 lb-ft at the wheels. It runs through a race-spec T5 transmission and carbon-fiber driveshaft to a modified Explorer rear end. The car is lowered about 4 inches and rides on a custom suspension. Inside is a full cage and period-correct Recaro seats.
In 2017, when I was knee-deep in the build, a neighbor came over to borrow a tool and asked me if I was taking the Capri to SEMA, the annual specialty automotive marketing show in Las Vegas. I told him it was typically invite-only, so he snapped some pictures and said he would be back in a few days. When he returned, to my surprise, he informed me that drifting-accessory maker NRG Innovations wanted to sponsor me and include my Capri as one of its featured show vehicles. In fact, when I checked in to the show in Las Vegas, I learned my car would be placed in the lobby of the convention center. To have my Capri—and my labor—recognized like that was an honor.
Everywhere I drive it, the car gets loads of attention. Most folks have either never seen a Capri or else don’t remember them, so I always have some explaining to do. Again, no problem.