Detroit via Dagenham: The Ford Consul Capri

The Ford Capri is no stranger to these pages – but this is a very different type of Capri.

Eight years before it’s famous successor Ford of Britian debuted the Ford Consul Capri, a more conventional two-door car that looked like a scaled-down version of a Detroit dreamboat.

The styling was done by Colin Neale, Ford’s Birmingham-born ace who adapted transatlantic looks for Ford of Britain with great success in the 1950s. Neale was the force behind the 1956 Consul/Zephyr/Zodiac rework and the 1959 Anglia. Neale had come to Ford when it bought its body supplier, Briggs.

“Project Sunbird,” which became the new Consul Classic, was greenlit in mid-1956. It used themes from the Anglia and from U.S. Ford products (mostly Lincolns and Mercuries) in a package meant as a U.K. mid-size, to replace the old Consul MK2. The reverse-rake rear window from the Anglia (and Lincoln) was retained for the 2- and 4-dr Consul Classics, but the Capri had slim-pillared hardtop – one of Ford of Britain’s prettiest cars.

Overall, the design bore some similarity to the 1960 Fords, although it looked a little more 50s – a consequence of the design being ready in 1959 but pushed to mid-1961 to make way for more Anglia production at Dagenham.

Colin Neale Departs

Neale was not around for the car’s debut – repeated disputes with Ford of Britain’s body engineers and an invite from Elwood Engel (then working on the ’61 Lincoln) drew him Dearborn, Michigan in 1958. He followed Engel to Chrysler in the early 1960s, not long after the Consul Classic/Capri had bowed. Neale continued to work on ChryCo. products into the 1980s, mostly interior designs.

Judging by the styling, the Consul Capri should have been a sure-fire success, but in fact the entire Consul Classic/Capri line was a dud with shoppers.

In the first few months, the new cars were for export only, and the styling of the Consul Classic was polarizing even if the same themes worked well on the Anglia. In the first year, too, it was only available with the rather sedate 1,340-cc Kent four. The 1,498-cc arrived in mid ’62.

Cortina Crushes Consul

By then Ford had launched the Mk1 Cortina – a car which undercut the main Consul Classic on price and purpose and beyond which was cheaper to produce. The complex structure of the Consul Classic did it no favors in production engineering or rust prevention.

1961 Ford Consul Capri

The best Consul Capri was the GT, introduced in the spring of 1963 with a Cosworth-tuned head and higher compression – but it wasn’t enough. The Consul Classic & Capri were dropped in July 1964. Just 18,716 Capris had been made – 2002 of them GTs.

English Fords had been reasonably popular in the U.S. in the 1950s, and even the old Consul Mk2 and Zephyr found a willing audience in the U.S. at that time. The cheaper Anglia/Popular was even more, er, popular, with customers who might’ve gone for a VW or Hillman instead of a U.S. Ford.

But timing is everything – the Consul Capri and Classic arrived in the wake of the 1960 Falcon – there was little demand for them.

The very limited production – the Consul Capri is one of the rarest volume-production Fords – and the car’s tendencies to rust mean they are quite rare. But as rare as they are in Britian, U.S.-market LHD examples like this one are virtually extinct.

This particular Consul Capri is owned by Old Motors friend Kenneth Jones, who runs a (really good) breakers yard in the Eastern United States.

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