Thursday, 22 November 2012

My Capri: The Car You Always Promised Yourself??

My pride and joy is up for sale, here's the story behind it.

I have a brother called mike and a father called Brin, about six years ago Mike decided he wanted to fly helicopters for a living, probably the most laughably expensive activity one can commit to undertake. We all said 'right Mike' gave him a pat on the back and subsequently saw very little of him. Three years later Johny four jobs had a five figure sum saved up and was heading back to north Wales to move back in with the folks for the winter to blow the lot on getting his private helicopter pilots licence.

But before he did, he spent 600 quid on this:

What a mug, it was rotten as a pear, non-the-less it was 2.8 litres of fuel injected fury and it drove itself onto the drive which was far enough for now. He figured he was going to need something to keep himself busy over the winter and could even make a bit of money out of it once it was sold to put back into flying hours.

'Right Mike' - more pats on back.............
And the strip-down began in earnest:

My Dad was a mechanic all his working life and has forgotten more about cars than most of us will ever know. He's restored all sorts over the years, A zephyr, Austin 1300's, a Ford popular, we even turned a 4dr metro into a pick-up truck for a laugh, he's built an awesome Locost, FROM SCRATCH!! (that little flash of yellow you can see behind the Capri) and he's just finished a wicked moggy minor. Now he keeps himself busy doing all the work that nobody wants to risk doing themselves.

I don't think they had any idea quite how bad it was until they had rubbed all the rust off the bare shell and could see daylight through the floor, sills, and wheel-arches. The front valance was in a bad, bad way and pretty much anything that was supposed to move was seized solid.

 The Floor-pan, as well as the inner and outer sills was in dire need of patching up  but a day or two on the MIG put them right. This was to set the tone for the early stages of the restoration

The rear wheel arches were a right mess too but you'd never know how bad they were by looking at them now.

This was all going on alongside reconditioning or replacing all the brake (all rigid brake lines were replaced) and suspension components as well as cleaning up all the seats ,carpets and interior fittings. These few photo's would make you think it all happened in a few weekends but it was months and months of work just to sort out the rot and replace any broken bits never mind get it ready for re-spraying.

One of the worst looking parts of the whole car was the front valance, it was absolutely knackered, so the only option was to put a new one in. They knew they were going to lose the ugly old Capri bumpers and go for a much smoother look. so the new valance was going to have most of those holes filled in as mk2 escort quarter bumpers would be replacing the full width Capri one.
The rear would be completely de-bumpered so just as much filling and de-seaming was done at the back of the car to make it just as slick as the front.

By now it was starting  to look a lot tidier and was almost ready for the first coat of primer. Once that was on the mind numbing task of relentless wet and dry sanding, preparing the body for painting could begin.

The original plan was to pint it red, as we all know red ones go faster but they had to concede the interior was easily the best thing about the car. Recaro seats in  'Shark grey' suede and cheque cloth, barring a bit of dirt it was almost unmarked, so had to be retained. A grey interior in a red car would have looked a bit odd to say the least so the colour of choice was now black.

Probably the best decision of the whole project.

Body-prep finished and ready for painting, the front valance is looking swish and all the mechanical stuff has been sorted out. Next job is to build a 'spraying bay' so the sexy new black can go on. A white grille and a coat of white on the pepper-pot wheels will complete the all out 80's boy racer look. Up until now I had had no intention of buying it but the idea of them selling it to some stranger was a bit unbearable so I started to put the feelers out about how much he thought he would want for it once it was finished.

Despite the state of the body the engine seemed to be in good order, the only real problem was one of the injectors must have got stuck open during its prolonged time off the road so the sump was full of petrol, but an oil change and a  clean up of the plugs later she was running sweetly. No strange noises, no smoke and a nice steady idle so just wait and see what the emissions test from the MOT says and take it from there.
Wait for a nice calm day and get stuck in........ The only tactics when it came to painting were put plenty of it on! so at least you can rub and rub and rub.................and rub...................and rub.........and rub and you wont go through it. so that is exactly what he did, about a month and a half and dose of repetitive strain injury in his right arm later the paint was finally sorted and boy did it look good. As soon as I saw the first pictures I knew once and for all would be buying it, It looked so good in black it was hard to believe they bothered making them any other colour.

They had some bespoke red and white replica decals made, cleaned up the seats, put the interior back in and took a step back.
I made the long drive up from Cornwall a week or two later and this is what I found waiting on the drive:



It was now late Spring and the transformation was complete,  You could pick any number of cliches when it came to describing how good it looked but you can see for yourself that it is unrecognisable as the same rotter that rolled onto the drive at the start of the winter. The quarter bumpers look totally at home and the square number plate works really well too, all that remained was to get the MOT and drive it back down to Cornwall.

I arrived late on Friday night and planned on driving back down with the Capri on Sunday so it needed to pass...........
Tense times................
we needed to tighten up a leaky brake union but it Passed First Time!!!
She made the 6 1/2hr drive back to Wadebridge effortlessly, I was mega stressed about the totally untested motor but it was absolutely faultless, Incredible! The old girl has made the nearly 600 mile round-trip atleast four or five times now without missing a beat.
I've spent last four years sorting out anything mechanical that got missed or that has cropped up since the restoration with a policy of massive overkill.  I'll start at the front an work my way back:
New:   *=very recent
Headlamp brackets
Water pump*
Timing cover*
Sump gasket*
Plugs and leads*
Dizzy cap and rotor arm*
Throttle cable
Rocker Gaskets
Steering rack
Brake disks* and pads
Front wheel bearings
Track control arms*
Track rod ends*
Injectors ultrasonically cleaned*
New oil and all filters every 1k
professionally krypton tuned*
Gearbox oil seal
Propshaft reconditioned by Tickover
New prop bearing
Both centre exhaust sections replaced
Full set of matts
Fuel pump
Fuel tank patched, hammerited & undersealed
There had always been a slight bearing noise coming out of the axle so last spring I decided to take the plunge, remove and rebuild it. Off it came, New wheel bearings, diff bearings, pinion bearings, brake cylinders, brake lines, oil seal and gasket went in. I had the boys at Cornwall and Devon transmissions set the diff up for me, gave the whole thing a coat of rust proofer, two coats of black hammerite and fitted it back up to the car with new U bolts, just in time to take it to the Duchy Capri club show and shine the very next day. I thought I would stop by halfords and pick up some slick 50 additive for the diff oil on the way there, what could possibly go wrong?
I got well and truly clobbered that's what went wrong. Sitting in the car, additive in hand, watching and listening, as a guy in camper van initiated one of the most abortive reverse bay-parks you could ever not wish to see was heartbreaking.  I got out and beheld the damage, as you can see luckily the front wing was almost untouched but the passenger door was totalled, far worse still was the damage in front of the rear wheel arch, as that's the chassis, not just a bolt on item. I was convinced it was going to be written off. I even had a guy lined up who had taken on a 1600 laser as a project with his son, to take it off me for breaking when I bought it back off the insurance company. I was gutted.
My surprise and relief when Lancaster said they would write me a cheque to sort it out was beyond words. I Took it to P&H Motors in Wadebridge as people with hugely more expensive cars than mine trust them to Pete and the guys, Pete agreed to repair the damage and give it a FULL RESPRAY for a couple of hundred quid more than I got off the insurance company, talk about landing on your feet! I cant thank the guys at P&H enough they couldn't have been nicer and did such a good job, they even asked if they could have it on their stand at Wadebridge wheels this year!
I told the lads at P&H the longer they could take over it the better as I needed the garage to build the trailer. I finally got it back at the end of august and put that god-forsaken additive in the diff and that brings us up to date.

Last weekend I went up to the old airfield at Davidstow with my mate Mat, a freelance photographer who writes An Tor Orth An Mor ( He took some nice shots of my axle re-build for his blog a while back) to get some proper nice piccies before she goes.
This is what we got:

Click on the images to enlarge 
Dab of oppo'

 Cleared for take-off
Clear tarmac, cloudy day


Retro shot for Mat's blog
The black, red & white colours will return on the track
But we've just bought our first house and she's gotta go, I need the cash to build myself a double garage to build my race car in(whatever it ends up being). If you feel like I did when I first saw it you can contact me at 122k, 11months MOT, 6months tax. For what it's worth I can guarantee it's going straight through it's next MOT, It's been straight through the last 4 since the resto'. The only bad points are the sender for the fuel gauge is totally inoperative and try as I might I cant find a new one, there's no parcel shelf and the rear wiper-motor cover is cracked. Other than that she looks and drives perfectly. She's now up on carandclassic and pistonheads. Below are the shot that were too large to upload to the sales sites. Take care of her..............