By 1986 the Capri had already outlived its expected lifetime by three years thanks to the Cologne powered 2.8i and so when Ford discovered a spare 1038 shells they decided to produce one final model, the Ford Capri 280 Brooklands.
Originally there were going to be 500 Turbo-Technics modified cars called the Capri 500 but when Ford discovered a further 538 shells, as you do, plans shifted to a normally aspirated Capri 280 instead (Brooklands is an unofficial name adopted by owners because all 1038 cars were painted Brooklands Green). You have to also wonder how far away the Sierra Cosworth RS500 was at this point, because it just seems uncanny that both turbo-charging and the name were dropped from the outgoing model to be picked up almost immediately by its younger sibling.
By 1986 it was only the UK market that was interested in the Capri, fitting then don’t you thing that all 280s were made right hand drive. Sales world wide had peaked between 1969 and 1973 when the 1,000,000 MKI car was produced, an RS2600 (significant also that the 2.8i and 280 models were the only other fuel injected Capris to leave the assembly line). It took all the way from 1973 until 1986 to produced a further 886,647 cars demonstrating how the world was gradually falling out of love, but not in Britain. We still got it throughout the MKII and MKIII years even with puny 1300cc engines in the range. The ‘Big’ Capris were always the cars to have though, whether a 3.0litre Essex or later a 2.8litre Cologne. Yes we still got the Capri in Britain and in the early 90s so did I.
I owned a black 2.8i, well at least one according to its V5 anyway, the after-market sun roof always left me suspicious it might have been re-shelled. The significance driving Great Escape Classic Car Hire’s Ford Capri 280 Brooklands today is this is the first car I’ve driven as a ‘classic’ that I also owned back in the day. I must be reaching a significant age. The thing is when collecting the rather humble by comparison Ford parked in and amongst such greats as the E-Type and 911 I felt a little inclined to be defensive about my choice of ride.
There was without doubt a degree of trepidation; after all I did have history with this car. I was for instance once forced to rebuild the 5 speed gearbox on mine after fifth gear starting howling. A consequence of the fact Ford had simply taken the perfectly good standard four speed Type E and bolted a fifth gear onto the back of it to create the Type 9. Fine for your average Sierra, but somewhat tested by the high torque produced by the Cologne V6. Then there was the slightly uninspiring grey dashboard that housed the classic six dial layout, the somewhat clumsy four buttons that sit underneath the rudimentary heater controls for rear fogs, rear wipe and wash, and heated rear screen, not to mention the clock Ford fitted to every car for what seemed like, well forever really. No I was worried the Ford Capri 280 Brooklands would not be up to standard as a classic, I shouldn’t have been concerned; because it most definitely is.
I didn’t need to adjust anything and I instinctively knew where everything was. The dash had a definite 80s look to it but that is nothing compared to finding yourself in a 90s car which can in some cases feel completely naff inside. No the Ford Capri 280 Brooklands was alright, time had moved on and this was without doubt now a classy classic car inside and out. The best bit was still to come, I was going to turn the key and fire her up.
When I did the whole of Great Escape Classic Car Hire’s Redditch base reverberated to the sound of a gutsy 2.8litre fuel injected Ford V6 that gave the impression of being at least twice that capacity. Made all the better by a slow but consistent off-beat tickover. This car was quite simply ice cool with its loud exhaust note and luscious green paint. I was beginning to tune into the Ford Capri 280 Brooklands and fall back in love with a car and marque I’d largely ignored for twenty years.
Pull away and the torquey motor appears to immediately bring the car up to 30mph, such is the tall nature of the gearing. This also proved to be a key aspect of the driving experience with a quick pace easily maintained using incredibly low revs, much like a contemporary turbo-diesel. No modern day oil burner will ever be as quick to respond to throttle inputs as this car though, not with the way it just gets up and goes. It does also make you question the apparent need for 200bhp+ in even the smallest petrol powered hot hatch these days when 160bhp with some decent torque appears to be plenty. Maybe the comparison is better made between this 80s petrol V6 engine and current turbo-diesels, who knows. All I know is I like it and I like it a lot.
Ford can be criticised for many things, some of which we have touched on here, but when it comes to handling, even with cart springs on the rear, the Bilstein dampers fitted to the Ford Capri 280 Brooklands mean its road holding is quite superb. Other manufacturers could learn a lot from this setup because with a combination of sensibly profiled tyres, sat on bespoke 15” 7 spoke alloys, even with hard spring rates, the damping is absolutely spot-on. Traffic calming speed bumps are easily absorbed without fear of damaging your spine and all other road imperfections get dealt with the same way; one compression and one return with no bounce. This makes for an extremely purposeful ride which is ultimately very satisfying.
Pure joy can be had piloting this car as the long nose firmly absorbs bumps up front with both ends staying completely flat around every bend. True the rear wants to slide out at times but the addition of a limited slip differential brought over from the 2.8i Special means this is both predictable and can be controlled, especially when pulling away from T-Junctions. That said in damp conditions caution is always advisable as there are at the end of the day no driver aids on board here.
The only thing that let’s the Ford Capri 280 Brooklands down a tad are the brakes. Whether a servicing issue or an upgrade away to fix they required at times a very hard press indeed to slow the car down. It wasn’t a disaster by any means, in fact my main concern was not driving the Ford Capri 280 Brooklands because after some adjustment I had it sussed, it was returning to my modern daily driver afterwards and potentially putting both driver and passenger through the windscreen the first time we needed to slow down. Fortunately the Capri’s clutch is three times as difficult to press than any modern and so once back in our road car it served as a useful reminder before pressing the brake pedal that we had in fact changed cars.
In terms of how well the car is perceived by others we entered Great Escape Classic Car Hire’s Ford Capri 280 Brooklands into the Chipping Sodbury Classic, an event that takes you on an 80mile route through the Cotswolds beginning in a closed off High Street where members of the public are free to walk round. The feedback was fantastic and a lot of people liked the Capri, one even preferring it to the Porsche 911 we had entered previously, praise indeed.
The Ford Capri 280 Brooklands is a true driver’s car that gets under your skin and attaches itself to your soul whilst acting as a useful reminder of the great cars the Blue Oval can produce with relatively modest ingredients.
How does this car make you feel?
In one word: Nostalgic
As a favourite meal: A Chinese stir fry enjoyed after we kept forgetting the Ahoy ingredients that were in the cupboard only to re-discover how much we still liked it.
Anything Else: Don’t be embarrassed or snobby because it’s a Ford, this is an excellent driver’s car and a real class act.
Key Ingredients: Engine note, elbow out driving position, tall gearing, plenty of torque and decent cross country pace.
With thanks to Great Escape Classic Car Hire
Visit Chris ‘Dr’ Brooklands website http://brooklands280.com/home.html for more Ford Capri 280 Brooklands facts and also help if interested in buying one.
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