Our Cars: My Dad’s 1973 Ford Capri

Racing and most driving is on hold right now, due to the Coronavirus. Let’s open up the archives and talk about the cars of our past.

My parents moved about a year ago, and in the process of boxing things up, came across the paperwork for many of the cars they’d purchased from the 1970s onward. I have all of the paperwork, have run Carfax reports on every VIN I can, and compiled as many anecdotes as I can. These are their stories.

It was the end of 1975, Dad was living in Illinois and needed a car. His 1968 Camaro – his college car – was long gone, sold for $350 because it didn’t have working air conditioning. After a base-model company car or three, he decided it was time to just spend his own money on something nicer to drive, and picked out a yellow 1973 Mercury Capri.

Ford developed the Capri as a two-door version of the popular Cortina sedan in Europe. Just like the first Mustang was based on the Falcon, the Capri had sedan underpinnings. It went on sale in 1968.

In 1970, Ford imported the Capri to the United States. Every Capri here was sold by Lincoln-Mercury dealerships and they were all built in Cologne, Germany. It was marketed as a Mercury, but the cars didn’t have any branding beyond “Capri” on them.

I don’t have much paperwork on this car, but was able to find a site that explained how to read the 11-digit VIN. VIN numbers weren’t standardized until 1981, so some of these older cars are harder to figure out.

Unfortunately, the only bit from the VIN I could confirm was the build date. The car was built in September of 1973. The remaining numbers are a random sequence number and don’t indicate where in the overall production of cars this one was built.


Dad’s Capri had the optional Cologne V6 engine, which was either a 2.6 liter or 2.8 depending if his car was a 1973 or 1974 model year. Given it was built in September of ’73, I suspect it was sold as a 1974 and had the 2.8 V6. It was paired to a 4-speed manual transmission. The V6 made about 105 horsepower and 140 foot pounds of torque, but the car only had a curb weight of 2,500 pounds.

Dad has a lot of fond memories of the Capri and speaks of how it felt so different from other “American cars” at the time. Of course it did, it was European!

Dad paid $2,200 for the Capri and financed it, given he was fresh out of school and didn’t have the longest credit history. Car loans at the time were not nearly as cheap as they are today – his 11.3% interest rate is staggering now, but likely just average at the time.

The $2,200 purchase price is equivalent to $10,578 in today’s money. If you were in his position… fresh out of college, able to take on a loan of about ten grand, and looking for a sporty, rear wheel drive car with a manual transmission and four seats, what would YOU choose?!

I’d be inclined to look at the Scion FR-S or Subaru BR-Z as my first choice. Though I’ve never driven a Capri, I have driven plenty of the 86 triplets and think they’re spiritually similar. Lower power, lower weight, high revs, rear drive.

What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments!

11 thoughts on “Our Cars: My Dad’s 1973 Ford Capri”

  1. Jake,
    I would check the Vehicle data plate and compare the VIN number to the sales receipt. I believe the build date on the data plate under the hood will be a “MC” not “NC”, indicating this Capri was built in May 1972 not Sept 1973. I base this on the dashboard, rear tail lights and side trim shown in your pictures. The 1973 model taillights are larger, the side trim piece under the rear window is smaller and the dashboard does not have a column of switches on it. The 2600cc engine was an option for 72 and continued in the 73 model year. The only difference between the 73 and 74 models was the federally mandated bumpers and the optional 2800 cc engine. These cars are very light and fun to drive. If you have one, get in it and enjoy driving it.

    • Hey Mike – Unfortunately the only paperwork I/we have for the Capri is what’s posted here, and Dad hasn’t owned the Capri in decades now. The photos I used were just pulled from the internet, so it’s possible they were mis-labeled. VIN-wise, I think what’s shown on the paperwork is correct but the images may not totally match up.

  2. I paid sticker $2900 for my 73 Capri with 2600 engine, yellow 4 speed manual in April 1973. Mine had the chrome bumpers as in your photos. (The plastic bumpers and 2800cc came on the 1974 models.) No: AC, power windows, power steering, radio, or outside mirrors. While not fast by today’s standards, it was incredibly fun to drive. Exhaust system was shot in about 3 years and I replaced the water pump twice. The disc brake rotors needed turning about every 2 years. The flip out rear side window mechanism separated from the glass and I epoxyed them several times. Still I loved that car and learned to work on it and do maintenance and repairs. I added mirrors, fm/cassette, 4 speakers, antenna, CB radio, air conditioning, Abarth exhaust and mag wheels. The styling, handling, steering were its best features. And boy it looked good in yellow.

  3. I had ‘73 with the 2.6L V6. Loved it. Put in a Crower cam with a grind on it, an Offenhauser intake manifold and a 4bbl Holley 390. Hooker headers, Mulhollands on all 4 corners with Panasports and Radial T/As. Was good for 130hp and 160lbs or so. Sounded great and was fun to drive. Good memories in that thing…

  4. My first car at 16 was a 73 Capri V-6 4 speed, dark green with gold stripes down the sides. Bought it in 78 from my brother for a grand. Loved that thing. Traded it in a couple years later for a 76 Capri II Ghia and wish I hadn’t.

  5. I had one. Unlike what you said, about the branding, some of them were misbranded. Because they were imported by ford, for mercury, some of the mercury capri’s were branded ford. It was a glaring error. I had one. The biggest problem, was the front end was heavy cast iron, with no integrity. The slightest bump, and they were bent.

  6. Oh, dear. 1972 2600 manual. Bright red with a black vinyl top. Manually operated sunroof made me feel like I waa engaged/integrated with the plucky little car as I wound it open or closed. The interior reminded me of the cabin of a light aircraft. My then-girlfriend (we married later!) knitted me a red and black scarf to match the Capri for Christmas 1974. Still have that scarf!

    Busted a clutch cable in early-November 1974. My girlfriend was with me. My father rescued me in terms of bringing a new clutch cable and all the tools needed to do the job. I assured him that I had the job in-hand; which I ultimately did. My girlfriend listened to the radio as I worked and ran the car’s battery down. I guess I was tied-up replacing the cable and so forth for a couple hours. No problem. We were on a little incline and all I needed to do was get the Capri rolling and I bump-started it at around 10 MPH. Fond, fond memories of my 1972 V6 Mercury Capri, The Sexy European.

  7. OMG. This little car brings back so many good memories. I got mine from a old boyfriend. It was envolved in a bank robbery in California before he or I got it. I could never get it legally registered because of it. My dad chained it up to our back yard fence and they’re out sat for God knows how many years. Long story short, I loved that car, was a blast to drive and what I wouldn’t do to get another, not rob a bank tho.

  8. I had a ’73 Capri that was one of the very worst cars I ever owned for a number of reasons.

    1) 2.6 Liter V6 with a Holly 5200V carburetor that contained nitrophyl floats. These floats, as opposed to standard soldered copper floats, absorbed gasoline and became boggy. This meant that gasoline was seeping down your cylinder walls because the floats weren’t shutting down the jets on time. This is a bad thing.

    2) While parking my car in a parking lot the shift handle simply broke off. Turns out it was white metal. Just junk

    3) The rear windows on the car were the type that flipped open. Most automobiles with this type of rear window had a hole where the lever (that opened the window) was located and the mating piece, on the outside of the window, was screwed into it. Not the Capri. Uh uh… Super glued. I lost both rear windows over time as they simply disengaged from the latch and went flying away to screw up someone else’s day…

    Aside from that… It was a simply lovely vehicle…


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