Two or three years ago, despite owning three Mk1 Capris already, I decided I wanted a fourth. The new addition had to be a certain model - a 1600GT XLR - and I wanted it in the rare shade of Pacific Blue. And so started a "project" that would cost thousands of pounds as well as many man hours.
I should point out at this juncture that I'm not a home restorer but I don't mind getting my hands a little dirty and I enjoy hunting down the parts needed for a restoration.
Mindful that Capri Mk1 parts are becoming very scarce, as well as looking for the ideal project car, I also started gathering the spare parts I knew, from past experience, I was likely to need. Wings, front valence, rear arch repairs to name but a few of the more obvious items.
The story of this restoration is, largely by photographic evidence, intended to open the eyes of today's potential restorers to what is involved in bringing back to life one of the cars often seen in the classic magazine for sale columns described as an "easy restoration project".
Check out the various stages below.
Theoretically, the first stage of any restoration project is to find the right car. However, once you gain a knowledge of Mk1 Capris and further understand the scarcity of parts and unmolested cars, you'll realise that your first step - having made a decision to restore a Mk1 - is to start gathering the parts that you're likely to need.
How do I know what I need? I hear you ask. Well, a Club like ours has many members in it who have "been there, done that" over a long period of time. Most will happily impart their own hard earned knowledge of what parts - bodily; trim; and mechanical - you're almost certain to want. These parts will not be easy to come by - for the most part - and in many cases will be very expensive.
However, even if you end up buying parts that you ultimately do not need, it's unlikely you'll loose any money as there will be plenty of fellow restorers who'll be only to pleased to buy your unwanted items from you.
For this particular project I actually started accumulating the parts I thought I would need over a year before the main car turned up.
By the time I had the car I had, what I thought, were all the parts to create the finished article. Sadly, I was somewhat mistaken!
A full ten months before finding the car I found what was to be a superb donor vehicle. This provided a near perfect interior including all the seats, the carpet, the front and rear parcel shelves, the dashboard and clock binnacle, the centre console, the rear cards and -after some minor restoration work - the front door cards. I looked at the car with a view to it being the project but when I saw that the front cross-member and most of the front valence had rotted away I was pretty sure the car was too far gone for me to consider. Once I started removing the carpet my decision was vindicated as large parts of the floor were missing!
Finally in the late summer of 2008 I found the right car. A 1600 GT XLR, 1970 on an early J plate. Unfortunately, the car wasn't finished in my desired shade of Pacific Blue but rather in Tawny. I had searched long enough to realise that getting a Pacific Blue car was highly unlikely - at least in the model I wanted. The "bonus" from my point of view was that the cars date of manufacture coincided with the very short production time of Pacific Blue examples. So, although I'd be changing the colour, everything else fitted.
So here is the car - as I found it.
Doesn't look too bad does it?
The car had been a regularly used vehicle for the majority of its life but had been taken off the road around two years earlier needing some work. It had stood out side, on hard standing, but had been regularly started. The engine bay had been treated with oil to prevent rusting due to lack of use. A test drive showed that, as well as the obvious problems, it made a rumbling noise from the gearbox. As it had covered 283,000 miles without being changed, this came as no surprise. Although the car ran, I didn't fancy risking driving it home and so arranged for it to be collected on a truck. The front bumper and spot/fog lights were with the car but as a negotiation to reduce the asking price, I "gave-up" the front seats (only retaining the drivers side one to get it on and off the truck and around to the bodyshop).
The next step - after booking it into the body shop - was to remove as much as possible. The inside was stripped along with the exterior, except the lights, prior to the short trip. Once there I removed the lights and drivers seat.
So, the body specialist had a shell with all the mechanics intact but little else.
I had been aware of the external rust but it came as a surprise how rusty the front floor was. Ultimately this wasn't to prove a problem. What was, was finding out "why" the floor had so much internal rust. Somewhere under the windscreen water had been getting in for a long time. Was it perhaps those rotten scuttle corners? That seemed the most obvious and clearly had been uppermost in the mind of one of its previous owners who had packed the inside corners - up under the dashboard - with large quantities of expanding, builders foam.
The body shop got to work very fast, in terms of stripping it down. The front mechanicals - engine, gearbox, suspension - were removed along with most of the ancillaries. Then they took off the doors and removed the front wings. If you're thinking of restoring a Mk1, look very carefully at what lay beneath those front wings.
In truth I had been prepared for the "A" posts being rotten. This is the second Mk1 I've taken back to this stage to restore. Any new to the marque though need to realise that when the scuttle panel corners have some rust holes in them then generally this is the final evidence of rot underneath rather than an early warning.
This car had undergone a restoration back around 1990 at which time it had been "parked" in a ditch. Economically I guess that the car was then technically - although never actually - a write-off. After all, how much would a 20 year old daily used Mk1 Capri have been worth in 1990? Not very much and it needed a new wing, front valance, bonnet and a respray - along I guess with all sorts of extras (lights; grill and so on). I do know it had a brand new bonnet - and the only one available apparently was a power bulge 3 litre one. Now I quite like the flat one, so this was another major panel I needed. Fortunately, it was also one of the parts I salvaged from the car which provided a full interior. The "A" posts and sills I decided to buy from Ex-Pressed Panels in Yorkshire. I had used their repair panels before and found them to be generally very good. They are expensive though - but then everything is for a Mk1.
My body shop had looked the car over prior to my taking it in and therefore knew some of the problems they needed to rectify. One of the more obvious - to a body shop at least - was the micro-blistering on the roof. This would require the roof to be rubbed back, possibly to bare metal and maybe beyond. As it turned out, back to bare metal was enough. Stripping paint in other areas revealed more problem areas with regard to rust.
The stripping back continued a pace - although the workshop did need to do some "rebuilding" in order that they still had a reasonably rigid structure to work with. The First parts to the repaired and remanufactured were the inner corners of the engine bay, where the inner wings and "A" posts meet with the scuttle and bulkhead. This would provide solid new metal for the new "A" posts to be attached to. At this point, the inner wings appeared to be sound. New wing rails (where the inner and outer wings meet) were fabricated.
One visible problem with the nearside inner wing was the crude way it had been flattened out, presumably following the cars visit to a ditch. Apart from being unsightly though, nothing else appeared to be wrong. The unboltable parts, such as the boot lid and doors were examined and prepared. The boot was fine but the doors had some pitting in the outer skins.
With the front valance removed it became clear that the front cross member would need replacing. Thankfully, around the suspension turret tops was fine and stripping back the paint to bare metal even revealed the chassis number stamped around the offside turret.
Elsewhere the stripping back of paint revealed yet more problems. At some point the rear arches had been replaced. Instead of using the minimum amount of repair section leaving the largest amount of original panel, it appeared that the reverse technique had been applied. This had the effect of pulling the body in where the weld line was, distorting the body line locally around the rear arches and deepening the recesses for the dummy vents.
Work on the car - at least as far as putting the body right, started on the front offside and would, over a period, work around to the rear offside, back, nearside and back to the front. Putting right the body line distortion caused by the fitting of the rear arch repair earlier in the cars life, was relatively straightforward - essentially brute force did the trick!
Closer examination and stripping of the doors revealed another major problem. The drivers side one had a great deal of rot on the hinge edge - mainly around the top hinge. Some repair had taken place previously but more rust had set in. It was decided, if possible, to fit a replacement door. Needless to say, I had a spare passenger side one but not drivers side. The car also needed a new rear valence - below the bumper line - as this panel was heavily pitted and would need removing to sort a problem with the chassis rail end on the near side. Fortunately, within a couple of weeks I was able to source new parts in both cases. The door though was a facelift one. For the uninitiated, facelift and pre-facelift doors are not the same. Outwardly they look it but the fittings for the internal opener and also the holes for the door card clips are different.
Last Updated: 26 January 2010
So far, except for some relatively minor - but nonetheless essential - repair work to the inner wings where they meet the "A" post and also the channel where they join the outer wings, little rebuilding work has taken place. I had intended Stage Two of this story to feature the bodywork rebuilding but, looking back, there wasn't a clear divide between tearing out rust and adding in new metal. A certain amount of the shell has to remain intact in order not to mess up the geometry for rebuilding.
It is appropriate at this point to move to "Stage Two", as the first major new metal is about to be added - namely the driver's side "A" post and outer sill.
In order to align everything correctly, the driver's door and bonnet were also refitted. New headlamp mounting panels were fitted and, with the front cross member replaced, a new Ford lower front valance was clipped into place - again to help with alignment.
The outer sill - a full one - and the "A" post were pattern part from one of the few new panel manufacturers. The parts were well made and well finished indeed the body shop told me they were amongst the best they had come across for any model of car. Unfortunately this wouldn't prove to be the case for one panel on the near side.
The scuttle repair would be done later but at this stage the panels that the "A" post would be attached to were all now solid and ready. Another problem though came to light at the test fit stage. As you will see from the pictures, on the nearside, the inner wing tapers in and the channel disappears under the bonnet. Measurements indicated that the major geometry of the car was correct - the suspension turrets were correctly aligned. The problem was that crumpled near side inner wing. Not only hadn't it been smoothed out, when it had been repaired back around 1990, it was out of alignment. One good non-rusty panel was holding it in situ but out of shape - the slam panel.
This would not affect the "A" post and sill fitting but it did mean that the headlamp mounting panels would need to be demounted and the slam panel removed. So, another new panel required!
emoval of the slam panel revealed some "cheese grater" sections of the inner wings at the front. These could be repaired but the cause of the front end misalignment needed to be addressed. The nearside inner wing was literally beaten back into its proper shape.
The remaining solid parts of the cars shell to which the new "A" post would be attached were prepared and treated with a spray on copper substance to deter future rust and provide a good surface to weld to. A plate was needed to repair the drivers floor to front wheel arch area and this, again, was addressed before attempting to attach the "A" post.
Yet more of the body was stripped with that near side "A" post not looking too good at all!
The mounting point of the back of the rear seat on the offside had "disappeared" leaving a rust hole and no captive nut. A large plate with a captive nut was fabricated and welded in to replace the missing item. Finally, at least as far as the offside of the car was concerned, the lower rear section of the rear wing was cut away and a replacement repair panel welded in.
With the fitting of the "A" post and repair of the scuttle finished, the car was at last starting to gain some solidity.
With a new "A" post, outer sill, rear quarter lower rear repair panel and scuttle repair section all welded into place, the off side of the car was finally taking on a more solid appearance.
The removal of rusty sections continued with the lower rear valance. This also uncovered an interesting piece of history of the car. When I purchased it, one of the two bolts holding the near side bumper iron to the car had sheared off in its threaded insert. I had assumed this to be due to cross threading at the time the car had previously been restored. The removal of the valance though gave rise to a different explanation. The final foot of the chassis rail was twisted and the lugs welded to the end of the rail - to accommodate the threaded inserts - were also twisted out of square. The body shop assured me there was no evidence of the car being rear ended and surmised that the car had left the factory that way. Presumably a power tool had forced the bolt into the thread in the first place and when the first attempt to remove it came, it just sheared off. I guess that means the car was built on a Friday afternoon!
The problem was rectified and the new lower valance panel fitted.
Next came the removal of the near side outer sill. This had a large rust hole where the Ford badge mounts to the step. Removal revealed that it was rusty in plenty of other areas too. The inner sill though, although covered in surface rust, was in good nick.
There was just some minor plating required to the front end of the inner sill but it was a different story with the nearside "A" post and, in particular, the area at the top and the associated scuttle corner. I hadn't realised that in fact three levels of metal come together in this region. The scuttle below the windscreen providing the top layer, then part of the panel which makes up the bulkhead and dashboard mounting making the middle layer and finally the top of the "A" post providing the third layer. As you can see all three layers were in a very sorry state. After cutting them away it was decided that an extra piece would be added to provide extra strength where to top hinge of the door would mount. Accordingly a "patch" was added from a repair section to go underneath the new "A" post repair section.
With the initial work done it was time to clip all the new metalwork in place to fit check it. As you can see a problem arose which was finally determined to be an inaccurately pressed replacement outer sill. Basically the step was around half an inch too narrow, with the turn over then around half an inch too high - you can see it sticking up above the inner sill that it needs to spot weld to. Unfortunately it transpired that this was not a rogue pressing but rather that the template for the tooling was wrong and all pressings have this flaw. The part was returned and, after some discussion, the supplier agreed to reshape the step and turnover in accordance with the markings the body shop had sketched on.
Whilst waiting for the reshaped sill, the body shop switched their attention to the engine bay area. As previously shown, the fronts of each inner wing needed remaking. The stiffener plate on the top of the bulkhead looked slightly rusty but on closer inspection was found to be almost total rust as was the panel underneath, that it was intended to stiffen! This supports the pedal box in the drivers side foot-well area. The rust was cut out and a new section fabricated along with a new stiffener plate.
The car had a water leakage problem into the foot-well area and so far the main source of the leak was not apparent. Once the heater was removed though a large hole and several severely rusted areas were exposed. The problem was their location. This would be very difficult to access and even more difficult to repair without the removal of another panel. Carefully the body shop removed the "funnel" panel used to guide rainwater and air through the grill in the scuttle to respectively deposit water out of the bottom of the engine bay and air into the heater fan. The sight beneath was not pretty. Once more plates were fabricated as the rust was cut back to solid metal. At the same time the bulkhead was repaired in the area where the clutch cable passes through as the plate and tube in this region had become detached.
The rear nearside wing needed a little work at the bottom and, with the sill due back, the refabrication in the "A" post/ scuttle area was completed in readiness to put together all the new exterior near-side panelling.
As the corrected near side sill was waited, all the other exterior panels were prepared in readiness for fitting. The drivers side door had too much rot in the wrong places and therefore was replaced with a new old stock one. Unfortunately that was for a facelift car. The same, I hear you say. No, they are not the same. The hole and inserts for the inside handle mechanism are different as are some - but not all - of the holes for the studs which secure the door cards. The keen eyed amongst you will also note that the new Ford front valence is also a facelift item. Here there are holes for the pegs on a facelift headlight to be filled and the tabs for the front grill need repositioning.
When the sill arrived back in was fitted along with the new "A" post and the top of the scuttle repair was completed. Then all the exterior panels were aligned before finally being welded in place. At last the vast majority of the welding and fitment of new body parts was complete. The next stage would be under body treatment and preparation for paint.
Finally, with all the rust removed and new panels installed, it was time to start preparing the body for painting. As well as getting rid of all the slight imperfections and ensuring good alignment of the "moving panels" - doors, bonnet and boot - the underside would be treated to nearly two gallons of a stone guard type paint to both seal it and protect it for future use. The rear axle and springs were also removed at this stage. These would go away for refurbishment.
At last the virtually totally stripped shell was ready to enter the spray booth and receive its first coat of grey primer.
With the grey primer on it was given an overspray on black. This is done in order that an imperfections in the bodywork can be seen. Then it was down to rubbing down and filling anything which came to light.
Finally, almost seven months after the car entered the body shop, the first colour was applied. It was actually wheeled out of the paint spray booth on an afternoon that I chose to visit the workshop. The colour is pacific blue - a shade used for a limited period at the end of 1970 and into early 1971 on GT and E models only. Although not the original colour of this car, the vehicle is a GT and is from the period that the shade was used.
A day or so later the car was wheeled outdoors for the paint to harden off in the natural light and air.
With the body shell fully refurbished and painted it was time to start putting the car back together. Of course it was still a mammoth task. Lots of the trim needed refurbishing or replacing and the main mechanical items needed action.
The chrome work was either replaced or rechromed - for example, the door handles.
The engine had been reconditioned 3,000 miles earlier but prior to the restoration starting, it was apparent that the gearbox and possibly rear axle/diff and prop shaft needed some tlc.
The gearbox and diff were separated from the engine and back axle respectively and sent away to a specialist rebuilder. The half shafts were also removed and renovated.
Inside the body shell, a brand new headlining was fitted - not a job for the faint hearted!
Once the axle and diff were reunited the whole of the back end running gear was given a lick of paint.
Rather than refitting old bushes or finding new old stock, I decided to buy a full kit of poly bushes. For "classic" cars you can now get less obtrusive purple/dark blue ones - far less obvious that the bright orange or yellow varieties.
Now that the car could sit on its rear wheels again, it was time to reunite it with its engine; gearbox; and front suspension. All, needless to say, went in from underneath. With all the main mechanicals back in place, the steering could be fitted and the car lowered onto its own rubber for the first time in many months. This made it manoeuvrable and meant that instead of working inside the dusty workshop - where the car would become coated in no time - it could be worked on outside in the summer sunshine - yes, we did have a little of that last summer. The problem now was where I had put all the various accessories and trim to go into the car. Very little of the original was used with most of the interior trim coming from a donor car whilst new headlamps were fitted and re-chromed and cleaned rear light clusters. The door cards were re-carded old ones however, the drivers one - with the new door - proved problematic to fit. Facelift doors have a different clip pattern to pre-facelift ones (and the car had a new facelift door - see earlier in the story).
There were various "teething troubles" with re-assembling the car. One that sticks out - and was late to be "solved" - were the tabs on the front valence to which the grill mounts. The pre-facelift and facelift cars have different mounting tabs. Although we were aware of this (we used a new facelift front valence on the car) and thought that we had satisfactorily sorted the problem, it wasn't until the grill was offered up for fitting - after painting - that we discovered we hadn't got it right!
Finally, 10 months after it went into the bodyshop, the car was MOTed and ready to drive out. Even so, various problems subsequently arose - and are still steadily being sorted. The keen eyed amongst you will note that some of the fittings under the bonnet still need "restoring". Some have been done - that bracket to the air filter for example - others will get done in time.
I hope that this restoration story has been of interest and also given those of you out there thinking about starting a project, some insight into what is involved.