Automobile

It’s good to be the king: SVE made Henry Ford II the world’s nicest ’81 Ford Capri


One of the perks of running a carmaker is that your wishes are orders when it comes to one-off builds. Henry Ford II enjoyed this privilege during his time at Ford’s helm, and one of the cars created specifically for him to drive during his business trips to the United Kingdom is scheduled to cross the digital auction block this month.

Ford was a performance enthusiast — he played an instrumental role in launching the Ferrari-beating GT40 — so he presumably had little interest in dawdling through the British countryside in a carbureted, 44-horsepower Fiesta. He requested a Capri, a sporty coupe available as a Mercury in the United States during the 1970s and sold into the 1980s across the pond. Ford’s Special Vehicle Engineering (SVE) division was put in charge of the project.

SVE hand-selected Ford’s personal Capri from the production line in Cologne, Germany, and gave it additional layers of paint. It also put the coupe through stricter quality control measures, according to auction platform Car & Classic. Wider seats were installed, and leather upholstery added a finishing touch to the cabin. Finally, SVE bolted a three-speed automatic transmission to the fuel-injected, 2.8-liter V6 engine. Ford allegedly used the car to visit dealers and suppliers in the United Kingdom, though how many of the 68,958 displayed miles he added is unclear.

Ron Mellor, the head of Ford’s product development team, purchased the Capri in 1983. He later sold it to Alan Jarman, a member of the carmaker’s design team, who used it to commute until 1993. Its current owner purchased it in 2007 and began the process of recommissioning it using new original Ford parts when possible. The wheels were refinished, several brackets in the engine bay were powder-coated, and the V6’s head gaskets were replaced.

Car & Classic will launch the seven-day online auction on April 23. It expects the Capri will sell for anywhere between £25,000 and £35,000, figures that represent about $34,900 and $48,800, respectively. Available service records and magazine articles that feature the car will be included in the sale. While this Capri is located in southern England, it’s well over 25 years old so it can — in theory — be imported to America with no major hassles.

Ford’s UK fleet

Ford built at least two other one-off cars for its chief executive’s visits to the United Kingdom. Made in 1977, before SVE’s involvement, the first was an Escort RS2000 finished in Roman Bronze and de-badged. It was fitted with an automatic transmission, unusually, and it was equipped with a luxurious interior that included beige upholstery and deeper carpet. The second was the Capri that’s headed to auction, and the third was a Sierra XR4i (a model closely related to the Merkur XR4Ti sold in the United States) painted silver and also built with an automatic transmission. 


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