The Ford Capri that's also a work of art

| 11 Jun 2018
Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art

Where do you want to start? With the crazy paint, glinting and shimmering in the late-summer sun? Or beneath the bonnet, where – in place of the normal 3-litre V6 powerplant – there rests a 5-litre V8?

Either way, it’s clear that this is no ordinary Ford Capri. And neither is it some superficial custom effort that is all mouth and no trousers.

Perhaps we’d better rewind to the beginning, because this car did at least start its life as a standard Mk2. In summer 1974, an order was placed within Ford GB for a new Management Role car – a perk of the job that those far enough up the ladder could enjoy for a few months before they ordered a replacement.

Over at the Cologne factory, the Capri 3-litre Ghia automatic was assembled and shipped to the UK, being registered TTW 865N in Chelmsford. So, for a year or so, the car was run by a management type before passing into the Ford dealer network.

Enter Stamos Fafalios, who worked in London for the family shipping firm. As a car enthusiast, Fafalios was aware of the conversions carried out by Race Proved Performance and Equipment Ltd based in Hanwell and, as a young man of comfortable means, he was able to satisfy his desire for one.

Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art

Race Proved had been set up by Jeff Uren in 1967. Uren had a long association with Ford, and he was no mean driver in his time. He and his brother Douglas had entered the 1954 Rallye Monte-Carlo in an Armstrong Siddeley before turning to circuit racing. In 1959, he won the British Saloon Car Championship at the wheel of a Ford Zephyr, then went on to score a number of wins aboard various models, and later become competitions manager for the Blue Oval.

In ’62, he joined forces with John Willment in Twickenham to manage his eponymous race team, which would go on to campaign everything from the Mk1 Cortina to the GT40 and Cobra, before deciding to go it alone.

Fafalios met up with Uren at Race Proved’s Uxbridge Road premises to work out the final specification of his Capri. The conversion that was being offered at the time was named the Stampede, and involved fitting a blueprinted, gas-flowed Boss 302cu in (4949cc) Mustang V8.

A ‘four on the floor’ toploader gearbox – also from the Pony car – was added, but the standard Capri rear axle retained.

Formula One racer John Miles had helped Uren to perfect the set-up, which also comprised stiffer springs all round, Girling dampers, an uprated anti-roll bar and harder bushes. Ventilated discs with four-pot calipers were fitted to the front, while the rear brakes received uprated linings.

Finally, the 13in Dunlop wheels were swapped for 14in replacements – which had involved modifying the arches on Mk1 Capris – and they were shod with 60-profile Goodyear tyres. A high-capacity radiator and a Kenlowe fan completed the extensive list of additions.

The cost of all of this work would be £2950 – and that was on top of the £3306 for a new Capri. But Uren had a suggestion: he had access to Ford’s low-mileage, nearly new Management Role cars, which would save a little bit of money.

The only slight complication was that Fafalios didn’t just want any old Stampede. No – he had something else in mind, too, for which a white car would be required.

Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art
Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art

Every summer, Fafalios spent some time in Greece, and 1975 would be no different. Despite the fact that a suitable Capri had yet to appear from the management pool, he paid Uren the estimated cost of the donor car up front, plus an advance on the work that would need to be carried out, and disappeared off for his sojourn abroad.

Finally, on 4 August, TTW 865N came up. It was sold directly to Uren, who had all the major components on hand in west London and immediately got cracking. The conversion took the best part of three months, after which phase two of the Fafalios plan could swing into action.

That autumn, the car went down to Mech Spray in Rochester, Kent. Over the previous six years, the company had become well known for its custom paint work, winning numerous awards.

Fafalios wanted something particularly striking for the Capri. Working over a white base, Mech Spray applied a ‘frosted grape pearl’ effect and then patterns in yellow and blue. A layer of sparkling Mirra Flake was topped with coat after coat of lacquer. The whole thing cost an extra £215, including bespoke mudflaps.

After all that cosmetic attention, you might be thinking that the car was used sparingly and carefully thereafter. Not a bit of it. Uren took Fafalios down to Goodwood for a track test, where the Capri showed an indicated 140mph. The car returned to Mech Spray in 1976 to have cavity wax and underseal applied, and Fafalios even used it for his summer break to Greece. The ferry sticker is still in the rear window to this day, and the continental-spec headlamp stickers are in place, too.

Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art

By August 1978, in fact, the mileage was recorded at 20,480. Shortly after that, however, the Capri went into its first – and longest – period of hibernation.

Fafalios held on to the car, and in 2005 it was recommissioned by Mike Brown, who was a former mechanic for Uren. New pistons were sourced in the United States, the internal components were balanced, and the Holley carburettor was rebuilt. The brakes were serviced, and new tyres fitted.

The Capri was MoT tested in September 2008, when the mileage crept up a little further to 21,245, but following Brown’s retirement the car was put back into storage.

Fafalios finally agreed to sell in autumn 2013, and a few months later the Stampede appeared in Bonhams’ Oxford Banbury Run auction. Roland Drew and Robin Henderson were at the sale purely because they also have an interest in old ’bikes, but, after not buying anything with two wheels, they were struck by the wild Ford. It hadn’t sold when first offered to the room, but a post-event deal was done.

“Our biggest concern,” says Henderson, “was that someone else would buy it and respray it. To be honest, my motivation was saving that paint.”

Their intention was never to hold on to the car – Aston enthusiast Henderson won’t drive it for fear of falling in love with it and changing his mind about selling – but once they’d got it home, they started fettling certain areas in preparation for passing it on to a suitable custodian.

The car ran side-exit exhausts for a while, which had necessitated modifications to the sills. Those alterations needed tidying now that it is on standard pipes. Best of all, though, it has been back to Mech Spray – which is still very much in business – to have the paint refreshed.

Drew also began to look more deeply into the car’s history. He estimates that only eight Stampedes were built, and has so far accounted for five of them. The model’s press release features a photograph of a Mk1 with a Sheffield (EYM) registration. Motor magazine road-tested another Mk1 – NYE 9L – in April 1974, and a third was advertised by Uren himself in the mid-1980s. Bizarrely, it is thought that a fourth made its way to Jamaica, and the fifth is the Fafalios Mk2. If anyone knows any more about the short production run, Drew would be all ears.

Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art

It’s a sign of the quality of Uren’s conversions that he was included in What Car? as a manufacturer in his own right.

Positioned just above Vanden Plas and Vauxhall in the listings, the details for each model – from Savage to Stampede – are shown, and the list price for the latter is quoted as £5000, roughly the same as a Daimler Double Six. An E-type V12 was ‘only’ £4111, but a Jensen Interceptor would have set you back £7754, and an Aston Martin V8 £9593.

If you think that is rarefied company for a car that is, in essence, a Ford Capri, consider the performance figures achieved by Motor. The Stampede went from 0-60mph in 5.8 secs – exactly the same as the time posted by the Ferrari Daytona, and 0.6 secs quicker than the E-type. It was still hanging on to the Ferrari’s coat-tails at 100mph (13.8 secs against 13), by which time the Jaguar had been left well behind.

The Stampede was considerably faster than both when timed from 50-70mph in top, thanks mostly to its short gearing of 22.2mph per 1000mph.

‘The acceleration is really quite exciting,’ commented the Motor road-tester with considerable understatement. The magazine also raved about the amount of grip on offer, as well as the roadholding – testament to the quality of Uren’s development work.

Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art
Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art

Even a standard Mk2 Capri shouts ‘1970s!’, but the effect is considerably enhanced by the glam-spec makeover. As was generally the case with Uren’s cars, it effectively hides its mechanical potency, with the occasional ‘Boss’ badge and the twin-pipe 2in exhausts subtly hinting at what lies beneath.

To begin with at least, your attention is diverted by the craftsmanship that went into Mech Spray’s paintjob. The full effect only strikes you when the sun comes out, at which point the Capri starts to sparkle and shimmer thanks to the Mirra Flake particles.

The colours have faded slightly over the years, but the faint swirls are still perfectly visible, and the harder you look, the more detail you uncover.

From 10 paces, only the blue of the lines ‘framing’ the panels truly stands out from the side, but the artistry is best appreciated up close. It contrasts completely with the solid black applied to the lower edges, and which runs from the back all the way up the front chin spoiler, which was grafted in by Grand Prix Metalcraft.

Inside, it is pretty much bog-standard Capri, which at least gives your eyes a bit of a rest. The swathes of black are almost therapeutic, in fact.

Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art

To drive, however, it is emphatically not bog-standard Capri. The clutch is incredibly heavy, as is the steering, but anything else would be a slight disappointment and not at all in keeping with the car’s character. It is a demeanour that is dominated, of course, by the Boss V8 engine.

Weighty controls aside, the Stampede is not a particularly difficult thing to drive. It’s actually quite docile until you open the throttle. The remarkable thing is not the way in which the car immediately surges forward – you would expect a 5-litre V8 to push out plenty of torque – it is the way in which the power just keeps on coming.

This is no lazy, strangled American boat-anchor of a unit that is all out of ideas by 4000rpm. The rev counter reads to 6000rpm, and the engine will happily spin beyond that to 7000rpm. By that point, Uren’s creation is simply thundering down the road.

There’s nothing neck-snapping about its acceleration, but you do have the sense that you are riding a solid wave of momentum. The brakes seem a little unwilling to bring things back to earth, but the handling is surprisingly user-friendly. Uren’s work also involved strengthening certain areas of the monocoque and, in tandem with the suspension upgrades, you can feel the benefit.

Any understeer can quickly be dealt with via the 320bhp being delivered to the rear wheels. Only the gearbox needs a degree of concentration, the four-speeder refusing to give you much in the way of feedback as you move the lever – ‘Is that first or third? Second or reverse?’ – but as long as you’re accurate and decisive you won’t make any expensive mistakes.

Ford Capri Uren Stampede: The Ford Capri that's also a work of art

It’s an intriguing car, this, for many reasons. If Fafalios hadn’t held on to it for so long, there seems little doubt that a subsequent owner would have resprayed it at some point. As it is, however, that ethereal Bolan-esque paint – all glitter and wisps of colour – contrasts sharply with the enormous reserves of beefcake power from the Mustang engine.

The Uren conversion on its own would have made the Stampede special – there is something very appealing about a mainstream model being turned into such a potent Q-car – but the fact that it was personalised so distinctively in period by a young man who wanted something different gives it even more character.

It’s come a long way since a manager in Essex filled in a form and decided to replace his company car.


This article was first published in Classic & Sports Car magazine, November 2014 

The car featured here will be sold at Brightwells' Bicester Classic & Vintage Cars & Motorcycles auction at The Classic & Sports Car Show in association with Flywheel on Sunday 24 June 2018. Read more about it here