CAPRI & TORANA HATCH
Simplicity, it’s said, is the ultimate sophistication. In a world that’s become dizzyingly complex, sometimes it’s refreshing to spool back the clock and enjoy the simpler pleasures; an experience without multiple driver modes, door chimes, touch screens and electric power steering. The catch is, you’re not the only one who hankers after this purity of execution.
Prices in the Aussie classic car market reflect this fact, so rather than blow your retirement fund on one of the really big names, does it pay to lower your gaze a little and target some of the less illustrious badges? We think so and have wrangled a couple of likely contenders for your consideration. It’s a classic Ford and Holden match up but with a bit of a twist. They might have been priced comparatively equally back in the day, but the Capri and the Torana have diverged a little in the meantime. So which one ticks your boxes?
CAPRI & TORANA HATCH
Three utterly different Fords have carried the name ‘Capri’ but only one carried it off. The 1961 Consul Capri looked better than it went or sold. And Ford Australia’s convertible succeeded neither at home nor in the US market for which it was designed.
The Capri was one of several exciting new European cars to arrive in the late 1960s. Starting with the Fiat 125 in the first quarter of 1968, a number of sports sedans and coupes became available but the Capri was the first coupe in the $3K zone. The Mazda R100 followed in June and the Torana GTR in November.
The locally assembled Capri was released in April 1969 and, blessedly, there was no entry level 1.3 to earn scorn. Both variants were manual 1600s, the $2600 Deluxe with 52kW $2600 and the $2950 GT with 65. All came with a sweet-shifting four-speed manual until automatic transmission hit the options list in 1971. It’s worth noting that some sports models of the era still had column shifts. These included the Fiat 1500 Mark III which was replaced by the 125 in 1968, the redoubtable and unique Renault 16TS and that consummate touring car, the Peugeot 404.
It’s also true that the Capri was more stylish to most eyes, offering the promise of more urge than its four-cylinder engines could deliver.
The Capri was half a decade behind the Mustang making it one of the last cars created under Ford’s international Total Performance philosophy. The sixties really did swing for Ford under Henry II and his marketing dynamo Lee Iacocca who conceived ‘Total Performance’. In 1963 he even persuaded Henry to try to buy Ferrari!
This Mustang-inspired coupe, which debuted at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1969, was an immediate success. We think of the Capri as English but more were made in Germany. They were made in Dagenham and Halewood but also in Cologne, Saarlouis and in Genk (Belgium).
The advertising campaign branded the new Capri ‘The car you always promised yourself’, which turned out to be a selffulfilling prophecy for 1,886,647 customers (half a million of ’em in North America) by the time the last one rolled off the line six days before Christmas 1986.
This slick coupe would have been the Ford Colt (son of Mustang, and ‘Colt’ was its project name) but Mitsubishi owned the rights. ‘Capri’, despite Consul baggage was a good second choice. Following ‘Cortina’ it was Ford of Europe’s second Italian model name.
In its February 1970 edition, Wheels magazine compared the GT variant with the exciting new Torana GTR, which unsurprisingly proved much quicker with a 17.2 standing quarter mile compared with the 1.6-litre Capri’s 18.5. But Ford Australia’s answer to the Torana sixpack challenge was imminent.
On February 24, 1970 the 3-litre Capri V6 went on sale, priced at $3230. This newcomer rewrote the performance rules for cars of its size and had Mount Panorama written all over it. Not literally, but it did cash in on the GTHO’s cachet with bonnet pins and Super Roo decals. Here was the marketing genius of Ford Australia managing director Bill Bourke at work.
At once Bourke linked the V6 with the Falcon GT while distancing it by calling it the 3000 V6, rather than the 3000 GT as it was known in the UK. The 1600 GT was renamed the XL.
Both engine and gearbox were fully imported.
The 3000 V6 was assembled with 40 per cent local content.
There were vibrant new colours including a smart metallic olive green and a very light ice blue. The bonnet got matt paint and a huge scoop. Beneath it sat a reworked version of the Zodiac 3.0-litre V6. Some pundits had predicted Ford Oz would use the heavy Falcon six which would have been a recipe for lack of balance and terminal plough understeer.
Even so, the V6 understeered more than its four-cylinder siblings. Leaf springs and narrow five-inch Rostyle rims did it no dynamic favours either. With three and a third turns lock to lock on a 10.35 metre turning circle, the steering was low-geared but no more so than, say, a Fiat 125’s.
The 3000 V6 was low-geared in the fashion of the era. At its maximum speed of 114 miles per hour, engine rpm were 5,600. An overdrive would have been ideal but the Capri’s low
THE CAPRI represents a generation preceding the LX Hatch. A child of the 1960s, this mini-Mustang arrived in Australia just as the first LC Toranas were starting to appear on local roads.
German designed, the Capri was one of the very first ‘world’ cars. Three versions came to Australia initially, followed some years later by a small batch of the RS3100 model.
First here in 1969 were the basic 1600 Deluxe and 1600GT. 3.0-litre cars would follow some months later. The 1600GT we have here was available for less than a year before being replaced by a more insurancefriendly XL model.
A short production life and slow sales make the 1600GT very scarce indeed, however none of the locally-sold Capris can be considered easy pickings.
Most common are 3.0-litre V6 cars, but prices are inconsistent.
Some cars have been advertised at almost $50,000 while others in similar condition were below $35,000. Manual versions generally cost more than the three-speed automatic.
Head to a meeting of Historic racers and there will likely be a clutch of 3.0-litre cars; most of them authentic but occasionally including a converted 1600.
Looking the part is half the battle and only an issue if a vendor attempts to present a non-genuine car as something it’s not.
A more common scenario for 1.6 litre cars saw them serve as ‘donors’ for V8 engine transplants. Most have smallblock Ford V8s but cars recently for sale have had Holden and Chevrolet blocks. Prices are in keeping with current V6 values however long-term prospects for cars with non-genuine engines aren’t rosy.
Just 25 Capri RS3100s were officially imported; qualifying the model for Improved Production racing. Very few competed and the remainder occasionally appear in the market. Prices should now exceed $65,000.
floorpan precluded this. To make the gearbox more compact, Zodiac Mark IV internals were used in a Zephyr Mark III casing.
Even so, it was not the best handling car on the road with the narrow-tracked rear-end showing some willingness to wag. Leaf springs and standard five-inch rims made a sturdy contribution to such waywardness. At three and third turns lock to lock on a 10.35m turning circle, the steering was quite low-geared.
At 1070kg the 3000 GT was 155kg heavier (say two adults) than its four-cylinder predecessor but 38 extra kW and double the torque cancelled that penalty two or three times over. It would cover the zero to 100km/h sprint in 10 seconds. Few cars in the price class (read also: Bathurst class) could match its standing 400m time of 16.8 – at least until the XU-1 boomed out its own challenge a few months later.
An extremely youthful James Laing-Peach, writing in the June 1970 edition of Wheels magazine, opined: “Our cryptic summation of the four-banger Capri was – getting to be a motor car rather than just a means of transport. Feel assured the Capri V6 has gone the whole way – it is a real motor car.”
The Capri 3000 V6 had a fantastic road presence and the relatively low numbers in which it was sold gave it a real exclusivity. How I coveted one in 1970: my friend’s dark green car so often parked outside in the street would have filled the bill; If only!
BELIEVE IT or not, Peter bought his Capri to do a V8 engine transplant… but after receiving strong encouragement in the form of plenty of thumbs-ups at, and several ‘Best Classic’ and ‘Top Tudor’ trophies from, various Sydney shows for his little four-cylinder Capri, he’s having second thoughts!
“I bought it in Perth and had it trained over,” Pete explains.
“I bought it sight unseen – but from looking at a whole lot of high-res pics. It replaced a car I had last year, another red Capri that was stolen from my driveway one Sunday.”
Dammit! “I used to have an XY Falcon GT but I sold that in 2014 to help with some property finance,” he continues. “This one has some cool oldschool stuff; a louvre on the rear window, carpet on the rear parcel shelf and Voxson speakers! I’ve kept it all!”
Mechanically the car retains its original specification 1600cc four-pot and fourspeed and as you can see from our pics, with the intended V8 transplant, Peter hasn’t bothered to restore or detail the little four - yet!
Since buying the Capri, all Peter has done is fix some minor paint issues (including painting around the graftedin second exhaust cut-out for the nowunlikely V8 exhaust) replace the stripes (thanks to Nippy Signs in Sydney) and add red-band tyres.
V8 or not, Peter intends to do plenty of cruising with Sydney’s Grand Tourer Muscle Car Club and the Northern Beaches Muscle Car Club.
“I want to thank my wife Dimi for putting up with it!” laughs Peter. “My kids James and Nicola love coming cruising with me.”
BODY: Two-door coupe WEIGHT: 965kg ENGINE: 1.6lt OHV in-line four TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual (auto optional) SUSPENSION: Macpherson struts (f) Live axle with leaf springs (r) BRAKES: Disc front, drum rear POWER & TORQUE: 65kW @ 5400rpm, 130Nm @ 3600rpm
Ever considered going large?
Thunderbirds are great value.
This one with a 390 and auto is on at tradeuniquecars.com. au for $28k.
A Florida car imported in 2014, this Fairlane’s got the 289ci and has enjoyed a serious suspension, exhaust & brake overhaul. Yours for $29k on tradeuniquecars.com.au
This one’s a bit of an oddity, a LHD Nevada barn find that’s now been restored to amazing restomod condition. Track it down on tradeuniquecars.com.au for $25k.
When the LH Torana was first planned, it was to be a back-to-basics Holden along the lines of the EH to be sold for significantly less money than the HQ. But the GM-H executives ought to have heeded General Motors’ strategic mastermind, Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., who realised that it cost almost as much to build a small car as a big one, so why build the small one?
In some respects the LH was a grand plan that went awry. Late changes to bring costs down included the very simple dashboard. Even so, a comparably equipped LH Torana cost almost as much as an HQ. It was one of very few cars designed from the beginning to accommodate four-cylinder, six-cylinder or V8 engines and bequeathed this legacy to its Commodore successor.
The LH Torana was always going to be an important car but the really big news had to wait two years until its LX successor hit the market in February 1976. That news was the Hatchback variant. To bring this 4/6/V8 model to market with two different bodies proved to be too massive a task and so the Hatchback was delayed. This was perhaps just as well because there were very few changes to the LX sedans.
The only hatchback manufactured in Australia before this time was the stillborn Leyland Force 7.
Holden’s designers, headed by Leo Pruneau, did a brilliant job and most customers were prepared to accept some compromises in load space for the purity of line, which was inspired partly by the Chevrolet Monza and Opel Manta, but also by the Fiat 850.
Pruneau himself has made no secret of the similarity of the Torana’s roofline and glasshouse to the Fiat’s – check especially the kink in D-pillar.
Despite the availability of so many different engines, arguably the product planners missed some marketing opportunities with the LH. When the Hatchback arrived, there was a more interesting model mix. There were just two specification
levels, SL and SS. The former effectively anticipated the 1977 Kingswood SL which brought the Radial Tuned Suspension (RTS) revolution to the mainstream Holden range. Reclining bucket seats, carpet, pushbutton radio and other niceties which had formerly been optional joined the standard specification.
The SS was broadly comparable to the SL/R sedan, which came standard with the 3.3-litre six. Next up was the 4.2-litre variant. But only the flagship SL/R 5000 got a front air dam and rear spoiler. By contrast, all SS variants were outwardly similar.
Wisely, no four-cylinder engine was offered in the Hatchback.
Both models came standard with the 3.3-litre six-cylinder engine and four-speed manual gearbox. Six-cylinder SSs never sold in large numbers and the variant’s existence is sometimes overlooked but the fact that the marketing people offered the choice is interesting. I picture the customer desperate to own an SS Torana but just not able to afford the extra few dollars per month for a V8. It meant he could own a slower vehicle that looked exactly like the 5.0-litre edition. The advertising for the SS declared: Under the hood is a spirited ‘3300’ six. Then there’s the road-ready combination of wide-track stance, rack-and-pinion steering, sports springs and shocks, front and rear anti-sway bars, radial tyres, and power-assisted braking with front disc brakes.
The 4.2-litre and 5.0-litre V8s were optional on all Hatchbacks and so was Tri-Matic automatic transmission.
The now highly desirable Hatch Hutch option cost $65 and was rarely specified. It offered an ingenious gesture towards the panel vans that were cruising rapidly and ostentatiously into fashion: ‘if this van’s rockin’, don’t bother knocking!’
This brilliant so-70s streamline came at some cost to carrying capacity. The floor was quite high and the luggage area astonishingly shallow. The spare was housed beneath the floor where there also a small amount of extra space. Bulkier objects needed to be placed near the front seatbacks if the huge hatch was to be shut. There was a split rear seat. But the
IT IS 40 years since Holden built the first home-grown 3-door Hatch to reach production and created a Touring Car legend.
Reams have been written about that car; the famous A9X.
These words are different and dedicated to versions that are more accessible and affordable.
The Hatch came in specification levels ranging from humble to heroic. The cheapest six-cylinder car was a 3.3-litre in SL trim.
Lots of six-cylinder Hatchback Toranas were destined to disappear; re-appearing later with transplanted 5.0-litre engines and all the addenda signifying their transformation into an SS or A9X replica.
Determining how much to pay for an unmolested six-cylinder Hatch is challenging. A glance back to the Aussie Value Guide of 2006 showed the LX SL 3.3 Hatch in Cond. 1 at $8000. 4.2-litre versions of the SL cost 50 percent more and the SS 5.0-litre a hefty $18,500.
Assuming price relativities have remained constant and knowing that a very good SS will today bring around $70-80,000, the ‘six’ in similar condition should manage $30-35,000. 4.2-litre V8s in SL trim have hit $45,000 while an SS with the same engine should reach $60,000.
Modifying these cars to go faster than full-on racers doesn’t do a lot to enhance long-term value. Factory-correct SS fourspeeds in the mould of our superb photo-car are devilishly difficult to locate and values for one in this condition should soon get into six-digit territory.
Finding and buying one could prove even more daunting than working out how much to pay. There seem to be more authentic A9X Hatches on offer than SS 5.0 versions. Patience and avoiding any questionable backstories is imperative.
On-line ID guides are useful for initial research but there is no substitute for verification by someone whose credentials to undertake that task are unquestioned. Your local Torana Club knows how to find them.
planning here seemed haphazard because when the seatbacks were folded forward there was an awkward gap (through which stuff could fall) to the front seats. If people actually sat in the back, they had better be less than about 1.7 m tall. A really curious oversight is that the huge hatchback panel which was supported by a pair of gas struts could only be opened with the key outside the vehicle.
All LX Toranas got a steering column stalk for the wipers and headlight dip/flash functions (the latter being new), soft-feel steering wheel rim, plusher seats and subtly revised use of chrome and blacked-out window surrounds to lower the visual appearance.
The first RTS Holden was the four-cylinder Sunbird (November 1976) but its finest expression was the magnificent A9X which slipped onto the market in August 1977, nicely in time for the Bathurst 1000. This was just before the HZ range, making the A9X the first Holden with disc brakes all round, an amazing four and a bit years after Ford Australia’s LTD/Landau.
Hatchbacks are now far more desirable to collectors than sedans and, while the A9X is the ne plus ultra, even an entry level SL 3.3-litre six-cylinder example is hot property.
EMMANUEL MENTIS has owned his gorgeous 5.0-litre Torana SS hatch for a little over two years after buying it from a mate, Con, who found the car, recommissioned it from a long period in storage, cruised it for six months and then succumbed to Emmanuel’s pleading to sell it to him.
“I nagged him like a pissed-off wife!” laughs Emmanuel.
“As soon as I saw that green, I thought: ‘this is the one!’As far as I know, it’s one of 530 5.0-litre V8s made. It’s a Dandenong car; May 1976.”
Emmanuel is a life-long Holden enthusiast.
“I grew up with Holden. My grandfather worked on the Bedford line at Pagewood [Holden’s Sydney factory – closed in 1980] and I’ve owned a few: a VB Commodore; a VH Group Three that I drag-raced for a decade. But I decided to slow down; you know - too old, too loud, too expensive!”
The time-warp Torana has had a few detail items refreshed, such as the stickers in the engine bay.
The paint has had a few touch-ups over the years. Inside, the stereo is the only item that isn’t 41 years old.
The red-band tyres are a nod to the cool kids of the 1970s an circle the ultra-rare hubcaps and specific-to-SS steel wheels. With 220,000km on the clock, the car remains mechanically standard and – more to the point – original, right down to the points in the distributor and the terrific hollow burble from the twin exhaust.
“I thought about repainting it,” explains Emmanuel. “But it’s too nice the way it is and I’d be more worried about it. Plenty have been ruined with twopack paint.”
BODY: Two-door coupe WEIGHT: 1780kg ENGINE: 5.0lt (308ci) OHV V8 TRANSMISSION: 4-speed M21 (optional auto) SUSPENSION: Radial Tuned Suspension package, coil spring wishbone/A-arm (f) and live axle with coil springs (r) BRAKES: 254mm hydraulic disc (f), 228mm hydraulic drums (r) POWER & TORQUE: 170kW @ 4800rpm, 434Nm @ 3400rpm
Recently featured as one of our cover cars, this Camaro comes with a 327 and auto.
For sale at tradeuniquecars. com.au for $46,900.
Ever considered hitting the track? This example at tradeuniquecars.com.au claims 300 horses and is priced at $27,000.
This modified Torana is running a 355 cube V8 and four-speed transmission. at tradeuniquecars.com.au for $43,000.