The Capri Mk III was referred to internally as “Project Carla”, and although little more than a substantial update of the Capri II, it was often referred to as the Mk III. The first cars were available in March 1978, but failed to halt a terminal decline in sales. The concept of a heavily facelifted Capri II was shown at the 1976 Geneva show: a Capri II with a front very similar to the Escort RS2000 (with four headlamps and black slatted grille), and with a rear spoiler, essentially previewed the model some time before launch. The new styling cues, most notably the black “Aeroflow” grille (first used on the Mk I Fiesta) and the “sawtooth” rear lamp lenses echoed the new design language being introduced at that time by Ford of Europe’s chief stylist Uwe Bahnsen across the entire range. Similar styling elements were subsequently introduced in the 1979 Cortina 80, 1980 Escort Mk III and the 1981 Granada Mk IIb. In addition, he Mk III featured improved aerodynamics, leading to improved performance and economy over the Mk II and the trademark quad headlamps were introduced.
At launch the existing engine and transmission combinations of the Capri II were carried over, with the 3.0 S model regarded as the most desirable model although the softer Ghia derivative with automatic, rather than manual transmission, was the bigger seller of the two V6-engined models.
Mk III models available:
- Capri L (1.3, 1.6)
- Capri LS (1.6)
- Capri GL (1.6, 2.0)
- Capri S (1.6, 2.0, 2.3, 3.0)
- Capri Laser (1.6, 2.0)
- Capri Ghia (2.0, 3.0)
- Capri 2.8 Injection (2.8)
- Capri 2.8 Injection Special (2.8)
- Capri 280 (2.8)
Special limited addition trimmed models:
- Capri Cabaret I and II (1.6, 2.0)
- Capri Calypso I and II (1.6)
- Capri Cameo (1.3, 1.6)
- Capri GT4 (1.6, 2.0)
- Capri Tempo (1.3, 1.6)
Ford began to focus their attention on the UK Capri market as sales declined, realising the car had something of a cult following there. Unlike sales of the contemporary 4-door Cortina, Capri sales in Britain were to private buyers who would demand less discounts than fleet buyers allowing higher margins with the coupé. Ford tried to maintain interest in 1979 with Ford Rallye Sport, Series X, “X Pack” options from the performance oriented RS parts range. Although expensive and slow selling these proved that the press would enthusiastically cover more developed Capris with higher performance.
Despite being the most popular sporting model in Britain for most of its production life, the third generation Capri was also one of the most stolen cars in Britain during the 1980s and early 1990s, being classified as “high risk” of theft in a Home Office report.
The 3.0 S was used extensively in the TV series The Professionals, with characters Bodie driving a silver 3.0 S and Doyle a gold 3.0 S, which was credited with maintaining interest in the car in the UK.