At the end of my last post : My First Car. I was stuck in lodgings in Shoreham with a written off car and no real means to buy another one. I needed something now and cheap – didn’t really matter what it was and there was certainly no need to go for anything “big and fast” as I had already shown myself to be incapable of keeping it on the black stuff. But then you’re getting used to my buying track record by now so won’t be at all surprised to learn that I bought a rally prepared Capri RS3100 !
What use is a rally car when all you need is basic transport – what was I thinking? Well I did have a plan and the car was local and only cost £150. Why so cheap ? It was a part completed, abandoned project and an MOT failure! My thinking was that I have a written off Capri which apart from the body shell is in perfect mechanical condition, so I ought to be able to make one decent car out of the two of them…
The plan was slightly flawed because the RS was a Mk1 model and there were a lot of changes when they introduced the Mk2 and the RS didn’t need lots of mechanical components anyway (even if they did fit), what it needed was welding and lots of it! Did I mention I had never done any welding before…?
The RS3100 model was a “homologation special” to allow Ford to compete in Touring Car Racing. The rules specify that to be able to race the car you have to make a certain number (not sure how many in this case) available to the public. Over the years there have been some great “drivers cars” that wouldn’t have existed if not for this regulation. The RS version of the Capri had a bored out engine, different suspension, revised bodywork with a front air dam, duck tail spoiler on the boot lid and flared arches. Genuine RS3100s are now very collectable and valuable as there are probably not many left.
Was my cheap car a genuine RS3100? I don’t actually know.. but think it unlikely. It did have a 3100 engine, spoilers, flared arches, stripped out interior, bucket seats and extremely stiff suspension. My car looked just like the one in the picture above even down to the “racing” bonnet pins, except that mine was white (once again I don’t have a picture of the actual car). Apart from the colour the only other difference that I can spot is the wheels – my car had the bulbous arches, but was fitted with standard wheels which looked rather anorexic. I think the owner had flogged them off separately as he was off-loading the car on the cheap.
So having bought a cheap car I then moved out of Derek’s place and into a farm cottage near Small Dole with Alan Wall (MGB Roadster) and Gary Dwyer (TR7) who both worked at Ricardo. We towed the wrecked 3.0S there and my plan was to dismantle it, use what parts I needed for the RS and sell as much as I could to try to recoup some money.
Doug stayed on at Derek’s and, shortly after I had moved out, managed to write off his own car – which then took up the recently vacated space on Derek’s drive! Actually it was our mutual friend “Strad” who wrote the car off – he fell asleep one night on the way back from a kart racing weekend with Doug asleep in the passenger seat beside him. Derek was not amused..
In trying to reconstruct these events from memory there is one bit I haven’t been able to fathom – if the RS had no MOT, how was I able to use it to get around…?
At the farmhouse the strip of the 3.0S got underway – there was no garage so I was working outside and by now it was winter and cold. Having barely started on the job the tenant farmer asked me to move it as the farm owner was coming to visit. I remember driving it down the road to a scout camp site for a couple of days, hoping I wouldn’t be spotted – in spite of the caved in front, roof and lack of windscreen the car was still driveable. After that the strip went ahead and I was able to sell many of the major parts – engine, gearbox, rear hatch, windscreen. I then had to pay a scrap merchant to come and collect the shell.
The RS needed a lot of welding – new sills, some floopan repairs and repairing the front crossmember. I borrowed Dougie’s gas welding kit, taught myself to weld and got on with it – usually working after work in the cold and dark. The interior had been stripped out but I managed to just about make the carpets from the 3.0S fit. I was welding short runs to join sections of metal and decided to go over the repair with fibreglass and underseal to protect it. However, this backfired as, when I took the car for an MOT, the inspector said the repair was sub-standard because it looked like I had just fibreglassed some of the repairs and then undersealed over the area as a cover up. So I had to take it home and then burn the extra layers off with the gas torch to expose the bare metal and my welds in all their glory. The other item the car failed on was the front suspension which was so stiff that the inspector thought it was seized. The makeshift solution to this was to change the oil in the suspension struts to a lighter grade – the springs were still stiff but at least the dampers now allowed some movement.
So now I had a running cheap car, but it was pretty crap – noisy, very harsh, very little grip (on the narrow tyres fitted), but at least it was worth more than I paid for it. Rather than persevere with trying to develop the skills to control the car properly I decided the car was at fault and didn’t want to repeat the mistake I had made with my first Capri – so I decided to sell it and look for something with more grip…