This 1974 Ford Capri Brings the Muscle to Rally Racing
Last seen at Summer Sno*Drift, this 1974 Ford Capri is a sight for sore eyes. Being a European model, it lacks the unsightly large bumpers installed on the U.S. versions, and the flowing muscly curves are rarely seen on modern day rally cars. It is a true gem among the more commonly seen (and exceedingly competitive) Subarus and Mitsubishis.
At first glance, it could be mistaken for a Ford Escort, and although it is similarly constructed, the European Capri is a larger vehicle overall. Olsen chose this chassis because he longed for a European RWD Ford Escort, which was never sold in the U.S.; however, Lincoln/Mercury dealers sold the European-built Capris in the states in the 1970s.
Bob Olsen built the car approximately 10 years ago. The only original parts remaining are the upper body shell, the windshield, heater, wipers and some body trim. Otherwise, everything else is extensively modified or replaced with alternate components to form a vintage rally car that can really take a beating.
The Capri’s dazzling good looks were what caught our eyes first, but a peek under the hood had us drooling. This car is home to a Ford Duratec 2.3-liter, 4-cylinder engine built by Cosworth Engineering. The naturally aspirated setup features barrel valve fuel injectors and dry-sump oiling, and it delivers 250 horsepower without the need for a turbocharger. A close ratio Ford Sierra Cosworth T5 transmission makes banging through gears a breeze.
To handle the most rugged terrain, the front suspension is equipped with a custom-fabricated cross member, spindles and control arms. The sugar on top is a Sweet brand oval track power steering rack and DMS front struts from a Subaru WRX.
A glimpse under the rear end reveals more custom fabrication, including a 3-link setup with a track bar and PRO brand coilover oval track shocks. The floating, cambered Ford 9-inch 5.14:1 ring-and-pinion rear axle paired with a locking differential puts the power to the ground.
A set of drilled Wilwood four-piston calipers clamped around larger-than-life 12x1.25-inch rotors encourage exceptional heat dispersal, which in turn allows the driver to break harder stop-after-stop while dodging obstacles and sliding around corners.
Despite his rarin’ to go, rally-prepped dream Capri calling him to the driver’s seat, Bob Olsen has since retired from Rally driving to focus on his business, the Danza Sol Winery in Temecula, California. Luckily for rally fans, SCCA Pro Rally champion driver and Rally America competition director Mike Hurst was more than happy to take the wheel.
“Bob and I are both from Minnesota," Hurst explained, "and we raced against each other for several years before Bob gave up driving." Considering his admirable history in Rally, which began with the 1982 Northern Lights Rally in Houghton Lake, Michigan, as well as his experience as a former mechanic and pit crew member for NASCAR legend David Pearson in the 1980s, Hurst and the Ford Capri make a perfect pair. Also on the team is co-driver Michel Hoche-Mong from San Jose, California. He is an accomplished rally driver, usually seen piloting his VW Golf in West Coast events. Former rally driver and Speedway Specialty owner Eric Schroeder of Indianapolis, Indiana, is the team’s mechanic.
Hurst’s love for this Capri is evident, as is his love for rally racing.
“For me, it’s all about the driving experience and the classic sound and sideways feel of a high-winding, naturally aspirated RWD car,” he said. “The real competition is the unknown and weather-beaten environment, and you are competing against the road, not just other competitors.”
Grassroots Rally culture is a friendly but competitive niche that attracts all ages and experience levels.
"Fortunately for the future of the sport, most competitors are much younger than me!” Hurst exclaimed.