This article on John's Ford Capri was originally published in the October 2018 issue of Street Machine
MOST street machiners will have at least one car from their childhood that occupies a special place in their heart. John Saad is no different. He has a garage chock-a-block with killer rides – including the FAT XY Falcon (SM, Nov ’17) and the Summernats 29 Grand Champion-winning FATRX3 Mazda (SM, Jan ’17) – but it was this ’69 Capri that stopped him in his tracks when he was an impressionable teenager.
Watch next: John Saad's FAT XY debuts at MotorEx
With a blown 432-cube Dart Windsor up front, a tubbed and four-linked rear end, and a big set of meats hiding in the rear, it is no wonder the little British coupe burned itself into John’s brain.
Read next : Full feature - John's FATRX3 Mazda RX-3
“This Capri is a legendary car that I’ve known about since I was 18 or 19 years old,” John says. “The guy who built it, Julian, married my cousin. He later rebuilt the car, and then it disappeared for 10 years. I never cruised around in it, but I remember seeing it at events like Summernats and Powercruise, as well as seeing it around. Eventually, I got a hold of Julian and asked him if he wanted to sell, and he did.”
As we know, street machines don’t always survive the years unscathed; some get pulled apart for upgrades and then sold off in bits, while others get thrashed into the scrap yard. Thankfully for John, the Capri had been in dry storage, so it wasn’t a huge job to recommission it.
Even the normally frosty New South Wales Highway Patrol love John’s silver fox: “I got pulled over in it the day before All Ford Day,” John explains. “They went past me, did a U-turn, pulled me over and the first thing the policeman said was: ‘Don’t stress, I just want a look at it!’ He was building an XY, and said as long as I wasn’t speeding they were happy just to check it out”
“When I saw it, the car was sitting in this huge shed, covered in dust,” John says. “I could tell it had just been sitting there, and it would have scared a lot of people off seeing it like that as they would worry about how much it would cost to fix it all up. But I saw past the risk and saw the Capri’s potential.”
Read next: 1100hp blown Ford Capri
John took stock Capri front struts, fitted Koni inserts and welded on new spring perches to make his own coil-overs. The front end also has adjustable control arms. The rear has a four-link set-up, suspended by Strange coil-overs
Now, although it could have been put back on the road fairly easily, John admits he got a little carried away. “I can’t do things in half measures! It was just going to be a tidy-up, and then it was fully stripped. It’s an events car – the car wasn’t meant to be as nice as it is! It was already silver, which I loved, so we scuffed the paint back and fixed a couple of little imperfections. The car had been painted 10 years before and nothing had come up through that, so it was a good shell!
“After I stripped it I had my mate Scott Barter powdercoat everything on the car,” John continues. “Plus I put the wheels on it, as all my cars have Simmons rims, and I also had it fully retrimmed, as it used to have a black ’cage and green trim.”
While the body was tickety-boo, the engine also only needed a little work to modernise it, ready to run on Sydney streets.
John knew the 20x7 and 22x12 Simmons FRs were going to get a run, as they’re a signature of his cars, but the orange hue threw a few people. “I told Scotty from Oxytech to powdercoat them orange and he questioned me, but I knew it’d look great and as soon as everyone saw them under the car they got it.” Brakes are now five-stud Ford items, with XF discs up front and drums out back, operated by a Tilton pedal box
“The whole engine set-up has been left alone,” says John. “We ripped the heads off and got them serviced. It also had an Autronic ECU and ran on premium unleaded, so we put the Haltech on it and tuned it for E85. We didn’t touch the rest of the motor, as ProFlo built that and it is a good combo. I spoke to Paul Sant from ProFlo and he said the set-up was huge money years ago. I also fitted a bigger PWR radiator. It would overheat so you couldn’t use it on the street, so I made it more street-friendly.”
It’s safe to say this Capri’s luggage-hauling days are over, with most of the boot-space occupied by a mammoth fuel cell that feeds the E85 to the Siemens 2400cc injectors up front
The base of the build is a Dart Windsor block, stuffed with good gear like Oliver rods and a Callies crank, with aluminium cylinder heads by Edelbrock topped by a custom sheet-metal intake manifold. Worn like a crown above that is the 8/71 Mooneyham pump, squeezing atmosphere moistened by Siemens 2400cc injectors. It made 673rwhp on 6psi after Justin from Horsepower Solutions tickled the Haltech Elite 2500 ECU.
The tough Henry is backed up by a two-speed Powerglide built by Al’s Race Glides, and a three-inch tailshaft that won’t turn into a pretzel. Out back the nine-inch diff has copped a huge chop to fit between the big wheel tubs, with a Strange centre and axles, plus street-friendly 3:1 gears.
John knew the basic engine platform was solid, so he concentrated on making the fit and finish ridiculously neat. “I had everything polished and cleaned so it looked awesome, which is overboard for a car that was just meant to be used at events, but once I started I couldn’t stop!”
“The car was tubbed to fit a 15x10 Convo Pro, but when Julian raced it, he had a 29x11 slick under the back,” John explains. “We put a 22x12-inch wheel and 335/25 tyre under the back, as it doesn’t have the sidewall bag a slick does – people don’t realise how big that tub is under the back!”
While some block off their birdcatcher throttles to tame their street-driven blown set-ups, John had no such worries with his combo. “I asked Justin if he wanted me to weld the butterflies to help driveability, but he told me I wouldn’t need to, and it definitely doesn’t. As long as you ease into the throttle, you can’t even stall it!”
Now that John has fully optimised the car, he’s been pondering how he might put it to best use. “I might drag race it, but I’m not a big drag racer,” he muses. “I like to do Powercruise and Summernats, and now the weather is warming up I will take it to roll racing. But I drive it everywhere, and I take it out once a week. The way Justin tuned it, it drives like a normal car. As long as you ease onto the accelerator, it drives like my daily.
John had the rollcage resprayed silver and the trim colour changed to slick black for both the Recaro seats and carpet, not to mention the stock-style dash shell. The old days of Auto Meter gauges are done thanks to having all the important readouts in the Haltech IQ3 digital dash, while a B&M ratchet handles shifting duties
“But I can’t take credit for the car, really,” he continues. “I’ve made it my own, but 90 per cent of the car was Julian, and he deserves the credit for it. At one stage I was offered money for it, but I couldn’t do it.”
The quality of the tinwork that was carried out back when the car was first built is evident in the photo below left, with the custom wheel tubs and back seat in-fill panels swaged for strength and to give the custom work a stylish look
If you’re lucky enough to end up owning the car that fired your imagination as a youngster, why would you sell it?
1969 FORD CAPRI
Colour: PPG Silver
Type: Dart Ford Windsor
Heads: Edelbrock alloy
Blower: 8/71 Mooneyham
Inlet: Custom sheet-metal
ECU: Haltech 2500 Elite
Fuel system: 2400cc Siemens injectors
Ignition system: MSD grid
’Box: GM two-speed Powerglide
Converter: TCE 4800rpm stall
Diff: Ford 9in, Strange Engineering 35-spline axles, 3:1 final drive
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Front: Custom springs, Koni shocks
Rear: Strange coil-overs
Chassis: Adjustable front control arms, four-link rear, mini-tubbed
Brakes: XF Falcon disc brakes (f), drums (r); Tilton pedal box
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheels: Simmons FR; 20x7 (f), 22x12 (r)
Tyres: 225/30 (f), 335/25 (r)