Morning Qualifying – The Car You Always Promised Yourself edition

Mr. Lauda and Mr. Hezemans at the Norisring, 1974

The early 1970’s saw BMW and Ford locked in an automotive steel cage match for supremacy in the ETCC (that’s the European Touring Car Championship).   For Team Propellerhead, their weapon of choice was the E9 3.0 CSL. Tuned and prepared by Alpina, Schnitzer and BMW’s works team, the CSL was fearsome machine.   Not one the back away from a challenge, the Blue Oval Gang, Cologne chapter, countered with the Capri RS 2600.   It’s Essex V6, modified with a Weslake head, made it durable and competitive with the E9.   In spite of their large expenditure of men, material and cash, the RS 2600 wasn’t the winner that Ford was hoping for. Between 1970 and 1973, Ford found themselves perpetually in 2nd place in the Manufacturer’s championship behind Alfa Romeo or BMW.  And 2nd place would not be good enough.

The Jochen Mass/Niki Lauda RS 3100 at the 1974 Nurburgring 6 Hours. Photo by Rainer Schlegelmilch

In 1974, a change in regulations allowed teams competing in Group 2 to use engines with a maximum displacement of 3.5 liters and the use of a 4 valve cylinder head.  BMW introduced it’s ultimate E9, the 3.5 CSL “Batmobile”.   Ford once again turned to Cosworth, whose solution was the aluminum 3.4 liter GAA V6.   With quad overhead cams, Lucas fuel injection and 4 valves per cylinder, the GAA was good for 430 hp at 8750 rpms.  Couple the GAA’s might with aerodynamic tweeks, including an adjustable front spoiler and a BIG duck tail spoiler, and the Capri RS 3100 was loaded for bear.   Once the Ford works team swapped the Lucas fuel injection for a Kuglefisher set up, it was all over for BMW.  Ford swept 4 of the 6 races on the ETCC calendar and chased the works BMW team from the grid by season’s end.   Sadly, no rematch was forthcoming as the fuel crisis would remove both Ford and BMW factory support from touring car racing for the rest of the decade.



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  1. TX_Stig Avatar

    This is only mildly on topic, but there are some days that I really despise a particular facet of our car culture here. The one that really bothers me is the "bigger must be better" part. If we hadn't been stuck on landyachts and other rather large cars in which we could take everything that we could possibly need on vacation with us, we might have been able to have some of these smaller, lighter rear wheel drive cars brought over as part of the malaise era. Granted, by now they would still be rusting heaps, but it might have staved off some of the 70's and early 80's aborted attempts at efficiency. Oh well, time to get back to looking for my dream car.

    1. TurboBrick Avatar

      They did sell them. Ford Capris were rebadged as Mercurys and GM sold Opels through Buick dealerships.

      1. tonyola Avatar

        Right, and they sold pretty well too for a time. What really killed off the European Capris and the Opels was the strengthening of the Deutschmark against the dollar – the German-sourced cars became too expensive to sell at a profit anymore.

    2. tonyola Avatar

      Sorry, but that's not an accurate statement. Look how quickly Americans embraced small cars after Fuel Crisis I. Suddenly the streets were filled with Japanese cars. Ford sold a fair number of Capris in the US, too. A lot of European makers would have loved to sell their performance cars in the US, but they would have to spend huge amounts of money meeting US safety, impact, and emission requirements. That's what kept a lot of interesting cars offshore. The makers didn't feel that sales would have made up for the expense – particularly for high-price limited specials like the RS 3100 and CSL Batmobile. Don't blame the US buyers as much as the regulatory environment.

      1. TurboBrick Avatar

        It's quite interesting to remember how far behind European countries were in regards to enacting any kind of emission controls. There was no central regulatory body back then either, so these things could vary from one country to another. Unleaded gasoline wasn't a requirement until mid-to-late 80's, you could sell a car without a catalytic converter into the early 90's and I think Lada Samara and 2105/7 were the last to give up their carburetors after the '94 model year.
        There was no "smog era" either in Europe like in the US where power output went down all of a sudden – they spent their R&D developing US compliant models while doing business as usual with carbs and no cats for local markets. When the regulators caught up 15 – 20 years later, they just swapped out the Solexes for Bosch EFI systems and it was all "Good news, we've decided to offer fuel injection even on your base model Vectra, power and mileage are going up".

    3. Lotte Avatar

      But we (as in NA) do have a small car culture! It's in the form of EG Civics and CRXs with really high output engines (and neon paints and underglow, thankfully not all of them…) But as you say everything is bigger in Texas and I find that fascinating when it is brought overseas:
      <img src="; width="500">
      Gigantic Camaro racing a tiny Mini Cooper! How cool is that! *from <a href="” target=”_blank”>
      I don't think it's a bad thing to embrace the 'bigger is better' mentality (if we're talking about racing and musclecars; I won't miss the Escalade-driving suburbanite) It's kind of fun and it wouldn't be possible anywhere else. Or for long, actually. It seems to be an American phenomenon and for better or worse it won't last. I'll enjoy it while I can.

      1. TX_Stig Avatar

        I suppose the reason that I wish it were easier to find some of the truly lighter weight Malaise era cars from overseas, is just for the oddity of them compared to what we normally see on the streets here. I already have a fun to drive FWD car that is a little odd(hot rod TDI named the diesel mutant ninja turtle by one of my coworkers). So now I am wanting an odd RWD car to tinker with. Probably a good choice is a Volvo 240 Turbo.

        1. Lotte Avatar

          Yep, seems to work both ways; bring the small cars here to break up the monotony.
          And it seems the dudes above have a diverse list of odd RWD cars, too 😉

          1. TX_Stig Avatar

            Indeed, looks like I have plenty of food for thought on the subject. No hurry on the next project, anyway. The TDI still has plenty of life left in it(only 215k mi). Besides, it needs more turbo anyway. The goal is to have traction issues in all 5 gears on a wet road. I only have that in the first 4. Haha.

      2. Richard_Slap Avatar

        Looks like that Camaro is actually racing a Hillman Imp 🙂

  2. TX_Stig Avatar

    Fair enough, perhaps its partly my location that prevents me from seeing many of such cars. Maybe its just the sheer age of the cars of that era. They are just not around in any sort of decent condition that I have seen. Could also be the "everything's bigger in Texas" didn't help sell small cars too much, either. Thanks for correcting my opinion. I will have to have a look and see what I can find around here.

    1. OA5599 Avatar

      I knew a couple of Texans with them in the late 70's-early 80's, but they were $500 cars by then. If something broke, it was often easier and cheaper to buy another beater that ran than to fix what you already had, so many of these went on a one-way trip to the junkyard.

    2. P161911 Avatar

      Try looking through Criagslist for Southern California and San Fransisco areas. Seems that most of the ones left live there.
      Up until 25 or 30 years ago most Import sales were either on the East or West Coast and even then things were regionalized. Subarus were commonplace in the Northeast, but an oddity anywhere else. In the early years other minor Japanese brands weren't seen far from the West Coast.

  3. engineerd Avatar

    According to the Pedia of Wikiness, 250 Capri RS3100s were sold to the public for homologation.
    /Runs off to empty bank account, short the dollar, and hunt down available RS3100.

  4. Sudden1 Avatar

    I do wonder though if the results had been different had Mass and Lauda been behind the wheel of the Batmobile.

    1. scroggzilla Avatar

      BMW's factory team had Hans Stuck and Jacky Ickx. Sounds like a fair fight to me.

      1. BGW Avatar

        But Stuck's yodeling skills would go unmatched amongst the Ford crew.

  5. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    Always liked that Capri model. Never knew they raced the bejeezus out of it.

    1. scoutdude Avatar

      They even produced an AWD version for rallye work, briefly.

    2. Joe Dunlap Avatar
      Joe Dunlap

      One of those Capri's made it here to the IMSA series in 74. I have a picture of it at Laguna Seca somewhere in my stash. Truely awesome vehicle.

  6. Slow Joe Crow Avatar
    Slow Joe Crow

    Minor pedant moment: The RS2600 is actually based on the Cologne block, although the RS3100 and GAA are Essex blocks.

    1. BlackIce_GTS Avatar

      When I read 'Ford GAA', I thought of something else;
      <img src=""&gt;

  7. Black Steelies Avatar

    Enough already!
    Haha jk, I think we all do.

  8. Black Steelies Avatar

    Take off that heavy passenger wiper and you have a car that literally floats down the road.. and around corners.

  9. zoggferry Avatar

    I had a 73 Capri when I was 19 in the late 80's. I bought it from my girlfriends dad. The V6 hooked to the 4 speed tranny…that thing was an absolute riot to drive. By that time in it's life it was looking pretty rough, which made it all the more fun stomp fieros and camaros on the streets. If given the chance I would jump all over getting another one.

  10. TimWilliams Avatar

    I was impressed with them back then.. around 1974 or so,I knew a guy with one, and he had done something with it and would compete quite nicely with the BMW 2002 that we ran around with, as well as some alfa and a 911.
    Didn't know anyone with more expensive hotter cars tho there was a DR. with a Daytona and a 365gtb in his garage my uncle knew well.
    Mercury Capri. Pretty good car and unique looks. I think one of the Toyotas copied it's look.