What is a Tickford Capri ?




"Some years ago I owned a Tickford Capri Turbo with which I formed a love/hate relationship.  It was a real eyeful, went like a rat up a drainpipe and was the most unreliable thing imaginable."


Not a quote from me, but the beginning of an article that appeared in Autocar & Motor June 1990 where John Coates was discussing the motor trade.  Having been a Capri enthusiast since childhood and involved with the Tickford Turbo since its creation, I sort-of appreciate what he means. 

My own car has cost me a fortune since I first bought him back in 1989, but the sheer pleasure of driving a Tickford Capri is priceless.  Do your research and look up how many cars, even modern ones, can accelerate from 50 - 70mph in 3.8 seconds and 50 - 80mph in 4.4 seconds!



  Mock-up engine displayed on the company stand at the Motorshow  
  but sadly, nobody knows its whereabouts now  


At the heart of the Tickford Capri was a standard 2.8i Cologne V6 engine and its Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, but with the addition of an IHI RHB6 turbo and Garrett AiResearch intercooler.  Tickford chose to mount the turbo at the front in the centre to balance the exhaust gasses from either side of the engine and minimise heating of the charged air.

Tickford's primary objective was to improve low speed torque.  Most turbo conversions at the time used a Garrett turbo, but Tickford selected the IHI unit because it was physically smaller and so would spin-up quickly to generate early boost.

What is often not appreciated, is the fact that by mounting the turbo so far forward,  the resultant long primary manifold pipes provided a pulse-tuned breathing improvement at lower speeds when the turbo was not at its most efficient.

Some "turbo lag" between opening the throttle and the turbo winding up to speed is inevitable, so to ensure that the engine worked well in those few seconds of "normally aspirated" operation, Tickford retained the standard compression ratio of 9.2:1 where most other turbocharged cars ran a lower compression ratio.  Employing the over-size Garrett intercooler to keep the air cold and dense also helped.

Running a compression ratio of 9.2:1 with even modest boost of 7.5psi would be a recipe for detonation disaster, so Tickford employed a bespoke ignition advance / retard system based on the ECU from an RS1600i Escort, modified by the manufacturer, AFT in Germany.  The ECU was driven by a magnetic sensor on the flywheel and in turn, controlled a second ECU that opened a 7th fuel injector at maximum boost above 3500rpm.  Simple by modern standards, but very effective - under test, the injector would fill a milk bottle in nano-seconds!


  The 7th injector - straight into the boosted airflow which helped  
  to provide an even distribution of fuel in the plenum chamber  


The Tickford conversion wasn't just a simple matter of bolting on a turbo and some plumbing - the entire front of the car had to be redesigned along with the layout of the engine bay.  To make all this possible, the complete engine had to be temporarily removed from the vehicle.


  An uprated 6-row radiator with an electric cooling fan, intercooler and  
  16-row oil cooler all had to be squeezed under the front valance  


  There is much more to the front of a Tickford than meets the eye!  
  The blank front grille and slot in the spoiler force air to go where it is needed  
  What is not so obvious is that Tickford spent 6 hours of labour per car  
  subtly changing the profile of the bonnet so it looked right with their blank grille!  


To make room for the Garrett intercooler and the enormous charge air pipe coming out of it, the Bosch fuel injection meter had to be moved to the opposite side of the engine bay.  This entailed removal of the battery tray and the moving of the battery itself to the boot which improved weight distribution.  The air filter lived inside the front wing and was force-fed cool air via the slot in the front spoiler. 


  It is quite hard to find a photo of the air filter as you have to take the wing off first!  
  New battery cable running all the way from the boot to the engine bay  


The IHI turbo conveniently sat where the standard Capri radiator used to be.


The engine bay of a standard 160bhp 2.8i Ford Capri The Tickford engine bay - Spot the Difference !


The result was an engine that produced 205bhp at 5000rpm and a whopping 260 ft lb of torque above 3500rpm!  At only 2000rpm, the torque was double that of a standard 2.8i Capri!  Believe me - it doesn't push you into the back of the seat, it pushes you through the back of the seat! 

Many early reviews of the Tickford Capri complained about its turbo lag, which certainly was very noticeable, but Tickford designed it that way for a reason.  The car is extremely docile and economic if you drive it the way the DSA would like.  When you want to overtake, drop it down a couple of gears and by the time you have considered Mirror / Signal / Manoeuvre, the revs have reached 3500rpm and then everything happens very very quickly!  Before you are even level with the car you are overtaking, you'll be shifting onto the brakes ready to move back in again.

Tickford gave a great explanation of turbo lag in the supplemental workshop manual that was provided for all owners along with the standard Ford handbook.


  To me, this is more proof that Tickford always intended there to be a significant lag so  
  that the car would be easy to drive at low speeds without the turbo cutting-in  
  too quickly and frightening the driver!  



To get all that horsepower onto the road successfully, Tickford had to modify the regular 5-speed gearbox to improve lubrication between input shaft and main shaft.  Ford later incorporated those improvements into its stock gearboxes for the 2.8i Capri.  The clutch remained standard, but many owners have since upgraded to a Cosworth clutch which is very straightforward to fit and much tougher.

The Atlas rear axle in the early 2.8i Capris did not have a limited slip differential, so Tickford contracted-out the building of their own to a company called Dave Cook Racing.  They used a ZF differential with 40% locking.  The later Capri 2.8i Specials had a 25% limited slip diff as standard, so the bespoke Tickford diff was not needed on the later cars they built......but.......the early version was a better spec.

DC Racing's work did not end there.  A finned alloy back plate was fitted on the axle casing to keep temperatures down.  This was very successful and reduced temperatures by up to 10 degrees centigrade.

Stopping power was provided by standard 2.8i Capri ventilated discs with Don 600 pads on the front and an upgrade to 10.43 inch diameter solid rear discs.  The stock Capri at the time was unbelievably still using drums on the rear!  The Tickford's rear brake calipers were based on Peugeot 504 components.

DC Racing's final job was converting the half-shafts from a semi-floating to fully-floating configuration as commonly found on racing cars and big lorries...............


  The standard semi-floating Atlas axle  
  The half-shaft (18) runs through a bearing (17) and the road wheels  
  are bolted directly to it - the half-shaft is therefore bearing the  
  full weight of the vehicle  


Further drawing of a semi-floating half-shaft The fully-floating design
The half-shaft will bend under the weight of the vehicle The road wheels rotate on bearings around the axle casing
and the forces are hinging on one point - the bearing and the half-shaft is attached to the wheel hub - it now only
  has to deal with the torsional loads from the transmission


  The finished rear axle awaiting installation  



Rear suspension was tweaked with Polymer spacing washers fitted either side of the forward bushes.  This eliminated any play between the bushes and box section of the chassis where they were attached.

Additional locating arms braced the axle to the leaf springs - this stopped the axle from moving sideways.  A neat trick was then the pre-tensioning of the rear suspension components by placing a specific weight of 68Kg above the centre of the spare wheel in the boot before tightening all the bolts!


  Rare sketch of the rear axle and suspension components  


  View showing the extra locating arms bolted between  
  the axle and leaf springs  


For the front suspension, Tickford retained the standard 2.8i MacPherson struts with Bilstein inserts.  Some owners have upgraded to roller bearing top mounts, but this was never offered as a factory option.  Tickford did originally intend to use roller bearing mounts, but it was one upgrade that had to be axed to keep the cost of the vehicle within target. 


Standard top mount for the MacPherson struts The roller bearing mount as on my car Build 002


Same can be said about the Polymer bushes for the leaf springs that were listed on the original press release documentation, but never made it to the production models.

No matter - the improvements that Tickford did make still produced a Capri that really held the road well.


The end result was a "true 140mph supercar" with a stunning 0-60mph time of just 6.7 seconds



  Acceleration times from 0-30mph through to 0-120mph  
  Figures originally published by the late Mick Millward, organiser of the Tickford Register  





  30 2.5  
  40 3.9  
  50 5.2  
  60 6.7  
  70 8.9  
  80 11.3  
90 14.3
  100 18.2  
  110 22.9  
  120 30.8  
  140 You need to be concentrating on the brakes rather than the clock by then !  


*  Note that no times are available below 30mph as nobody ever drives them that slow !


These performance figures were obtained using a maximum boost of 7.5psi and the turbo wastegate was fitted with a tamper-proof seal to ensure that owners were not tempted to wind it up! 

However, on the original Motorshow car and demonstrator FMJ624Y, Tickford quite often had the boost set at 10-12psi.  I cannot begin to imagine what the acceleration must have been like!  Presumably Tickford were more concerned about impressing potential customers than having to re-build the engine and drivetrain every few weeks!

It is interesting to note that in the pre-production 1982 press release, the boost was quoted as being 8.5psi, but it had become 7.5psi by the time of the 1983 press release when the car entered production.


  FMJ624Y on a test track, boosted to within an inch of its life!  


You have to feel a bit sorry for FMJ624Y as it looked beautiful in the early photo shoots and at the 1982 Motorshow, but subsequently had a hard life being used for numerous road tests and customer demonstrations.  And then to cap it all, the car disappeared without trace! 


  As a workhorse, the engine bay of FMJ624Y was becoming a little tatty  
  and even the plastic retaining clip for the bonnet support was broken!  
The engine bay photo highlights a number of differences and points worth mentioning:
Both the early prototype cars FMJ624Y and FMJ625Y were supplied as blue over silver 2.8i Capris and then re-sprayed by
Tickford, who decided that the engine bay of FMJ624Y would look better in black to show off the engine and ancillaries.
FMJ624Y didn't have the brass Tickford VIN plate on the front valance - more like a load of plates stuck on top of each other.
There was a black box on the main bulkhead above the brake servo with wires everywhere - not sure what this was.
The main air pipe running between intercooler and plenum chamber was made up of several black sections
where on all the other cars, it was a beautiful one-piece stainless steel affair.
Note the tarnished exhaust exiting from the turbo and dis-coloured water reservoir - symptoms of heat build-up.
The heat shields around the main exhaust were missing - they were supposed to protect the power steering
pump and wiring that ran down the side of the inner wing from melting.
All the later Tickfords had the fuel filter mounted on top of the inner wing beside the ignition coil, but on FMJ624Y it was

 bolted to the side of the inner wing.......right beside the main exhaust pipe that had no heat shield!



To see a short piece of video showing a Tickford Capri on the road, please visit A400MOD's You Tube channel by clicking on the image below.


  A400MOD You Tube Channel  



The interiors were treated to a beautiful leather and walnut trim on the dashboard, with matching centre console that incorporated a Veglia clock, Lucas boost gauge and switches for the electric windows.  A leather map pocket was added in front of the glovebox.

Early cars had the door cards, rear quarter panels and steering wheel finished in matching grey leather.  The seats retained their standard 2.8i cloth trim.


  The interior of an early Tickford Capri  


Above that, there was a huge list of options - everything from Vitaloni electric door mirrors with a delay for the rear wiper, stainless steel large-bore exhaust and double-dip Cibie headlights through to a full leather interior with Wilton carpet and wool headlining.


  On early cars, if the customer specified the Electric Pack option  
   of electric mirrors and delay for the rear wiper, then the  
   switches were simply added to the centre console  


The first Tickfords were based on the early 2.8i Capri.  When Ford changed the model to the 2.8i Special, then Tickford started using those for subsequent builds.

That meant that the Recaro seats were now half-leather as standard.  What isn't publicised is that at the same time, Tickford stopped bothering to re-trim the door cards, rear quarter panels and steering wheels.

The clock and boost gauge were fitted where the radio should be and the radio itself was moved down to the centre console - this made the gauges much easier to read


  A later car where the gauges and radio have swapped places, the seats have  
  become half-leather and the door cards have not been re-trimmed  
  Note how Tickford always mounted switches and  
  gauges behind the wood veneer rather than  
   just stick them through it  


These later Tickfords also came with central locking and a Cobra alarm system installed as standard. 


  The alarm warning LED can be seen just to the left of the ashtray  


The final couple of Tickfords had the Walnut veneer changed to black Ash.  I am not sure if this was done to enhance the appearance of the 1987 model, save money or because they had run out of Walnut!


  Interior of the 1987 demonstrator car  


  Whichever way, compare the Tickford interiors to that  
  of a standard Ford Capri 2.8 Injection  


A little-known fact is that during the development of their Capri, Tickford were not happy with the level of wind noise above 100mph!

 The production cars had an extra rubber seal added around the top of the front window frames that cured the problem.


  Attention to detail !  


Tickford's attention to detail continued through to the boot, where the re-located battery was hidden behind a box that matched the rear trim.  This involved modifying the false wooden floor and altering the shape of the boot carpet.


  More attention to detail !  


Below you will find links to other pages that explore the history of the Tickford Capri in more detail....................

Pages open in new windows


Whose idea was it in the first place?

What went wrong in the end?

The post-production years
There is no such thing Red, white or black? Aerodynamics
as a Tickford Capri! and Court Action!



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