It’s impossible to talk about South African automotive history without mentioning the Ford Capri Perana V8.
How the Perana – a privately-built but Ford Motor Company-sanctioned model – first came to be started a few years prior to its limited 1970-1972 production run.
Ford first unveiled their Capri model at the 1969 Brussels Motor Show, with the goal of it becoming a European pony car as successful as the Mustang in the USA. Mechanically, it was based on the Cortina, with a few different engine options. Here in South Africa, you could initially buy one with either a Kent 1.6-litre or Essex V4 under the bonnet.
Before the Capri came along, Basil Green of Basil Green Motors in Johannesburg had already made a name for himself in South Africa turning run-of-the-mill Ford models into performance cars. The Perana name, which was chosen by Basil’s wife and derived from the feared piranha fish species, was first used on the Mk2 Ford Cortina Perana in 1967, and over the years was applied to various other Fords modified by Basil Green Motors. There was the 1969 Escort Mk1 Perana fitted with a 2.0L OHC engine, a Mk3 Cortina Perana, and the 1993 front-wheel drive 1.6L Escort XR3 Perana. The company also offered tuned 3.0L and 3.4L versions of the Ford Sapphire in the early 1990s.V8 Power
Initially, Basil was fitting Essex V6 engines into the Capri, and he ended up building around 20 examples of the 186km/h-capable model. But when Ford South Africa began offering a factory Essex V6 option for the Capri in 1970, Basil decided to go one step further and drop Ford’s 5.0-litre Windsor V8 from the Mustang into the chassis, bringing the Capri Perana V8 to life.
As I mentioned earlier, the Perana V8 was ultimately sanctioned by Ford; you could order one from any South African Ford dealer and the car came with a full factory warranty. Capri 3000 XLs were built in Ford’s Port Elizabeth plant, then sent to Basil Green Motors without engines or transmissions.
The engines that Basil fitted were no ordinary Windsors; they featured a Holley 460cfm carburettor with an aluminium high-rise inlet manifold, a 360-degree dry element air cleaner, ‘stage 2′ camshaft and stronger valve springs, all of which added up to 281hp at 5,800rpm and 406Nm of torque at 3,500rpm.
Power from the Windsor V8 engine found its way to the Perana’s rear wheels via a close-ratio 4-speed ‘top loader’ manual gearbox or 3-speed C4 automatic transmission, and a custom limited-slip rear axle borrowed from the Australian Ford Falcon XW.
Despite its larger engine, the Perana V8 was only 9kg heavier than the standard 3000XL, something achieved through the aluminium inlet manifold and bell housing. It also sat 40mm lower, and received an uprated MacPherson strut front suspension.
On the road, this all translated to 0-100km/h sprints in just 6.7-seconds, a mid-14-second quarter mile, and a top speed of 228km/h.
According to official records, the Capri Perana was only sold in ‘Bright Yellow’ and ‘Piri Piri Red’, but gold and mustard cars also were produced. Mr Perana’s own Capri was green, which goes without saying. Visually, the car received racing stripes and ‘Perana’ badges on its front fenders, and ‘V8′ badges on the bonnet and boot. Speaking of the boot lid, these were more often than not finished in black.
Chrome and black 13-inch Rostyle steel wheels were standard fitment on all Perana V8s, as were rather paltry 185/70R13 tyres. The standard Capri 3000 XL brakes were retained, but benefited from uprated front pads.
A back window louvre was an option, as were fog lights – although the ones fitted to this particular car aren’t the original items. Leon, the Perana’s owner, has them in storage, but opted to fit rare and expensive Carello P400 items, as used on the Lamborghini Miura.
When it came to the interior, you could have any colour you like as long as it was black. It was all standard Capri XL equipment, except for an alloy steering wheel with Perana badging.
As you might expect, the Perana V8 made big waves in local motorsport. In the epic Gunston livery, the Bobby Olthoff car dominated production car-based racing in 1970, breaking the saloon car lap record at every circuit it raced. Olthoff won the 1970 South African championship, as well as the 1971 and 1972 championships, albeit in a different format.A Rare Find
Being so rare and sought after, there are many fake Peranas in South Africa. Often, there are attempts to pass them off as the real thing, so it’s ‘buyer beware’ if you’re in the market for one. Leon heard about this specific car through one of his friends, but wisely remained skeptical of its authenticity until it could be proved.
As the story went, the woman selling it was doing so on behalf of her father. She was also selling the family home and the car had to go – albeit in pieces. Many years prior it had been stripped, and parts were strewn all over the property. The V8 engine was found sitting next to the shell looking very rusty.
Given its state, the car was a real gamble, but Leon made an offer all the same. It was accepted, and so started the process of gathering all the parts up and hoping it was all there. One great find – and surely a big relief for Leon – was the car’s original sales paperwork and registration, identifying the car as a Perana.
Of course, there was always going to something missing, and in this case it was probably the most important item: the car’s tags.
As devastating as that was, Leon never gave up hope, and when the car’s seller called him to say that she was vacating her home and that he could have one final look around the property for any last parts, he took it. Amazingly, he found the Perana tags in one of the many dog houses on the property, where they had obviously been used as a chew toys.
The tags and everything else were fully restored during Leon’s rebuild of the car. Everything except the ignition system, which was upgraded with MSD parts for reliability, and the aforementioned fog lights, was done to factory Perana specification, right down to the severely-undersized tyres.
Since finishing the car a few years ago, Leon has had a whole lot of enjoyment out of it, and says that he’ll probably never sell this South African icon. With the way these Capri Perana V8s are increasing in value, that’s probably not a bad idea at all.