400-cube Chev V8-powered Ford Capri – flashback

Since he was a wee tacker, George had a dream to build a hot 10-second Ford Capri - and he did

Photographers: Mark Bean

IT ALL started when I was kid at school, back when I was tagging CAPRI 302 on the walls in the 80s,” says George Theobofiou, the owner of this tough and fully hand-crafted Ford Capri. He knew way back then that he was going to end up with his butt wedged firmly in the low-back buckets of a Ford Capri, it was just a matter of time. In ’89 the ball started rolling when George bought his first serious car part.

This article was first published in the March 2002 issue of Street Machine

“I started with a 400 Chev block which cost me $320. I was just starting my apprenticeship as a mechanic at the ripe old age of 18 and on a shit wage,” he says. “Then along came a Capri, it was green and just a 1600cc four-banger. I gotta tell you, it was shocking!”

Not to be dissuaded from the dream he had nurtured from near infancy, George got his L-plates and drove it around whenever he could.

“I drove that car around until the rego ran out then I scrapped it – it was a rust bucket, just so typical of a Capri,” he says. Then one day George got a call from a mate who had spotted a cherry in a car yard.

“It was a silver four cylinder with a black interior, in fair good condition with a little rust,” George says. “I drove that thing around for about two years while I collected bits and pieces for my engine. One night we decided to go to the runs at Hashams [street drag racing in southern Sydney]. We were cruising along then suddenly a Nissan Exa decides to do a U-turn in front of me. That was the day that the Capri went back to the drawing board.”

It was a disheartening experience and some time went by while George decided what to do with the car and where to go from there.

“I took the damaged car to a panel beater and got him to give me a price to fix the whole car so that it would be ready to slot the little-block straight in,” he says. “It took him easy 10 months to pull his finger out, and to make things worse he started mixing the bog with a cement mixer! That was the day I took the car out of there on a tilt-tray and sent it to California Smash Repairs in Botany.

“They fitted the wind-back sunroof, fixed the front, flared and rolled the rear guards, fixed the rust and had the old girl looking pretty sharp – then they painted it.

“I hated the colour, but what could I do? It’s grown on me since then and I like it now.”

From here the shell went back to George’s house after about two years off the road and the family and boys were keen to see it again.

“At this point I had to make engine mounts, gearbox mounts and somehow fit the engine into the bay. This was when I learnt my first lesson about building cars – don’t paint the car first. Fit up all the mechanicals first, then paint the car!

“A good mate of mine, Ezy, did all the V8 conversion work and also made the Auto Meter dash to replace the factory one.”

From here the interior got a full tune-up by another mate, little Manuel, who has since passed away. He re-trimmed the original interior in white vinyl and velour to better-than-factory condition. Finally it came to the powerplant and this is where Ned Sassine from Hercules Competition Engines entered the act.

“Ned built the 400ci Chev for me and helped me put the entire car together,” George says. “And the day came when the whole car was finished. We were out driving – in fact, it was during the first five minutes of driving the car that the bonnet decided to flip open on me which destroyed the bonnet and the scuttle tray. That was it! From there on the car went downhill. I didn’t care about scratching it or anything.

“We decided to take it to the Creek (Eastern Creek) to have a few passes in it. We gave it a bit of a tune-up and the car ran an 11.2 at 118mph. Then I gassed it and it ran 10.5 at 128mph!

“It was the worst thing I have ever done. It destroyed the car – it wrecked the diff, converter and both head gaskets – I’ll leave the nitrous to the experts next time.”

After all that had happened George decided to tub the car and he got his mate Shane [IHK 350], who they call MacGyver, to do all the work on the car and he did an excellent job.

This started a whole new ball game and it was back to square one for a new build-up.

“I stripped the whole car and started from scratch,” George says. “With the tubs finished the diff was sent to Red’s Diff for the mods and Ezy jumped inside the car, fitted a cage and repaired all the bodywork in just a week.”

California Smash Repairs did the paint job in a week, Ned Sassine built a new engine in two weeks, Hi Style redid the interior in four days, Al’s Race Glides rebuilt the Powerglide in three weeks and at this stage you may be wondering what the rush was. Seems Georgie-boy was getting married and wanted to drive a really schmick car to the church, and that schmick car was to be, of course, his Ford Capri.

“The priest had a heart attack when we turned up to the church with all these really loud cars and started doing big burnouts outside the church,” laughs George.

“After the silly season had settled down I was keen to take the car back to the Creek to see what it would run. Ned was confident but I had my doubts. First meeting the car went 10.6 at 125mph and I was over the moon.

“The best part of it all is that you can just jump into the car at any time and have a field day on the streets – that is, of course, if my wife gives me the key. After all, it was built as a present for her.”


Colour: Magenta

Engine: 400 Chev
Heads: Bow Tie
Cam: Hercules custom grind solid
Crank: Standard
Rods: 5.7-inch standard
Pistons: Forged 12:1 TRWs

Gearbox: Powerglide
Diff: Ford nine-inch with Mark Williams axles and 4.11:1gears, full spool

Custom by Manuel (RIP)

Wheels: 6×15 Cragars front runners and 10.5×15 rears
Tyres: bigs and littlies

Ned Sassine at Hercules Competition Engines, EZY, Rocky
at California Smash, Murray and Jerry at Hi Style, Shane,
Bert and all the boys.

Photographers: Mark Bean