The Capri Mk III was referred to internally as "Project Carla", and although little more than an update of the Capri II, it was often referred to as the Mk III. The first cars were available in March 1978, and sold very well initially. The concept of a heavily facelifted Capri II was shown at the 1976 Geneva show: a Capri II with a front very similar to the Escort RS2000 (with four headlamps and black slatted grille), and with a rear spoiler, essentially previewed the model some time before launch. The new styling cues, most notably the black "Aeroflow" grille (first used on the Mk I Fiesta) and the "sawtooth" rear lamp lenses echoed the new design language being introduced at that time by Ford of Europe's chief stylist Uwe Bahnsen across the entire range. Similar styling elements were subsequently introduced in the 1979 Cortina 80, 1980 Escort Mk III and the 1981 Granada Mk IIb. In addition, the Mk III featured improved aerodynamics, leading to improved performance and economy over the Mk II, and the trademark quad headlamps were introduced. The bonnet's leading edge was pulled down over the top of the headlamps, making the appearance more aggressive.
At launch the existing engine and transmission combinations of the Capri II were carried over, with the 3.0 S model regarded as the most desirable model although the softer, more luxurious Ghia derivative with automatic, rather than manual transmission, was the bigger seller of the two V6-engined models.
Ford began to focus their attention on the UK Capri market as sales declined, realising the car had something of a cult following there. Unlike sales of the contemporary four-door Cortina, Capri sales in Britain were mostly to private buyers who would demand fewer discounts than fleet buyers, allowing for higher margins on the coupé. Ford tried to maintain interest in 1977 with Ford Rallye Sport, Series X, "X Pack" options from the performance oriented RS parts range.