Car reviews - Ford - Capri - Clubsprint
Usual Capri practicality and reliability virtues, Clubsprint's added visual oomph, improved driveability and dynamics, good investment prospect
Room for improvement
Capri image still under a cloud, not really a sports car, scarcity of parts, cabin plastics
5 May 2003
THE Ford Capri was a new concept which promised to be an affordable, practical, fun car rather than an outright sports car.
The clever package of a small, front-wheel drive convertible with two-plus-two seating and good luggage space promised to be popular.
The Capri did deliver what it promised and sales started reasonably well in Australia and the US, its major market. But well publicised problems with early Capris, including poor weather proofing, scared a lot of buyers off.
By the time the next model - which addressed all the problems - was released it was too late. Sales dropped off in both markets and never recovered to anywhere near earlier levels.
The Clubsprint, based on the Capri XR2 turbo, was the result of a suspension tuning and body kit exercise developed by Tickford Vehicle Engineering in 1992 which turned the Capri into the car that maybe it should have been from the outset.
When the last of the Capris, the SE series, was launched in June, 1993, it introduced some significant improvements which made it into a very good car.
It was then that Ford also released a normally aspirated version of the Clubsprint with a Tickford body kit that made the Capri a much sharper looking car.
The front bumper had a deeper air dam with circular driving lights either side of the radiator air duct and the circular theme carried over to the rear with round tail-lights.
The rear wing was removed to give a lower, cleaner look but the most eye-catching feature of the Clubsprint is the double bubble aerodynamic fairings behind the driver and passenger which converted the space where the rear seats used to be into extra storage and made the Clubsprint strictly a two-seater.
Tickford also tackled the suspension. It was lowered with stiffer springs and dampers while the larger 16-inch alloy wheels were fitted with wider, lower profile Michelin tyres.
The engine and transmission were left untouched and were based, along with many other mechanical components, on those used in the Ford Laser/Mazda 323, which meant Japanese quality and reliability were built in.
The 1.6-litre engine has twin camshafts and four valves per cylinder. It pumped out a respectable 77kW at 5750rpm.
The overall result was a much better handling car with enough performance to make it fun to drive.
Handling is safe and predictable with minimal body roll due to the low centre of gravity and stiffer suspension. The front engine, front-wheel drive layout makes some understeer inevitable but it is minimal at normal speeds.
Now that the Capri is no longer made, - the last one rolled off the assembly line on May 19, 1994 - the scarcity factor has kept depreciation down and prices reasonably high.
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