26 August 2022

More than an old car #198: Ford Capri SC

Have you ever wondered how some cars continue to eke out their existence here despite being unpopular or even hated? It is interesting in fact, to see what exactly compels the owner to hold on to these unconventional classics such as this 1992 Ford Capri (SC) XR2!

Back in the 1980s, Ford was a major shareholder in Mazda and had known that the revolutionary MX-5 was coming. In Ford's attempt to reduce the impact of the MX-5, it independently developed a rival model using Mazda mechanicals based off a mundane Mazda 323/Ford Laser. First released as a concept in 1988, the exterior was designed by Ghia and the interior by Giugario. On the face of it, the Capri combined sexy Italian design, reliable Japanese powertrains and Australian engineering in a convertible package. 

Assembled by Ford Australia, the Capri was primarily designed for export to the US where it was sold as the Mercury Capri. It was a 2+2 seater and not a pure 2-seater like the MX-5, making it possible to carry friends or kids. Ford was desperate to release the Capri before the MX-5, but various issues in production led to the launch date being postponed till the end of 1989, by which time the MX-5 had already appeared in Australia. The Capri had a massive price advantage over the MX-5 however, and it targeted people who did not care about its overall performance.

Upon release, the car received favourable reviews in the US: at one point in time demand outstripped expectations and dealers were over-pricing it. At this point, complaints arose from its leaking roof and cheap interior and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation essentially declared the Capri as a lemon. Furthermore, Ford was struggling to meet production targets and the future of Ford Australia as a manufacturer was cast into doubt by warnings from the head office.

Throughout its existence, the Capri was inevitably compared to the MX-5, somewhat unfairly. Whereas the Mazda was developed as a pure sports car, the Capri had more emphasis on cruise comfort and safety. In 1992, the Capri was updated and given the codename SC; the 'XR2' trim was first applied to both turbo and non-turbo versions though later on, the non-turbo was renamed as 'Barchetta' and the turbo 'Clubsprint'. The Clubsprint turbo had a restyled front and rear along with a body kit. In 1993, the Capri was facelifted and given the codename SE, with a restyled front and rear end along with different lights.

This 5-speed manual Capri SC was powered by a 1597 cc Mazda B6-2E inline-4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 182 km/h with and acceleration of 12.4 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It had dimensions of 4219 x 1640 x 1280 mm, weighed in at 1055 kg and had a fuel consumption of 8.5 litres / 100 km

Production of the Capri ended in 1994 with 66,279 made: interestingly, only 10,347 were in RHD and the rest were exported to the US. It is estimated that just 120 were exported to Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand: this unit is understood to be the only one remaining here ever since it was brought in some time in 1992! Despite its reputation as a lemon, many Capris still remain because of the reliable Mazda mechanical package.

It is impressive that this Capri still remains, especially when parts for it are relatively scarce in this part of the world compared to the MX-5. Despite failing to stand against its Japanese cousin, it is still a part of our motoring heritage and I hope that you can see it for yourself (especially since its lifespan is up to 2030 currently)!

7 August 2022

More than an old car #197: Mitsubishi FTO

Sports cars are not for everyone but they have always remained in the public consciousness, for good or bad. In times like this, the appearance of this 1998 Mitsubishi FTO GPX is a reminder that they are not necessarily flashy or be a nuisance to others...

First released in 1994, the car inherited its name from the Galant GTO that appeared in 1971 and it stands for 'Fresh Touring Origination', which was supposed to be a nod towards its 'freshness, youthfulness and originality'. Only available in a 2-door coupe and front-wheel drive arrangement, 3 different engine types were first offered though there were a handful of sub-models. The GPX version was offered with a rear spoiler and side air dams as standard. Other options such as a passenger air bag and traction controls could be had as well.

The FTO was awarded the Car of the Year Japan award in 1994, and as such, Mitsubishi released a limited edition model of the GPX with all cars in yellow and award badging. The MIVEC engine was the most desirable as it led to greater power and performance output compared to the non-MIVEC versions. In 1997, a facelift was carried out: the air intake was now a single piece, the foglights and indicator units became 4 separate circular units and the headlamp internals were also changed. Despite the front wheel drive layout, it had high tuning performance and a relatively high body rigidity. 

The automatic transmission FTO GPX was powered by a 1999 cc Mitsubishi 6A12 24-valve MIVEC V6 engine, allowing it to reach a maximum of 180 km/h (as its top speed was being limited), with an acceleration of 9.1 seconds [0-100 km/h]. Weighing in at 1210 kg with dimensions of 4365 x 1735 x 1300, it was nimble enough for a sporty performance and the fuel consumption of 9.6 litres / 100 km was somewhat respectable.

Production of the FTO ended in 2000 with 36,805 units made, of which 13,083 were the most common GPX variant. It was exclusively sold for the Japanese market, though many gray imports have made their way to the main RHD countries including Singapore. This particular unit has changed hands multiple times along with its exterior colour: at some point in time it was wrapped in orange (ie this picture) and now it is wrapped in blue. It is believed that this is 1 of 4 FTOs that still exist in Singapore, making this an unlikely rarity. 

FTOs were deemed too expensive to revise in light of new side-protection impact rules in Japan, so it was discontinued along with the GTO. It also fell out of fashion as servicing was not the cheapest out there. In light of the current market of 90s Japanese cars, the FTO is slowly making a comeback as a sought-after classic as the number of decent examples have dwindled. Hopefully you will be able to catch a sight of this rare gem the next time you see it!