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)!

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