My first up-close look at a Ford Capri was in 1992, when the radio station I worked for gave one away to a “lucky listener”. Then in the mid-90s I hired one for a day, and drove it to Bribie Island with some companions. By this time, the Capri was no longer made, and was depreciating fast. That didn’t stop a young whippersnapper on a bike yelling “rich bastards!” at us, while we cruised around with the top down. The car was probably worth less than half the value of his dad’s car.
After I sold my Daihatsu Copen in 2007 I still had a hankering for a “drop top”, so I thought I’d finally own one of these much-maligned, Australian-made, Mazda 323-based convertibles. A lot on offer had been abused, leaked via the roof, or were suffering the effects of sitting out in the sun too long with the top down (cracked plastics, ruined carpet, dirty seats).
But then, on Carsales, I found one sparkling example of a Ford Capri:
And it literally was sparkling, because a previous owner had repainted the entire car, and added a little sparkle to the lacquer. So in the sun it not only reflected the light in the paint, it made its own rainbow.
The seats and carpet of this Capri Verdi had been replaced, and the car had been put up for sale by a doting dad, who’d bought it for his daughter and had all the radiator hoses replaced on it, to reduce the chances of breakdowns. So for $5,000 it was a bargain when compared to slightly cheaper Capris that had had a hard life.
The only thing I wasn’t keen on, was the white soft top (most had a black roof).
There was one more feature of this car – and it was also related to light: under the car were four purple neon strip lights, that you could turn on for a constant glow, or set to flash in time with the music coming from the stereo system. The car was showy enough without this feature, so I never turned it on.
Convertibles can suffer from not having a roof to strengthen the car – they can “scuttle” over road bumps, and doors can rattle in their locks. The Capri had both of these habits, but on a good road with the top down, it was nice to drive, in a Japanese-front wheel drive-does-everything-it-should-but-nothing-more kind of way.
Putting the roof down required getting out of the seat, going around to the passenger side to put a key in a special lock for the back cover panel (on the passenger side because most Capris were built for the left-hand-drive U.S. market, and sold as a Mercury), and then carefully lining up and loading the roof into the compartment behind the rear seat.
One person could do it – but it was easier with two, especially when putting up the roof.
As nice as my Capri was, I just didn’t have a deep love for it, and as the engine hit the 230,000s I thought it was time to move it on.
So it went on the internet, and after a few weeks a young lady came over to look at it, and had to have it – bizarrely, I think it was the neon lights under the car that clinched the deal. She picked it up at dusk, and drove off down the street with a purple haze under her new ride. But this car was more Frankie Goes To Hollywood.. than Hendrix.