Capri

The Ford Capri – even a broken one is better than a Dacia

POOR old Dacia. I’m sure it meant well with its latest online ad campaign, but from what I’ve seen it seems to have backfired a bit.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, there’s an ongoing campaign to promote the Sandero Stepway, a shortened version of which dripped into my Instagram feed the other night. It shows a group of lads gathered on a driveway around an immobile Ford Capri, before another chap – this time with a big smile – beckons you towards a shiny, fully-functioning piece of reasonably priced Romanian hatchback. The inference being that you can have a brand-new car, complete with three-year warranty, instead of Ford’s malfunctioning old one. So far, so good.

Except that not a single one of the comments underneath it seemed to agree. Once you’d got past the swearing the executive summary of just about everyone went something along the lines of; “Actually, chaps, we’d still rather have the Capri, even if it is a broken one. It’ll be worth more, too”. One of them was so offended he referred the manufacturer’s ad to the chaps at Classic Ford magazine.

I suspect that if Dacia had picked any old car there’d have been an outcry of some form – Richard Hammond’s decision to attack an Austin Allegro Estate with a crowbar on the last episode of The Grand Tour met with a similar response – but what it has done is shown just how much the Ford Capri is part of Britain’s national character. Picking on it was never going to be a smart move.

The Capri – which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, incidentally – is one of those cars that has a UK following that borders on the fanatical. Even when it was still a current model in Ford’s range it was lapped up by us long after it had been deleted from other European markets, to the extent that all of the cars coming out of Ford’s Cologne factory headed straight over the North Sea to UK dealers. There are clubs and car shows across the UK dedicated to the car – and you can’t say that about the Sandero Stepway. What’s more, I reckon that while you can still (just about) buy a broken one for less than the cost of a new Dacia, you’d struggle to do the same with a working one, with a V6 version setting you back something in the region of £10,000, and the Tickford and Brooklands versions considerably more.

Why? Nostalgia. If you didn’t know someone who had a Capri back in the day, then you probably knew someone who lusted after one. With that pretty body draped over sturdy – if not exactly space age – Cortina mechanicals it made perfect sense, which is why it made regular appearances in the list of Britain’s best-selling cars throughout the Seventies and early Eighties.

I’m sure that, looking at logically, the Sandero Stepway is a better, safer, more reliable car that spends less time at the pumps and is easier to live with. But I know which I’d rather have.

Why the Ford Probe is finally a classic car

I’M NOT sure if Gareth Cheeseman – the egocentric salesman character created by Steve Coogan years ago – reads The Champion,but he’ll be delighted by this week’s revelation if he does. The Ford Probe is a classic car.

Yes, the Ford Probe. Remember it? It was the Nineties’ belated follow-up to the Capri, but for all sorts of reasons it never really caught on in the same way that the automotive star of The Professionals did. After just three years and a little over 15,000 sales it was quietly dropped in the UK, making way for the Mondeo-based Cougar that arrived just a few months later. That was way back in 1997, but 22 years on the Probe seems to get an excitable flurry of likes and retweets every time it pops up online.

In many ways it was entirely the wrong car to follow up the Capri – it was front-wheel-drive, so any cheeky opportunities of getting the tail out on wet roundabouts were dashed from the off, and its TV appearances with the aforementioned Cheeseman on the excellent Coogan’s Run killed its street cred in an instant. It also arrived just as two-door coupés were all the rage, so it had a lot of competition; not just from obvious rivals like Vauxhall’s Calibra, but real eye-grabbers like the Alfa GTV and Fiat Coupé too.

But look at one now, when there are fewer than 500 left on the UK’s roads – making it a far rarer beast than the Capri – and with Nineties nostalgia all the rage, and there’s something really compelling about it. For starters, if you get the 24-valve version you have a silky, 2.5-litre V6 beneath the bonnet, delivering mid-range torque in a way that the turbocharged three-cylinder engines of today just can’t match. For me, the thing I love about the Probe is the way it looks, with those full-width rear lights and concept car profile. And pop-up headlights, of course. Any car with pop-up headlights is, I’ve always thought, automatically cool simply on account of having them. Why can’t we bring them back?

The Probe might have had a silly name, an unfortunate on-screen fan and the misfortune of following a motoring cult hero, but I reckon its time has finally come. I’m just glad that Instagram – rather than Gareth Cheeseman – seems to agree.

Capri – A holiday paradise weirdly lacking in fast Fords

It seems residents of Capri haven't taken to the car named after their island

CAPRI. Sideways urban streetfighter, Seventies touring car hero, star of The Professionals, the car you always promised yourself, and today’s hot topic when it comes to classic car prices.

Oh, and it’s a sun-kissed island in the Mediterranean, which I ended up exploring the other day. Given Ford’s coupé was made right here in the North West for much of its life – and if you don’t remember growing up with it, you’ll almost certainly know someone who does – it seemed rude not to take up an opportunity to look around the place that lent its name to Europe’s answer to the Ford Mustang.

Obviously as the ferry lumbered into the dock I was excitedly expecting a pristine Capri RS3100 mounted on a plinth to greet visitors, reminding anyone embarking upon this beautiful island of its historic connection to one of Europe’s greatest cars. But there wasn’t.

There wasn’t even a shiny 280 Brooklands – the name given to the last Capris, which are hugely valuable these days – in a glass case to highlight Capri’s connection to the Capri, or even a rental firm based in the town centre chucking tourists the keys to a slightly tatty 1.6 Laser. There are a couple of museums on the island but they’re all dedicated to Roman artefacts, the various things that grow nearby and the works of the various artists and poets who lived there, but the car named after it warrants barely a footnote.

I’d suggest finding one of the few Capris that isn’t worth £20,000 and sending it over as a permanent tribute to the island’s contribution to motoring history, but it appears you aren’t even allowed to do that. You’re not allowed to take cars onto Capri during the summer months, unless you’re a resident who already owns one. Guess what? None of them have a Ford Capri.

But despite not offering the eponymous car a single mention there are a few things worth heading over for, if you ever end up holidaying in this stiflingly hot part of Italy. The residents-only rule mean that while there aren’t many cars a fairly high proportion of them are Fiat 500s (of the proper variety, not the modern hatchback). Then there’s the endless two-stroke clatter of people wobbling around on Vespa scooters, but the best thing of all are what they use for taxis. You’d probably forgotten the Fiat Marea exists but the people of Capri haven’t; they’ve stretched it, chopped the roof off, and fitted it with a wooden steering wheel, red leather seats and orange door handles.

Fiat Marea taxi in Capri

Even on an island surprisingly lacking in Fords that’s worth the ferry ticket alone.