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Motoring: Ford Capri - 1989

Ford Australia had manufactured the European designed Mark 1 Capri at its plant in the Sydney suburb of Homebush from 1969 until 1972. When it was being developed in the 1960s by Ford Europe, the intention was to reproduce in Europe the success Ford had had with the North American Ford Mustang; to produce a European pony car. It was mechanically based on the Cortina and built in Europe at the Dagenham and Halewood plants in the United Kingdom, the Genk plant in Belgium, and the Saarlouis and Cologne plants in Germany.

The car was named Colt during development stage, but Ford was unable to use the name, as it was trademarked by Mitsubishi. Although a fastback coupe, Ford wanted the Capri Mk I to be affordable for a broad spectrum of potential buyers. To help achieve that, it was available with a variety of engines.

1973, saw the highest worldwide sales total the Capri ever attained, at 233,000 vehicles: the 1,000,000th Capri,was completed on 29 August. In February 1974, the Capri II was introduced. After 1.2 million cars sold, and with the 1973 oil crisis, Ford chose to make the new car more suited to everyday driving with a shorter bonnet, larger cabin and the adoption of a hatchback rear door. The Capri was offered to the Australian market from 3 May 1969, as the 1600 Deluxe and the 1600 GT, using the 1.6 L Ford Kent OHV engine. On 25 February 1970, the 3000 GT was launched, equipped with the 3.0 L Ford Essex V6. At the same time the 1600 GT became the 1600 XL while the 1600 Deluxe remained unchanged.

In November 1972, production of the Capri ended in Australia, with a total of 15,122 vehicles having been made. In 1973, Ford Australia imported fifty Capri RS3100 models. Neither the Mk I facelift Capri nor the subsequent Mk II and Mk III models were ever produced in Australia.

When the decision was made by Ford Australia to develop a new coupe in the late 1980s, the Capri name was the obvious choice. The new Australian-designed Capri, codenamed the SA30, was a convertible designed to rival the Mazda MX-5. Ironically, it used Mazda 323 engines and mechanicals which Ford Australia had adopted as the basis of the Laser. It had a bodyshell designed by Ghia and an interior by ItalDesign. Two models were originally offered: a standard 1.6 L model, and a turbocharged variant, with 136 PS (100 kW). The Australian-built Capri was intended primarily for export to the US. Exports began in 1991, as the Mercury Capri, and sales briefly exceeded those of the MX-5, but then dropped rapidly. The car was plagued by quality problems and recalls. By 1992, Ford Australia had to cut shifts at its Homebush plant to adjust to reduced demand. Despite a number of special editions, a mild facelift, and the commencement of sales in some Asian markets to bolster demand, Capri orders continued to decline. Just over 66,279 had been built when production stopped in 1994 - well short of the figures expected. Of those 9,787 were sold in Australia. Many still exist today perhaps due to the mechanical robustness of the Ford Laser/Mazda 323 upon which it was based.

The combination of the Capri s failure to achieve sales success, well publicised quality issues in the EA Falcon, and global financial conditions saw Ford Australia move from profitability to loss-making, and no replacement went ahead for the Capri, signalling the end for the local arm s last major export program. After the last Capri rolled out of the Homebush plant, it as closed down, never to be used in car manufacturing again. By 1996, Ford America had commenced imports of the Taurus large car, a step many viewed as the first toe in the water by the company on a program that would eventually see the Falcon replaced and Australian manufacturing cease. Interestingly, the Capri still has a cult following both in Australia and the USA. Sadly though, as many companies have discovered, relying on a cult following often does not often make financial sense.

The British Ford Capri Mk I, 1973

The Capri Name

The Ford Motor Company worldwide has being using the name Capri since 1950. In that year, Ford's Lincoln-Mercury Division first used it as part of he name of its Lincoln Cosmopolitan Capri from 1950 to 1951. Four other Lincoln models would use the name - the Lincoln Capri from 1952 to 1959; the Mercury Comet Capri in 1966 1967; and three different generations of Mercury Capris from 1970 to 1994. Ford Capri was a name used by the Ford Motor Company for three different automobile models. The Ford Consul Capri coupe was produced by Ford of Britain between 1961 and 1964. The last Ford Capri was the Australian built Capri Coupe.

Australian made Ford Capri, 1989

1950 Lincoln Cosmopoltian Capri, the first Ford to use the Capri name

1961 Ford Consul Capri, the first British Ford to use the Capri name

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