Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Stuart Grant

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Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)
Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)
Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)
Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)
Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)
Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)
Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)
Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)
Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)

Much maligned in its day this Aussie convertible is now coming into its own

Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94) Buyer's Guide
Buyer's guide: Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)

 

Ford Capri ClubSprint (1992-94)

 

A car manufacturer launching an affordable convertible into the Australian market would, you might expect, be entitled to unbridled success. Yet history was against the chances of Ford’s affable and affordable Capri.

While British sports cars had been dominant in our market for decades the only local drop-top that ever achieved volume sales was Bill Buckle’s tiny Goggomobil Dart.

Design studies by Ford subsidiary Ghia began in 1983, yet six years elapsed before the troubled two-seater was announced in October 1989. With 1.6 litres of turbo or unboosted engine, optional automatic transmission and a rudimentary rear seat, the Ford offered a package that was more family-friendly and considerably cheaper than the MX-5 Mazda that would become its nemesis.

Capri downsides were indifferent handling and some quality-control howlers. These included roof seams that wept so much water that an early-build car supplied to a journalist had 10cm sloshing around the cabin after being left in an overnight downpour.

Ford quickly addressed the quality issues, but not before the car’s reputation in Australia and North America – where it was marketed as the Mercury Lynx – suffered a hiding of P76 proportions.

Dynamics were of less concern, probably because Ford had aimed the car at customers attracted by its style and convenience and who didn’t give a hoot about understeer and mid-corner speed.

That changed when the newly-created Tickford Vehicle Engineering laid hands on an XR2 version, flung most of the stock suspension into the scrap bucket and created the Clubsprint.

As admitted by Ford management at the Clubsprint media launch, the SC model that arrived in April 1992 was the car the original Capri should have been.

Distinguishing the new car from the look and tarnished image of its predecessors was essential. To this end, Tickford installed a new front apron panel with integrated driving lights and a revised rear end with a smoothed bumper and large circular lights.

Turbo Capris in SA guise were unsophisticated beasts, feeding their 100kW through scrawny 60-series tyres. The wider, 45-profile rubber fitted to Clubsprints substantially boosted grip and was enhanced by a comprehensive suspension upgrade. Lowering the ride height by 25mm front and 15mm rear, fitting stiffer springs and uprated dampers delivered a flatter cornering stance and noticeably improved steering response.

Clubsprints were initially offered only in Pearl Black but it was replaced in 1993 by white and Polynesian Green. Interior trim changed at the same time from full Electric Blue hides to Polynesian Green bolsters with multi-hued inserts that will make your eyes bleed and some stomachs heave.

Clubsprints remained on offer into 1994, by which time Mercury had cancelled its participation and the Capri’s days were numbered. Perhaps, like Leyland’s P76, the Capri was a good idea badly executed – certainly the improvements characterised by the Clubsprint suggest that its end may have come too soon.

 

ON THE ROAD

The first thing to consider when evaluating a Capri is the purpose for which the car was intended and the expectations of its target market.

These were not, and were never intended to be, a performance car. Even with the turbocharged engine, Capris were a second slower to 100km/h than a V6 Commodore. It’s also unlikely that you’re going to find too many pimped and pumped examples mixing it with the late-night heroes in their Silvias and WRXs.

Objections to the Capri’s front-wheel drive configuration came from critics who felt that a sporty car should be propelled by the rear wheels, not dragged around by the front ones. Perhaps they weren’t born in the days of the Mini Cooper S, or overlooked the 1980s European ‘hot hatch’ phenomenon.

Hard acceleration in a turbo Capri will certainly produce a squiggle of torque-steer, but none of the cold-sweat ferocity unleashed by something like a Mitsubishi Cordia GSR.

A 1992-build Clubsprint Turbo managed 8.9secs for the 0-100km/h dash and a respectable 16.4 for the standing 400m. Nobody seems to have tested a non-turbo, but they should crack 100km/h in something less than 11secs.

Journalists who pounded press-test Clubsprints over indifferent roads expressed concern about road-shock; however Ford had spent plenty on improved structural integrity so the bangs and crashes from the front-end shouldn’t produce any significant damage.

Non-turbo cars dip into the 8L/100km segment and gently-driven Turbos will better 10L/100km on the highway. Mash the pedal when dashing through the mountains, however, and that can easily blow out to mid-13s.

Manual transmission is mandatory in all Clubsprints, as is power steering. Air-conditioning was a $1700 option and is fitted to a decent proportion of used Clubsprints.

The cabin is more space-generous than it looks and well-appointed. Standard equipment includes central locking, power windows and mirrors and a handsomely-styled Momo steering wheel.

Clubsprint seats have been criticised for their lack of under-bum support but they’re wide enough to accommodate fuller frames and attention grabbing as well. Later cars with the cloth inserts are more practical in sticky Australian summers. Boot space is good for a car of this size and there’s a full-sized spare wheel.

The roof design provides considerably more head room than an MX-5 but the hardtop that was offered as a Capri option won’t fit the Clubsprint. Cars built after 1992 probably don’t need one anyway as the soft-top fitted to these is said to be entirely weatherproof and largely trouble-free.

 

CHECKPOINTS

Body & Chassis

Unlike basic Capris that are frequently found in unkempt condition, Clubsprints seem generally to have enjoyed sympathetic ownership. They can still have suffered at the hands of ‘quickie’ repairers, so make sure the gaps between the bonnet, bootlid and their respective sets of mudguards are consistent. Also that doors close easily with no metal-to-metal contact in the door jambs. The nose panel with its supplementary lights needs low-angle inspection for cracks or misalignment. Make sure headlights activate smoothly and in unison. Unique body components like the side-skirts and Quasimodo capote cover are still available – an overseas supplier quoting US$369 plus freight for a replacement cover.

Engine & Transmission

Even when mildly boosted to deliver its 100 turbocharged kilowatts, the 1.6-litre twin-cam engine is durable and easily maintained. Infrequent oil changes or simply using the wrong lubricants and coolant will affect turbocharger life expectancy. The engine bay is tightly packed and fluid leaks are hard to see, so professional pre-purchase inspection is recommended. Incorrectly set timing will diminish power and can result in serious damage if not fixed. Transmission and clutch components are durable so vibration through the gearlever, difficult downchanges and a shuddering or slipping clutch are signs the car has been abused.

Suspension & Brakes

Excessive wear to the inner edges of the front tyres indicates problems with the suspension geometry. All parts are available and not particularly expensive. Constant-velocity joints frequently clatter in cars that have topped 100,000km – be concerned if they are clicking at fewer than six figures. Brakes don’t have a difficult task but discs can warp and pads that are too hard will be noisy and give poor stopping when cold. Check the wheels carefully for damage as replacements are difficult to locate.

Interior & Electrical

Here’s where a good car will more than justify its additional cost. Insist on seeing the convertible top being raised and lowered, looking for frame twists and worn areas of vinyl. New roof components are available but replacing everything will cost more than $1500. The ‘capote’ cover should clip securely in place with the roof raised or lowered. Leather trim that is seriously worn or sun-hardened will need to be replaced by a specialist trimmer who can match the original materials. Switchgear is expensive – old-stock light switches quoted at more than $300 – so make sure everything works.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

 

Ford Capri Clubsprint (1992-94)

 

Number built: 400 (turbo and non-turbocharged)

Body: all-steel integrated body/chassis two-door convertible

Engine: in-line four-cylinder twin overhead camshaft with fuel injection and optional turbocharger

Power & Torque: 100kW @ 6000rpm, 184Nm @ 3000rpm (1992 SC Turbo)

Performance: 0-100km/h – 8.9secs,

0-400m – 16.4secs (1992 SC Turbo)

Transmission: five-speed manual

Suspension: Front – independent with coil springs, struts and anti-roll bar. Rear – independent with coil springs, struts and anti-roll bar

Brakes: disc front/disc rear with power assistance

Tyres: 205/45ZR16 radial

Club: Capri Car Clubs in several states

Website: www.capricarclub.org.au

 

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