1989-1994 Ford Capri - Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers

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Built in Oz, the Ford Capri's primary market was young trendy buyers in North America

 

1989-1994 Ford Capri

Australia during its many years as a car-building nation produced a lot of sports cars. However it wasn’t until Ford announced its Laser-based Capri that any had come from a major manufacturer.

The decision to build a soft-top was taken against a background of export cooperation with Lincoln-Mercury in the USA. While Ford hoped for decent sales here, the Capri’s primary target was young, trendy buyers in North America.

| Read next: Ford Capri Clubsprint (1992-94) buyer's guide

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The shape chosen for the Capri dated back six years to a design exercise called the Barchetta. That name would be rekindled in 1993 when Ford had a stab at getting a much improved Capri into the market.

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First up in the SA Capri range was the stock 1.6-litre car with 61kW. Above it sat the Turbo with 100kW and hugely entertaining levels of wheel-spin and torque steer. Even in later cars with power steering the wheel would jiggle under full acceleration.

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Quality was the real issue. The Capri had come to market sooner than was probably advisable and while Ford’s Sydney assembly plant did a pretty good job on Lasers it fell down badly with the Capri. Lots of rattles and poor panel fit were exacerbated by an appalling convertible top design that let water in everywhere. It was said that even the hardtops leaked.

Cars for the USA were built in LHD but delayed reaching their destination due to the need to engineer them for air-bags. Eventually more than 55,000 cars would be exported but even that number was insufficient to save the project.

| Read next: Ford Capri - great cars of the '70s

Ford worked constantly to improve the Capri and in 1992 an upgraded XR2 joined the range. It offered a revised twin-cam engine that in non-turbo form sent power from 61kW to 77kW. The package included alloy wheels, power windows and mirrors and a cute little boot spoiler that had no practical purpose at all.

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The SE version released a year later added an expanded range of colours, cruise control and central locking. Although engineered to include air-bags in its US models, Ford never offered this feature on local Capris.

Once Ford’s Tickford performance division took over chassis development, improvements came rapidly. However the Clubsprint and its Turbo stablemate arrived too late and sold in numbers too limited to save the model from oblivion.

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The last and best Capris had their suspension lowered 25mm, with new spring and damper rates that really helped the handling. Performance from the turbocharged Clubsprint was fun rather than neck snapping, with 0-100km/h taking 8.9 seconds.

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MARKET REVIEW

The Capri is without doubt the cheapest proper ‘classic’ convertible in our market and world-wide as well. Cars in OK condition can cost less than $2500 and if you’ve got $5000 to spend, an early Turbo is right in the frame. If you can, budget an extra $500 to fund a hardtop for your early Capri.

Total production of more than 66,000 cars suggests there should be plenty of available, however only 9800 of those cars remained in Australia.

| Read next: Ford Capri V6 buyer's guide

XR2s without the turbocharger offer probably the best mix of low cost, performance and features. They also have the edge in practicality with a proper luggage platform behind the seats. They can also be found with air-conditioning for very little difference in price to a non-a/c car.

For longer-term ownership and collectability, consider a Clubsprint. They are scarce (only 400 made), distinctive in appearance and prices typically below $12,000 are low for any kind of usable, low-volume convertible.

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BODY & CHASSIS

Leaks were the major enemy of early-model Capris and even adding a hardtop didn’t entirely stop water getting inside. Checking the fabric for leaks might be difficult, but if you can grab the vendor’s hose and give it a burst that could save some money later on. Look for rusty floors, listen for door hinges that crunch and crackle and doors that can be moved vertically due to rusted hinge mountings. Next check the front sub-structure for kinks, rust or rough repairs and look at panel shut lines for inconsistencies. Make sure the lights lift and retract quickly and in unison.

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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Single and twin-cam Mazda engines are durable but also easily replaced with a good used unit should something major detonate. Turbo versions are known quantities as well and durable providing proper maintenance is undertaken. Changing oil and the filter every 5000km (or less if the car is seldom used) is essential so ask for service history or invoices. Professional inspection is a must to ensure problems in the crowded engine bay aren’t overlooked. An experienced turbo fettler will know the drill. Transmission shudder might not be the fault of the clutch alone. Engine and transmission mounts that have cracked or weakened with age need to be replaced before they cause problems.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Edge-worn tyres are a big clue that a Capri’s suspension is overdue for some remedial work. Even at the rear, worn components will allow the wheels to splay and chew the inner edges of the rubber. During the test drive, perform a u-turn and accelerate hard, listening for clattering from front constant-velocity joints. Complete replacement drive-shafts cost $120-200 each and avoid the labour cost of dismantling the shafts just to fit new joints. Shuddering brakes indicate warped rotors but uprated replacements are cheap and easy to locate.

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INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

This is the place where big problems and expense are likely to manifest. Look for wet or musty carpets, surface rust on metal components and electrical items that aren’t working. This caution relates especially to gauges which can suffer from corroded terminals behind the dash. Seats need to move easily on the runners. Some cars had specially-patterned trim and this will be hard to replace or even match to maintain authenticity. Insist the vendor raises and lowers the convertible top and if possible spray it with water to check for leaks.

VALUE RANGE Ford Capri (XR2 SE)
Fair: $2400
Good: $5000
Excellent: $8000
(Note: concours cars will demand more)

1989-1994 Ford Capri specs

Number built: 66,640 (10,400 RHD)
Body: steel, integrated body/chassis two-door convertible
Engine: 1597cc four-cylinder with overhead camshaft(s), fuel injection and optional turbocharger
Power & torque: 100kW @ 6000rpm, 184Nm @ 3000rpm
(SC Turbo)
Performance: 0-100km/h 8.9 seconds, 0-400 metres 16.4 seconds (Clubsprint Turbo)
Transmission: five-speed manual, three-speed automatic
Suspension: independent with coil springs, struts and anti-roll bar (f) independent with coil springs, struts & anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes: disc (f) disc (r) power assisted
Tyres: 205/45ZR16 radial (Clubsprint)

 

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