I was reading the morning news with a cup of hot chocolate as you do, when I came across a story which almost made me do a spit-take. I saw the headline and my heart sank, ‘Precious convertible written off in Melbourne road rage attack in the dead of night’ it said. My immediate thoughts were of a beautiful vintage Mercedes 300SL or one of those classic old style Cadillac’s with the huge rear fins. Convertibles like those really are precious and rightly deserve a place in automotive museums around the world, because they represent an era where automotive vehicle design really started to move forward in leaps and bounds. I paused for a moment and took a breath, before I continued on.
Much to my surprise, the convertible in question was actually a 1990 model Ford Capri, owned by a gentleman by the name of Phil Conlan. Hold on…. precious convertible? For those who don’t know, the Ford Capri convertible was produced by Ford Australia from 1989 to 1994. It was a dismal attempt to revive the classic ‘Capri’ name, which was previously a fastback coupe which Ford of Europe produced from 1969 until the early 1980’s. So, the Capri was back, except this time it was based on the mechanicals of the Ford Laser small car, with an engine lineup borrowed from the Mazda 323. Dreamy.
At the time, Ford saw their new Capri as a worthy challenger for the Mazda MX-5, despite it being front-wheel drive. Upon release it suffered from a huge number of quality control gremlins and immediately gained a reputation for leaking, falling to bits and just being generally rubbish. The biggest problem centred around the manually operated convertible roof, which leaked like a sieve. Ford offered to replace leaking roofs free of charge under warranty, but the replacement roofs leaked too – so what was the point? The interior was similarly bad, built entirely from poor quality plastics. The bumpers warped, cracked or fell off entirely, and Ford’s paint technology of the time meant that many Capri’s faded prematurely, particularly the reds and darker colours. Put simply, the vehicle ruined any credibility the Capri name ever had.
Despite all of this, I still think the Capri convertible deserves a place in a museum. Just one is enough, so that other automotive manufacturers and the rest of the human race can be continuously reminded of what not to do. The Capri was and always will be one of the dogs of the automotive world.
It turns out Phil Conlan owned his particular 1990 model Capri from new, after he purchased it twenty-six years ago for the princely sum of $30,500(!). In the years which followed, he always kept it garaged and in good order – which is quite an achievement. But last Wednesday night, for one reason or another he decided to park it out on the street overnight, where the car found itself on the receiving end of a road rage attack at around 3am in the morning. Oh, how I laughed.
Someone driving what looks like an older model Land Rover Discovery passed the Capri before screeching to a halt, perhaps in shock from what they’d seen. They then decided to reverse back and attack the vehicle by pushing it some 30 metres down the road. The attack damaged Phil’s ‘special bumper bars’, along with pretty much every single panel on the car. Understandably he was gutted, as he hoped that the Capri would one day it would become a family heirloom which would be passed down through the generations (or perhaps my museum idea above, Phil?).
Now before I continue, let me say that I’ve always been one to believe that people who intentionally damage another person’s car should be locked up, but I think we can all agree that having one less Capri on the road can only be a good thing. I was in fits of laughter when Phil’s daughter Georgi went on camera and said “He tried to pass it on to me a couple of weeks ago, but I said flat-out no.” I mean what’s the point of passing something on to your children that they simply don’t care about or want? At least Georgi can breathe easy now, knowing that she’ll never have to face the prospect of Ford Capri ownership.
Phil is now faced with the decision of writing the Capri off and donating the remains to a local car club, or pay the $3000 dollars required to fix it up – or in other words the current value of the car. This puzzled me, because if Phil really loved the Capri as much as he says he does, isn’t $3000 a small sum to pay to get it back on the road again?
I think what we have here is a man who is too proud to admit to his wife that twenty-six years ago he made a terrible $30,500 mistake – and he’s been pretending to love the car ever since. The driver of the Discovery has now given him a valid reason to let go of the car and save face, and understandably Phil has leapt at that chance.
“Hopefully someone will have a crack at it and it won’t go to the scrap heap,” he said.