Matthew Corrigan tells us how it used to be with Ford in general and Capris in particular.

For me, the Capri has always existed. Born before I was, the Ford was a part of my life from the moment I first peered over the side of my pram to marvel at the brightly coloured conveyances that passed occasionally along the free-flowing roads of my infancy.

I’ll try to avoid using the myriad cliches spawned when the Capri was in the ascendant: European Mustang, blue-collar sports car, everyman coupe, but it really is difficult to overstate the impact of Ford’s fastback. As with its aforementioned American cousin, the company was on to a winner.

When I was a young boy, my dad was in the fortunate position of choosing a new company car every couple of years. This would entail a visit down the road to the Ford dealer. I mean this literally; back then, manufacturers had tiny high-street dealers in the smallest of villages and towns. Here, there might be a gleaming Granada and perhaps the all-new Fiesta (Ford was on the cusp of another stellar sales success). Shoehorned between them though, in a showroom smaller than a Tesco Metro store, would always be a Capri, carefully positioned to draw the eye from the tired old Escorts that had been unceremoniously relegated to the miniscule forecourt.

1971 FORD CAPRI MK1 ADVERT 221x300 - When Capris were Cool

I would look on in awe, the kindly salesman handing me brochures and freebie posters. Alas, Dad could never be persuaded. Practicality never enters the head of a boy not yet old enough to understand that the Bodie and Doyle dream was impossible. I did eventually get my own Capri, but it had brushes, an electric motor and ran on a black plastic track.

Nothing lasts forever. By the time the hot hatch era took off, the Capri’s star was waning. They were becoming a bit seventies naff: a bit medallion, a bit splash-it-all-over, a bit Penthouse Magazine Sponsorship. Bodie and Doyle had long gone. Everything had moved on, gone upmarket. The TV cops of the time had a Testarossa.
Ford soldiered on. In a rare marketing misstep, a series of limited editions were released to try to refresh the Capri’s image. It was a pointless endeavour. In the neon glow of the wine bar’s signage, the letters GTI, RS and XR carried way more cachet than the words Calypso and Cabaret.

I think it ended in 1987 (I haven’t Googled any of this stuff – that’s kind of the point here). For the Capri’s swansong, Ford decided to push the boat out with a “Just look what you could have won” special. The Brooklands Green Capri 280 was an instant classic. And then it was over.

The world advanced. The millennium turned, the Concordes stopped flying and social media arrived. Progress. Capris all but disappeared from sight. Cars certainly improved. Those we drive today are immeasurably better built, safer and more reliable than ever before – there were good reasons my dad’s cars had a two-year life cycle. Yet they have become curiously disposable. Criminally idiotic, wasteful and environmentally destructive scrappage schemes brought the demise of hundreds of thousands of perfectly serviceable vehicles. Thankfully, however, there were some survivors.

Some people have weird emotional ties with cars. They keep them going, restore them and cherish them. And one of them must have started the resurgence of the humble old fast Ford with the thought: you know what – Capris are cool and I shall use mine without fear. And he or she was right.

6344a2821820410334265892c5053ce1 230x300 - When Capris were Cool

Many, many things that were once popular have to go through a phase. Fashions, singers, cars, all enjoy their moment in the sun before falling out of favour, often becoming an object of ridicule among those who really ought to know better. But then comes the rehabilitation. I sometimes see a Capri locally these days. It’s an immaculate two-tone 2.8 Injection Special and it never fails to make me smile. By the same token I know where there is another, slowly returning to the earth. It’s only a lowly 1.6 but it makes me sad, nevertheless. Nostalgia is a hell of a thing.

Which is why so many are viscerally angry with the Ford Motor Company right now. When the Cortina was (sort of) killed off, its replacement was given an entirely new name. As was its own successor, as was the Escort etc. etc. The company always seemed to understand that names mean something to people. That changed when they decided to resurrect the Puma name for a generic SUV. However, the original Puma, good though it undoubtedly was, never really entered the public consciousness in the way that, for example, the Transit did. Or the Capri. Which, it seems, is about to make a comeback. However, what was captured out testing by a magazine photographer was not a rakish-yet-affordable coupe. Far from it. With a masterful cynicism that can only have come from a marketing dept stuffed to the gills with bright young Starbucks-swilling things, the new Capri is to be a bloated, amorphic, charmless, utterly soul-destroying, electricity-powered short-range SUV. In short, rather than choosing to celebrate a wonderful heritage with an emotionally appealing homage, Ford is giving us its very antithesis.

I’m aware I’m opening myself up to the tedious accusation of being an old man yelling at the clouds here but I’m not against change when it improves things. Maverick’s P-51 remains a thing of beauty, but it was the Darkstar* that captured my imagination and made me wonder. And while everyone is used to BMW taking a dump on their history by now, nobody is really bothered. Ford, however, is different. People care. For a certain demographic, Ford is inextricably linked with their childhood. And the way things are going, it may be the last demographic that can afford to buy new cars for quite some time.
As someone far wittier than I commented on Twitter the other day…

The new Capri – the car you never promised yourself.

*Yes, I know.

Matthew Corrigan is an author, editor and copywriter who can be hired to make your business better.

Buy his excellent Osprey

Buy his excellent and definitive Peugeot 205 GTi