WE HEAR YOU
THANK YOU FOR your enjoyable convertible feature (#410). However given that this was almost an Australia Day edition, I half expected to see the only (largely) Aussie designed, Aussie mass produced and successfully exported convertible – the Capri.
A review by a respected motoring journalist eight years ago said it was sure to stop depreciating ‘soon’ – but today you can probably get two neat, very driveable models, including one turbo, for $6000, the price of one good NA MX-5. A remarkable number of people have five or six Capris.
I bought one recently, much to my surprise. Surprised, mainly because I was looking for an NA MX5. I had forgotten that some Capris were significantly quicker than most NAs. Forgotten probably being the operative word for Capris.
I have the usual respect for MX-5s but the more I drove them the greater my awareness of their tight seating (for a larger person) and slow acceleration, even if they felt quicker than they were. How ‘liveable’ were they going to for me?
On a whim, I went to see a Capri XR2 turbo. It was modified in engine and suspension but any turbo Capri is quick for their period, and they also feel much quicker than they are.
So… One quick test drive and I was sold – $3500. I love cars but hate spending money on them and am never impulsive, but this one did it. It’s far and away the best motoring fun I have ever had per dollar. Not perfect, but pretty fine, and $3500 means it can be tidied up for a budget figure. As an ageing car, I planned to drive it infrequently to keep down maintenance costs. So much for that idea. My wife, totally unimpressed with the whole idea, now insists we use it as whenever possible, she ‘woo hoos’ with every turbo ‘whoosh’. We go for a lot more interesting drives together.
Like the harder edged Capri Turbosprint, I think mine may be too hard sprung, given its modifications, for daily commuting, but for weekend blasts it is exceptional. A more conventional XR2 turbo – quick, well sorted handling but softer riding – would be a better commuter. The non-turbos are more gentle fun, based on Laser/Mazda 323, which was a relatively sporty chassis for its time and can be very cheap.
I have now realised that what is really intoxicating is a fast, open car, not just an open car. Especially with a very audible turbo whoosh with the top down!
The early MX-5 and Turbo Capri make a fascinating comparison. While competing for the same market at the same time, each has different advantages and fundamentally different drivelines. Both are bargains in terms of fun. Contemporary testers respected both, but the MX5 has the collector ‘cred’ and deserves it. The Capri is comparatively forgotten. They would be a fascinating retrospective comparo, especially with the Capri so cheap while MX5 prices are escalating. It’s a shame you didn’t throw a Capri into the mix.
Trevor Hislop Email
ED: Thanks for the insight, Trevor.