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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.

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