Never go back. That’s what they say, once you’ve sold a car you’ve truly adored. I was just 18 years old when I fell in love with my Ford Capri. It was a glistening black 2.8 Injection; faster and more exciting than anything I, or indeed my friends, had ever owned.
I kept it for five years and loved every minute. When the time came to sell it on and move on to bigger and better things, I shed real tears. And ever since, every now and then, I’ve wondered whether I should buy another.
But would I still feel the same about a car which thrilled me so much back then? Was it just a case of my limited experience that had made it so? It’s a question I’ve often pondered – especially since in my current line of work as an automotive journalist I’ve been lucky enough to drive a great many cars which are vastly superior dynamically. Would the Capri still feel as fast, or as exciting?
More than 15 years after I bought my Capri, I’m getting the chance to find out. And this won’t be any ordinary 2.8 Injection I’ll be driving; it’ll be the last ever made, a 280 ‘Brooklands’ – the run-out special edition with lustrous Brooklands Green paintwork, red-piped leather upholstery and larger, 15-inch alloy wheels.
Slipping into the low-slung driver’s seat behind the narrow windscreen and fluted bonnet, the memories come flooding back. And with a twist of the key the 2.8-litre Cologne V6 springs into life. This was never Ford’s greatest engine, but it is characterful, and throbs bassily as it idles. Grasp the small, high-set steering wheel, slot the long gear lever into first, and we’re away; just like the old days.
The power-assisted steering is the first thing you notice; it’s light and not at all direct, with a lot of slack around its centre. I seem to remember mine feeling similar, if not quite as sloppy as this – the rose-tinted glasses are already out, clearly.
The ride is pretty good, though the rear end feels a little jittery – a by-product of its crude leaf-sprung design. The Capri has a reputation for tail-happiness, and while earlier Capris were a bit lairy, these later cars are more controllable; the limited-slip differential fitted here makes it easy to get the power down on to the road without lapsing into wheelspin.
Up the speed a little and that steering even starts to weight up; once you’ve managed to get the Capri pointing roughly where you want it, you can lean on the power to tweak your line. You have to make sure you’ve got a decent amount of steering lock on, mind you; with too little, the front wheels break away and the car’s nose ploughs ahead. In other words, you have to drive the Capri positively and with commitment; do so and it can be reasonably entertaining in corners.
However, the Capri works best as a point-and-squirt car. Find a straight bit of road and squeeze the throttle; the engine note is superb, changing from a muted warble low down the rev-range to a full-throated yell higher up; there isn’t the traditional mellifluousness you usually get with a V6 here, but instead a rasping, buzzing yowl almost like a race-tuned four-pot.
Does it still feel fast? Happily, it does. In fact, what’s surprising is how rev-happy this V6 engine is; hold on to each gear, and there’s loads of urge at the top end, which makes it great fun to drive hard.
What’s more, the sense of occasion is still there too. When you’ve had your fun, you can calm down and cruise through the lanes with your elbow on the window ledge and that lovely, slightly nasal, intake-heavy hum following you around, feeling as though you’re in your own personal road movie.
In the way it goes around corners, the Capri doesn’t feel quite the car I remember it. But everywhere else it’s been a joy to revisit – and to discover that it still feels an exciting car to own and drive. It’s easy to see why it was usurped by smaller, feistier, more involving hot hatches. But I’m still glad I had my chance to own one – and happy to find out that it’s still just as capable of plastering a grin all over my face as it always was.
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