Not a collector car, or a milestone vehicle, the Mercury Capri can best be summed up as a special interest "sporty" convertible, styled by Italians, built by Australians, with Japanese mechanicals. The Ford/Mercury Capri came about because Ford of Australia (APAO) had an interest in building & marketing an export project vehicle. The initial approval & funding was given in 1984, to develop a small front wheel drive, two seat roadster. All Capris were convertibles, with an optional removable steel hardtop, Capris were manufactured from 1989-1994 in the Melbourne Australia, Broadmeadows assembly plant & marketed primarily in Australia & the United States.
The production Capri was based on the successful 1983 Ford of Europe, Fiesta-based Ghia-designed 2-seat convertible called the Barchetta (little boat). The Capri exterior was styled by Ford's "Ghia" design studio. The engineering, the interior & folding roof were done by "Ital design" an Italian engineering/design firm. The chassis was a modified Mazda 323, mechanicals (engine, transaxle, brakes, suspension & steering) were also from a modified 1988-1990 Mazda 323, manufactured & supplied by "Mazda Motors", a Ford Asian partner.
The Ford product progress manager was Dave Fewchuck. He was assigned to the Capri project in early 1984. Dave saw the Capri through development, manufacturing, marketing & was in charge of the brand until production ended.
There were two models, the base version, and the upgraded turbo charged XR2. Both had DOHC 1.6 liter engines (96 ci). The base version was rated at an even 100 HP at 5750 RPM, and 95ft/LB of torque at 5500 RPM, while the XR2 turbo engine was rated at 132 HP at 6000 RPM and 136 ft/LB of torque at 3000 RPM. A fully synchronized five speed manual transmission was standard. A four speed EAT (Electronic Automatic Transmission) was available only on the base non turbo model.
The "Ford Capri" was initially offered in Australia 1989. In late 1990 it was marketed & sold in the US as a "Mercury Capri". Ford hoped a Sporty convertible would encourage younger/female customers into Mercury dealerships, where the customer base was primarily older/males.
The Capri was not an immediate sales success. Ford targeted first year sales of 30,000, but less than 21,000 were actually sold, & production decreased each of the three subsequent years. Despite generally favorable reports from the automotive press, the Capri suffered from initial build quality problems, vehicle recalls, poor marketing support & a negative article in the April 1991 issue of Consumer Reports.
Ford halted production when the Capri failed to meet its marketing goals & believed that future demand for two seat convertibles in general, was on the decline. In addition with the 1989 stock market slide, the Australian economy slowed and sales of consumer goods slumped. In 1990 Ford APAO (Asian Pacific Auto Operations) went from a $134 million pre-tax profit to an $84 million loss, in 1991 another $113 million loss, followed in 1992 by a $38 million loss. This decline in Ford APAO finances and other global economic negative factors called for product rethinking and corporate belt tightening. It is no surprise that the Aussie Capri got the axe as Ford APAO did not have the funds available to continue development of the slow selling Capri.
Manufacturing continued until the 1994 model year, with total world wide production reaching 66,382. The final year of production 1994 Ford of Australia assembled less than 4,000 Capris & of that number only 366 were XR2s. The last Capri rolled off the production line on 19th May 1994. This vehicle was retained by Ford and is held at the Ford Discovery Centre, in Geelong Australia, along with the first model (SA30) that was produced in Oct 1988.
We started our Capri parts business in 1998 because we believed there was a unsatisfied niche market, with ready demand for Capri replacement parts & accessories. It was also viewed an opportunity to help preserve a small piece of Australian export automotive history.
Researched, composed, written and posted in April 1999.
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