Reader Phil Martin got plenty of raised eyebrows when he talked to mates about buying a 1991 Ford Capri – he explains why he bought it and why he loves it so much.

OUR DAUGHTER is six months away from terrorising the streets under the guise of L plates and, like most helicopter parents, we’re committed to letting her learn in the safest way possible – in the family Volvo XC60 with its 47 airbags and automatic transmission. Then we will doubtless be guilted into buying her something slightly cheaper but almost as idiot-proof for her first wheels.

Whatever happened to the good old days of risk and reward? My mum’s 1975 1.3 litre Ford Escort had no pretences (or power), yet its tricky little four-speed manual gearbox ensured I learned the right way. Plus the fuel gauge was a bit dicky, so you were always on the edge as to whether you could get home from your night-packing shift at Woollies before the ‘scort coasted to a juddering halt in the darkness.

So, to inject some reality back into the process, I tried to think of some way of helping the wonder child and her younger brother learn the basics within the confines of our four-acre block. I wanted something cheap, reliable, expendable and – most of all – manual.

Viewed with the benefit of hindsight, the Ford Capri copped a lot unwarranted criticism when launched. It was inevitably (and unfavourably) compared with the rear-wheel drive MX-5 and was mocked for the sieve-like qualities of its roof and interior build quality – and yet, underneath, it was built on tried and tested Mazda-derived running gear.

Ford Australia made all kinds of improvements, desperate for success in the US market where most models were exported. Yet it was only in production for five years (1989-94) before the Capri was killed off.

The good news is that, because the fundamentals were strong, there are still plenty around offering affordable fun. I managed to find a mechanically well maintained 1991 model with receipts, a new roof and even some rego for (wait for it) just two grand. And it’s only just clocked up 160,000 kays.

The kids love it and the bunny-hopping is all part of the fun. I’m teaching them how to replace trim, check the oil and keep it clean. And, when the sun’s out, we can all hop in it and head for the beach.

It’s only been a few months, but I don’t think I’ve spent a better two grand in my life. And anytime I get heckled for driving a hair dresser’s car, I can truthfully tell them – it’s not mine mate, it’s for the kids…


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Practical Motoring

The team of journalists at Practical Motoring bring decades of automotive and machinery industry experience. From car and motorbike journalists to mechanical expertise, we like to use tools of the trade both behind the computer and in the workshop.

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