1 Nov 2012

Ford Capri Laser 2.0 review

Recently I’ve heard a lot of talk from various motoring hacks about a cars penchant and ability to drift and indeed its relevance has been called into question. This has already been heavily thrashed out on assorted forums so I’m not about to get into that particular debate. However, as well as this and the usual horsepower / torque attributes I think there is another even more unquantifiable quality to be recognised; and that is how a car makes you feel.

Now you may (and probably will) mock, but if your car doesn’t make you feel happy or special, then it becomes a mere machine. Without some kind of emotional connection you cannot claim to be truly at one with your wheels. If someone were to damage your pride & joy, you would probably want to hunt them down and flog them, but that’s not because of how it drifts or how many ponies it’s got, its because you have built up a personal bond with it. I used to own a Jaguar XK8 to which I formed no attachment to at all. One day someone ran up the back of it. All I was concerned about was getting their insurance details and what kind of courtesy car I would get. Whereas when I spectacularly wrapped up my old Jaguar XJS many years ago, I cried myself to sleep.

As another example, I recently had the pleasure of driving a 1985 Ford Capri. Not a 2.8i or a Tickford turbo, just a standard 2.0L Laser. It wasn’t quick, it handled like a canal boat and creaked and groaned like a Victorian boiler, but the more I drove it the more I loved it. A technical tour de force it most certainly wasn’t. The only drift it could muster had to be induced by a very wet roundabout and lots of forward planning. 

However, even though I was only in its company for a couple of hours, I immediately bonded with it. I was quite happy just trickling along at gentle speeds and admiring the massive bonnet. Why did it have this effect? It was a car with character, personality and charm by the bootload. And these qualities can often make up for a lack in performance or other dynamic short comings.

It’s also other people’s reactions to the Capri that make you smile and give you a warm glowing feeling inside. As we drove through a busy town centre I lost count of how many people turned to look. The thing is though; this was a look of fondness and affection that you don’t get when driving a Supercar. Moreover, that feeling radiates in through the glass and warms the cockles of your heart. OK, maybe I’m sounding a bit soft now, but when you experience it, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

The chap who owns this particular car has a fine collection of much more powerful machinery and yet he’s previously told me that he enjoys driving the Capri more than any of his other toys. Having driven it myself I can now understand why. There’s just something about it that you can’t quite put your finger on. It makes no real sense to anyone but you and yet somehow you don’t feel the need to justify it. I think it’s to do with charm over power and character over substance. You find yourself becoming emotionally attached to a car like this for no good reason. All of it's idiosyncrasies and fables are easily forgivable simply because it makes you happy.

Now granted, if I wanted to have a serious palm sweating blast across the mountain roads of North Wales, the Capri would be the last thing I would take. But as a true car enthusiast, performance, power and dynamism sometimes just isn’t what you need. The real joy of driving is making that magical connection between man and machine and that in itself doesn’t necessarily require oodles of horsepower.

We all want certain things from our cars and life would be very dull indeed if we all wanted the same thing. In our fantasy garages we have certain cars to tick certain boxes, but I’d suggest that the next time you’re compiling a list of lottery purchases, you leave a space for something like a Capri. Something that regardless of how much (or little) power it has, it makes you feel good.

Words: Chris Small

Pics: Lee Stutt