Golden example of 70s runabout
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It's not often we cover a classic car that is also the owner's everyday driver. But to put that into context, this 1975 Ford Capri MkII GT replaced a 1949 V8 in Mike Garner's garage. He could argue it's his modern runabout.
It glowed in the sun as I arrived. And everything else about it is just as pleasurable. The seats are comfortable, the interior, golden-bronze leather and carpet so pristine it's hard to believe it's original. And cruising local country roads, I discovered a smooth engine, excellent brakes thanks to the front discs and a cosseting ride, perhaps just a whisker better sprung than I'd expected � it's nothing like as firm as the sporty looks suggest. Even the gear ratios are beautifully spaced for strong low-down pull or effortless highway cruising.
And though it boasts only 73kW and a zero to 96km/h time of 11.1 seconds, it effortlessly holds its own in modern traffic, indeed it's a very modern driving experience for a 41-year-old car.
I can't believe it hasn't been driven further.
When Mike bought the Capri it had done a genuine 45,661km. It was one of the earlier cars to arrive with a kilometre odo during New Zealand's change from imperial to metric, a process completed the following year.
Mike hasn't gone that far afield in it -- Warkworth to Mercer have been its limits, and he's clocked up only about 5000km in two years, as he lives round the corner from the Vintage Car Club rooms where he spends a bit of time.
Mike's 1970s car is eligible, as the club accepts any vehicle over 30 years old, and any member interested in eligible cars. By the sound of it, some members join simply to work on their vehicles. There's a restoration day every week, at which up to 30 people tinker on their projects, able to tap into the club's tools, hoist and collective expertise.
First registered on January 9, 1975, in New Zealand, the Capri spent most of its life around the Manawatu-Rangitikei region until Mike bought it.
"I like the look of them," he says. "They're the English Mustang and I'd always thought I'd like one, a MkII even though it's not as collectable because it's a hatchback.
"The guy I bought it off in Raglan was a retired mechanic, and in 2008 he'd given it a bare metal respray in a similar hue to the original colour, with a little more gold." But that was it, that upholstery, the headliner and chrome are all original, and the mechanicals for the 1993cc straight four-cylinder engine are all original, too, and were in good order.
"I haven't touched it, really. The previous owner put a five-speed Sierra [manual] gearbox in it, they come standard as four-speed and it's a common modification that really improves the car."
It has an after-market steering wheel, a modern radio and a pressure tank for the radiator. "I don't know why he did that."
Mike has added an electronic ignition for everyday usability.
"For Auckland they're easy to park and manoeuvre, where the big Yank tanks aren't, though they are still my preference, and I'm still a member of the Ford V8 club."
Another advantage is that Capris are easy to get parts for.
"Parts are cheap, and being a newer classic it's easier to get repairs done. I'm not very mechanically minded, which is why I bought a car already done, and if it needs work you don't need a vintage specialist to do it."
At its last WoF it needed an outer tie-rod end replaced. "My local garage fitted it and charged me less than I could get the part myself over the internet."
Mike may retain a soft spot for big, brawny American V8s, but it's the elegant Capri he greets each morning.
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