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My Capri Comes out of Hibernation

Please bear in mind this article is historical and was written circa year 1997.  This Capri was sold around 2002 when our second white Laser was purchased.

The Countdown

Sometime back in early 1995, my Company asked if I would consider spending 2 years in America working in one of their production plants. There was quite a lot of cash incentive so after much thought we agreed. The secondment was to be in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania - which is about 25 miles North West of Pittsburgh. In actual fact, I knew the area quite well because I have been on regular business trips during the last 5 years.

The Farewell

When the departure date arrived I had to make a decision about my Capri. I couldn't bear the thought of selling her, so I managed to convince my Father-in-law to store the car in his double garage. The Capri was serviced for the last time, and then I had her professionally valeted so she would come out of hibernation looking as good as new. We manoeuvred her into the garage so she was tight up against the wall, and then I jacked up front and rear and balanced her on axle stands. I was careful to make sure that the hand brake was left off !

I removed the spark plugs and poured a few drops of oil into each cylinder and then turned the engine by hand a few times. With the spark plugs re-fitted and the battery disconnected the bonnet was closed for the last time. The windows were left slightly open to prevent condensation building up, and finally a purpose built dust sheet bought from the Capri Club was placed over the bodywork.

And that is how she sat for 14 months ..........

When I originally wrote this article, we were supposed to have stayed in the States until July 1997, but on May 20th 1996 I received the news we all dread; my company was closing the research labs where I worked and I was to be made redundant. Quite a lot has happened since then but to cut a long story short we finally left the USA on October 3rd 1996 for good. It was a time of mixed feelings as we had made a lot of good friends we had to say goodbye to. On the other hand we were excited about returning to our families and old friends, and to real beer, curries, chips and gravy and of course the beloved Capri.

The Reunion

It was very exciting being reunited with my Capri after such a long time. The car has survived storage remarkably well although we had to invest in a new battery to get her started. She was a bit reluctant at first, but a squirt of Easy-start in the air intake got things moving. After a few moments of belching out smoke, the engine settled down and was running as smoothly as ever.

It was a bit of a shock driving the Capri for the first time. I had forgotten how heavy the steering was (although things improved a bit when we inflated the tyres to the correct level). First job was to get some petrol followed by a trip to the local garage for an MOT. I was quite surprised when she passed first time; the garage owner said she was in A1 condition and one of the best Capris he had seen for a long time. She is now fully taxed and insured and has already covered several thousand miles as I search for a job. I decided to service her as the oil was looking quite murky after sitting for so long. The engine timing was slightly out which was the only major adjustment necessary. The Capri now runs like a Swiss watch again !

The Verdict

I was very happy driving my Capri again. It was nice to zoom down the motorway at 80 mph again after cruising the Interstates of America at 65 mph. It was quite a shock to see how much worse the crowding on our roads has got in just 14 months. I was in more traffic jams in three weeks than all the time we spent in the USA. My Capri does not like being stuck in traffic any more than I do ! I must do something about that heavy steering though. After driving a car with power steering it feels like trying to manoeuvre a tank.

One other thing that has changed while we were away (apart from the price !) is the introduction of lead free 4 star petrol. Despite reassurances from the garage owners, I am not convinced and reluctant to put it in my car. Now I have to be extra careful when filling up because many of the garages do not openly advertise the fact they are selling it.

Since writing this, 4 star petrol was banned in the UK on 1st Jan 2000.  Please visit my unleaded page for further details.

The Substitute

There is one thing about living in the States: you won't survive long without a car. After the ordeal of re-taking our driving test, I purchased a 1989 Mercury Sable GS which is basically everything the Capri isn't : large, comfortable, slow, boring etc. It was actually a rather nice car that proved to be very reliable. It had electric everything and came with air conditioning as standard. Like 95% of American Cars it was an automatic which was a new experience for us. Still the cruise control was very nice although I don't think there's much call for it in England.

I hate to say it but I think the slower US speed limits are much better than the mayhem on the British roads. It takes a while to 'calm down' but the slower pace of life is rather nice. Of course, the roads were almost empty where we lived, and that is something I definitely miss.

I'm afraid that the original Ford Capri has all but disappeared in the USA. They sold under the Ford name of Mercury and are fondly remembered. Strangely enough, Mercury did sell a car called Capri in 1986 - 1989. I saw a few of those; they are 2-door sports coupe with detachable roof and I gather are the same as the Australian version of the Capri.

For those of you interested, here is a picture of our Mercury Sable which I suppose is the equivalent of the Ford Granada in England. It had a very nice 3.0L V6 transverse engine which was next to impossible to do any DIY maintenance on !

" The Mercury Sable : The car you always promised you would never own ! "

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