The Ford Ghia Barchetta That Became a Mercury Capri
Back in 1984, Ford was keenly interested in having a true two-seater sports car. This would be a much smaller and nimbler car geared to attract a younger crowd.
It began just as talk between two Ford executives in 1982. During 1983, the car slowly evolved based on the Ford Fiesta chassis and was slated to be built by Ford's then Ghia division in Europe. The name—Barchetta—is Italian for small boat.
This car was never to be a muscle sports car, but rather a car that was cool in styling for rolling around town. When the car prototype debuted in 1983 at the Geneva Auto Show, there was enough interest in it to propel Ford to move forward with it. People liked the cute, minimalist approach to this roadster. Many asked, When will this be in production and for how much?
There was sufficient interest for Ford to continue with it; it proved the public was interested in a two-seater sports car. Ford even announced that dealers should inform interested buyers that it might be available in 1988 or '89 and sell for $8,500.
In 1984–5, Ford actually became very serious about producing the Barchetta and ramped up their production facilities. The production run would be between 15,000 and 20,000.
But, that was the end of it all. It never happened. The few real models around must be worth a lot.
Somehow, between 1985 and 1989, Ford's Barchetta, to be built in Europe, morphed into the Mercury Capri, which was produced from 1991–94.
The Capri was built in Australia by Ford using a Mazda 323 chassis and engine, while the body was designed by Ghia. Most of the Capris built ended up in America and Australia. Production abruptly ended in 1994 as sales simply plummeted. However, in 1991, it did outsell the Mazda Miata, which is still made today.
The Ford Barchetta was to be built on the XR2 model using a 1.6-liter engine with 5 speeds but no turbo. It created 96 horsepower. The Capri XR2 did have a turbo and created almost 140 horsepower.
As the Barchetta slowly morphed into a Mercury Capri, the latter gained weight and became longer. The Barchetta's wheelbase was 90 inches, the Capri is 95 inches. The overall length went from 137 inches to 166 inches, and the width from 61 inches to 64 inches. The Capri also had a rear seat.
Ford had not planned to have front-wheel drive nor a turbo in the Barchetta because the Barchetta was only 1,800 pounds. But as time went on, the Capri turned into a 3,200-pound car with the same engine, producing just 96-horsepower for non-XR2 models. This makes the car very sluggish on the highway and for passing. This was one reason the Capri eventually died; it was underpowered unless you bought the XR2 model.
As far as performance, the Barchetta took 13 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph, while the Capri XR2 got there in 8 seconds.
The Capri sold well in 1991 and was often called a "Barbie" car for women, because in reality, it was not a true sports car like the Miata, but a sporty-looking car for around town.
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