Lacking real world experience of actually driving any of my budget ‘dream’ cars I did all my research courtesy of the back pages of Autocar. There wasn’t a 0-60 or top speed that I hadn’t memorised to the point of utter tedium for anyone who dared ask.
So, what options were under consideration? Well, Mark 2 Escorts had a certain gritty attraction but the really desirable Mexicos and RS2000s were already out of reach. I lusted after Lotus Sunbeams and so cooking Sunbeams were considered too. Cortinas of various vintages were subjected to fantasy drag races. Chevettes were pondered but eliminated – there was just something too sterile about those pale blue interiors.
Then, fate lent a hand. My older brother decided to upgrade his car. This left his somewhat tired, but utterly, utterly desirable white pre-facelift Ford Capri 1600GT up for grabs. I can’t even remember how many miles it had, nor if it had any history. It mattered not – it was to be the coolest car amongst my peers. And that mattered.
For the princely sum of £100 I laid my hands on JPF 765K complete with a huge dent in the offside rear wing where my brother had brake tested a Dolomite late one night – like you do. I splashed another several hundred quid on insurance via a crappy broker in Romford and I was legal behind the wheel of my ‘Performance’ car.
With youthful enthusiasm I cracked on with sanding down and painting the dent. I even tried smashing it about with a large hammer thinking I might mould it into a shape that could be ‘filled’. I merely discovered that cars made of that era were made with steel several inches thick and that my neighbours were perturbed that I was hitting my ‘new’ car with a various implements.
Not to worry - I did a cracking job of tidying up the paintwork, leaving the ridiculous dent as smart as could be in fresh white paint. It had no wing mirrors so my Dad insisted that I fit one. One nasty white plastic item was purchased from Halfords and soiled my otherwise stylish car by hanging off the driver’s door like a limp handshake.
Internally, it simply required a tape deck to be lashed below the ash tray with insulating tape to supplement the archaic radio and the steering wheel to be decoked of 15 years worth of dead skin. The best feature by far was the foot operated wipers – a plunge on the rubber bubble squirted the screen. A deft heel and toe type manoeuvre around the side of the unit swished the wipers whilst I could slot it into 3rd gear, indicate, flash my lights and shout at little children. All to prove how ergonomonically advanced my 15 year old motor was.
This car was a source of immense pride for me. Anyone who asked what I drove was enthusiastically informed that I drove a Capri Geee Teee. A 1600 Geee Teee no less. This was an exclusive club for Capri owners with Rostyle Wheels, faux side vents, a rev counter (seemed to work more like a noise meter) and a swoopy exhaust manifold that upped power by a few horses to a tyre wrecking 90 bhp. Sadly the engine bay was a bit of an embarrassment with a void that you could stand in where the V6 should be. Fortunately there was a tiny inline four to propel the car but a quick glance under the bonnet revealed more tarmac than motor.
I had a happy year in that car. The only dramas were breaking off the wipers with a broom whilst sweeping off the snow, endless mornings of trying to coax it into action and someone crashing into the back of me. He immediately offered to pay me cash for the damage (a bent chrome bumper and stoved boot) and would pay by instalments. I guess he wasn’t insured and didn’t want me to drop him in it. I got a couple of payments out of him before making the mistake of going to collect the third payment whilst wearing my school uniform…
Eventually the clutch started to slip. Even today I’m embarrassed to admit I thought that I’d mastered the car to the point at which I could generate vast amounts of wheelspin, with no smoke and no power. It got to the point in the end that I could barely pull out of a junction without momentum. Eventually someone pointed out what was really occurring and I confidently professed that I knew that and I was just messing about. [cringe].
Keen to climb the motoring ladder I decided to take JPF on one final journey to the scrap yard. It was a sad day, but NRD 658R had already stolen my heart. Now to hand over £750 to a bloke down the pub for a JPS striped…