Earlier today I presented a little challenge. Here are the answers.
There were quotes under various categories such as roadholding, engineering and ashtray capacity and I asked whether the quotes related to the Ford Capri 3000 Ghia, the Alfa Romeo Alfetta or the Audi 100 S (all 1975 cars). If you want to find out the answer, just read on.
“Despite the engine size of the X, its performance is not exactly satisfying. It feels torquey and gutsy and it is, giving a reasonable amount of top speed, a comfortable amount of acceleration and a lot of flexibility from low speeds in high gears.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 1ooS? Answer: Ford Capri 3000.
“Take the N: it admirably demonstrates (its maker’s) passion for conventional design in the face of all odds.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 1ooS? Answer: Ford Capri 3000.
Handling and roadholding
“When you aim the the X at a corner the true nature of the beast is revealed and it is not a pretty sight.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 1ooS? Answer: not B or C.
“Superficially, the Y has a lot of it. The interior looks inviting, the instrumentation is extensive and easy to read and although the steering column is a couple of inches too long, the driving position is good. The let down comes once the vehicle is on the move.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 1oos? Answer: the Capri (A)
“Part of the V’s problem is that the suspension is too soft for good handling and to floppy to inspire a great deal of confidence.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 100s? Answer: the Ford.
“If you believe in cars that are uncompromisingly engineered to provide the best possible dynamic qualities, the Y has to be a bargain.” Is it A) the Capri, B) the Alfetta or C) the 100s? Answer: the Capri.
The article presented a full table of technical specifications which these days you need to spend half an hour to find on the internet. And even then they won’t be in an easily comparable format. In the table, you find that the Alfetta came with a 1779 cc DOHC, twin-choke engine pushing out 122 hp at 5500 rpm. The Capri had a meaty 2994 twin-choke V6 engine (pushrods) producing 138 hp at 5000 rpm. And Audi 100S had an 1871 cc engine with downdraft, two stage carburettor making 112 hp at 5600 rpm.
Interestingly, the Audi had much the largest fuel tank, 13 gallons to Ford’s 12.8 and Alfa’s distressing 11.9. Car’s review did not bang on much about front-drive versus rear-wheel drive. They seemed to be agnostic on it in principle. Rather, they judge the Audi as being simply the nicer-looking version of the 100 range: “it really wants to be no more than a prestigious edition of the comfortable and practical saloon”.
The Alfetta was nominally related to the saloon of the same name but was “determinedly sporting and uncompromisingly designed and engineered, with the engine at the front and the transmission at the rear.” Car quite liked the Ford’s V6: “The Capri’s V6 engine is a compact pushrod unit that has been developed from a barely adequate power unit into a smooth, strong and quite lusty device, developing 138 hp at 5000 rpm, but, more impressively, with 174 lb/ft of torque at 3000 rpm as befits an engine with more than a litre capacity advantage over the others.”
The Ford had a rigid back axle, suspended on leaf springs, coils and struts are employed at the front, along with ventilated discs, whereas drums do the stopping at the back. The engine was placed insufficiently far back to truly balance the car. Audi also had a disc/drum set-up. As with the Ford, the Audi had coils and wishbones at the front with a rigid back axle and tension bars at the rear. Is that good? Or just good enough?
Alfa offered discs all-around, in-board at the rear. The car famously had a de Dion rear axle and a five-speed gear box (to the others’ four speeders). The Alfa had torsion bars at the front and coils at the back.
The cars each had a distinct visual appearance, despite sharing a fastback profile. I notice each has a very differnt face despite operating within the same framework of lights-over-horizontal bumper. The Alfa has the dual lights nestling in a subtle cut-out in the main surface of the car. The Ford went with rectangular lamps and simple chrome-framed grille. Audi’s air-intake and lamp recess is the simplest with dual lamps and no further articulation. More interestingly, the Ford and Alfa look nothing much like their saloon cousins (the Ford didn’t have one) while the Audi shares its frontal aspect with the cheaper saloon.
If we think back to earlier discussions of styling, the Ford is clearly out of the “contemporary vernacular mould” while both the Alfa and Audi demonstrate some “high concept “thinking. That may have mattered in 1975. Today, each of them has its own appeal. But rather than finish with a Practical Driver Classics-style conclusion, I suppose I will make a judgement and say I’d probably actually buy a Capri and live with the fact it’s not as good to drive as the Alfa (Car’s description of the driving experience is very alluring) or as well-resolved as the Audi.
The Capri’s handling was not impressive in 1975 but these days I actually find the idea of the straight-line performance and sloppy handling fun in that that it’s not anaesthetic. You don’t have to explore that handing envelope anyway, it’s the seating and trim that you experience every time you drive. I simply couldn’t live with the Alfa’s complexity or the Audi’s anondyne character (it’s the best-looking of the three, by a wide margin). I would however, like to try an Alfetta some time, just to see.