By on September 7, 2011

Bob Lutz admitted in his book Guts that he “possesses a certain duality of mind,” and he ain’t kidding. After all, how could someone spend a career in an industry built on “the industrial logic of scale” (to borrow a phrase from Sergio Marchionne) while trying to connect new vehicles with the lust centers of the human brain without developing a certain amount of creative schizophrenia? But, as anyone who has ever driven a Pontiac Solstice knows, sometimes compromises are made between the conflicting pulls of lust and practicality… and when those compromises must be made, Lutz tends to err on the side of lust. I confronted him about this tendency in our recent conversation, and rather than accept the criticism, he doubled down on his premise that lust-worthy design is more important than practicality. And he illustrated his point by telling the tale of a long-forgotten concept and its troubled path to production.

The story began, almost inevitably, when I asked Lutz if he had any regrets about the Solstice/Sky “Kappa” program. Did he ever second-guess himself on design decisions made in that program, I wondered. Was practicality unnecessarily sacrificed? Would more usability have had any effect on sales of the Solstice or Sky? After the briefest moment of reflection, Lutz answered with a fairly emphatic negative. But rather than leave it at a simple “no,” Lutz unfolded a parable about product development that began the year after I was born.

Do you remember, we did a two-seat Fiesta roadster at Ford of Europe one time? I forget what it was called… we didn’t call it a Speedster, but it was… I guess it was kind of like a Porsche Speedster. If you Google it… it had a unique body… I think we showed it at the Geneva show… 84 I think.

It was a really neat looking car with a very fast front end. It kind of reminds me of the BMW Z3 because the hood had to stay level for a while to clear the engine and then it dropped off sharply. It was a two-seat roadster with a very short back end… the wheels were all the way in the back. It was cute as all get-out… but the functionality was probably close to zero. No back seat, no trunk, nothing… just a very basic, low-cost, two-place roadster.

Lutz remembered the car, he just couldn’t remember the name. With a little Google wizardry and a lucky stumble across this blog item, I found the name: the Ford Ghia Barchetta. And he was only off by one year… apparently the Barchetta debuted in 1983. He was also right about the looks: in many ways it seems like the inspiration for Fiat’s wildly-successful (and gorgeous) front-drive Barchetta, which was built from 1995 until 2005 with only a brief pause. But now we’re getting sidetracked… back to our story, already in progress, with the first compromise made to the concept:

I wouldn’t let them change the engine placement. I said “if we have a chance of putting this into production,” (which I really badly wanted to do), “we have to keep the Fiesta underpinnings.”

So far, so good. But here’s where the story becomes a parable.

I needed some volume to make a viable program out of it, so I figured we could probably do eight or nine thousand of them in Europe, and we gave it to Ford NAO (North American Operations) and said “what can you do with it?”. They did some Supermarket parking lot surveys and they asked women coming out of the grocery store “what do you think of this?” They said “oh, it’s cute. What would it cost?”. “About eight thousand dollars.” “Oh, that’s a lot of money.” And then [the Ford NAO people] said “aaand, you can have this four-cylinder Mustang convertible for $7,800.” “Oooh,” they said, “well I’ll take that.” So they concluded there was no volume potential in the United States… and of course there was, they were just asking all the wrong people.

This encapsulates why Lutz deserves at least some grudging praise from even his toughest critics: lust is difficult to make a case for in the auto business. Simply trying to convince Ford’s US-market fiefdom that they would benefit from such an unusual vehicle in their lineup was an insurmountable task that he tackled anyway. As the romance and enthusiasm slowly drains away from the world of cars, very few executives risk their careers for exciting products that might not make immediate business sense. Sure, this risk-taking seems less laudable in the aftermath of the bailout, but it’s integral to the cultural power of the automobile. And, as the story continues, we’ll find that if you’re going to take a risk on a niche product, you better really take a risk on it.

Then Alex Troutman at [Ford Asia-Pacific] got interested in it for Asia-Pacific, and went and talked to Mazda. Mazda said “no, we don’t like that one because it’s front-wheel-drive, but we’re actually thinking of doing something like that with rear-wheel drive. And Alex said no, ours has got to be off a Ford architecture.

If Lutz had any regrets about not involving Ford in the creation of the Miata, he didn’t let them show. On the other hand, the missed opportunity had to sting at least a little. After all, if you’re taking a risk on an impractical two-seater, why not go all the way with RWD? And with the benefit of hindsight, involvement in a modern icon like the MX-5 would be a point of pride for any “product guy.”  But Lutz only had control over Ford of Europe, and by this point he had even lost control of the Barchetta project. It was about to become everything it wasn’t ever supposed to be.

When Alex went back to the states, he got [the program] going again. It was carefully researched, so it was decided that front wheel drive is OK, but we don’t like the front end. So, OK, the front end got more conventional. Then, “it’s no good with no back seat. People won’t buy a car with no back seat.” Well, OK, we can add a back seat. And then, “oh, there’s no trunk space.” Alright, add a trunk. And so it became that misbegotten little Mercury [Capri], remember that? What a horrible thing. That started out as the Fiesta.

That started out as a beautiful, slick, highly desirable little roadster that would have done well. Functionalizing it wrecked it. And I’ll tell you what: Solstice owners had no problem with that top at all. When you’re into emotional cars, it’s about appearance and how cool is it… it’s the same thing as sports motorcycles. Not necessarily comfortable, not suitable to saddlebags… but they look like track bikes and they’re fun to ride.

I know that not all of TTAC’s B&B will agree wholesale with Lutz’s vision, but the tale of the Barchetta’s transformation into the Capri is instructive. When you have a successful design, and cardesign.ru cites Ford press releases saying the German “Barchetta Club” alone had 10k members at one point, you keep it as pure as possible or you don’t build it all. It’s easy to criticize Lutz as being too uncompromising, but in an intensely collaborative process like car development, the ability to say “no dammit, we aren’t going to compromise on this” is a rare thing. If the world were full of cars that are as practical as they are fun, his approach might be dismissible. Since that’s not the case, this is an object lesson in the trade-offs that create crap like the Capri out of a tiny jewel like the Barchetta.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

58 Comments on “Cars Only Bob Lutz Remembers: The 1983 Ford Ghia Barchetta Concept...”


  • avatar
    mikedt

    It might not have been fair, but what turned me off to the Solstice was the gas tank popping up into the middle of the trunk. It was like they forgot they needed a gas tank until the very last minute before the car hit production. “Oh CRAP! We forgot the tank!” It made me wonder what other “small” details they left out.

    • 0 avatar
      epsilonkore

      As the owner of a Sky, I can tell you they missed several small things. The lack of engine NVH refinement and the decent looking, but hard plastics are a start, the “fussy top”and lack of trunk sealed it for reviewers. That being said, the car is still tons of fun for the money, and drop dead gorgeous. The constant “Thats a Saturn?” comments and watching people turn around as you pass them never gets old, even after 3 years. So many things could have been fixed with version 2.0, but cash and luck had run out for GM (and Saturn). Pity, they are always on to something by the time sales fall through (Fiero). Niedermeyer is dead on about the Solstice/Sky owners though, we dont mind the fussy manual top one bit.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    You know what would have sold that car? A picture of Lutz with one foot atop its overturned hulk, cigar in hand. That would have sold the Barchetta.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    So that explains the Panamera.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    It did not help the Mercury Capri that it also was indifferently assembled an drove like shit (reading between the lines of the contemporary reviews of the car).

    A real Detroit home run:

    Crappy design? Check!
    Sloppy build quality? Check!
    Sucky driving dynamics? Check!

    Good! Release it to market!

  • avatar

    So endeth the Contour/Mystique twins too. The World Car idea gives us a 3 sized, decent handling (in proper options), V6 with a manual. Ford gets it, puts it next to a Taurus. The bigger car is about the same price, even if an anvil by comparison. Most don’t care “see, monthly payments and least crappy car for that money”, so the Taurus outsells the better but smaller Contour.

    Ford learns Americans won’t pay for a small car, no matter the merits, and the cheaper to produce, in house, Taurus, looks even better when the Contour is de-contented.

    See also, Ford Probe v. Ford Mustang.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      Same with the Merkur/Sierra, the Lincoln LS and long running Focus. When it comes to the US market Ford hasn’t missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, which is why I’m still a bit skeptical about the Focus and the proposed ‘Mondeo’-like car that will replace the current Fusion.

    • 0 avatar

      Ford tried to do too much too quickly with the Contour. If they’d planned to sell 100k cars at a premium price point instead of 300k to former Tempo owners they’d have done much better with it in the long run.

    • 0 avatar
      SimonAlberta

      @speedlaw

      Right on the money there.

      I was working at a Ford dealership around the time of the Contour launch and it was a very frustrating time.

      The Contour theoretically replaced the successful Tempo but, as you point out, it was way too expensive to do that. Tempo-oriented buyers wouldn’t look at it.

      To make matters worse, the new “bigger and better” Escort, which was a more-or-less straight swap replacement for the Tempo in terms of size/price/performance etc. was a no-go either because Tempo buyers wouldn’t even sit in one because they saw themselves as one step above an Escort and wouldn’t even look at it either. And even “Escort buyers” were reluctant to buy it because it was now too big and too expensive for their budgets.

      Basically Ford managed to lose a high percentage of both traditional Escort and Tempo buyers in quick succession.

      If it hadn’t been for trucks and the newish Explorer we would have been selling fresh air.

      And, no, this isn’t a 20/20 hindsight thing – I, and many others, were complaining about the situation immediately at the time.

      • 0 avatar
        msquare

        The Contour/Mystique had one fatal flaw that probably did it in more than anything else. It was too cramped in back. They did try to open up a little bit of space by scooping out the seatbacks, but that’s one area where the Taurus won out easily.

        I remember taking my eight-year-old Contour in for recall work (previous owner hadn’t had it done and I just made the deadline) and got a brand-new Taurus as a loaner. No comparison, the Contour did just about everything better. Except hold four people.

        Mine is a V6/automatic. Also not such a great combo, as the CD4E tranny (still available until recently on Escapes) emasculated the engine, not to mention cut fuel economy to a miserable-for-its-size 19 mpg. But my nephew will be happy with it anyway because he needs solid, dirt-cheap (as in free) transportation. And it’s sure to turn him into a car snob.

        Contours, though, are absolutely sweet-handling cars, lighter on their feet than even 3-series BMW’s, and I’ve owned E36 and E46 coupes.

        Still, in that market segment, I can see why that back seat was a deal-breaker.

      • 0 avatar
        windswords

        The Dodge Stratus/Chrysler Cirrus (aka “cloud cars”) had it all over the Contour/Mystique in back seat room at a lower price point. They had so much room in fact that the EPA may have classified them one size up then what they were marketed forct. The ride was decent enough too in the first generation. My wife’s grandmother was a Honda snob. She bought a new Accord every 4 or 5 years. But she was impressed with my Stratus ES company car and thought it rode as good as her Accord.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      Except that the Contour was a time bomb in terms of reliability and the Taurus had a good track record once the 3.8 was gone.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      You are correct. But, please observe the hand of Ford NAO (North American Operations). Their motto was NIH.

      They were tasked with making the Mondeo a world car. In Europe it was a top of the line D class sedan. In the US the Taurus was in that slot, and NAO was not about to mess with that. They had a perfectly execrable C sedan, the Tempo, and nice enough B car the Escort. So, they cut a couple of inches out of the Mondeo, dubbed it the Contour/Mystique, and used it to replace the Tempo.

      As such, it was crippled with notoriously tiny rear leg room, and it was way to nice to sell at the price point they wanted to sell it at between the Taurus and the Escort. They therefore worked to decontent it. When they brought out the new Focus, they used it to replace the Contour and the Escort.

      What they should have done was to move the Taurus up to a full sized car, and make the Mondeo their D car. But, they were making too much money selling SUVs and trucks to care.

      Since then they have attached the Taurus name to a E sized car (perfectly ugly, IMHO), slotted the Fusion in as a D car, the Focus as a C and the Fiesta as a B. It should be noted that the Fusion was designed on a Mazda platform that was derived from the Mondeo.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      I had an ’89 Probe GT (turbo version). It had it’s problems….the torque steer was so bad you could change lanes using the throttle. On the other hand, the level of high tech goodies that car had made the Mustang look like a Conestoga wagon with a locomotive engine bolted into it by comparison. The Probe was available with speed sensitive steering, four wheel disc, driver adjustable suspension setting, antilock, intercooled turbo, etc. There was talk of an all-wheel drive version. If you kept your foot out of it, it would return 32mpg on the highway. Doesn’t sound like much today, but this was back in 1989 when few high dollar luxury cars offered such things. The Probe had the potential to become a great sports coupe with proper management. Instead it succumbed to corporate politics….obscene per-unit profits from behemoth SUV’s didn’t help the matter either. You can forget about seeing anything like a new Probe from Ford. Americans are now too fat, too old, and too poor for such a thing.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        ANYTHING made the Mustang look like a Conestoga wagon. I had three Mustangs in a row. I had a 3.3L ’81 Mustang that made 90HP. I later replaced it with an ’84 VW convertible that had a 1.8L 90HP four cylinder AND it made better MPG. It had the GTI suspension and thus was fun to drive.

  • avatar
    tech98

    I remember the Barchetta very well, one of my favorite concept cars of the 80s. The storyline of how this spunky, simple and elegant design became the pathetic Capri seemed to typify the bureaucracy-choked mediocrity of FoMoCo.

    Last I heard, Ford sold the Barchetta prototype and it is in a private collection on the California central coast.

  • avatar

    Intelligent solutions win out over both “purity” and quick, easy compromises. Lutz errs in assuming it’s either/or.

  • avatar

    Bob has forgot more than most people know. most, not all. up yours Lutz.

  • avatar
    SWComp

    “And I’ll tell you what: Solstice owners had no problem with that top at all. ”
    > horsecr@p; I would have bought one except for the stupid top and lack of any usable trunk. And I used to have a TR6 so I can put up with a lot. Rented a Solstice for a week on a business trip; putting the top up/down was a complicated pain and my small roll-aboard bag and briefcase had to go in the passenger footwell because some moron forgot to make room for either in the so called trunk space. GM would have sold a lot more Solstice/Sky’s if they had a proper top and trunk.

    • 0 avatar
      wagonsonly

      To be sure, the article does say “owners” – not “prospects,” i.e. the people who ruled out the Solstice/Sky because there are better packages with fewer compromises (Miata, S2000, used Z3/Z4, possibly TT, Boxster with an extended warrany….)

      His other point is that buying a car like the Solstice or Sky is an emotional decision, which is also true – the prototypical Kappa owner is likely someone who has strong (emotional) brand loyalty to GM, or who fell in love with the car’s styling, or saw one in a dealer and had to have it. Sure, had GM taken the time to come up with a better mousetrap (as Karesh suggested above), more people would have bought the car and it would have been a serious challenge to the Miata or S2000 or what have you. Instead, people who allowed themselves to connect emotionally to the cars were the only people who bought them – the same people who are most likely to overlook the clunky top or arm-spraining cupholders.

      As for myself, I can’t lay claim to any emotional attachment to the Kappas. But I feel for those who do – this past winter, I found one of my dream cars. I’ve long wanted a Miata-sized roadster, but I didn’t want a me-too Miata. So after narrowing my field to either a late-90s Boxster, or something similarly-styled but at the other end of the prestige spectrum, I endured a 50-hour-long road trip from CT to NC and back, in a snowstorm, to pick up my beautiful, one-owner, low-mileage, all-original, ragtop, Geo Metro (for which I paid waaaaay too much money – not Boxster money, but nice-Miata-and-then-some money). Emotional decision? Sure, but I couldn’t be happier about it, compromises and all.

    • 0 avatar

      When I think about buying a roadster, I cross a lot of them off the list because of small trunks. The other liability for the Solstice/Sky, in my book, is weight. Why should I buy one when the Miata weighs 300-400 lbs less?

      This is one area where Lutz is just full of dung (see the article where Ed asks him why GM cars weigh more than the competition).

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        So is the trunk shallow and small? My parents owned a mid-90s Z-28 Camaro which had a trunk that I recall being shallow but not wide or long. My friend’s early 90s hatchback Firebird that was long and wide but not deep…

        Not enough room under the car to make the trunk bigger?

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Bob really wants to be Lee, and create ‘the Mustang’ again, (don’t we all …) And is constantll hindered by the existence of…
    (dramatic pause)
    The Mustang!!! :P
    Honestly, had they pitched the Solstice more like the unpractical wannabe racer that it is (an underpowered Cobra) they could probably have sold more, not to mention using a Yellow Solstice as Bumblebee in the Michael Bay made commercials ,instead of the Camaro. (which fits so bad for any ex-transformers-fan like me) And did I mention, letting the Solstice play the stereotypical black guy, who is the only Autobot killed in the film, I could go on forever….)

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    This is a great example of how successful Lutz is at re-remembering history to justify his product development shortcomings and throw you off track from the original question.

    Ok, so he liked the Barchetta but was hell bent on not letting them “change the engine location” b/c it had to stay based on the fiesta – but he never says where “they” wanted to move it to. Then they show it to Mazda and they say “No Dice” b/c we like RWD. So Lutz or someone (I think he had left Ford by then) can’t let it die and goes to Australia and gets the Capri and it flops as the Mustang is being reborn…but the real problem was project bloat…not exchange rates/dealer body/quality of product…

    Now, the parable is good stuff and all and I can appreciate your effort to enrich my life with “inspiring” products….but can you explain to me again why Mazda can take your idea – swap the drive wheels, spot you 10 years on what to copy and what not to copy on a small RWD sports car and I still can’t figure out how to put the top up or carry a loaf of bread?

    Classic

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I am not onboard with this idea that you have to choose between practicality and lust in developing a car. There are plenty of cars that can be relied on to start every morning, but are also fun to drive.

    A small subset include:
    Miata, Mazda3, Civic Si (maybe not recently), AE86, 335, Z, S2000, ‘Stang, Vibe, WRX.

    Most of these can be had for $30K or less, about average for a new vehicle these days. I don’t see Lutz associated with any of them.

  • avatar
    timlange

    To the Solstice/Sky whiners, if you don’t like it, buy/get something else! I love my Solstice, top goes up or down in fifteen seconds, less if the second person helps. That is quicker than I can put my cycle helmet on/off.

    Two of us, one male, one female, can pack for four days and put the top down. No, it does not include a dinner jacket/gown and hard luggage. But eight bottles of wine will fit behind my seat. The GMPP gives me 290HP now, all for the price less than a new Goldwing. If it works for you great, but don’t whine if a Civic will not haul your 15,000# fifth wheeler.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Oh, I actually remember the Ghia Barchetta when it came out. I always wondered were it went, it looked so neat. I had no idea it morphed into the creeped out Capri. A thing like that.

    And I think Honda cribbed the front lights going into the wheel well thingy with the Honda Beat.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Beat

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    I remember when the Ghia Barchetta was on the cover of Car and Driver in 1983. It was great looking, but obviously needed a few changees to make it worth buying. Lutz had 5 years to make the trunk and the top work. Even the crummy Capri could have been a huge success, but it needed to reach production as an ’87 or ’88 model. Once the Miata arrived, hatchback based compromises were pointless.

  • avatar
    Flipper

    As the owner of a del sol I can tell you part of the allure of a 2 seat open top car is the availability of you and your S.O.(or date) being able to throw a weekend’s worth of *stuff* in the trunk, and take off to a *destination*. Why get a car for nice drives if it gets left @ home for overnight drives out of town?

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Hey Bob, count me as one of those “wrong people” who’d rather have the $7,800 four-banger Mustang ragtop than a silly, Fiesta-based roadster. People like Lutz (and a lot of posters on this site and others) will be forever disappointed that Joe Public doesn’t buy the car they think he should buy.

    Lutz’s disappointment is compounded by the fact that most of his gimmicky concepts were plagued by one or more of the following: 1) Compromised design/engineering, 2) Sticker shock, 3) Abysmal quality/reliability. “And I’ll tell you what: Solstice owners had no problem with that top at all. When you’re into emotional cars, it’s about appearance and how cool is it…” Yeah, and 2004 Cavalier buyers had no problem with PepBoys bodywork, Third-World interior and 1982 suspension. Of course they didn’t have a problem – they bought the car. But what about all the people that crossed-shopped the Solstice with the MX-5 and went with the Mazda because it drove better, felt infinitely better and somehow managed to have a brilliantly simple, compact, easy-to-used folding top without being any less “emotional” than Bob’s pet project?

    I know people like this guy because he’s provocative and takes ridiculous pictures of himself, but seriously, as an auto executive he’s cancer. He’s like the anti-Iacocca: He’s got a knack for promoting concepts with almost no mass-market appeal. Moreover, he’s utterly unapologetic when it comes to his cars’ fatal flaws. Why do companies keep hiring this guy?

  • avatar
    SP

    Interesting story … and I sort of like the overall premise …

    But I am not sure I buy the example given. Was the Capri crap? I don’t think so. From what I hear, it was a lot of fun, in a weird way. It didn’t sell that well … but that doesn’t make it crap.

    • 0 avatar
      wagonsonly

      Ford. Drive one. You’ll understand…..

      HHaving driven a Capri, it’s just not any fun at all – too heavy, too much flexing, and too little room in the driver’s seat (and I’m only 5’8″).

  • avatar
    Bryce

    I remember the hype surrounding the Aussie Capri when it was new Ford were screaming its brilliance and constantly advertising for workers to keep up with the demand which never eventuated as rhe car was rubbish it was a restyled Mazda 323 cabriolet and made a great mobile pool but a lousy car.

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    I agree with Lutz. Lusty cars may be poo-poo’d by bean counters, but even if they ‘flop’, the names carry on becuase people remember them. how many cars/performance packages that didn’t make a lick of bean counter sense came back again due to nostalgia or popular demand, even if they were paint-and-stripe packages? Boss? Cobra? Z-28? Allroad? R/T? Magnum? To this day, the auto scene is littered with marketing hacks picking the bones of great cars that were born from an engineer’s lust and cut down by a beancounter’s pen.

    • 0 avatar

      just a cotton pickin’ minute….Lutz was a loud mouth who did more damage talking than he did good in a styling studio. after basking in limelights he slept thru meetings. most of his creations were dead on arrival. his legacy only shines in photo shoots. remember he was part of the team that decimated and bankrupted America’s largest industrial enterprise. excuse me but I call ‘em as I see ‘em.

  • avatar
    CamaroKid

    These Lutz love-ins are becoming comical now… Let me get this straight. Lutz is a genius since he comes up with the idea of a FWD Miata in 1980-something, long before the Miata, gets grumpy when no-one thinks it will sell. Forces it through anyway… Tries to take credit for at least the idea that was the Miata (which he had nothing to do with)… Then he loses control of his own project and it comes out as some weird compromise that ultimately fails…

    So while at GM he tries the same stupid idea again (at least this time driven by the right wheels)… and guess what, it is STILL a sales flop, just like they told him it would be in the 80′s. It fails so badly it helps kill off the two brands that marketed the car(s).

    If Lutz is so smart and adamant that weird marketing and user group based compromises never work, why did HE drive through a weird compromise on the 2005 STS (that also failed)

    Whats Lutz’s next great idea… A luxury station wagon!… ya, that will sell.

    A good auto executive will drive a product that he thinks is right all the way to production. A Great auto executive will do that WHILE he learns NOT to repeat his mistakes. I’m not sure that Lutz is either.

    But that’s OK, because Lutz KNOWS that he is a great auto executive, and he repeats over and over that he is a “car guy” who builds cars that are full of lust and passion. You just have to ignore that no one buys his cars. And they are a train wreck of failed promises.

    Lutz, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice… Well I won’t get fooled again… To loosely quote our last President.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Mr. Lutz needs to realize that an idea that can’t be properly executed is a bad idea. Good ideas are those ideas that actually work than they are implemented.

      Oops, too late. Lutz is practically retired, so he won’t be learning any new tricks anytime soon.

      Maybe he could find a way to occasionally take some responsibility for his mistakes. Then again, the GM oldsters seem to be pathologically incapable of owning up to anything that they’ve ever done wrong.

  • avatar
    spinjack

    WIth the focus on Lutz, the larger issue is being ignored. That is the propensity of Ford/GM/Chrysler to take great ideas and completely butcher them. Whether the Ghia would have been a success or not, that it ended up being the Capri points to the process from concept to production that occurs over and over.

    For example, the original Volt was a two seat sports car. At $41,000, that makes a hell of a lot more sense than the Volt sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      But, somebody in the marketing department says – hey, more people can use a sedan, more people prefer sedans so let’s make a sedan!

      I drove a Volt last week. Fine automobile that I really don’t like to look at. Loved the electric drive. When it gets down to $25K I might bite.

      Until then: I’ll be shopping sporty Euro-wagens.

  • avatar
    50merc

    I’d like to ask Lutz how much money GM lost on the Solstice/Sky.

    Then I’d ask how many Silverados and Yukons made no money for GM because the profits were absorbed by losses on the two-seater.

    There must be some bitter (ex-)executives who saw all the good they did for the corporation get wiped out by debacles like the Cadillac and Buick “sports cars”. For that matter, there must be some Buick salespeople who are disgusted that GM threw away products like Park Avenues and LeSabres.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      “For that matter, there must be some Buick salespeople who are disgusted that GM threw away products like Park Avenues and LeSabres.”

      Yeah his name is Buickman.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    I remembered the Barchetta, in fact, I alluded to this about 3 weeks ago in a comment, “bella Barchetta,” to Murilee’s piece on the Nissan roadster.

    I remember seeing the Barchetta up close and personal … boy, it was tiny.

    The Capri ragtop was crap. Cowl shake. Lousy materials. Leaky and not so durable top. Boring design. Torque steer. High warranty costs. IIRC even problems with the AUD to USD exchange rate. In the end, the vehicle that Sir Alex said had to be based on a Ford platform was built by Jac Nassar’s FoA on a warmed-over Mazda 323 platform. What a bunch of jokers!

  • avatar

    In 2002, Ford sold off some of their concept cars through an auction run by Christie’s. The Ghia Barchetta sold for $35,250, slightly exceeding expectations.

    http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=3942122

  • avatar
    Jimmy7

    I bought a new Capri in 1991. I needed a commuter, and I wanted a convertible. The Miata and DelSol were too small and the Dodge Shadow was a piece of crap; I knew that I was buying a 323 droptop, not a sports car, and the Capri served me well for 100,000 miles. It took two people and their luggage on two week vacations and always gave me around 25 mpg. I drove it to Pikes Peak and Carhenge and Monument Valley and beat the crap out of it on L.A. freeways for 8 years and it never gave me any real trouble.

    The Capri suffered from coming out at the same time as the Miata, and though the two shared an engine they were very different cars. It was kind of like a Japanese Karman Ghia made by Australians. It was no sports car; but I remember driving it down PCH below Monterey with the top down and the sun shining and front-wheel drive understeer really didn’t matter a bit.

    That said, the top sealed poorly at what would be the C pillar and the base engine/automatic was sloooow. The cowl shook on rough roads with the top down. There is no guarantee that Lutz’s version would have been any better. But it would have been smaller, and it woudn’t have been as good on a long trip.

  • avatar
    frontline

    In 1987 I had a Cadillac Allante . Is there any possible way you could connect poor Lutz with this soft top? The team who engineered that top were criminals. By the way, I have put up with literally life threatening crap just to be with good looking women ….but that’s just shallow me!

    PS The top on my Solstice was perfectly reasonable to use but I did not like the little furls in the canvas.

  • avatar
    makuribu

    The corporate structure of companies the size of Ford and GM prevents anything interesting coming out of them. Committees of middle managers (both engineers AND MBAs) protecting their careers gut any interesting ideas. See the Fiero, Reatta, etc etc. In the late 70s GM was tossing around the idea of a cheap “disposable” car that cost so little that the average consumer would drive it into the ground and replace it every three years rather than maintaining it. By the time the Geo Metro appeared in the 1990s, they cost the same as any other econobox, without the quality.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India