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First look: Focus loses its head

Lifting the lid: The Vignale was the star attraction when Ford launched the Focus Mk2 in Paris.

Ford can’t say no to this CC, one of the few surprises at the Paris motor show

27 Sep 2004

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in PARIS

FORD says it’s only a design study, but the show-stealing Focus Vignale Concept unveiled at the Paris salon last week is almost a dead cert to see production.

However expecting to buy one before the end of 2006 is wishful thinking.

That's if the 2003 Ford StreetKa experience – revealed in concept form three years before the production model finally followed suit – is anything to go by.

And a Ford Australia spokesperson said that even if the Vignale does become part of Ford’s model line-up there is no guarantee that it will even arrive locally.

As the name suggests, the Focus Vignale Concept– named after a late Italian coachbuilder – is based on the platform and drivetrain of the second-generation Ford small car that also debuted at the biannual French event.

Interestingly, the new Focus will eventually offer all-wheel as well as front-wheel drive, so a four-wheel drive production version is not out of the question.

However, Ford offered no mechanical detail of the Vignale, saying it was purely a mock-up.

Australians will see the Mk2 Focus hatchback and sedan – in pretty much the same formats as the model on sale now, from June next year.

However it is believed that most will spring from South Africa rather than the Spanish and German sources of today’s LR model.

Meanwhile the Vignale Concept closely follows the folding-hardtop soft-top scenario invented by Peugeot in the 1920s, resurrected by the first Mercedes SLK in the mid 1990s and made affordable in recent times by the Peugeot 206 CC.

Decked out in lashings of leather, chrome, machined aluminium and suede and sitting on 20-inch alloy wheels, Ford is touting the Parisian drop top as a premium product. It was created at Ford’s UK design centre at Dunton.

If okayed for sale, the Vignale will join the growing number of cars in its C-segment small car class, which will include the still-unseen Holden Astra Convertible II, Renault’s Megane CC and the Peugeot 307 CC.

Bets are on whether Ford will finally revive the long-rumoured Capri moniker for its Focus coupe-convertible.

27 center image It certainly is hinting very strongly at it, with the Italian connection going beyond Alfredo Vignale: Capri the island is just off the Amalfi coast and Ford has called the blue hue of the concept 'Amalfi'.

Capri still has plenty of currency amongst European enthusiasts.

The named most famously adorned a rear-wheel drive Escort-based two-door coupe or 18 years from 1969. This Capri is widely regarded as the granddaddy of the inexpensive coupe defined by the Toyota Celica.

Ironically the last Capri sold in Australia and the United States was also a four-seat convertible spawned off a contemporary Ford small car.

The Broadmeadows-developed and built SA-SE series Capri from 1989 to 1994 was based on the Mazda-derived KC/KE generation Laser.

Plagued by unforeseen production delays and early quality woes, history judges the Aussie Capri a failure.

But in its Mercury guise, it initially saw success Stateside, and even outsold the iconic Mazda MX-5 that so emphatically stole its thunder.

Since then the soft-top Ford has developed a cult following there amongst its owners.

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