Leo’s 1969 ‘gem’ Capri is his ‘pride and joy’

Leo Kealey with his 1969 Ford Capri.  (1304JB70)
Leo Kealey with his 1969 Ford Capri. (1304JB70)

When Leo Kealey pulls up at a petrol station to fill up on fuel he attracts a few surprised stares, and it’s little wonder why.

Firstly, the Limavady man is behind the wheel of his “pride and joy”, a vehicle not seen too often on the road these days - his beloved, 1969 fern green Ford Capri in pristine condition.

Secondly, Leo is 80 years old, although he could easily be mistaken for a man in his sixties.

“When I’m out in it and stop for petrol, I always get a few looks. People say she’s a great looking car and think it’s refurbished, but it’s exactly like when I bought it,” he told the ‘Journal’.

The history of the car is of some vintage, going back to 1969 when Leo was buying his first set of wheels as a married man.

“My wife, Sadie and I went up to Patsy McGuigan’s in Dungiven and we were looking at two cars - a Ford Cortina and the Capri - but, in the end, we went for the Capri. We liked the look of the Capri better; it was sleeker and was fashionable at the time. There were a couple of other boys from Dungiven and Greysteel who had one, I remember,” he says.

“It cost £920, which I suppose was quite a bit of money in those days, but it included a year’s tax,” he says.

“So we made the deal, and Patsy delivered the car down to Limavady and then I had to run him back up to Dungiven.”

Ironically, Leo says he only meant to keep the car a few years and then trade it in for something else, but things didn’t quite work out and the car has become “part of the family”.

During his early years, the company Leo worked for introduced a company car scheme, which Leo joined. After that ended, he bought a car from a colleague, while the Capri remained at home.

The car has 135,000 miles on the clock and just passed its MOT last weekend. It’s as sleek inside as it’s exterior, with its roomy, grey-coloured leatherette seats and low roof.

One thing that sticks out about the vehicle is the bonnet.

“When you’re coming out at junctions, the bonnet is out a good foot before the rest of the car,” says Leo, “but it’s lovely to drive. It’s never been out of Ireland, but it’s been all over Ireland.”

“If I had tried to sell it I would have got very little for it, so I maintained it to keep the rust away and took it for a good run every couple of weeks,” he said.

“I take it to vintage shows now and I always get a crowd around it. People think it’s refurbished, but it’s not. This is how it came out of the garage back in 1969.”

The Capri is decent on fuel, doing about 40 miles to the gallon, which is just as well as Leo drives it regularly, around the Roe Valley, and the North West; to Donegal, to Moville, where his late sister Rosaleen Gillen and her family live.

The Capri has never been to a garage, with Leo carrying out all work on the vehicle. Throughout its life it has had about five sets of tyres.

The best memory of the Capri for Leo is when his daughter Leona got married.

“Well now she kind of put me on the spot. She said to me, ‘You brought me out of Altnagelvin in the Capri when I was born and I would like you to take me to get married in it’,” he said.

Leo was nervous because the wedding was in Fermanagh. Just to make sure the Capri was up for the job, Leo replaced a few parts, including the fan belt.

“It made it, no bother at all,” said Leo, proudly. “It has a hearty wee engine. She’s a gem and people are amazed it has one owner, from new, unique!”

Leo said the car is in the family too long now to ever think of selling.

“I have some great memories with the Capri,” he says. “and Sadie is wild about it! I suppose you could say, it’s my pride and joy.”