And the Lightness Edged Gold Across the Sky

When this car first parked on my street the light had fallen. By early morning it had driven off. Would I ever see it again?

Solid rarity

Some good fortune meant that I did, as the photos attest. The Granada is both banal and not uninteresting. How’s that? First, and this is not due to the car’s inherent quality, is that it is pretty rare. I’ve never seen one before, not as a two door. And seldom even as a four door. Second, because the car represents a dead niche, that of the plain big coupe. We still have coupes but they are luxury goods, a celebration of impracticality: the A5 and Mercedes CLA, for example. They are made by the premium manufacturers. Oddly people will pay a lot of money for a two-door car but won’t pay a bit less. Ford and friends can’t sell a coupe for 15% less than Audi or BMW.

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Isn’t that a peculiar state of affairs? Customers have a hard time paying less for a saloon with the same content as one of the  premium three as well – and refuse point blank to pay for a car with fewer doors.

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Finally, the ‘nada reminds me subliminally of a BMW 3 in the E30 iteration (and not its predecessor) which ran from 1983 to 1991. Both cars are simple in form and could be quite plainly equipped. The Granada is the better for its larger size but the E30 does everything in a more refined way. This cheerfully Spartan Granny is not unlike a base model Escort but larger. The E30 exudes quality and heft and is like a smaller 5.

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The Granada is wider while the cabin is not that much longer than the E30. You could imagine more than a few people deciding that BMW’s clear quality difference made the Granada’s size difference evaporate. The thing I’d like to examine is the effect of the accumulation of small refinements that make BMW’s essentially similar concept more appealing than the Ford. It is – I guess – to do with the steel pressings and joints. The Ford has been made to be made with less effort. It shows. The chrome trim on the window frame is made of three parts where BMW managed one. The E21 is ornate in this regard. The bumpers are more cleanly integrated than on the Ford but certainly less good at bumping.

1983 BMW 3 series 2-door saloon: source

These days the differences are much, much harder to see. Frankly, the image difference between a Ford Mondeo and 3-series is the persistence of vision. Ford has been paying a high price for the corner cutting of the 1970s and 1980s. This much we know. BMW get away with murder now: the base 3 is nothing special.

The car here makes me ask how would a cheap, big two-door Mondeo fare, a car with the content of a base-model Focus. Would anyone go for it and why not if it had all the impracticality of an Audi A5 but similar poke?

[Does anyone have production numbers for the Granada 2-door? Myles Gorfe is away.]

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

16 thoughts on “And the Lightness Edged Gold Across the Sky”

  1. I love these old 2 door saloons. The idea that people won’t pay 15% less for a 2 door saloon but will pay 20% more for a “coupe” is a good point that I hadn’t thought of before. That E30 is the car where the difference between the 2 door and 4 door is the most marked in my opinion. I love the stance and how tidy they look as a 3 door. I would barely look twice at a 4 door though.

    1. It’s interesting that the product planners at Merkenich saw fit to include a 2-door Granada into the product plan for the mark two. Yes, there had been a 2-door version of its predecessor, but it was a dying niche, even then. They missed a trick by not marketing it as the coupe version really. This body shell in full Ghia X regalia could conceivably have been a viable Opel Monza competitor, and who knows, might have taken a few sales from their Bavarian neighbours at a pinch.

    2. You might have something there Richard, those two extra doors on the E30 really look squeezed in like an afterthought. It was their first effort at a four door compact saloon and it shows. The 2 door Granny might also have been an afterthought but I think the proportions are pretty correct and there’s nothing wrong with how it looks.

    3. Afterthought it may have been, it certainly had a big effect. The Gran doesn’t have anything expedient about it. It was part of a full range of Granadas. It has exemplary proportions and I wouldn’t move a line, just like the E30 two-door. That’s why it stands out when you see one.

  2. I’m not sure if I have ever seen a two door Mark 2 in the metal. It has a certain exoticism to its proportions, looking at a fuzzy glance to be maybe a Monteverdi. Which of course is at odds with its lowish specification.

    1. The Ford doesn’t want for good proportions. It’s the production engineering that lets it down until you remember the price. They didn’t sell many of these, did they?

  3. By the mid-’70s was there a significant enough proportion of the buying public who would go elsewhere if they couldn’t have a two door Granada or Rekord?

    Can anyone explain the northern European fixation with large two door saloons?

    My guesses – and that’s all they are:

    Saving a few hundred Marks or Kroner.
    Child safety.
    An illusion of sportiness.
    An obscure and unrepealed 14th century ordinance of the Hanseatic League.
    Not wanting to be mistaken for a taxi.

    It does seem to be a distinctly northern European thing. Mercedes-Benz and BMW never made two-door versions of their big cars without asking a lot more money for their trouble. Audi did two-door 100s for the first two generations, but only through co-option by the Niedersachsen firm which took until 1968 to make the Vier Türen, elf Jahre zu spät.

    1. Counterexamples: the two-door Fiat 131, Mazda 626, Morris Marina, Morris Minor, Honda Accord.
      That said, the north Europeans provide a more consistent cluster of cases: Ford, Opel, BMW (the 2002 and early 3s), Saab and Volvo.
      Peugeot, Citroen, Alfa and Lancia didn’t offer simple two-door cars but coupes.
      Britain: north European or not? Despite the Reformation there’s a current of southernism still resident.

    2. I’m not sure it was only northern Europe fixated on large two-doors.

      This didn’t die in the US until the end of the W-platform Monte Carlo in 2007.

  4. An illusion of sportiness for sure. The only way to get something resembling sporty for the common man in those days. I think that the two door Volvos came with more HP and they definitely look good, so much that a 142 are sold at a much higher price than a 144 these days, same goes for an Amazon GT.
    When I grew up we considered the BMW 2002 two door a racer in disguise…

    1. By the time the 242 came out it had switched about, hadn’t it? I see the 244 as “standard” and the 242 as a variant. For the preceding cars one more often sees the 2-door.
      As for Amazons I seldom if ever see a 4-door.
      I suppose if a roadster was sporty and it had 2 doors then a saloon with 2 doors must have had a whiff of the same feeling.
      A chart labelled the Great 2-door Die-Off is called for, showing the point when for mass-market cars it became normal for them to have 4-doors. Note that it started at the top of the ranges and worked down.

  5. Mention of the most enduring mid-’50s European mid-size premium saloon sent me scrabbling for numbers. According to Liepedia the Amazon breakdown is:

    Two door sedan: 349,917
    Four door sedan: 234,653
    Wagon: 73,220

    Eye-opening, and goes some way to explaining why Carl never felt the need to sell a four door Isabella, even though a fully-engineered for production prototype was built.

    You can look for logic, but you won’t find it:

    The Opel Kadett B arrived in late 1965 with the option of four doors, but its British cousin, the September 1966 Viva HB only got four doors in October 1968. The Escort got four doors in mid-’69, with the first two years production being two-doors only.

    Had Ford and Vauxhall got wind that the Avenger would be launched in February 1970 as a four-door only, with savagely competive pricing?

    More likely they were unsettled by the British buying public’s continuing devotion to the BMC 1100/1300. Perhaps the attraction was not front wheel drive, or Hydrolastic suspension, but the extra pair of doors. Ironically (Socratic or Morissette, you tell me) BMC only offered two door ADO16s in the UK from October ’67 although export markets got them from 1962.

    The Avenger eventually got a two-door too, in March 1973. Chrysler probably wouldn’t have bothered for Europe, but they liked that kind of thing in Brazil. World cars – what’s not to like…

  6. Weren’t for the C-pillar and the boot lid, I’d see the first picture of this post and tell you this is a Bristol. Heavy doors, svelte waist lines, maybe the different red paint of the front indicating that it disguises a spare tyre. Sadly, it would have no muscle V8 underneath the bonnet, but that could be easily solved.

  7. Shocking boot lid spoiler – that lump of rubber must significantly alter the front/ rear weight distribution whilst having no aerodynamic benefit: any reduction in rear lift just comes from the added weight.

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