Sunrise And The Sodium Glare

Once upon a time UK Fords and German Fords differed. And once upon a time UK Vauxhalls and German Opels differed. Then Ford and GM unified their European operations. How long did that take?

When Europe was divided
Image via mad4wheels

The process began for Ford in 1967 with the creation of Ford of Europe. For GM it is a bit hazier because their UK and Continental brands kept their names. Ford’s UK and German design centres co-operated on the 1972 Ford Granada. For the 1976 version, Merkenich handled the design. After 1976 there were no more UK-only models (Cortina), as one after another the range became uniform on both sides of the channel: Fiesta, Escort, Sierra, Capri and Granada.

If we turn to GM we see more muddle. Opels could be bought in the UK though Vauxhalls did not sell much (if at all) on mainland Europe.


[Above: the merger of model lines; a black dot means an EU-common model.]

GM had Opel and Vauxhall share some elements of the cars known as the 1972 FE-Series Victor and Rekord D. Then for a period the there were grille and lamp differences. By 1979 the UK had no more UK-only cars when the Viva ended production. Opel lost the large KAD cars in 1970 and the EU-common Senator/Royale didn’t really duplicate the sheer imposing scale of the KAD cars. 1977 seems to have been the year after which all new cars in production in Europe were identical models engineered in Ruesselsheim.

2015 Ford Transit: Transitpedia

What else did I learn? That Ford’s German operation did not have as broad a range of cars as Opel did. I seem to have left the 1968 Escort out of my timeline. It was a Euroford built in Halewood and Genk. Ford’s 1967 amalgamation began the long contraction of Ford’s UK activities: the ending of Granada production, shifting the Sierra to Germany, ending production of the Focus and then Fiesta until finally its manufacturing amounts to engines. The last vehicles made in the UK by Ford were Transit vans – production ended in 2013.

To answer my question, it takes about a model cycle of seven to eight years to unify two ranges of cars under one brand.

Author: richard herriott

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

21 thoughts on “Sunrise And The Sodium Glare”

  1. “Ford’s German operation did not have as broad a range of cars as Opel did.”
    Ford hat the 12m (Kadett), 15m (no Opel equivalent, later it was the Ascona) and 17/20m (Rekord/Commodore) ranges.
    There was no equivalent for the KAD, but Ford had the Capri against Opel’s GT, which was no direct match.
    Later on Ford got the Escort (Kadett), Taunus TC (Ascona), Consul/Granada (Rekord/Commodore) and the Fiesta came much earlier than the Corsa.

    Opel’s development manager once stated in an interview that the KAD had hown them the difference between large and too large.

    1. Thanks. I had a hard time working out what Ford Germany made: so it’s 12, 15 and 17 as the indicators. I hear little of these cars. I am sure I have seen them though without registering the names.

  2. Regarding the 7-8 years gestation period – Volkswagen bought Audi in 1965 and by 1973 / 1974 had their new water-cooled ranges for both brands established. I know that’s two brands, under different circumstances, but I think it adds further credence to the theory and/or answers ‘How long does it take to integrate model ranges?’.

    1. There is another good bit of data. The next is to find a slow example. Lancia and Fiat might be good ones. Or, how about Rover where it didn’t really happen at all (he writes without checking).

    2. VW and Audi integration only happened by accident or rather by appearance of Rudolf Leiding as Kurt Lotz’s successor to save bankrupt VW (German governmnent had to subsidise VW with a one billion Deutschmark credit grant to save it). VW already had the Porsche-designed weird EA266 ready for production when Leiding decided to kill that project, then stole Audi’s hatchback version of the 80 to form the Passat Mk1 and developed the Golf Mk1 in (then) record time and thereby saved the company. If Leiding hadn’t appeared, there would have been no integration and there probably would be no VW any more.

  3. I think I might need counselling if I were to attempt the whole of the BL/ARG story. However, Austin and Morris merged in 1952 (if memory serves) and something more coherent had emerged by the late fifties, with the launch of the Mini, 1100/1300 series, the Farinas, etc, under brands owned by both companies. Interesting topic – I’ll see if I can think of some others.

  4. It is a shame Ford of Germany never had a chance of developing a proper Kent/Pinto-powered FWD replacement for the P4/P6 Taunus, let alone developing a FWD equivalent of the mk1 Escort.

    1. Ford of Germany was a more free-thinking enterprise than the UK branch. Although the centre of gravity shifted to Merkenich after 1967, alot of Dunton values went there too. Or Ford’s UK cars were more like the kind of cars Ford’s top management considered plausible.

    2. As far as my memory goes, the P4 was a US development called ‘Cardinal’ dumped on Ford Germany after Detroit evaluated its chances in the market against the VW 1200.
      After that, Germany got cars developed in the UK like the Escort Mk1, Taunus TC and Granada Mk1. The Escort in particular was no sales success against the Opel Kadett, let alone the VW Beetle. Germans never got a proper RS dealer network and they also missed most of the sports versions like Escort Mexico and Lotus/Cosworth-engined RSs. They at least managed some of the best races in the German touring car championship with their Capri RS against BMW’s CSL.
      Ford Cologne was lucky in having Bob Lutz as their boss for some time. He not only had a personal company car in form of a Granada with a five litre V8 built for him, he also personally insisted on the ‘S’ versions of the Granada Mk2.

    3. richard herriott

      While Ford’s top management considered Ford UK’s simpler cars more plausible, it is my understanding that they only sold well in the UK and were considered akin to a crude Allegro or Eastern Bloc car on the continent.


      Though Detroit had doubts on the Cardinal project and soon dumped it onto Ford Germany where it became the P4, a part of me wonders whether the FWD Cardinal despite the rough V4 engine would have made life more difficult for the Volkswagen Beetle in North America, especially since Volkswagen’s rear-engined were also roundly criticized in Ralph Nader’s Unsafe At Any Speed beyond the more infamous Chevrolet Corvair.

    4. The p4 initially was a very crudely made car.
      The first production run up tp 1964 had its front suspension atttached to the engine block which in turn was rigidly mounted in the body shell, making the V4’s NVH problems even worse. It didn’t even have CV joints in its drive shafts and came with drum brakes all round even in its ‘faster’ versions having up to 65 hp.
      Would that have been enough for the US market?

    5. Against the Beetle in the US it would have likely been just enough, especially considering the P4 was FWD and available as a more practical 4-door saloon compared to the Beetle.

      Perhaps Ford in the US would have been encouraged to give the V4 some proper development and earlier enlargement to suit US tastes, whether via a 1.8-2-litre Taunus V4 or less likely the 2-litre Essex V4. The former of which would in turn have allow for earlier enlargement of the related Cologne V6 for both Europe and the US.

    6. The Cardinal V4 was stretched to 1.7 litres relatively soon for vehicles like the P6 15mRS1700 or the P7 17m.
      Only individually selected examples had casting tolerances that allowed stretching to 1.85 litres and were delivered to Saab’s rallying department. The only German Ford 2.0 V4 vehicles were Transits with the Essex engine.
      The Cologne V6 was derived from this V4 and for a very long time had a maximum capacity of 2.6 litres.
      Compared with the Essex engines the Cologne types were light and compact – and could be revved much higher because they had a smaller main bearing diameter.

    7. Apparently it is possible for the Cologne V6 to be safely overbored by 1mm, which in 2.9-litre form makes for a displacement of 2998cc with a related Taunus V4 variant having a potential displacement of 1999cc. –

      Had Ford been willing to develop large Taunus V4 / Cologne V6 engines (initially for the US market), it would have made for a rather useful pre-Pinto 2-litre engine, albeit not necessarily as powerful as the 2-litre Ford Pinto or GP1 / Series X tuned 3-litre Ford Essex V6 engines short of early tuning being done by the likes of Cosworth.

      Have read of Saab’s rally models using 1784cc and 1933cc versions of the Taunus V4 as well as the Essex V4 not being useful for FWD, yet proper development would have done wonders for the Taunus V4 up to 2-litres and the Taunus P4/P6 models in the US.

    8. Bob: it’s one thing for the engines to be developed but are there grounds to believe Ford of America’s engineers would really like a German and a comparatively small car on their turf? Obviously BMW were selling small, German sports saloons to the US market in the 1960s.
      At one point I read Ford had sent the Admiral over but I’d forgotten.
      Imagine if Ford had been let do its own thing in Germany rather than follow Detroit’s direction. Would they have followed an eccentric path or produced some form of German/continental vision?

  5. richard herriott: Despite it ultimately being built in Germany the Cardinal aka P4 was pretty much a US design from the outset.

    In fact Ford of Germany had their own plans which preceded the Taunus P4 and differed from Ford UK’s front-engined RWD Anglia 105E or Ford US’s front-engined FWD Cardinal.

    Known as the B-Car, Ford Germany’s project was a two-door small rear-engined RWD car that from the rear resembled a roughly Austin 1100/1300-sized Volkswagen Type 4. Powered by 34-40 hp 983-1196cc inline-4 OHC belt-driven engine similar to the Glas 1004, the B-Car would have been equipped with a front MacPherson suspension and a rear rigid axle suspension similar to the Simca 1300’s rear suspension. –

    Makes one wonder whether Ford Germany had anything eccentric in mind for the P3 or planned to produce their own equivalents of the Zephyr, etc.

    1. More interested to know Ford Germany’s engine plans in the absence of the Taunus V4, since AFAIK the origin of both the Essex V4/V6 and Taunus V4 / Cologne V6 engines came from the US and was likely connected to the Cardinal project. Same for Ford UK as well.

      Not sure of the B-Car engine’s potential compared to the Ford Kent (including further enlargement potential discussed here a while back), though the 4/6-cylinder Ford Zephyr engine was said to have still had plenty of unexploited potential left.

    2. The Cologne V6 was derived from the V4 by Ford in Cologne.
      It didn’t have a single (metric) nut or bolt in common with the (imperial) Essex engines which were a pure UK product.
      The Essex engines were incredibly heavy and robust because they were intended for dieselisation – hence the Heron heads.

    3. Heard the Essex V4/V6 was intended for dieselisation (along with dieselized Kent-based units including the later Lynx / Endura-D) hence explaining its weight, have to admit it would have been interesting seeing how the dieselized V4/V6 engines would have fared.

      Is it known whether the Pinto engine had a similar capability to be dieselized?

      It is my understanding that Ford US laid down the general strategy for a new generation of V engines, with Ford UK and Ford Germany still being allowed to produce competing V4/V6 engine ranges.

    4. The Essex engines had Heron heads because this would have made it easier to arrive at the high compression ratios necessary in a Diesel engine. They also had extremely large diameter main bearings because of the anticipated high loads typical for a Diesel. These large bearings made the Essex unsuitable for high revving because the high relative speeds between the bearing surfaces would have interrupted the oil film. Don’t know what they did in this respect with the Capri RS3100 race engines based on the Essex. The positive effect was that at least the 3.0 Essex had impressive torque.
      The Cologne V6 had completely different characteristics. It needed to be revved to deliver the goods, particilarly the later 2.8 fuel injected versions. The non-injected smaller engines were very smooth but left a lot to be desired in their power department. For a very short time the Capri with Essex 3.0 engine was available in Germany. It won many fans because of its torquey engine but presented the dealers with a unique opportunity to work on engines with Imperial threads in an otherwise metric car…
      The Cologne engine was used exclusively for all European Fords in later years because it was much lighter and more compact and gave higher power because it could be revved higher than the Essex.

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