Today DTW recalls the 1994 Ford Scorpio Mk2, a car that defies any attempt at rational analysis or explanation.
When Ford launched the Scorpio* Mk1 in 1985, it did so in five-door hatchback form only. This surprised some observers, knowing the resistance that Ford had faced to the hatchback Sierra three years earlier from conservative buyers who preferred the saloon format. Even more surprising was the absence of an estate version, given the popularity of the Granada estate in both Mk1 and Mk2 forms.
Just as with the Sierra, a three-volume booted version was added to the range in December 1989. Estate buyers had to wait until January 1992 for the launch of that version, which coincided with a facelift of the whole range. The facelift was a competent if relatively minor overhaul, comprising a smoother front end with larger light units and smoked tail lights with a matching filler panel at the rear. The saloon forwent the hatchback’s concealed C and D-pillars for a more conventional six-light DLO and was a handsome and imposing design. It was also well equipped and remarkably comfortable over long distances, making it an excellent executive (hire) car.
Then something very strange happened:
At the Paris Salon in October 1994, Ford unveiled a very heavily facelifted version of the saloon and estate**, dubbed the Scorpio Mk2. While based on the platform and underbody of the Mk1, every exterior panel was altered. Reactions to the new car varied from hilarity to incredulity. Nobody could quite believe what they were seeing.
Up front, the sleek front end of the outgoing model was replaced by a huge chrome-ringed oval grille and two large bug-eye headlamps. At the rear, the lighting was confined to a narrow full-width horizontal strip just above the bumper, topped with a flourish of brightwork, above which was a cliff of unadorned metal. The body had no feature lines whatsoever. Its fulsome curves looked more reminiscent of a sofa or an inflatable boat than anything automotive. Only the rubbing strip broke up the deep and otherwise unadorned flanks.
The reaction was almost universally negative and hostile. Six months prior to launch, Ford had begun to worry about its controversial new design, so organised a focus group of automotive journalists to preview the new Scorpio at its design centre in Cologne. Despite the company’s best efforts, the journalists could not be persuaded to like the design, and almost all would go on to slate it publicly as soon as they were free to do so. For Ford, it was already too late to make any changes.
The press and public reaction was scathing right across Europe. Even those who had no interest in cars knew about the Scorpio, for all the wrong reasons. It was to Ford Europe what the Aztek would later become for Pontiac and GM. As with the Aztek, beneath the bizarre bodywork lurked a competent and capable vehicle, but nobody cared.
The Scorpio Mk2 limped on for four years. There was a half-hearted attempt to tone down some of the more controversial aspects of the design by minimising the chrome highlights, but this only served to make the bodywork look even more rotund and featureless.
Ford has never revealed the name of the individual(s) responsible for the design. As for sales, the company insisted that the Scorpio Mk2 had met expectations without ever revealing any forecasts. The car was Ford Europe’s swansong in the large saloon market, although inflation in the size of the Mondeo made it into a de-facto replacement. We are unlikely ever to understand what drove Ford to replace the handsome Scorpio Mk1 with this monstrosity.
* The Scorpio Mk1 replaced the Granada Mk2 and continued to be called Granada in the UK and Ireland, where the Scorpio name was instead used as a suffix to denote a high-line trim level.
** The hatchback version was dropped, so mercifully spared this indignity.