A smart re-skin and an even smarter nip-and-tuck kept the 1972 Ford Granada at the top of its game for thirteen years.
In the 1960’s and 70’s Ford of Europe was the master of value engineering, designing cars that were highly attractive to potential buyers, but engineered to be little if at all better than they strictly needed to be. The 1962 Ford Cortina Mk1 was just such a car. It was a simple, light and efficient design and it effectively killed off the cumbersome, complex and heavy 1961 Consul Classic after just two years on the market(1).
The Cortina’s winning formula was reprised in 1968 with the Escort, another light and efficient design that was simple to build and was tailored to appeal to a wide range of customers via an extensive range hierarchy comprising basic, luxury and sporting variants. Likewise, the 1969 Capri, which easily shrugged off the Cortina in a party frock jibes because it looked great and gave customers exactly what they wanted.
There were missteps too, notably the 1966 Mk4 Zephyr / Zodiac. The lower-line versions were fitted with a new V4 engine, but the designers wanted a long bonnet as they believed that this was a signifier of power and prestige. Harley F. Copp, an American Ford design engineer on secondment to Brentwood to set up a new UK design studio, came up with the idea of placing the spare wheel diagonally ahead of the engine, displacing the radiator downward to behind the front valance.
This was also done in the V6 powered versions, so the car ended up with an almost comically long nose, spoiling its proportions. The odd looks, a rough and unrefined V4 engine and early reports of unstable handling caused by a sophisticated but underdeveloped new coil-spring independent rear suspension layout, undoubtedly hurt sales.
When time came to replace the Zephyr / Zodiac, Ford returned to the principles that had served it well on the company’s smaller cars. The 1972 Consul / Granada was a resolutely conventional and contemporary large saloon. Lower-line versions were sold under the Consul moniker until 1975, when they too became Granadas.
This followed the dismissal of a legal challenge for trademark infringement brought by the eponymous UK media, TV rental and catering services conglomerate. The Granada was a pan-European model, also replacing Ford Germany’s P7 Series, the 17M, 20M and 26M saloons.
Unlike its predecessor, the Granada was offered in saloon, estate(2) and coupé variants. It was well received and sold strongly on the traditional Ford virtues of keen pricing, reliability and a wide range of trim variants. However, the launch of the Mk4 Cortina in 1976 cast a shadow over its prospects.
The new Cortina, overseen by Ford Europe’s Vice President of Design, Uwe Bahnsen, replaced the coke-bottle styling of its predecessor with a much cleaner and more geometric style that had become the norm for European designs. Suddenly, the larger Granada looked rather dated, and even a little gaudy.
Ford’s solution was to order an extensive reskin of the Granada, which was launched in 1978 as the Mk2. This took the rectilinear style of the Mk4 Cortina even further, replacing the gentle wave that ran from nose to tail along the Cortina’s waistline (a vestige of the Mk3’s coke-bottle style) with an arrow-straight lower DLO line that curved down gently towards the front and rear extremities of the car.
The new sloping front end comprised rectangular headlamps with outboard triangular indicators sandwiching a simple black grille with aerofoil shaped slats. The slim, close-fitting bumper wrapped around the corners to align with the trailing edges of the indicators. At the rear, simple rectangular tail lights sandwiched the number plate and wrapped around the corners of the car, again aligning neatly with the ends of the bumper.
The reskin was so effective that there was virtually no evidence of the earlier car to be seen, apart from at the trailing edge of the rear door quarter lights. The inner door pressings of the earlier car had been retained and the uptick to the window line was still there, albeit now disguised with black paint behind the horizontal chrome trim strip on the saloon.
To save money, Ford simply retained the body of the Mk1 estate aft of the A-pillars, including the visible uptick to the waistline at the C-pillar, and simply gave it the new front end(3). Sadly, the coupé died at this point, although we will be returning to it later.
While the Mk2 Granada was undoubtedly handsome and bang up to date, it was perhaps rather too similar in appearance to the Cortina, especially the low-line versions, which looked rather plain. A well-judged facelift in September 1981 improved matters considerably. Although this involved no sheet-metal changes, so was not expensive, the facelift transformed the car’s appearance.
New and more substantial chrome or body-coloured bumpers now wrapped around to the wheel arches and were visually connected by a broader rubbing strip with a bright metal insert along the lower flanks. A new three-bar body-coloured grille was given a chrome surround. At the rear, new deeper ribbed tail lights were fitted.
The drip-rail chrome trim on the C-pillar was made wider and rounded off at the lower end to meet the trim on the door sill more neatly. These changes individually sound trivial, but collectively they gave the car an altogether more substantial and prestigious appearance. Along with some mechanical and interior upgrades, they maintained the car’s popularity as the UK’s best-selling large saloon and estate until it was replaced by the all-new Scorpio / Granada Mk3 in 1985.
There is also a facelift story to tell about the Granada Mk1 coupé. The original production version of this model had distinctive coke-bottle haunches over the rear wheels. Ford decided pretty much immediately that this feature dated the coupé and robbed it of the prestige it needed to sell at the top of the range. A hasty redesign was ordered and a new version with a straight waistline was launched in 1974 after just two years on the market.
The swiftly corrected misstep with the coupé should not detract from the fact that Ford demonstrated its mastery of the reskin and facelift with the Granada and extracted thirteen years of market leading sales from its large saloon and estate.
(1) Strictly speaking, it was the 1963 Corsair that replaced the Consul Classic, but this was merely a rebodied Cortina with a 3” (75mm) stretch in the wheelbase.
(2) There was an estate version of the Zephyr / Zodiac, but this was built by independent coachbuilder E. D. Abbot, with Ford’s approval.
(3) This was a trick Ford had employed previously and even more blatantly on the Mk2 Escort estate and van versions, simply tacking on a new front end to the old bodies in each case. Because the body of the Mk2 Escort was completely different to the Mk1, the ‘new’ front end parts were unique to the estate and van, and not interchangeable with the saloon’s even though they looked superficially identical.