Reappraising the Granada.
What we are looking at today are images from a period sales brochure for the second-generation Ford Granada. A brochure whose well-thumbed pages serve as mute testimony to your editor’s youthful aspiration; notions, as we’d describe them round these parts. When a Ford Escort would amount to family transport circa-1977, metaphorically pressing one’s nose up to the Granada’s (tinted) glass was probably about as close as we were likely to get to a life more elevated.
But leaving aside youthful desire, to say nothing of unrequited social elevation, what we are also observing here today is an expression of supreme confidence and total mastery of craft. A car design so assured, so utterly correct that had it emerged from an Italian carrozzeria, it might latterly be hailed as something of a masterpiece. It is most likely this snobbery that means that the Granada’s design, from the studios of Uwe Bahnsen in Köln-Merkenich instead remains somewhat underappreciated.
It was perhaps this exactitude which lent the design an element of ambivalence; there being so comparatively little to fixate upon. The rival Rover SD1 appeared more exotic, more exciting too from an ownership perspective, often punctuated by impromptu trips to the hard shoulder. The Opel Senator was somehow flashier, fussier in appearance (albeit a fine car nonetheless), while Peugeot’s equally impressive 604 (a Pininfarina-penned design, let us not forget) certainly didn’t lack elegance or gravitas for that matter, but was never considered the styling house’s pinnacle.
Eminent (one-time) Ford Design Director, Patrick le Quément confirmed that the design inspiration for the 1977 Granada was Pininfarina’s sublime 130 Coupé, and its inspiration can clearly be seen. But to the Ford design team’s credit, if it was indeed a cover version, Bahnsen, le Quément and his styling team made it very much their own. Proportionally, the Granada was about as close as most people’s idea of true North, but it was the car’s stance, aided by what Ford claimed to be the broadest track width in its class, which lent the car its supremely confident road presence.
The Granada was offered in both two and four-door saloon bodystyles (although the two-door was a mainland Europe-only proposition) and a commodious estate. Unlike the first generation, there was no coupé, which you could have if you shopped over at Rüsselsheim; Ford’s beancounters missing a trick in failing to utilise the eminently suitable two-door for this purpose.
While previous Ghia models had teetered precipitously towards parody, the ’77 Granada appeared almost demure; just a smattering of additional brightwork, those ubiquitous alloy wheels and if you insisted, a vinyl roof. Inside, it was velour ahoy, but with an element of restraint which had somehow eluded its Opel rival. For a time during the 1970s, Ford’s Ghia models were pitched to near-perfection. But like most things in life, this moment would prove fleeting; the blue oval struggling (and ultimately failing) to redefine the trim level as tastes evolved.
As a static showroom entity, the Granada was a compelling proposition, however, one really had to go up the range, and spend accordingly, to find a model whose dynamic abilities accorded with the slick appearance. The lowly trim levels, in time-honoured Ford fashion, were somewhat less accomplished affairs.
But I am here today to to talk about perception, not reality. In 1977, before Saabs, Volvos and BMWs began to denote automotive aspiration in our neck of the woods at least, the Granada provided all the requisite markers of social arrival within a silhouette which combined an elegance of line, a decorous sobriety, and in this market at least, affordable running costs- (road tax was as onerous then as now).
What we couldn’t discern in 1977 was that the Granada would be a precursor to a movement in Ford design which would manifest in the 1980 Escort, before taking a more radical turn in 1982 with the Sierra and in 1985 with the Granada’s successor, the Scorpio. Ford, previously risk-averse in the extreme, would become a risk-taker.
But while there is honour in bravery, there is also something to be said for a more measured approach, especially when executed as well as this. The 1977 Granada really ought to be acknowledged as one of the great designs of the decade – there, I’ve said it.
33 thoughts on “Taking a Stance”
We didn’t see these Granadas on our side of the world, but we did see their headlights, (with the same part numbers), on the XD Ford Falcon. No other parts were shared.
I agree – the Mk2 is an excellent bit of work, matched by the Focus Mk2 and (Euro) Fusion. All the stars lined up for this design and if the 130 was inspiration, I have to say it was inspiration only. The Mk2 really doesn´t suggest any other car than itself – ditto the relentlessly disciplined Mk2 Fusion *despite* the minimalism involved (or because of it). I suspect the market didn´t get it though even if they bought Grannies of this ilk in huge numbers. I really must make an effort to test drive one before the end of the decade.
The most amazing thing about the styling is that it is a facelift of the Mk 1 Granada, using all the internal body structure, including the inner door pressings, which makes the stylist’s achievement that much greater.
Good morning David. Yes, indeed, and the way they disguised the little uptick in the rear door quarter-window by painting it satin black and running the chrome trim strip over it was ingenious. The estate used the body of the Mk1 unaltered behind the A-pillar, so retained the visible uptick.
Here’s a Photoshop I stumbled across, a ‘proper’ Mk2 estate with ‘new’ rear bodywork. It looks rather like the shooting brake version of the 130 coupé.
We previoysly covered the Mk1 to Mk2 transformation of the Granada, and its subsequent very effective facelift, here:
Good morning Eóin. The Mk2 Granada was indeed a real stylistic leap forward for Ford. By the late ’70s the Mk1 was beginning to look a bit chintzy, especially the saloon’s American-style tail lights and the upturned ends to the chrome bumpers, so the Mk2 really looked strikingly modern by comparison. Given that it was just a reskin of the Mk1, it was remarkably effective. That said, the lower line versions of the Mk2 were very sparsely equipped, lacked refinement and began to feel ‘baggy’ pretty quickly thanjs to Ford’s zeal for penny-pinching.
The first bank I worked for in Dublin had a 1978 2.0L ‘pool’ car that I drove on a number of occasions for business trips. Admittedly, it had been used and abused by my colleagues, driven fast and carelessly over Ireland’s then notoriously poor roads, but I remember thinking “clapped-out old Cortina” when first I drove it. It was (non-metallic) red and had a hard black plastic dashboard with beige carpets and seats. The latter were upholstered in a sort of Nylon fabric that had the look and feel of old ladies’ tights (not that I’ve ever been in the habit of feeling old ladies’ tights!). The bank’s CEO had a metallic gold Opel Senator as his company car and it looked an felt to be of a much higher order in terms of quality.
Remembering these two cars this morning has reminded me just how much useless historic information is cluttering up my organic hard-drive: I can even remember both cars’ registration numbers: the Granada was 679 IZD and the Senator was 238 EZJ. How sad is that? 😨
Did you have the beard then, Daniel? Had 679 IZD only been solid blue rather than red I imagine you and your colleagues could have passed quite well as members of the Special Branch…
Imagine: a gold Opel Senator. Now that´s the height of middle-market plutocracy. I have most of the registrations of my parents’ early cars memorised. It´s odd what stick in your head.
No beard then, Michael. They were frowned upon in American banking circles as being too informal. Ive been making up for it since I moved on though, and haven’t seen my chin in twenty years!
I often drive a recent model Mondeo, which is much larger in every external dimension than the Granada – is that what’s called progress?
Nice, but I think the XD Falcon was a slightly less conservative design. Eg the bottom horizontal line of the DLO being lower than the base of the windscreen.
Both it and the Granada were handsome cars, though.
There was a little bit more parts sharing between the XD Falcon and the Mk2 Granada. Ford’s 302 c.i. Windsor V8 was fitted to 18 Mk2 Granadas in South Africa, as well as being the smaller V8 option on Falcons. The Africans took the dis-honest American tradition of labeling the capacity as 5.0 litres, Australians more honestly badged their 302s as 4.9 litre. (As in the Falcon in the top picture, the 5.8 badging went with the 351 c.i. motor.)
A largely forgotten car as far as I’m concerned and one that I didn’t care too much about back then. It’s growing on me, but I don’t like the dashboard. The exterior is great though. Not much I would change, except for how that rubber strips fails too connect with the bumpers. I’d have a two door without the vinyl roof.
Very handsome car indeed. Apparently my great uncle had a ghia with the V6(?) engine, which my father described as a ‘rocket ship’.
Fords were really rather good at the bigger end of the range, once the abysmal final versions of the Zephyr & Zodiac were replaced. Small Fords were only just beginning to shake off their cheap & cheerful (cheap & nasty) image but the Granada was a cut above. For me it has to be the estate – it looks ‘right’ and I wouldn’t want to change it. There is alway a ‘But’ of course – in terms of practicality (important to those of us who could only afford such motors second hand) the large estate benchmark had been set by Volvo with the 145 and so any estate with a rear end less than vertical right up to the roof lost marks for a compromised load space. The Granada wins on looks but the Volvo keeps the crown.
They’ve really gotten to town with lightening up that studio to get that flame surface effect, so much so it makes some of the cars look like it have two-tone paint.
The most beautiful detail on this car is the rear corner and the way the flank meets the deck the and rear valance. Could someone post a detail pic on that because I can’t post pictures? It’s such a simple yet incredibly elegant solution to the problem of having three planes meet.
Good isn´t it? It is formed by running a chamfer between the side and the rear surface and then blending the top and chamfer with a big fillet.
I suspect the deft hand of someone at Ghia. I imagine details like that can only come from the haute couture of car design, it’s such an exquisite detail that car makers like Ford very rarely afford themselves with.
Ingvar: I don’t profess to know for certain, but it’s worth remembering that there was a lot of very strong design talent at Ford under Uwe Bahnsen’s stewardship during this period. I would expect that this lovely detail emerged during the clay modelling phase. Not that it’s impossible that Ford’s designers hadn’t learned a few things from their Italian friends, but Ghia’s influence might be overplayed.
The Granada’s calmness belies a lot of truly lovely detailing. It’s a remarkably accomplished piece of work. Its (onetime) ubiquity blinded a lot of people to its stylistic excellence.
It didn´t cost anything to do though.
Here you go, Ingvar:
Thank you. Yes that chamfer makes every. It’s like the car is forged from a single billet of steel then just having the edges slightly filed down
Its’s something with the radii that makes it look so solid? Perhaps it’s s German thing?
According to an argument I first read in Stephen Bayley´s “Sex, Drink and Fast Cars”, using a larger radius on fillets such as the one shown implied the metal was thick. You can´t bend 2 mm metal to fillets with an internal radius of less than 2 mm (that´s the radius on the side you can´t see). That means the fillet on the side you can see will be greater than 2mm. The sheet steel on a car isn´t anywhere like 2 mm – I read 0.7 mm is a typical value. This means the internal radius is .07 mm and the minimum external radius is 1.4 mm. Approximately. I am not a steel sheeting engineer so if this is wrong, please shoot at me with sponge balls not metal pellets.
The same chamfer detail was used on the Falcon, again with no actual shared parts.
In contrast, the 130 Coupe has a different approach, partly to deal with the lateral groove.
The 130s concave shoulder line made a return appearance on the Peugeot 505. I think the rear view of the glass house also looks like it might have been an influence on the 505 too.
I had no idea about the chamfer on the Aussie Falcon, thanks for clearing that up. Then it is a Ford thing?
Not so much a Ford thing, as a Falcon/Granada thing, and a reminder that after the 70s, the car design lead stemmed from Europe, specially for the US based multinationals, Ford and GM.
It is a lovely design, although the aerodynamics aren’t very good – the drag coefficient is 0.44. I notice from this German Autotest from 1978 that the Granada deflected by 2 metres in the side wind test; that compares with 1 metre for the Citroën CX, for example. The handling test looked fun, though – it clearly has a tendency to oversteer.
The interiors (seats) look very inviting, especially higher up the range. I rode in a lower spec version in the early ‘80s and it was completely unremarkable, I’m afraid, although I think it was quiet and comfortable enough, as well as being roomy.
I’ve always assumed that independent design houses would offer superior designs, but I don’t think this is necessarily true, especially if one looks at Ghia’s Altair concept.
The Ford Granada was supposed to come to Brazil in 1973/74 but Ford decided to build the Maverick instead. As much as I love the Mav, I think it was a wrong move.
Thankfully, this delightful Granada has been immortalised already, courtesy of this – rather touching – music video:
I saw on Twitter the other day Ian Callum commenting on a tweet which questioned the blandness of the mk2 Granny relative to the mk1. Callum stated the mk2 was ‘pure and clever’ and went onto to state that ‘you have to be very good to be this simple’ in relation to the design.
Nicely put. The same pure and simple applies to the Mk 2 Focus, the 2002 Fiesta and the 2002 Ford Fusion. The 1999 VW Bora is another one of peerless simplicity.
That’s very true. With such a clean and ‘quiet’ design, there is nowhere to hide poor detail resolution. It has to be 100% right. The same applies to the other cars mentioned by Richard.
I’ve had granadas since 1979 the one I have now I’ve had 20 years rebuilt it twice one of the best cars ever made