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.