The cars : Ford Granada Mk1 and Mk2 development story

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

When launched in 1972, the Ford Granada represented a bold move in Ford’s pan-European strategy. It replaced the Zephyr/Zodiac in the UK and the P7-series in Germany with a new and stylish Anglo-German design.

It came at just the right time – the Zephyr/Zodiac Mk4 was a slow-selling disaster – proving to be a shot in the arm for Ford. The shape of the executive car car sector would change forever in the wake of its arrival.

The executive gamechanger

In the 1960s and early ’70s, the executive car market in the UK was a cosy place. BMC and Leyland had pretty much all of the action to themselves, carving out a highly profitable business, selling Rover and Triumph 2000s to appreciative middle-managers across the land. The Ford Zephyr/Zodiac and Vauxhall Cresta were both useful sellers, but somehow weren’t in the same league as their Midlands-built rivals. All that would change with the Ford Granada.

The Granada and its lower-priced sister, the Consul, arrived on the scene in 1972 to banish the memories of the previous Zephyr and Zodiac. It followed the Cortina Mk3 in resetting the market, and establishing the new benchmark the opposition were forced to follow. The Granada would also show that a pan-European Ford could be just as desirable in London as it was in Berlin.

A US-inspired style for Britain

Design work began on the Granada in 1968 and, very quickly, a trans-Atlantic style was pursued. Early sketches have a very Detroit feel to them, which translated into a stylish, swooping, almost Coke-bottle design. After the Escort Mk1 and Cortina Mk3, this was a predictable direction to follow, even if the final production model was somewhat watered down.


Early design sketch shows Granada character all too clearly

Gallery: Granada concept design images

 

Style was something Ford did very well in the 1960s and ’70s. The new executive car was certainly smart and well proportioned, and proof that Ford in the UK had not lost its direction stylistically, despite what some critics of the Z-cars might have said.

Initially, the Consul name was chosen, not for continuity’s sake, but because of a threatened law-suit by Britain’s Granada Group Limited. After all, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between a service station, a rented television or an executive saloon. Luckily, sense would end up prevailing before too many solicitors became too rich from the action.

A warm welcome in the press


European Granada lineup shows alternative two-door Coupe styling treatment

Under the skin, the Granada was a whole lot more contemporary than the car it replaced. For one, it featured independent rear suspension, which delivered what Motor Sport magazine described as ‘cornering power like that of a good Continental car without recourse to a harsh ride.’ Author Bill Boddy added: ‘I thought that the coil-spring all-independent suspension was about as supple as could be contrived for the very good roadholding it affords.’

Boddy concluded: ‘I thought it was easier to set-up for awkward fast bends than the bigger BMWs, with a contrasting complete absence of discernible roll, and that it coped with sudden changes of surface better than a Citröen DS, for although the back-end would sometimes smack back onto the road, there was none of the “caught-out” sensation Citröens give over hump-back bridges.’ Praise indeed…

It was powered by a range of V4 and V6 Essex engines, with the range-topping 3.0-litre proving to be the star of the range. In terms of performance, if you wanted the best, you needed to go for the manual transmission. Boddy observed: ‘You pay a penalty for the absence of a normal gear-lever, because the Automatic Granada is about half-a-dozen mph slower than the manual version.

‘It takes nearly three seconds longer to get to 60mph from rest. This means that you can wind the fully-equipped 3000 GXL up to around 107mph, get it to the legal British top-pace from a Standstill in 15.5 seconds, and do 64mph in second gear. The 0-60mph and ¼-mile acceleration times are, respectively, 12 and 19 seconds. This, admittedly, puts the top Ford in the luxury and not the sports-saloon category, but only if you specify Automatic, because the target 0-60 in less than 10 sec. is comfortably exceeded by the four-speed manual-gearbox car, which will also do 110mph or more.’

As for the four-speed manual Consul 3000GT, Motor Sport‘s Bill Boddy said this: ‘This Consul is good for 114mph, will run to all but 90mph in third gear and, although it is a big, spacious and truly comfortable car, will go from 0-60mph in the excellent time-lapse of nine seconds, or dispose of a 1/4-mile from a standing-start in 16.7 seconds.’ No wonder the law loved them.

The stars of the range

Most car enthusiasts will fondly remember the Granada because of its appearances in The Sweeney, but fleet buyers across the land were turning to the new big Ford, as the rival Rover and Triumph 2000s were beginning to look stuffy by the beginning of the 1970s.

The Consuls were the entry-level models – and were powered by the same 1996cc V4 and 2495cc of 2994cc V6 range of engines as the more luxuriously equipped and expensive Granadas. But effectively, the difference between the two ranges was nothing more than badge-engineering.

Ford’s then recent takeover of Italian coachbuilder Ghia resulted in the luxurious Granada Ghia (above) in 1974, which meant the end of the Executive nameplate, as well as the beginning of one of the most recognisable luxury trim levels in the business.

It was originally intended to look rather different from the run-of-the-mill Granadas, but the cost accountants jumped in to the Ghia programme and trimmed back the scale of the updates. So, the bespoke front-end style of the original design was replaced by the addition of a new grille, while the interior was relegated to being upgraded to wood and leather class.

Later arrivals included the two-door Coupe. The UK received only the post-1974 revised Coupe, and that means we didn’t get the earlier, more Coke-bottle-inspired version.  The later version (above), arguably, looked tidier and classier, though. The Consuls were finally discontinued in 1975 – with logic prevailing, and all models becoming known simply as Granadas.

Sharp lines for the second generation

The Ford Granada Mk2 became a whole lot more angular at the first major facelift. The new styling, overseen by Filippo Sapino, adopted Ford’s new pan-European sharp-suit, and followed on successfully from the Fiesta and Cortina Mk4. It also ushered in the era of the all-German Granada, as there were no Mk2s made in Dagenham, unlike the Mk1.

Although it looked like an all-new model, the Mk2 was mainly Mk1 underneath, proving once again that Ford really was the master of the mid-term facelift in this period. Fresh Cologne V6 engines were added in 2293cc and 2792cc, replacing the old Essex units (in 2.5- and 3.0-litre forms), while the 2.0-litre Pinto continued as before, having ousted the old V4 during the Mk1’s life.

The Ghia might-have-been

Once again, Ghia had little design input into the Granada Mk2, although it had some sharp ideas for what it would have liked to achieve with this already-handsome saloon. The Ghia Altair was the fruit of this project, and was a perfect demonstration of what the Italians would have liked to have done to the Granada – would it have sold, though?

The 1980 concept was just two inches longer than the Granada, but it was four inches wider, and three inches lower. These changes, along with the car’s pronounced droopsnoot and deep front airdam, combined to improve the car’s aerodynamics, reducing the standard’s car’s drag coefficient from 0.44 to 0.35 – around the same as the Citröen CX.

Other nice touches included the concealed single wiper and Citröen SM-style headlamp covers. Under the skin, it was pure 2.8 Injection, and shared that car’s interior and TRX alloy wheels. Sadly, it was a one-off, which Ford sold in 2002 for $18,000. Did it have an influence on future Granada design ideas? Not if Patrick Le Quement’s Sierra-inspired Mk3 is anything to go by.

Once again, there were many variants

The Granada’s choice of engines and trims were unrivalled in its class. They started at the 65bhp Taxi-spec versions, for those who valued economy over performance. These models were a continuation from the Mk1 – and were initially powered by a 2112cc Peugeot diesel, but these were ousted by a slightly more powerful 2.5-litre unit at the Mk2’s first facelift in 1981.

In Mk2 form, the Granada was a supremely-sorted executive saloon that easily had the measure of the BMW 5-Series or Rover SD1 – so long as you bought the right version. In base-spec 2.0- and 2.3-litre forms, and blessed with less than sparkling handling and narrow tyres, you’d never really able to exploit the slightly sporting chassis, but this was certainly not the case with the 160bhp range-toppers.

Motor Sport again: ‘The new Ford Granada is undoubtedly helped by the brilliant tyre performance of the new Michelin TRX radials which were specially selected for this car. They are phenomenal in the wet or the dry, and quiet with it. The feel of the rack-and-pinion power steering is odd on first acquaintance and needs getting used to.

‘The tyres appear to be too soft and contrive to lack any real feel, until confidence is gained in this remarkable combination of Michelin tyre-technique and the S-Model Granada’s variable-rate springing. Then the sense of safety and the enjoyment of fast cornering knows no bounds.’

The Ford that beat BMW and Mercedes?

Was it a BMW-beater? Not quite, but close. ‘It’s a most acceptable luxury car in its own right — there is nothing to be ashamed of in owning a Ford, and Ford fans will surely regard this as a very inspiring example of what this great company can do with European expertise. If you are looking for a biggish car that feels unbreakable, not in any way ostentatious, but which will go to 117mph if you let it, accelerating from rest to 60mph in nine seconds, just like the big V8 Rover, and gives 26mpg of four-star fuel in hard motoring, you need look no further,’ said Motor Sport‘s Bill Boddy.

Trim levels of L, GL, S and Ghia covered all bases and there were limited edition versions such as the Sapphire and Chasseur. The 1981 facelift cars were a big improvement, and ushered in perhaps the finest Granada ever made – the overtly sporting 2.8 Injection.

Was it the best executive car of the 1970s and ’80s? Rover would argue that the SD1 delivered far more, and that it traded punches with the Granada on the showroom floor, too, but if numbers are anything to go by Uncle Henry gets the nod: 504,747 Granada Mk1s were made, followed by 918,969 Mk2s, comparing with 303,345 Rover SD1s in total…

Not that production numbers equate to overall ability, of course.


Concept images: Olivier Guin

Keith Adams

Keith Adams

Editor and creator AROnline at AROnline
Created www.austin-rover.co.uk in 2001 and built it up to become the world's foremost reference source for all things BMC, Leyland and Rover Group, before renaming it AROnline in 2007.

Is the Editor of the Parkers website and price guide, formerly editor of Classic Car Weekly, and launch editor/creator of Modern Classics magazine. Has contributed to various motoring titles including Octane, Practical Classics, Evo, Honest John, CAR magazine, Autocar, Pistonheads, Diesel Car, Practical Performance Car, Performance French Car, Car Mechanics, Jaguar World Monthly, MG Enthusiast, Modern MINI, Practical Classics, Fifth Gear Website, Radio 4, and the the Motoring Independent...

Likes 'conditionally challenged' motors and taking them on unfeasible adventures all across Europe.
Keith Adams

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42 Comments

  1. When I was at university (late 80s) a mate had the use of his dad’s 2-8 injection at weekends. It was an auto, and his favourite trick was doing a really quick 0 to 60 just by tapping ‘resume’ on the cruise control.

  2. Not sure that Ghia really meant much to the average punter as a trim level at least with the previous E moniker was easily understood as meaning Executive. After all Ghia was just another moribund name acquired when Ford bought De Tomaso when the company had been rebuffed in their efforts to buy Ferrari in the late sixties. What prestige that the Granada Ghia had was swiftly diluted by Ghia versions of the Capri,Cortina,Escort and finally Fiesta which all came out in the next few years. Having said that the Grenada was a pretty decent vehicle much better than the Zephyr & Zodiac that it replaced but still didn’t have that special ingredient to make it as a true prestige model. But what goes round comes round, Vignale the other name purchased at the same time as De Tomaso has been dusted off, to be new top of the line range for the Mondeo,no doubt it’ll work it’s way through the company’s product range as well

  3. I’ve always liked Granada’s, particularly the MK1 Granada Ghia coupe which I always thought was a nice top plush car. I once drove a client’s Granada estate (cant remember trim level) but it had a bit of “oomph” in it.

    Although the boxy MK2 might be considered bland, it still had presence… and good sales figures. I once had use of a colleague’s MK3 2.0 GL over a weekend but that’s another story!

    Though dated by today’s standards, I like the look of that Ghia Altair too.

  4. I did wonder about the built quality of the Mk1s compared to the Mk2s.

    Mk1s seemed to become rare by the mid 1980s, while the Mk2s were common sights well into the 1990s.

    • Were all UK market Mk 1’s built in Dagenham?,they never sold the two door saloon here either.

    • I would think this is partly down to superior rust-proofing but mainly because so many more mk2 Granadas were actually produced in the first place (82% more according to the figures in the article). The mk1 and mk2 Granadas had an understated style and elegance which was sadly lost on the corpulent mk3 and subsequent Scorpio.

  5. The last generation Zephyr/ Zodiac were oversized cars with puny engines and terrible handling ,unless you bought a Zodiac. The Mk 1 Granada was a far better proportioned car, looked better, and started to steal sales from the ageing Rover and Triumph offerings, even if a six cylinder Triumph 2000 went better than a 2 litre Granada.
    Of course, Ford cunningly moved Granada production to Germany in the autumn of 1976 to avoid strikes, but it was never mentioned publicly, so well into the eighties people who bought Granadas to buy British and to avoid the quality issues of the Rover SD1 didn’t realise the car they were buying was made in Germany.

    • Ford moved Granada production from Dagenham in 1976 to make room for the Fiesta. The Capri moved to Cologne from Halewood at the same time to allow Escort Mk2 production to be increased.

  6. The then current 2.8 Granada was chosen as the vehicle in which to attempt our World Record for circumnavigating the UK. Due to the possible weather in Scotland (the trip was planned for Easter 1982), we had thought about a Chevrolet Blazer or a BMW 730i – but we figured the Blazer would be reduced to about 4 mpg and the Beamer about 12. The Granada edged towards 16 which was not bad for flat out motoring towing a Spite Compact caravan and using the most coastal routes – so tiny lanes and very few main roads! The Granny never missed a beat, never gave us any concern whatsoever, was totally footsure and was a very comfortable place to be (despite one team member trying to sleep in the back, another reading the maps and the AA official route – and the other driving of course.
    Thanks to the Granada, we managed to raise a fair some of money for our chosen charity. Absolutely no fault of the Granada, the caravan or our driver, the attempt was thwarted by a mechanic at the Ford Main Dealer fitting a second hand tow bar and keeping the new one (we had paid for) for himself! The used item failed on a critical weld and allowed the caravan to travel about a foot to the left of the car – with the result we collided with three parked Hillmans. Can’t praise the Granny enough though. It did just what it said on the can.

  7. I had both a Mk2 Granada 2.8 ghia X auto and a P6 2000TC at the same time. The Granada was a great car, and hard to knock, but the P6 was despite being a much older car better in nearly every respect, I think only the boot space let it down

    • I had a used Granada MkII 2.8 Ghia auto (T reg) which served me very well and could be hustled through the Northamtonshire lanes at astonishing speeds as well as enjoying French autoroutes an D Roads en route to Le Mans. I also had two used P6’s, a 2200TC manual and a 3500 auto, both M reg (VGM2M) on the white 3500 and, SMT999M (I think) on the tobacco 2200TC. They were both superb and probably superior to the Granny, and we never found the boot a problem. However, all three cars were a delight and gave us a great deal of pleasurable motoring.

  8. “Under the skin, the Granada was a whole lot more contemporary than the car it replaced. For one, it featured independent rear suspension…”

    The Mark 4 Z cars also had independent rear suspension.

    • Came here to post this, you beat me to it. The replaced model, German P7 ‘M’ cars had a live axle on leaf springs, but the Zephyr and Zodiac had a rather simply engineered too softly suspended, semi trailing arm set up that gave big camber changes. This gave ‘interesting ‘ handling in the cars here in NZ that had the head-gasket blowing V6 swapped out for the more powerful, slightly lighter 4.9 l,(302 ci)Ford ‘Windsor’ V8. from the Australian Falcons, though of course everyone calls it the Mustan V8). Mention of the 302 brings to mind that that engine was a semi-factory option in the Granada in South Africa. The conversion by Basil Green’s Perana proving popular.http://perana.org/granada.asp
      Performance was enhanced quite a bit, top speed now 125+ mph

      http://perana.org/images/abstract/granada2.jpg

      http://www.africanmusclecars.com/OriginalImages/GranadaPerana19.jpg

    • Indeed it did with a simple swing axle that allowed the outer rear wheel to tuck in under heavy cornering – just like a Skoda Estelle! Couple this with a high roll centre, nose heavy weight distribution, 5 turns lock to lock unassisted steering and cross-ply tyres and its a good job Ralph Nadir never got his hands on one!

  9. We had a dark green mk2 1982 granada. 2.3 liter v6 was with autobox was slow as hell. But al together we liked it. Mind you it followed up on a 1979 rover 2600 which had only given trouble (2 engine swaps, oil consumption of 1 liter per 100km etc). The granada proved to be a reliable blessing after that.

  10. Tbe Mark 2 was the last great big Ford, an extremely competent and good looking car that appealed to everyone from taxi drivers to company executives. In 2.8 litre V6, and to a lesser extent in 2.3 V6 manual form, this was a refined, powerful car that had typical Ford ownership costs and was easy to maintain. Also rust protection and reliability were considerably better than the Rover SD1 and people well into the eighties still thought the Granada was British, even if all Mark 2s were German.

  11. I sadly had to replace my beloved Triumph 2000 with a 2.3 GL manual mk2 Granny when the only new Triumph available became a tiny, ugly BLonda, and I could not find an affordable low-mileage 2500 o/d. While not a match for the 2.8i’s that we used occasionally as long-haul company cars, I remember that the Granny was fast and nimble enough on a country road to stay well ahead of a member of the landed gentry in his Silver Shadow. His mutton chop whiskers (yes, really) were visibly bristling when I turned off. The Granny mk2 was a decent lump, but I never miss it like the Triumph. Ford only started to lose the plot with the soap bar mk 3…

  12. Another reason MK1 Granadas are scarce is because of banger racing – nothing against banger racers, but why couldn’t they have used rubbish cars like Volvo 240s, Saab 900s, BMWs, etc

    • I know from years of attendance at the Grimley track outside Worcester that Volvo 200’s tend to run their big ends after being hit once or twice. BMW’s have straight six engines, which means they stop working after the front has been shortened – the Granadas have much more space in front of their V6’s. World’s worst banger race car is a Citroen GS – the driver was seasick after one lap!! Saabs are popular banger racers, but hetting rare; as are Austin 1800’s and Cambridges.

  13. I’ve always found it curious how British and German Fords of this period, while externally more harmonised, could still have their own engines, hence the British Mark 1 has Essex V4s and V6s, while the German ones have Cologne V4s and V6s

    How did this work in export markets? Were German ones sold in mainland Europe, while the British ones sold in Ireland and English speaking markets?

    • Ireland, while it had a Ford plant at Cork until 1984 which produced Cortinas, Escorts and ended with the Sierra, would’ve had the UK market Granada with RHD, MPH, helped with parts availability across the islands.

      (KM/H didn’t come in until 2007 – these days the Irish market gets some European cars that the UK doesn’t – Tipo / Focus / Astra saloon, Corolla, Fluence/Megane GC…)

      • Over in Turkey, Ford Otosan built the Taunus TC3 (German Cortina mk5) until 1994 with some front bodywork changes – the front resembles a scaled down mk2 Granada facelift with the body coloured 3 bar grille.

  14. Mk 2 Granada was a special car – it was produced at a time when Ford could rival the established Germans and Audi was merely a rebadged VW.

    My dad had a 1978 2.3L with a 4 speed box and no power steering (apparently power steering and sunroof were added for 1979). The car was build like a tank, easily went round the clock, took a family of 4 to South of France and back, and was reliable. Incidentally, it was replaced by a 1985 2.8i Ghia – an early Mk3 – that, although looked modern – was less reliable and didn’t feel as special somehow – weird?

    I remember collecting car brochures when I was a kid, going to the local Motor Show and dealer and coming back elated and the Mk2b final additions looked awesome – 2.8iGhia X Executive mmm

    Great article once more

  15. A real rarity was the Ford Granada MK2 2.8i S
    VHK 491S – Please consult later editions of ‘The Sweeney’

  16. How would the Ford Granada have fared in the UK / Europe against the Rover SD1 had Ford opted to give the range-topping Granada the Windsor V8 engine?

    • The XD really does look like a mk2 Granada, albeit one that looks slightly bigger but with a Montego style low window beltline.

      Interesting that the 1982 XE didn’t follow the 81 facelift of the Granada around that time, which retained the grille but body coloured 3 slat, but rather followed similar to the mk2 Fiesta or mk4 Escort with a narrow grille and leading edge of the bonnet dipping down between the headlights to meet it.

  17. The fluted rear lights added a certain amount of class to the Mark 2 Granada, as these lights were used on the Mercedes W123. It’s funny how trivial things like this make you remember a car.

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