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
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.