Mike Humble takes a sideways look at one of the sheds that littered the highways and by-ways of the UK. The Ford Granada Mk2 might have smacked of Teutonic coolness, but it was its association with some very British characters that truly shaped its identity.
And for Mike Humble, that’s more than enough to convince him that the Granada is a star, not just on TV.
The big Ford’s finest hour…
Say what you like, but today, TV is rubbish. Watching a good old gameshow is a brilliant nostalgia trip, especially Bullseye or 3-2-1 where in 1985, winning a microwave oven was as exciting as witnessing the second coming of the Lord Christ himself. Sometimes the prizes were so awful, it was great. But television encouraged family viewing, the streets would be empty on a Saturday evening, or at least would be until The Generation Game had been on and your average front room would not have a spare seat for greats including Minder, The Gentle Touch, The Professionals or the best of `em all.. The Sweeney.
Double acts like Morecambe & Wise or Tom & Jerry fell by the wayside owing to the great lines and banter of other legendary names such as Daley and McCann, Regan and Carter or Bodie and Doyle. After a hard day’s graft I need my fix of ITV4 where most of the aforementioned shows are re-run. They cater for an audience of gentlemen with discerning taste who need their fix of flares, fast cars and flying cardboard boxes.
When I think of it, I find it staggering that all the aforementioned shows still pull in huge viewing figures, Minder for example was as corny as a chiropadist’s waiting room, but the banter between Arthur and Terry is truly classic stuff. And what better televisual treat can there be than Ray Doyle powersliding his Ford Capri 3000S in pursuit of another villain in another hubcap-less Triumph 2000. My all time fave though, had to be The Sweeney – oh how I yearned to live in North West London in the late 1970s, where all the baddies blagged banks we had never heard of, and made their escape in a tired Jaguar with shot dampers.
Certain cars of yesteryear were timeless or classless, prime examples include the Mini or Range Rover. But hang on a moment – how about the Ford Granada Mk2 as another? Here was a car that suited you perfectly regardless of whether you managed your local bank or wished to rob one.
The Granada never had the all-out kudos or prestige of a top of the range Rover or Jaguar, and driving around in one stated you were on the ladder, yet some way from the top. Simply uttering the words ‘two-eight grannie’ was just enough to raise an eyebrow in the playground or bar room car discussion. A 2.3GL simply wouldn’t cut the mustard, but the 2.8 would eat the pot whole – and still want more. It even lacked the funky looks of the previous Consul Granada, and at 50 paces with half shut eyes bore a similar shape to the post ’76 Cortina, yet it had those vital ingredients that many cars lack today – charm and character.
From the lowly 2.0L through to the range topping 2.8i Ghia X Executive, the Granada was yet another example of how Ford knew exactly who its customer was. Ford cared not one hoot if you were a barrister or a blagger; it would happily supply you car regardless. All you had to do was pull on your flares and visit your local Ford Dealer.
The V6 models were hardly the last word in refinement – the 2.3 version offered little more get up and go over the 2.0, and the 2.8 was light years behind the Rover V8 in terms of smoothness and power. Yet that mix of thrash and fan roar from a Ford Cologne V6 sounded menacing to my schoolboy ear. The nearest I came to owning one came in the form of a half decent Y-Reg Cortina 2.3 Ghia. It wouldn’t handle, drank fuel like it was going out of style and caused my girlfriend to almost die of shame (musical horns) yet sounded truly amazing at 5000rpm – of which was the speed the engine turned over at everywhere I went. I was ‘Mike’-not-Jack-‘Regan’!
The Grannie was a cool car and in Ghia or Ghia X trim came decked out with bells and whistles. Leather came with the Executive and even aircon and trip computer came with top post-1981 models. The interior was roomy and on the whole, well screwed together, while the overall feeling of the car eclipsed the Rover SD1 in terms of construction and build quality.
The Granada was a car that would go the distance. Seemingly huge headlamps and chrome plated bumpers with huge over-riders gave an impressive picture in the rear view mirror, a strange mix of intimidation and style was what driving a Granada seemed all about. You could never call it classy or stylish, and looking back, it seems as if the Granada was in a league of its own – with the Ghia badge never really being a fully-blown luxury pedigree like Vanden Plas or Jaguar.
To be fair, the Granada seemed slightly harsh or lacking in substance compared to many of its rivals, yet the yobbish charm of Ford’s biggest saloon along with a dealer on every street corner made sure sales were high.
The Granada’s line up comprised of a four-door saloon and five door estate (as well as a two-door in mainland Europe) offering power units from a twin choke carburettor 2.0-litre Pinto four cylinder, with 100bhp petrol; a Peugeot diesel (with its own taxi trim-pack); and a tri0 of V6 offerings, from a carb-fed 2.3- or 2.8- to a fuel injected 2.8-litre 160bhp 2.8i. Transmissions were the superb slick shifting N-series gearbox or 3-speed automatic, and later models from 1982 featured five-speed gearboxes.
Underneath its plain looking body shape, the suspension was by a double wishbone coil front set up, and a well insulated fully independent rear coil set up. It never offered the grippiest of cornering but did give an exeptionally smooth ride in town or at high speed – and was more than a match for its costlier rivals such as the BMW 5-Series (E12 and E28), when uprated to the sporting 2.8 Injection specification (including spot-lights!) of post-1981.
Thanks to the proven Ford running gear, the Granada simply excelled at crusing at high speed, and even though its brick like styling was very un aerodynamic, rear seat passengers were treated to world of eery hush with much of this refinement the result of extensive insulation and careful attention to wind-sealing and powertrain installation.
In next to no time, the Granada became the chosen steed for the chauffeur, wedding hire company, executive taxi firms, middle and upper company management, Bailiffs, Bank robbers, criminals and of course the Police. Both Ford and Rover area traffic cars could be seen up and down the land pounding the motorways and pulling the blaggers. And from my own perspective, I never decided which was the more intimidating Police car: the Rover 3500 or Ford Granada 2.8i.
I can say having spoken to a few bobbies over the years, hardened traffic officers seemed to preffer the SD1 – fully freighted, they seemed to handle and perform that bit better.
Today, the Granada is an appreciating classic car (with at least 73 different owners’ clubs in the UK), and values for good ones are on their way up after years in the doldrums. Constant exposure on mainstream retro TV is doing as good an advertising and PR job for the old Grannie, as Ford ever did back in the way (and they were very good), thanks to endless re-runs of The Professionals and The Sweeney. Ask your average car enthusiast what motor George Cowley was ferried around in – as the boss of fictional crime agency CI5, and they’ll tell you it was a Granada – despite an SD1 proving his choice of motor in early series. But somehow, Ford’s edgier Granada seemed to stick in the memory banks just that bit better.
So the nostalgia crew love the Granada – and so do I, even if it’s because, deep-down, I still dream of being Jack Regan.
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