A Brief History of the Ford Granada and Its Delusions of Grandeur
Ford’s attempt to deliver a Mercedes-Benz competitor for the masses.
I wasn't a big fan of the Ford Granada when I was a teenager, but I appreciate it in retrospect. No, it is nowhere near as cool as Starsky & Hutch's 1976 Ford Torino, but I think the two-door version of Ford's mid-1970s sedan, with its opera windows and a three-speed-on-the-tree shifter looks retro-cool now. Maybe if it had a set of mag wheels, a bright red paint job, and a white vector stripe on it, it would look sportier. Regardless, the mid-size Granada enjoyed a seven-year run in the U.S. between 1975-82.
The Ford Granada shared its name and not much else with Ford Europe's larger and much sportier saloon, estate, and coupe variants sold between 1972-94. Still, the Granada sold in the U.S. holds a special place in my family's heart and history since my father surprised us all one Christmas when he drove home in a brand-new Granada. It was white with red pinstripes, had a red half-vinyl roof, and a matching red interior. Tacky yes, but it was plenty stylish for the '70s.
While my grandfather was a Cadillac man, my father was mostly a Ford/Mercury guy, and he seriously regretted selling his Comet to make room for his growing family. Still, it was the '70s, and while it was no Mercedes-Benz, the Ford Granada seemed like the perfect upscale sedan for folks on a budget. Especially since our neighbor loved to show off his Chrysler Cordoba with its soft Corinthian leather seats.
"The closer you look, the better we look," touted a Ford Granada brochure of the day. "Granada is about two feet shorter and half-a-ton lighter than most standard-size cars."
The Blue Oval compared the Granada to the Mercedes-Benz 280 in its Bicentennial promotional brochures, too. For instance, the Granada had a whole 2.2-inches more length at 197.7 inches vs. 195.5 for the Mercedes. Plus, the Ford cost about a quarter of the price of the $20,000 German sedan; the Granada's base price was about $3,861.
Commercials from the day compared the Granada with a Mercedes-Benz 280 SE, and asked eagle-eyed viewers if they could tell the difference between the two; check out the old commercial below for a good laugh. The Granada was smaller than a Ford Torino and slightly larger than the Maverick with which it shared its chassis and drivetrains. It has a 109.9-inch wheelbase and rolls on radial tires, a coil front and leaf-spring rear suspension, and a combination of disc and drum brakes. The ride was fairly rough and nothing like a Mercedes-Benz of the day.
Still, the original Granada is a smart-looking sedan with a big chrome-plated grille flanked by round headlights, and a decent-sized chrome bumper. The sportier two-door variant featured those opera windows, deluxe wheel covers (hub caps), and all versions sported tri-colored rectangular taillights. In 1976, the upscale budget car was available as a two- or four-door sedan, as well as more "elegant" two- or four-door Granada Ghia variants.
Under its shiny hourglass-like hood ornament, the Ford Granada originally packed a base 250-cid straight-six or an optional 255-cid or 302-cid V-8, paired either to a three-speed manual on the column or to an automatic transmission. The five-passenger car averaged about 22/30 mpg city/highway miles, fairly decent for the day. Later Ghia and European Sports Sedan (ESS) variants received a 4.1-liter six-cylinder engine or an optional 5.0-liter V-8, both with a four-speed manual or an automatic transmission.
Inside, the cabin sported a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, and a vinyl bench seat or optional leather bucket seats available in black, tan, red, silver blue, tan, or white, with carpeted lower door panels. Other goodies included A/C, a digital clock, electric rear-window defroster, cigar lighter, ashtray light, and a power moonroof.
Looking back on my own Ford Granada history, the only option I remember my dad opting for was an AM/FM radio with four speakers and an 8-track player. On our many road trips in the Granada, we listened to an endless loop of Pink Floyd, The Rascals, Redbone, and the Rolling Stones. Good times—even if it's taken me years to realize it.
1976 Ford Granada 2-Door By the Numbers
- Wheelbase: 109.9 in
- L x W x H: 197.7 x 74.0 x 53.3 in
- Trunk Space: 14.4 cubic feet
- Weight: 3,259 lb
- Fuel Capacity: 19.2 gal
- Passenger Capacity: 5