The primary reason I take pen keyboard in hand to laud this car is that -- apart from having a probably unhealthy obsession with later-1970s cars -- I saw a beautifully preserved example of one of these over the weekend (shown). I thought at the time and I still think that it was, or at least could be, quite a handsome car. True, it had several of the gaudy features that people tend to hate about this period -- opera windows and a huge chrome grille -- but if you step back and take in the whole thing, I think one can usefully view it as a nicely proportioned American sedan. And despite being the butt of many jokes nowadays, for a time it was Ford's biggest seller and filled an important market niche.
This won't be a long detailed post on the history and development of the model -- all of those gory details were admirably summarized by our own Chuck Lynch for its sibling, the Lincoln Versailles -- but I hope to at least make the case that the Granada, and its Mercury stablemate the Monarch, were actually pretty good cars for the time and ought to get a little more respect than they ordinarily do.
The Granada had, ostensibly, a pretty good range of engine options from a 200 cubic inch (3.3L) straight-6 up to the 351 (5.8L) Cleveland so you could go for efficiency or something resembling power. Interestingly, it also was available with a 3-speed manual transmission (see the Granada's Wiki entry for more detail on various powertrain options).
Lookswise, it was supposed to capitalize on the Mercedes Benz look and evoke feelings of that car's luxury and driving characteristics with a much lower price tag. And in this they succeeded remarkably well, coming within a hairsbreadth of the Mercedes in build quality, ride, handling, and power.
Okay, I may have made that last bit up.
Frankly, I like the way it looks. It doesn't have the swoops and swishes of the pre-1977 Chevrolets, is less gaudy (I think) than the Continental Mark V, and appears much less ponderous than the Torino. It's nicely proportioned fore and aft, the wheel wells are slightly flared giving it a bit of sport, and the slight rise behind the rear pillar keeps it from looking too tail heavy -- in the coupe version it evokes something of a pony car look.
It still hewed to the "personal luxury" concept Ford had been developing, with heavily cushioned seats, optional padded door panels and reclining buckets, and a soft squishy ride standard. Some of the options are surely dictionary examples of style over substance and will no doubt provoke many a furrowed brow as to what exactly they describe: "elegant-looking Chainmail vinyl upholstery"? "louvered opera window appliques"? "Touraine Cloth and Vinyl flight bench seats"? Well, okay, gotta sell 'em somehow.
They did try to inject some performance into the lineup, whether of the true or all-show-no-go variety. The Ghias were the top of the line in each division, with the Grand Monarch Ghia being the cream of the crop at least in terms of luxury options. For performance Ford featured a Sports Coupe version of the Granada and an S version of the Monarch in 1976 and 1977. In large part these were trim features, but they gave them a heavier suspension that was also available on the Mustang II and Pinto/Bobcat lines, though with some modifications. I can personally attest to the improvement in handling the better suspension provides. From 1978 to 1980 these were slightly restyled and rebadged as "ESS" (European Sport Sedan, ha) and were available as either 2- or 4-door models (the ESS Granada is shown in the attached brochure).
While many are wont to rip on these cars as exemplars of excessive style over substance, I still maintain that they were a step up from previous models in many respects, especially given the tenor of the times. True, Ford didn't design the damn thing with the oil crisis in mind, that was just dumb luck (though they, along with others, took notice of the steadily burgeoning sales of small Japanese imports), but the Granada at least, along with the newly redesigned Mustang II, finally gave smaller car owners some upscale goodies at an affordable price. We often forget that the pavement-pounding muscle cars of the previous generation were also loud, drafty, and decidedly rather barbaric. American manufacturers were finally starting to include a few of the amenities -- for example, not going deaf at highway speeds -- that owners of expensive European sedans had been enjoying, and for far less money in the more appliance-oriented US market. And while we see them today and rolling behemoths, compared to previous generations they were actually quite lean. relatively speaking.
Credits: The brochure for the ESS is from Hans Tore Tangerud's web site. The photos I took myself a couple of blocks from my house, further ensconcing my residence as a veritable epicenter of Car Lust.