Curbside Classic: 1980 Ford Granada – The Falcon’s Final Spin Off

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There’s no doubt about it, I can spot the long forgotten and unloved with ease, no matter where I seem to be. This time, it was on the usual drive home down the Trans Canada Highway, and the first glimpse of the grille and headlights of this old Ford Falcon-based sedan had me pulling off for a closer look.

While the enthusiast in me hoped for a very-rare-to-find two door sedan, this still shimmering Granada four-door sedan was still impressive. Absolutely not a spot of rust anywhere, immaculate interior, this is one of those cars that has obviously spent it’s days in the hands of a loving owner, most likely now passed down to the next generation, but still amazingly well-kept for its age.

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Of course, it’s no Mercedes-Benz, and for those old enough to remember, Ford thought you wouldn’t know the difference anyway. That was the sales pitch of the day in the mid-to-late 70s: why waste your money on a Mercedes when you could buy a Granada for way less and no one will know you did. I don’t think many people were fooled, of course.

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The Granada found a place with the car shopping public though, and sold in good numbers to keep well away from the ‘failure bin’ where you’d find, oh I don’t know, the Lincoln Versailles… which just happened to be another “who’ll know” moment for Ford. Of course, everyone figured out really quickly that the Versailles was just a tarted up Granada and sales of the variant were pitiful as a result.

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This line of two and four door sedans appeared on the domestic scene for the 1975 model year, paired with near identical Mercury Monarch. The two were initially intended to replace the Ford Maverick & Mercury Comet compacts that had arrived riding the same Ford Falcon platform at the beginning of the decade. The gas crisis of 1973 had car manufacturers scrambling for more fuel-efficient options and a surge in demand for the Maverick/Comet due to their sizing and efficiency meant that they would stick around for a few more years, giving the Granada/Monarch twins a place as an ‘upscale’ compact option and it worked well, with sales reaching over 2 million units during its 1975-1980 production run.

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Engine choices were familiar for the platform: 200 & 250 cid inline-six engines on the bottom end with the 302 & 351 Windsor V8s providing the top end punch, though nothing was ‘punchy’ about any of these engine choices. The Granada/Monarch are textbook examples of a ‘malaise era’ car and while the 351, offered in 1975-76, would have been the best way to get these car moving at a reasonable pace, the two are remembered more for their lack of get up and go, rather than mind-blowing acceleration. Ford whittled down the engine offerings to just the 250 and 302 for 1978-onward, ensuring the Granada/Monarch was completely immersed in Malaise-y goodness.

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This particular example has truly defied the test of time and living its life out on the mild Canadian west coast is likely the biggest factor at play in its longevity. While I can recall seeing many Granadas and Monarchs on the street growing up in the 1980s, they often carted around a fair amount of body rust. I expect that many ended up in the junkyard not for failed drivetrain components, but incurable rusting.

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The Granada will always have a special spot for me, given my grandmother owned a 351-equipped 1976 four door sedan in bright baby blue for over 34 years. That said, her car would ultimately fall to the same ‘rust from the inside out’ condition that took down so many of its brethren, though she managed to keep it at bay for much longer than most through the most diligent of maintenance practices. Always the same shop and the same mechanic and the same routine maintenance twice a year. I suspect the subject car has received much of the same.

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Of course, by 1980, I would expect that rust proofing procedures were a little more advanced, perhaps giving this subject ride a bit of an edge. It doesn’t even display the smallest of hints that its sheet metal isn’t 100% rigid. Quite the opposite. The only real blemishes I can find are in the chrome trim, which this car carries with pride. You won’t find a thing out-of-place in that interior, the vinyl seats are pristine along with the immaculate floor carpeting, even the dash is nice and straight, obviously being spared from the sun’s destructive rays for most of its 35 years on the road. Power windows are a featured top end option here, too, going along with the 8-track stereo, cruise control and delay wipers.

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The continuing shift of the car buying public to safer, smaller and more efficient choices saw the arrival of the Fox-body platform and the 1978 Ford Fairmont & Mercury Zephyr compacts which finally ended the Maverick & Comet’s successful run on the now-antiquated Ford Falcon platform dating back to 1960, leaving the Granada and Monarch (and Versailles) to carry forward as the final spin offs until the end of the 1980 model year. The Granada would become the upscale variant of the Fairmont for 1981 and the Monarch nameplate would retire completely, with the now Fox-body produced Cougar name extending to the Mercury offering of the upscale sedan and wagon. The Granada nameplate officially retired in the US market after the 1982 model year.

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Staying true to its Falcon roots, this Granada is powered by the venerable 250 cid inline-six, which also made its final appearance in 1980. Ford would carry on with the smaller 200 cid ‘Falcon six’ in the various Fox body offerings until it was discontinued as an engine option after 1984. Ford would lop off a couple cylinders, crown it with a new cylinder head, and continue to produce this engine as the 2.3L HSC that powered the Tempo/Topaz for a decade more.

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It certainly is a rather dated looking car even in it’s absolutely amazing condition and by the time it hit the streets in 1980, I am sure many people thought the same. After all, the revolutionary GM X-bodies were just hitting the streets with fanfare, the Fairmont & Zephyr proved to be an enormous recent success, Chrysler was making strides in the subcompact market with the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon and the K-cars were just around the corner. It certainly looks the descendant of the hit 1960 Ford Falcon and for Lee Iacocca, it was another of his many smart plays of taking what worked well, and making it work well some more.

 

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I must say, the condition of this vehicle, even in active service, is absolutely remarkable. This is what showroom condition is all about, it looks as crisp today as it did at the dealership 35 years ago. I would expect that the number of Granadas that exist this preserved out there are few. It’s absolutely these types of classic that make summer car shows worthwhile as those that were once so ordinary and unremarkable have a way of taking us back down memory lane. I know, for me at least, the Granada does just that.