Automotive History/Vintage Review: 1975 Ford Granada Wins “The Most Malaise Car Ever” Award – A Triumph of (Imitative) Style Over Substance

Can I interest you in a 1961 Falcon with 50% more weight, 25% less power, and 100% more fluff?

(first posted 12/27/2017)         I admit to having had an obsession for years with finding the specific car that most fully embodies the worst traits of the Brougham-Malaise Era. During this time, performance, efficiency, handling, space utilization and essentially all practical or objective qualities were thrown out the executive suite window in favor of padded tops, opera windows, tufted velour, plastiwood, stand-up hood ornaments and other tacky accouterments. That’s where the development money all went, and as a consequence, performance and efficiency went to hell in a…Granada.

I’ve harbored a long-held suspicion that the worst of the worst would have a blue oval on it, as Ford in the 70s under Lee Iaccoca was all about the show and most decidedly not about the go. But it took no less then three previous posts here to hunt it down, although I should have really known all along. But here it is, the winner of all four of CC’s Dunce Cap Award categories, the 1975 Granada with the 250 (4.2L) six:

  1. lowest hp per cubic inch:  0.28 hp per cubic inch.
  2. lowest rpm at max. power : 2800rpm
  3. worst power-to weight ratio 48.46 lbs per hp
  4. slowest 0-60 time: 23.15 seconds

All hail the victor, a triumph of fluff, feebleness and imitation style over substance, engineering and performance. And it’s not just me; Popular Science compared a 250 six Granada to a 250 six Nova, and the results were predictable.
The 1975 Granada optional (std. on Ghia) 250 (4.2 L) six was rated at 70 net hp, at 2800 rpm, in CA emission configuration, or 28hp per The 49 state version made a whopping 72 hp at 2900 rpm. These are truly astounding figures, right from the late 1920s,  especially compared to what the Japanese and European competitors were able to muster, never mind the American competition. Even the lowly Chevrolet 250 six was rated at 105 hp in 1975, which is a whopping 50% (!) more.

And what’s even more astounding is that the base 200 six was rated at 75 hp. Adding almost a liter of displacement somehow knocked off several horsepower. Only a company dedicated to “Total Performance” could possibly have been able to figure out that trick. All of Ford’s huge investments in racing was finally paying off for the customer.

In a recent post where this engine was nominated by Vince/BillMitchell, some of you tried to make excuses (emission controls) as to why this engine was so particularly low in output. Well, I’m not buying it. of course emission controls were the reason, but other companies were able to master that problem quite well. As pointed out above, the Chevy 250 six made 50% more power. The 1975 Chrysler 225 slant six also made 105 hp. And AMC’s 258 six made 110 hp. What was Ford’s excuse again?

Never mind that the Mercedes diesels of the time even made more power, by a huge margin. The 240D made 62 hp from 147 cu. in, or 0.46 hp per Guess which was faster?

and has the same performance as a 1961 VW Beetle?

The 1975 VW Rabbit in the ad made the same 70 hp, from a 1.5L four with a carburetor. That’s .77 hp per, or almost three times as much. No mention in the ad that the Granada had the same hp as the VW. Oh, yes, there were V8 options in 1977, but since this was coming right off the energy crisis, I can assure that six cylinder Granadas were the norm in 1975.

One commenter mentioned that the Falcon six cylinder head with its integral intake manifold was at fault. Pfft. How about a new and improved cylinder head? The Falcon 200 six was used right through 1983 (making a whopping 92 hp in its final year), and was built by the hundreds of thousands, so a better breathing head with a proper intake manifold wouldn’t exactly have been hard to come by, eh? Sorry, there’s just simply no excuse for 70hp from a 4.2 L six.

When we factor in the 3,392 lb base curb weight of the Granada Ghia, we come up with an astounding 48.46 lbs per hp. That’s worse than the old 1192cc 40hp (34 net hp) 1961-1965 VW Beetle (46 lbs per hp), whose last year in the US was a decade earlier. And it’s only slightly better than a 1928 Model A, which had 53 lbs per hp. I can’t think of an American car since the 1930s that had a worse ratio.

And the Granada’s 0-60 time proves that: 23.15 seconds, as per a Popular Science comparison test with a 250 powered Nova, which is right below. That’s slower than what a good-running 40 hp Beetle could do (22 seconds).  And that applies to a Mercedes 240D too.

I could go on with the comparisons, but I think I’ve made my point, for now. And I’ll leave it to Popular Science to give a more objective comparison of the Granada to its main competitor, the Chevy Nova. But even I was surprised at how lop-sided that came out. I guess I’m not the only one who only saw only sizzle and no steak.

Because this review is from Google Books, I couldn’t copy larger-sized images. If it’s too small for you, even after clicking the images, here’s the original.

The summary gives it away: the Granada loses (or ties) every category, except for eking out a one point advantage in roominess. Well, the Granada did have a new body, even if it was sitting on ye olde Falcon platform. The Nova’s body from the cowl back was still based on the 1968 Chevy II, which was never a paragon of space efficiency.

The Nova got significantly better fuel economy, despite weighing more. PS speculates that the difference is because Ford calibrated this engine to meet 1976 emission standards. But that speculation is likely off-base, as the 1976 version was re-calibrated substantially again, and had a bump to 90 hp, which is a 25% or more increase. I’ll speculate that Ford had serious problems meeting even the 1975 standards, and had to resort to extreme measures that killed performance and fuel economy.

Regarding handling, here are the two key quotes:  ” the Nova feels taut and firm”  “The Granada..has excessive freedom to roll, pitch and bounce”.


There you have it. And Americans had a lot of it; the Granada, that is.

Like all of Iaccoca’s new cars, the Granada was a big hit, at least for the first few years. The Granada almost duplicated the first few years of the Falcon, coming just shy of the Falcon’s record 474k sales in 1961. An energy crisis will do that. And the Nova did well too, almost hitting its record of 376k 1963 in 1977. These were the second coming of the compact years, after their decline in the second half of the 60s and the first half of the 70s.

No one will ever accuse Lee Iaccoca of being overly concerned about what was under the hood. It was the grille in front of it and the ornament on top of it that really counted. And now we can officially add another title to him; in addition to the Father of the Brougham Epoch he was also the King of Malaise.