Ford Granada / Mercury Monarch
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
Ford USA's Granada-Monarch (Ford and Mercury versions respectively) were originally conceived as a replacement for “compact” Maverick and Comet. Ford initially looked at importing the European Granada
instead of designing a completely new car, but concluded the cost of "federalizing" the German vehicle was prohibitive. And it was during the design of the Granada that it became a totally new car both in concept and execution - and one of the most significant designs from a U.S. carmaker since the introduction of the first mass-produced automobile
, the Model T
By world standards it could hardly be called a small car, but judged against American sheet metal the Granada-Monarch represented a sensibly sized 5-passenger car and a refreshing change from the typically over-styled U.S. offering. That its styling and exterior and interior dimensions were similar to those of a Mercedes 280 was more than coincidence too.
It was in 1969
that Ford management realised the "luxury compact" market was evolving, and with a rise in both fuel and insurance, smaller cars were fast gaining popularity. Convinced that the Mercedes and Audi were closest to the intent of their new-car, Ford product planners began work on an appropriate prototype model in 1970
. At the Granada’s launch Ford even admitted that certain product cues such as the grille were taken from Mercedes, but what really impressed Ford planners was the Mercedes' efficient interior packaging and its functional exterior design.
The Mercedes-like design therefore became Ford's goal, and as the finished product clearly revealed, the Granada was the first car from a U.S. automaker since the heady days of the early 1950s (and before fins became the norm) where function triumphed over form. The square-back shape proved to be an efficient design from an aerodynamic
standpoint as well. Wind-tunnel tests revealed that rear air turbulence actually pushed against the back of the car, helping it along.
Styling inputs for the Granada came from several sources: Ford and Lincoln-Mercury in the U.S.. Ford of Europe (which made the European Granada) and the Ford-owned Ghia carrozzeria in Italy. Influence of Ghia's XJ6-like Deauville prototype and the Longchamps, a front-engine show car that looked like a smoothed-over 450SL
, could be seen in the roofline, flat body-side lines, parking lamps and sharp beltline at the rear roof quarter of the final design selected. Ford were also very determined to get the design right. There was a growing trend in the U.S. to have car designs undergo consumer focus group research – but never before had a design been presented no less than six times – a number that set a new record in consumer analysis. From these clinics Ford was able to determine that, when compared with existing American compacts, a third of the people thought the Granada resembled a Mercedes and that a third thought the car was unique - unlike anything else on the road.
In the fall of 1973
the emerging energy crisis and the degree to which the Granada and Monarch had grown distinctive led Ford management to designate them as separate car lines: the new cars were obviously far removed in appearance and spirit from the compact cars they were originally planned to replace. The Granada – Monarch range was produced in two body types - a 4-door sedan and a 2-door sedan with opera window - and two trim versions, base model and high-line Ghia, which included a vinyl roof, carpeted luggage compartment, digital clock, day-night mirror, roof-mounted grab handles and other luxury touches.
There was more in common between the Ford and Mercury versions than with then contemporary "intermediate" and "fullsize" offerings from the two divisions with only grilles, taillight treatments and hood ornaments serving to distinguish the two. In every version the Granada-Monarch was planned as a 5-seater with individual front seats - a full front bench seat wasn't available. For internal space, as competition to the Mercedes 280 there was not much in it. But judged against massive juggernauts such as the Mercury Marquis the Granada did have less legroom, seat width and boot space. But the exterior dimensions, weight and fuel savings were well worth the compromise.
The Catwalk Brace
The Granada wheelbase was close to the 4-door Maverick-Comet. The two bodies were also related, but only remotely, sharing a portion of the front floor platform of the unit structure and some suspension, brake and steering components. The Ford engineers spent some time working through the pros and cons of using a stub-frame vs full unit construction. They felt that unit construction tended to transmit more noise to the interior, whereas a stub front frame when used for engine and front suspension kept the noise down. Unit construction provides a better handling car, so the Ford engineers stuck to that formula, but developed a kind of structural brace which ran from the outer edges of the firewall at the rear of the engine compartment forward along the guards to the spring towers. They called this a "catwalk" brace and it replaced the more common angled braces from the spring towers to the centre of the firewall. These catwalks gave an important gain in noise insulation; they were tied into the no. 2 cross-member.
Bumpers to meet 5-mph front and rear barrier crashes and the various federal pendulum tests were of an integral part of the Granada concept. Integrated into the front and rear structure and mounted on hydraulic cylinders, these bumpers demonstrated that it was possible to achieve style and safety when you start with a clean sheet design. Both front and rear suspensions were conventional designs - upper and lower arms and coil springs up front, Hotchkiss-drive solid axle and leaf springs at the rear - modified from the Maverick-Comet. Longer arms, spindles and coil springs resulted in an additional .5. in. of wheel travel (up to 4 in.) in both the bounce and rebound directions. Large rubber pivot bushings in the upper and lower arms and a new upper ball-joint with plastic insert contributed to reduced harshness and friction. The Granada was tuned for radials from the beginning (DR78-14 radials on 6-in. rims were standard), so there was less toe-in and increased caster – which provided improved response to slight steering movements and better straight-line stability - and more longitudinal wheel recession on bumps than in the Maverick-Comet to reduce low-speed harshness, a radial characteristic.
The rear leaf springs were 2 in. longer than on Maverick-Comet, and again there was a useful .5-in. increase in wheel travel (also to 4 in.) in both bounce and rebound. There were larger rubber spring-eye bushings; rubber iso-clamps to eliminate metal-to-metal contact between the live axle and springs were used on Ghia models. Ford did toy with the idea of fitting an independent rear end, such as used in the European Granada, but it was deemed too expensive and offered only a minimal advantage. Non-assisted recirculating-ball steering was standard (with a curb weight close to 3500 lb we imagine it was a brute to park) with a linkage-boost power system optional - both carryover from Maverick-Comet. Overall ratio of the power steering was 21.3; 1 (4.3 turns lock-to-lock). That was not such a good figure, but according to press reports from the time Ford claimed it was quicker than its specifications indicated because of front-end geometry changes.
Unfortunately Ford did not decide to try and give the Granada a Mercedes-type ride. Rather, it judged itself against the other American manufacturers, and in that respect their cars did offer more road feel – and besides, to ensure their traditional buyer base would turn up to the showroom a firm ride was a no-no. The brakes
were 11-in. disc front and 10-in. drum rear - likewise a carryover from the Maverick-Comet with the exception of 1/4-in.-wider linings at the rear. Non-assisted brakes
were available only with the base 250-cu-in. 6-cyl engine; power assist was a mandatory option with either the 302 or 351 V8.
A Kelsey-Hayes 4-wheel disc brake system featuring mechanical actuation of the rear pads (instead of separate small rear drums) to act as the parking brake became an option in 1976, along with a rear anti-skid system utilizing axle-pinion sensors to sense wheel lockup. A central hydraulic system called hydra-boost, incorporating brake boost and anti-skid as well as the usual steering assist, was an integral part of both the 4-wheel disc and anti-skid options. This not only eliminated the large vacuum can that was a necessary component of every vacuum-assisted braking system but relieved the brakes
of their dependence upon engine vacuum, which emission controls were reducing anyway. Hydra-boost also resulted in more efficient use of the power-steering pump – another power saving. A hydraulic accumulator in the system allowed as much brake reserve as with normal vacuum boost - three panic stops after the engine shuts down.
Engines & Transmissions
The standard engine was Ford's then familiar 250-cu-in. (4.1-litre) pushrod 6-cylinder, with a 3-speed manual transmission. Steering-column shift was standard but a floor shifter was optional. The usual 3-speed automatic transmission was optional too, with a choice of shifter positions. The 302 (5.0-litre) V8 could be had with manual (floor shift only) or automatic, and the 351 (5.7-litre) Windsor, Ontario-built V8 was offered with automatic only. Ford's other 351 V8, the Cleveland, was wider and would not fit. A 4-speed manual gearbox wasn't available for 1975
but arrived in 1976
. Catalytic converters were the big news for 1975
. All California cars had to be fitted with catalysts. It was a confusing time in the U.S., at launch the 250 and 351-equipped cars had no catalysts in the rest of the country, but the 302 V8 did. We believe that all Granada’s were fitted with catalysts, regardless of engine, in all 50 states – and they also had a small-diameter filler neck designed for unleaded fuel only. To allow the use of unleaded fuel all engines were fitted with induction-hardened valve seats; transistorized ignition with breakerless distributor, available only on some Fords in 1974, became standard on every engine in 1975
Inside the Granada
Ford management felt right from the start that the interiors of the Granada-Monarch should be superior in quality, plushness and finish to their European counterparts. There was a strong feeling that American sedan buyers would demand the same level of luxury from these "small" cars that they found in bigger models. The exceptionally high level of even the base interior, however, was a direct result of Ford's decision to keep the Maverick-Comet as separate models. Design of the front individual seats was a major departure from usual U.S. practice. They were straight from the European Granada and provided lateral and thigh support and a range of back-angle adjustment then unparalleled in American seats. The Granada-Monarch driver also sat relatively high so had a good view of the road in all directions through an exceptionally generous (by U.S. standards) "greenhouse."
Vinyl seat coverings were standard in both trim levels with a soft, bottom-holding cloth material Ford called Kasmir and leather optional on Ghia models. There was cut-pile carpeting for floors and door panels, and especially garish simulated burled wood appliques (they focus groups like them) on the instrument panel and door panels - the latter on the Ghia only. European-type arm rests with integral door pulls were used at both trim levels and the door release was conveniently located underneath. Instrumentation was typically incomplete, with warning lights for most functions and no tachometer. European influence on the Granada-Monarch didn’t carry over to standard equipment. There was the usual long option list - power brakes, tinted glass, heated rear window and clock were only a few of several items standard on many medium-price imports.
On the Road
You don’t need us to tell you that the Granada did not handle like a Mercedes either. They were softly sprung, underdamped, ponderously under-steering in typical American style. But thats where the similarities ended. Roll in cornering was, surprisingly, well controlled and understeer was less severe than many road testers had expected. The steering was also responsive, answering inputs without the lag typical of most U.S. designs. There was also reasonable road feel - more than with most intermediate and all fullsize Detroit cars from the era, though less than ideal and nowhere near the amount found in Mercedes' excellent power-steering system.
Ford excelled at building quiet cars and the noise level in both the 2 and the 4-door was very low. Window sealing was excellent and transmission of road noise was minimal. There was also considerably less front-end and cowl shake than with most U.S. intermediates and big cars. Good value too, with a launch price of between US$3500 and US$5000 depending upon options. Today we can judge the Granada as being a straightforward no-nonsense (for the most part) design that indicated that U.S. designers had finally looked to the Europeans for some inspiration. Ford's President, Lee Iacocca, commented at the launch of the Granada-Monarch that "We've got a hell of a car for half the price [of a Mercedes]."
–1/2 variation on the Granada Sports Coupe, produced from May 1977
through the end of the model year, featured blacked-out molding, modified trim, taillights, and color selections. Documentation of this half-year model exists in Ford advertising from spring 1977
. This car is perhaps the "rarest" of Granada production. The 1976
Sports Coupe and S packages included standard heavy-duty suspension, styled steel wheels, striping unique to this option and unique interior trim with standard bucket seats. The Granada's front spindles interchanged with the Pinto (and the badge engineered Mercury Bobcat) and Mustang II, but the rotors were larger, at 11 in (280 mm) compared to 9.5 in (240 mm), and used a "5 on 4½" (five lug, 4.5 in (110 mm) bolt circle) pattern.
ESS (European Sport Sedan) replaced the Sports Coupe and S models. Sports Coupes, and ESS models equipped with bucket seats, can be identified by trim codes beginning with "P" on the car's data sticker on the edge of the driver's door. The Granada and Monarch ESS models featured "blacked-out" chrome, and a standard-equipment bucket seat interior with a floor-mounted shifter, although a bench seat was optional. Ford Motor Company's design chief at the time, Stephen Estrada, mentioned later that "The Granada was my favorite design and the one that I'm most proud of". The ESS option included standard color-keyed wheelcovers (styled-steel wheels were optional) and unique opera-window louvres.