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The Ford Granada: Like a Mercedes-Benz 450SE with a $16,319 rebate

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Magazine ad courtesy of LOV2XLR8.

Introduced for the 1975 model year, Ford’s Granada was initially intended to replace a pair of aging mid-sizers: the Maverick and the Torino. In marketing its newest sedan and coupe, Ford set its sights on an ambitious across-the-pond rival – the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.

From a distance, both the Granada and the Mercedes-Benz W116, the object of comparison in the ad featured here, did sport conservative box-on-box styling. Given enough schnapps (or, on this side of the Atlantic, Stroh’s), one could even say they were similar in appearance, and overall dimensions. Realistically, that’s where the comparisons ended, although that didn’t stop Ford’s marketing department and ad agency from reaching for the stars.

The Mercedes-Benz 450SE cited in the ad was the “entry level” offering in the Stuttgart automaker’s flagship S-Class lineup. As such, it was powered by a single engine choice, namely a 4.5-liter (276-cu.in.) V-8, rated at 180hp and 220 lb.-ft. of torque. Despite a curb weight of 3,945 pounds, the Mercedes sedan could run from 0-62 mph (100 km/h) in just under 12 seconds, on the way to a top speed of slightly over 120 mph. For American buyers, the 450SE’s list price, as documented in Ford’s print advertising, was $20,689.

The Ford Granada exported to Germany for scientific, head-to-head testing, on the other hand, carried an as-equipped sticker price of $4,370, which included the larger 250-cu.in. six-cylinder engine, rated at 98 horsepower and 182 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a three-speed automatic transmission. Lighter by a pair of portly, lederhosen-clad tuba players (with instruments), the 3,351-pound Granada was still no match for the Mercedes, taking roughly 19 seconds to reach the 60 mph mark, on the way to a top speed of 90 mph or so. An Autobahn contender it was not.

Which is why Ford’s testing, as documented in the company’s advertising, focused on the slightly more nebulous. In its “Riding Smoothness” test, executed by a German engineering firm, both the Granada and 450SE were piloted over a variety of paved and cobblestoned roads in Northern Germany, while “vibration levels” were sampled in each car. Aside from this, no reference to methodology was made, and no hard data was published. Instead, the tests showed “no major differences” in smoothness, which we’d understand to be ride compliance, between either sedan.

Next came a “Quietness” test, in which the V-8 Mercedes was tested against the inline-six Ford, with both cars driven across a variety of pavement at speeds ranging from 30-55 mph. Using a sound meter, the German engineers once again found that the Ford performed just as well as the Mercedes-Benz.

Based upon this test, Ford claimed that the Granada was as smooth and as quiet as a high-end Mercedes-Benz, though it sold for just a fraction (about 1/5) of the import’s price. While it isn’t likely that customers flocked to Ford dealers because of these ads (which ultimately featured a variety of slightly odd comparisons between the Granada and Mercedes-Benz models), there’s no denying that the Granada was a major success for Ford, remaining in its product lineup through the 1982 model year and selling over two million examples in total.