In the peaceful, innocent days before the Germans waged all-out war on our executive car sector Ford pretty much had the market themselves. Jaguar fought it out in the Boardroom while Ford rewarded white collar workers with the Granada in a huge array of specifications. But the 2.8 Ghia X was the only one to have. Today, in an era of stripped out BMW 520ds in black on 16 inch wheels it is hard to imagine a world where a Ford could be considered the better option. Yet in the 80s it was ever thus. There was something honest about the Ford Granada driver compared to the social climbing Mercedes owner, eschewing as they did the Ford's faux wood veneer and ruched velour in favour of hard seats, wind-up windows and a four-pot motor. Today we buy badges and brands, back then we bought to showroom tinsel and trinkets. And in the battle of tinsel and trinkets no car fought better than the Granada Ghia X.
From the 60s to the 80s Ford was the master par excellence of car marketing. You surely can't polish a turd but you can sprinkle it in glitter and call it a Cortina, an Escort or a Fiesta. These competent but humdrum cars flew out of the showroom because Ford recognised one simple fact - people always want to be one better than their neighbours. With a simple model trim hierarchy Ford enabled buyers to do just that. Initially the trim names were a little confusing but when Uncle Henry chanced on the blindingly simple L, GL and Ghia ascendancy paydirt was reached. Never mind that Ghia was once the name of a renowned Italian design house, its glory days came when it was nailed to the back of top-spec Cortinas, Escorts and Grannies. There was something reassuring and concrete about all this, something that is missing from today's corporate car park. Salesmen drove Ls. Regional Managers drive GLs. National Sales Managers drove Ghias. Rivals like Vauxhall tried to get in on the act with copy-cat hierarchies but nobody hit the spot like Ford.
The Blue Oval refined the concept with endless additions including GLS, Popular Plus and many more, few of which really moved the game on. Except when they whacked a X onto the end of the Granada Ghia. Suddenly, in a moment that would be familiar to fans of Spinal Tap, Ghia was not enough. Ghia was One Below. Ghia was merely 10. Now there was 11 to contend with. It may be hard for younger readers to comprehend just what adding a X meant to executive car buyers back then unless you've sat in any business meeting for any length of time surrounded by striving salesmen. Soon the conversation turns to company cars, a discussion whose subtext is all about relative success. The man sat in that room driving a Ford Granada Ghia X holds the trump card. He has turned it up to11, he cannot be beaten.
The Ford Granada Ghia X was Ford's showpiece. It had everything Ford could think of putting in a car as standard. In many ways the electric windows, rear headrests, leather seats, timber dashboard, rev counter, alloy wheels and sunroof of the Ghia X were Ford's defence against the emerging German makers with their stripped out, spartan offerings. But for a short period the sheer opulence of the Ghia X merely highlighted how silly anyone would be to buy a hair-shirt equipped German rival. Those who did were seen as image-obsessed snobs. Oh how times have changed.
It helped, of course, that the Mk2 Granada was actually quite good. It looked great, with simple chiseled lines, and the Ghia X paraphernalia gave it undoubted presence, particularly compared to its more lowly trim levels. It's big headrests and over-stuffed seats gave the impression that there was so much stuff inside that there was barely room for the occupants.
Unfortunately, all this Gha X stuff wouldn't last. Sure, Ford has soldiered on with the idea offering Titanium X variants but by the late 80s it rather felt like the game was up. The Mk3 Granada wasn't premium enough and ditching the Ghia X badge for Scorpio was an own goal. By the time of the mk3 company car drivers were quite happy to swap space and equipment for a German badge; technology began to trump tinsel and, in a way, who can blame drivers for wanting a car that handled better and was neatly screwed together.
Today Ford is fighting a new battle to reclaim the Ghia X crown with the mk5 Mondeo. And who knows, perhaps the time is right for a car that trades on ability and showroom tinsel rather than a brand.
In the meantime you can immerse yourself in the 80s world of middle management success with our latest addition, a Ford Granada Ghia X 2.8i, available to hire from our Cotswolds site from 2014. For more details visit http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733.