FORD GRANADA (1985-1994)

December 1, 2007

Looking for a big car on a small budget? Then you’ll probably already know where to look first. Ford’s Granada offers a lot of car for the money – no question if you are looking for cheap used cars. Nor is there any lack of choice. The Granada was replaced by the questionably styled Scorpio. In its heyday, however, a trip along Britain’s motorways could easily have convinced you that the blue oval’s flagship was Britain’s best selling car. Back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, a Granada was a mark of faithful service for the middle management reps whose daily task was to pound around round to Potters Bar. A mild (or not so mild according to model) pat on the back for years of successful sales targets. Even today, Henry’s big saloon is a common sight. However, the drivers at the wheel are second-hand buyers who’ve bought into big car motoring for supermini money.

The ‘rounded shape’ Granada, with its flush-fitting glass, made its debut in 1985, a large five-door car with a huge interior. Initially, the engine line-up was unremarkable; underpowered 1.8 and 2.0-litre four cylinder units; 2.4 and 2.9-litre V6s. Plus a nasty, noisy 2.5-litre diesel. The 1.8 and 2.4-litre variants didn’t last long fortunately, and the carburettor 2.0-litre gave way to a fuel-injected engine of similar size in 1990, when a saloon was also added to the line-up. There was also a 4×4 option on 2.9-litre models, which lasted between 1987 and 1990. At the beginning of 1992, design specialists IAD masterminded a restyle which actually looked quite handsome. An estate was also announced at the same time and a 2.5-litre turbo diesel launched a year later. The range was replaced by the bug-eyed Scorpio (essentially a Granada with new nose, tail and cabin styling) in 1994 but you’ll find lots of 1995-registered Granadas about. A rather dowdy image but a lot of car. Arguably, the later Granadas were pretty good looking; they were certainly huge inside and very well equipped. The major drawback is the fuel consumption and high insurance premiums.

Granadas are uncomplicated cars – but that doesn’t mean that you won’t end up with a rogue example if you’re not very careful. The car has been around long enough on the used market for many cars to have gone through two or three owners. The more rounded Granada was introduced in 1985, initially only as a five-door, and vehicles from this era are priced very much on individual mileage and condition these days. You best bet is to go for the latest model possible. Prices for a 1993 K-plate 2.0-litre LX start at £800, while a 1994 M-plate Executive Estate with the same engine will be £1,100. A 2.5-litre turbo diesel from 1994 will be in the region of £1,600 and the last of the thirsty 2.9-litre petrol engined models cost around £2,000 on a 1995 M-plate. Avoid 1.8-litre and early 2.0-litre petrol cars and the normally aspirated diesel. Look out for ex-police cars and ex-taxis. The estate models are so large that many tradesmen use them instead of vans. Steer clear of high mileage examples; the odometer might lie but sagging driver’s seats and shiny steering wheel rims won’t. A lot of car for not a lot of money. If image, manoeuvrability and fuel consumption aren’t an issue, you couldn’t do much better.

(approx based on a Granada 2.9 V6) As you might expect, parts are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. A clutch assembly is around £90. Front dampers are in the region of £40 each and a set of rears around £55 each. Front brake pads are around £40, a full exhaust about £200, a catalyst about £250 (plus a £10 surcharge for the old unit) and an alternator around £150. A starter motor is just over £160 (plus a £30 surcharge for the old unit), a front wing about £115, a door mirror is around £70 and a tail lamp is about £50. A headlamp is about £160 (for vehicles with an additional beam), a radiator is about £130 (plus a £10 surcharge for the old unit) and a windscreen is around £120.

On the road, the big Ford handles pretty well for a car of its size – though potholes can be a little unsettling for it. The steering, though a little light at first, builds in ‘feel’ as your speed rises enabling the car to be hustled along with surprising pace if the need arises. Neither the two-litre or the 12-valve V6 versions are exactly balls of fire – but do more than enough to satisfy the likely demands of potential owners, the V6 reaching rest from sixty in 11.3 seconds on the way to a top speed of some 122mph. More importantly perhaps, the big Ford is user-friendly. Behind the wheel, everything falls to hand easily. In the rear passenger compartment, head and leg room remain unmatched by any contemporary rival.

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FORD CORTINA

November 10, 2007

Although many malign the Ford Cortina, history will judge it in a different light. Launched on September 21, 1962, the Cortina cost £573 in standard 1200 saloon guise and became an instant bestseller. It enjoyed a 20-year career in which 4.3-million examples were produced. The last Cortina was assembled in July 1982, and was succeeded by the Sierra, at which time the entry-level model was priced at £4,515. The Cortina was so successful and so different from other cars in the industry that in Britain it inspired what became known as ‘the Cortina class’. Once established, at times one in every six cars being built in the UK was a Cortina. Along with the parallel success of the Escort from 1968, this helped Ford gain market leadership in Britain, which it has now maintained for more than 25 years. In 20 years, four distinctly different generations of Cortina were put on the market – each of them selling more than a million examples around the world. Although the Cortina is often viewed as something of a figure of fun, it has become an integral and important part of British motoring history and the rarer models are increasingly collectable.

Only 21 months after the original body style had been approved, the first Cortina production car rolled off the new assembly line at Dagenham, in Essex. By the time the Cortina was revealed on September 21, 1962, four different 1.2-litre types were already in the showrooms – two-door and four-door saloons, to Standard and De Luxe specification with a choice of central floor-mounted or steering column gearchange controls. No fewer than 67,050 cars were produced before the end of that year, Over the next few months, several important derivatives were added to the range. In January 1963 the more completely equipped 1.5-litre Cortina Super was announced, a roomy and practical estate car appeared in March, and in April the sporting 78bhp/1.5-litre Cortina GT was added to the range. In the meantime the specialised Lotus-Cortina – a two-door saloon which not only featured a 105bhp/twin-overhead-camshaft engine, and coil spring rear suspension, but many light-alloy body panels – had already been previewed. Deliveries of this type, which was intended for motorsport use, began during the spring, with the first racing successes following in September. This model in particular is one of the most sort after used cars of the period In the next three years there was continuous change and improvement. 1964 models featured a new instrument panel layout, Borg Warner automatic transmission became optional in 1.5-litre models, then for 1965 the company introduced the important innovation, of Aeroflow (through-flow) cabin ventilation. The sensational Lotus-Cortina was given new-type leaf-spring rear suspension in mid-1965. By the summer of 1966, the Cortina had earned more than £250 million in export sales, and the millionth car was built. Then, in October 1966, a new-shape Cortina, the Mk II, took over. Using the same basic platform and running gear, there was a completely new body style. Two-door and four-door saloons were launched at once, the estate car version followed in February 1967 and a new-type Lotus-Cortina in March. From October 1967 the Mk II range was further up-rated, not only by the fitment of new cross-flow 1.3-litre and 1.6-litre engines, but by the addition of a luxuriously trimmed 1600E model, which combined 1600GT performance, Lotus-Cortina handling and unique high-specification furnishing. 1969 models were further improved, notably with new manual transmissions, new facias, and the availability of reclining seats on more models in the range. From this point, the Lotus-Cortina officially became the Cortina Twin-Cam, though without mechanical changes. By this time, no fewer than 14 different Cortina types were available. The Mk II Cortina sold even faster than the original type, with well over one million manufactured in a four-year period. Although the existing engines were carried forward, the Mk III range, introduced in October 1970, was in all other respects entirely new. No longer than before, it nevertheless had a 3.5in. longer wheelbase, being wider and lower than the previous type. The sweeping new style hid a new family of ‘Pinto’ overhead-camshaft engines, the largest of which was a 98bhp 2.0-litre which guaranteed a top speed of over 100mph: there was no Lotus derivative. Other innovations included wishbone front suspension and coil spring rear suspension. Although the new car shared its platform with a new model Ford from Germany, the Taunus, the Cortina Mk III had a unique style: as expected, two-door and four-saloons and an estate car shared four engines and five trim/equipment packs. This was a time when Ford offered a wide choice of factory-fit options and accessories, including automatic transmission, and cross-ply or radial ply tyres. In the early 1970s, the Mk III range was simplified and in 1972 a new type of Ford automatic transmission – the C3 – was made available. Then, in October 1973, the design was refreshed, with new smaller versions of the ‘Pinto’ engine, new grille styling and a new fascia. At the same time the top-of-the-range 2000E was added to the line up. Although inflation in Britain made it difficult to hold down prices, the Cortina was always a best-seller, made even more attractive in October 1975 by Ford’s ‘Value for Money’ equipment enhancement package. Later, to face up to post-energy crisis fuel economy requirements, a new ‘economy’ Cortina 1300 was introduced in February 1976. By the summer of 1976, the Mk III had become the best-selling Cortina so far – but a new version was already on the way. The Mk IV range was introduced in September 1976, with a brand-new and stylishly more angular shape than before, which was built up on the same well-proven platform and running gear as the ultra-successful Mk III. Once again this was a wide range of saloons and estate cars, with engines spanning 50bhp/1.3-litres and 98bhp/2.0-litres at first. In place of the GT versions, there was now a Cortina S, while the most completely trimmed and equipped models were badged Ghia. One year later, in October 1977, a 108bhp/2.3-litre V6 engined version of the car, the flagship of the range, was made available. This was now the most complete Cortina range so far, for at this time there were 20 derivatives, their prices spanning £2,523 (1300 two-door) to £4,795 (2300 Ghia estate). In its first full year on sale, 1977, the Mk IV leapt to the top of British sales charts. Indeed, 1979 was the best year ever for Cortina sales, 193,784 (11.3 per cent of the UK new car market) being sold that year. Only three years after the Mk IV had been introduced, in September 1979, a significantly revised version of the range, officially to be known as the Cortina 80, was unveiled. Although it was never officially called the Mk V, this title was adopted by many Cortina enthusiasts and customers, and was the type that carried the Cortina range successfully to the end of its career in mid-1982. Although based closely on the Mk IV, the style and specification of the Cortina 80 was improved, not least with more glass area in the cabin, a lightened shell and subtle changes to the grille, tail lamps and many of the skin panels. The engines had all been improved, to make them at once more powerful and more economical. Now there was a choice of five different power units, which spanned 61bhp/1.3-litres to 116bhp/2.3-litres, there were Base, L, GL and Ghia equipment packs, saloon and estate car types, totalling no fewer than 20 derivatives. It was then also possible to specify an S (for ‘Sporting’ wheel/suspension package), or a ‘Heavy Duty Pack’ which made the cars even more suitable for poor surfaces and high-load-carrying duties. This ensured that the Cortina 80 sold as well as any of its predecessors, especially in 1981 and 1982 when two popular special editions, the Carousel and the Crusader, were made available and after a final facia/equipment up-grade was made to all models in September 1981. Finally, after a wonderful career which had spanned 20 years, in which more than 4.3 million cars had been produced, the very last British-built Cortina was completed at the Dagenham plant in Essex on July 22, 1982. It was immediately replaced by the Sierra, which soon built up its own best-selling reputation. The Cortina has always represented no-nonsense family transport. The MkI and Mk II models, like Wagon Wheels, may well be smaller than you remember them, their interior space being put to shame by a current Fiesta. The 109bhp Lotus Cortina still has the capacity to entertain and the 1600E is a handsome devil. The Mk III’s American influence is apparent in its soft suspension and lazy power delivery, the 2.3-litre engine generating just 113bhp but a decent amount of torque. Opt for a Mk IV or preferably a Mk V – also known amongst Cortinaphiles as the Cortina 80 – and understandably you’ll get a closer approximation of modern motoring. Whilst some would say they give a closer approximation of what a big step forward the Sierra represented, the later Cortinas are still spacious and good looking in a set squared eighties fashion.

With nearly 1,000 different variants of trim, engine and body style available, perhaps we should pick out valuations of cars of most interest to collectors. The pick of the Mk 1 cars is the Lotus Cortina, which in very good condition fetches around £12,000 for a 1963/64 example. Find one with a bit of history and it could be worth a good deal more. The best of the Mk II models is probably the 1600E which tend to hover around £5,000 for well looked after examples. Mk III models with their coke-bottle hips and kitschy Seventies interiors are becoming quite sought after amongst today’s youth bored of jelly mould shapes and elephant skin plastics yet still represent good value with many spares being common with later Mk IV models. Even tidy examples struggle to command much more than £1,000. Mk IV and Mk V models tend to be priced under £800 unless you can find a genuinely concours example, making it a cracking buy if you are after cheap used cars. As with most cars over twenty years old, corrosion is always going to be an issue. Mk I and Mk II cars are comparatively less rigorously rustproofed than the later models and a sure way of seeing if suspension mounts have corroded is to take a good look at the bonnet. If the bonnet panel doesn’t sit straight, either the car has been accident damaged or (even more likely) the front suspension mountings have been patched over. The chrome parts such as light bezels and bumpers are prone to corrosion and are very difficult to replace. The alloy wheels fitted to sportier Mk IV and V models also suffer notable corrosion. The vinyl interiors found in most Cortinas are prone to cracking and fading, whilst the plusher velour trims found on later Ghia models hasn’t proved particularly hardwearing either. Having said that, bodywork really is the key consideration with Cortinas. Engines can be repaired or replaced fairly cheaply but a set of quality panels are increasingly rare and valued. The only genuinely troublesome engine was the initial 1.2 which had a reputation for gearbox seize ups which in turn put the engine’s main bearings out of kilter, sending the con rods punching through the block. This can spoil your day. Fortunately this problem was largely ironed out when the engine was massaged out to 1.3-litres in the Mk II. Finally a word of warning regarding ‘King Cortina’, the Mk I Lotus Cortina. This is one of those cars of which a good few more examples seem to exist now than when they were made. When you pause to consider the premium Lotus models make over regular cars this is understandable. Check the chassis plates and registration details, and look for the bulge in the boot floor that denotes the lowered suspension. There should be additional reinforcement on a bona fide Lotus Cortina too. Anybody trying to pass off a four-door model as a Lotus Cortina should probably be reported to Trading Standards. There was never any such thing. If in doubt, the good folks at the Lotus-Cortina Register may well be able to help. The Cortina represents a snapshot of what life represented for the British man in the street form the late sixties through to the early eighties. The values, the economic conditions and the fashions of the day are all preserved faithfully. Find a good one and wallow in the nostalgia. Prices can only go in one direction and a decent car may represent a canny investment as well as an enjoyable ownership experience.

Join a club, trawl the internet and scour the breaker’s yards for Cortina spares. You’ll soon work out what is interchangeable with what in order to keep your Cortina on the road.

Aside from the early Lotus and 1600E models the Cortina never had much of a reputation as a driver’s car. Those expecting creature comforts may be a little shocked at quite how Spartan our motoring pleasures were in the early Seventies. The Mk III models are a little plusher and consequently a little barge like, but find an automatic version and it’s possible to waft about enjoyably. The later Mk IV and Mk V versions, despite selling in huge numbers, really represent the glory days of the fleet purchasing bloc and in all but the Ghia versions feel very much built down to a price. They are surprisingly nimble, however, due in no small part to their relatively light weight and the estate versions still make perfectly serviceable workhorses able to swallow cavernous loads. Diesel engined cars are particularly unlovely.


FORD CAPRI MKIII

November 9, 2007

With the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to be a bit superior about the Capri, the model Ford billed as ‘the car you always promised yourself’. Countless gibes about fluffy dice, Carlos Fandango body kits and references to the Capri being something of a Basildon Bullet have been levelled at the pretty coupe over the years but history is coming round to Capri logic. As a serious and successful attempt to combine the disciplines of sports car and family transport, the Capri deserves credit. No fewer than 1,886,648 rolled down various production lines during its entire eighteen-year lifespan but for the purposes of this guide we’ll limit ourselves to the quad headlamped Mk III cars built in Cologne between 1978 and 1987. Well, most of them…

Based on the Capri MkII floorpan, the MkIII model was identified by its smart four-headlamp configuration, restyled bonnet and bigger, ridged rear lights. A more elegant design than that which went before it, the Capri MkIII was initially offered in L (1.3 and 1.6), GL (1.6 and 2.0), S (1.6, 2.0 and 3.0) or Ghia (2.0 and 3.0). The Capri L was something of a duffer. being powered either by a 57bhp 1.2-litre overhead valve engine or a wheezy 72bhp single choke 1.6-litre mill. The rest of the range were far more fun, the 1.6-litre engine being an uprated 91bhp twin choke version whilst the 2.0-litre was good for 101bhp and the torquey 3.0-litre generated an unstressed 138bhp. The S was the trim level of choice, as it included lairy sill decals, checkerboard Carla fabric trim and the all-important rubber spoiler. The Ghia was the luxury model, boasting everything the suburban lounge lizard could aspire to including a mono radio cassette player and a dual tone horn. 1981 was a pivotal year for the Capri. Minority interest models such as the LS and the Calypso and Cameo special editions were launched, but it was the Capri 2.8i that was the big news. With lowered suspension featuring Bilstein dampers, uprated springs and thick anti roll bars the 2.8i meant business. A 160bhp engine provided all the tail-out action you could handle and it became an instant classic, regularly thrashing far more prestigious far in comparison tests. In February 1984 the quite astonishingly bespoilered Tickford Turbo Capri hove into view. Resembling Moby Dick after being coated in Bostik and dragged through your local branch of Ripspeed this 205bhp monster was best described as ‘of its era’. Nevertheless a sprint to 60mph of just 6.5 seconds would keep most contemporary sports coupes honest. This used car will give you ferocious performance! The Capri range was subsequently rationalised until only the 1.6 and 2.0-litre Laser models and the 2.8i remained. The 280 and Brooklands models are collectable last of the line Capri variants launched before the enduring coupe finally shuffled off this mortal coil, to be replaced some years later by the blandly competent nonentity that was the Probe. The Capri was designed from the outset to be a practical coupe. It’s a full four seater, although rear headroom is a touch cramped for taller passengers. The back seats can be folded, together or individually, to optimise luggage space. The overall load length then increases from 37 inches to over 65 inches with a maximum width of more than 52 inches. Folding the Capri’s rear seats boosts total carrying capacity from 9.3 to 22.6 cubic feet. Equipment levels vary wildly depending on which trim level you opt for, and all will seem a great deal more old fashioned than your mind’s eye perhaps recalls. The huge QUARZ (sic) clock that sat at the base of the dashboard surely must have been clunky, even in the seventies!

It’s never easy to quote values for cars this old, so we’ll concentrate solely on the 2.8i. Although bangers are available for £500, if you’re prepared to fork out around £1,800 you will, with perseverance, net a decent 1983 vintage car. Many owners retrofit the late model’s seven spoke wheels, as the early ‘pepperpot’ alloys were never particularly durable. 280 and Brooklands models start at around £4,000 and run well into the realms of silly money depending on how well looked after they’ve been. One 323-mile Brooklands model recently fetched £18,000! You may need car finance for that one! First and foremost, if you’re after a 280 or a Brooklands model, i.e. those that have become collectable, make sure you’re not being sold a pup. Fakes do exist and unscrupulous spanner jockeys can easily lever the prices up by a few thousand with the help of a bit of insider knowledge. Only 1038 Brooklands models were ever produced, so if the chassis plate looks doubtful, walk away. If not, make a note of the chassis number and check it against published identification tables. Check your Capri for rust. The front suspension mounting points, the welded front wings, the A –pillar at the base of the windscreen, the door skins and the monocoque sill sections are all especially prone to metal moth. The inner wheel arch and fuel filler neck can also succumb. The exhaust is quite a costly item, so check that it’s OK. Look for leaks on the rocker cover, the power steering rack gaiters, and the differential. Jack the car up and check for excess play in the steering and wheel bearings, but make sure you don’t jack onto the base of the McPherson strut. An old engine will sound noisy at the head and will smoke badly, especially on the over-run, the tired valve guides letting oil leak into the combustion chambers. The 3.0-litre engine suffers from piston slap and a distinctive rumble from the bottom end when it’s on its way out. The early 2.8i models often suffered high-speed misfires due to a fault in the Bosch fuel injection system. Interiors were surprisingly hardwearing and many keen owners have treated their steeds to a re-trim. The half-leather trim of the 2.8i has proved very durable, certainly far better than the surprisingly feeble Recaro seats that were fitted to the earlier S models. Remember to take the car for a good, long test drive. Good luck. Every car nut owes it to themselves to own a Capri at some point in their life. A clean 2.8-litre model offers outrageous fun per pound. Besides, if somebody sneers, just assume they’ve never heard of post-modernism. And then cover them in a fine blue mist of Duckams Hypergrade.

Capri spares prices are more a case of who you know rather than what you know. Fire up your web browser, locate your local Capri club and post a wanted ad. Alternatively, go to a meeting and be prepared to haggle hard!

The fact that you can still buy renovated Capri track cars with monster American V8 engines should give you a clue as to the enthusiast nature of a Capri. The basic cars were, admittedly, little more than Cortinas in drag, but the 2.8-litre models were a real handful. The live rear axle led to some ‘entertaining’ wet weather handling. If you’ve been brought up on a diet of traction control, anti lock brakes and stability control systems, a Capri 2.8 will be something of a shock. Able to hit 60mph in 7.8 seconds and continue on to 130mph, it’s a quick car even by today’s standards.