1978 Ford Granada ESS: Dearborn AMG?

Here’s another interesting oddball from the Me Decade. I spotted it this afternoon on Marketplace; its for sale in Edwardsville, Illinois.

A Granada, with all that entails, haha. For better or for worse the Granada, introduced in 1975, was an immediate success. In its first year 118,168 sedans, 100,810 coupes, 43,652 Ghia sedans and 40,028 Ghia coupes were sold. Not bad for a car that was essentially a Broughamed out, restyled Maverick.

It had the squared off, baby Brougham look down to a T. Inside, the interiors gave off sort of a 3/4 scale Lincoln vibe, at least on the flossier Ghia models.

And the color keyed wheel covers were a pretty blatant ripoff of Mercedes wheel covers. Indeed, much of Granada advertising myopically suggested it looked like a Mercedes or Cadillac Seville.

But it sold, ’70s Detroit build quality notwithstanding. And in 1978 a new ESS trim package was added. It tried even harder to look like the European car it wasn’t, with black trimmed windshield wipers, rocker panels, window surround, B-pillar trim, black striping, color keyed sport mirrors, those aforementioned Mercedes like wheel covers, leather wrapped steering wheel and other extras.

Ads comparing it to a 450SE were kind of painful to read, especially since the Granada looked more like a 240D…after a two martini lunch. They even added the Mercedes style “ears” to the front seat headrests, for Pete’s sake.

But it was an interesting version. I’m guessing not many were sold. I only know of them from my brochures and vintage ads. None of my books list ESS production by itself, but 110,481 ’78 coupes and 139,305 sedans of all trim levels were built. I never saw an ESS in the metal-maybe because they averaged $200 more than even the Ghia versions.

Personally, my choice would be a triple Jade Ghia sedan with the lacy spoke alloys and whitewalls. Go Brougham or go home.

Mercury offered the same package on the Monarch, but I’d bet even money that those are even rarer than the Granada ESSs!

Most Granada buyers wanted either the plain Jane or Broughamy variants, not the Mercedes wannabe. The ESS lasted through 1980 though, which was when the original Granada bowed out for a short lived Fox body replacement. That one was gone after the ’82 model year. Which brings us to this ’78. In oh so ’70s pastel yellow and appearing very original.

The ad was short on text, but seems like a solid example and the $5500 ask doesn’t seem too out of line. One thing is for certain: you’d have the only one at the car show!

35 Replies to “1978 Ford Granada ESS: Dearborn AMG?”

  1. LynnG

    Tom, due to the fact that this is not in my band width, the window sticker noted Power Door Locks, where is the switch on the front driver and passenger door? Don’t see one on either door. Also they ordered it with out a radio or radio pre wiring so the dealer installed a $65 AM radio, on a $6,000 Granada… gee and for that money some could have had an Impala or LTD…. But it is great that these interesting cars keep popping up.
    Was at a show recientily and a guy drove up in a 1976 Eldorado with 600 miles on the odometer, guess he thought it was time to start driveing her….

    • MikeM

      I remember the power door locks on these. I believe you could lock or unlock all the doors by pushing down or pulling up on the chrome lock knob on either front door. Locking or unlocking one door would lock or unlock them and, and the top of the lock knob itself had the words POWER LOCK imprinted on it.
      I. AM. OLD.

  2. John C.

    A fun and cheap troll, but these were better the broughamier they were. I would have been interested how much better the Granada was in comfort and NVH over the LDO Maverick it replaced and at the other end of the production run, how the fwd Xbody Skylark or Omega did by the same measures?

    • LynnG

      John, the only problem with the more broughamie models as they aged the broughamie trim started to fall off from rust on the outside of the car and the broughamie interior trim would discolor and the plastic chrome would begin to peal…. When these were still on the road in the 1990’s the more ornate ones looked a lot worse for ware then the base fleet models. But they were what they were an intermediate priced midsize family or company car. I will give the manufacturers credit they have come a long way.

      • stingray65

        Not to mention their flexy body structures meant they started to rattle and squeak from every joint and trim panel in a very un-Mercedes like way.

  3. Manfred Hangtooth

    I remember seeing a few of these plying the streets back when they were late models. The first generation Grenades [sic] don’t do much for me, but I will admit to liking the Versailles and the Fox Granadas and Cougars.

    The whole “everybody will think you bought a Mercedes or Seville” makes me laugh. It’s a 1975 Falcon with more air between the parts. No sober person with better than 20/200 vision is going to fall for that.

  4. jc

    Well, there was one ad I remember that bragged that someone got a parking ticket in a Granada and the police officer had writtten “Mercedes” on the ticket.

    Your products are pretty pitiful when you brag that nearsighted people without their glasses on might mistake them for something that’s actually good.

      • Carmine

        The police comment got me thinking, the Granada never had a police version, odd for Ford, which even offered a police package Fairmont at one point, I don’t think there was a Maverick police package either.

        • stingray65

          I seem to recall that the when Ford Australia starting making the Falcon they found it could not hold up to the tough outback conditions and they had to do some extensive reinforcing of the body and suspension. Perhaps the ultra cheap understructure of all Falcon based models made them inappropriate for heavy duty police use.

          • Carmine

            Probably, though the Fairmont’s Fox platform is no ingot of granite either and that had multiple police package cars through its 30 year run.

  5. sgeffe

    Looks like it’s in reasonably good shape. It looks like the carpet on the driver’s side is a little worse for wear!

    Note the presence of the transmission recall reminder sticker right above the radio.

    I wonder if the shifter locked with the ignition? My grandmother’s 1978 Futura (the sportier of the two available Fairmont 2-doors) had a button that you pushed to release the ignition key, but as I discovered one day, you could move the shift lever out of “Park” all day long without a key in the ignition! Nothing damaged—had my foot on the brake. I wonder if a steering column for a manual car was installed at the factory, especially since the car was a strippo—only automatic, delay wipers, rear defogger and a stereo, without tinted glass or A/C.

  6. MikeM

    My Dad hated the Granada, as he was often issued one as a company car in his Southwestern Bell days. Before the Granada came out they had full-size LTDs and Mercury Marquis, but when Ford brought out the Granada the “Bell System” cars moved to these, which he felt were a huge step down. I remember when the new Ford Taurus came out in 1986 and all the auto buff magazines were going nuts….and my Dad called them “Granada Watermelons”. Ha!

  7. CJinSD

    It’s interesting that almost half of Granadas were coupes. I recall PLCs being incredibly popular in the mid to late ’70s, but all my memories of Granadas involve sedans. Ford was wildly successful with the down-market Thunderbirds at the time, and they would soon be selling a plethora of two-door Fox-body-based cars, but the Granada coupe looks borderline alien to me in photographs.

  8. Joe Pecucci

    Ah, does anyone remember what “ESS” stood for? If you said “European Sport Sedan” you’d be partly correct. You see, my car buddies and myself used to say it stood for “Enlarged Scrotum Syndrome” because you’d have to have some pretty big balls to argue the comparison between it and a Mercedes!

    Alas, if it did in fact mean ” European Sport Sedan” why offer the package on a coupe?

  9. Oreguy

    Like so many others, I snagged the front suspension bits off of a junkyard Granada for my ’68 Mustang. By the mid-2000’s, pickings were pretty thin. A few years later I was looking for a Ford 8-inch third-member for my restoration project, and answered an ad from a guy south of Portland that was parting out his grandfather’s ’80 Granada. It was a very clean example in a very Brougham-ey red. It only had about 60K miles on it if I recall. I would have loved to have bought the whole car, except it had recently met an unfortunate end by way of a telephone pole.

    The seller was a bit of a tweaker (common in those parts), but he had conveniently removed the it before I arrived and helped me load it in the trailer. The best part of the story is that I immediately realized it was actually a 9-inch differential, and had a recent brake job. The factory paint was still largely intact, since the car had obviously been garaged for most of its life. I didn’t really need a 9-inch third-member, but for $200 it was a steal.

    That Granada had the 250 c.i. six in it, so it was pretty unusual to have a 9-inch differential. Complete overkill. After some Googling, I found an article that claimed Ford was essentially using up parts, like 9-inch differentials, in certain 1980 Granadas since it was the end of the first-generation. I don’t know how reliable that information is, but it sounds feasible. Worked out for me.

    • John C.

      Carefull Oreguy, remember the hippys believe this car is just a 1961 Falcon, so implying that some part was usefull for an old Mustang, implied there was some development. That is NOT the positiom of the hippys. You are risking more than you know. Elon Musk is not goimg to buy C/D,

      • stingray65

        John, no development (besides more sound deadening) was needed for a Granada part to fit a Mustang, since both were based on the 1960 Falcon.

        • John C.

          Converting to the Grenada parts was, you know, an upgrade for the older Mustang. Gee, how could that be? The America last narative is that any change made was done to take out cost.

          • CJinSD

            Ever hear of replacing parts when they wear out with used parts that aren’t completely shot? Some people still do it.

          • Stephen

            The Granada had disk brakes. I used the front spindles on my 65 Falcon when I upgraded to disks. I also used the anti-sway bar, accelerator pedal, and a few other parts on my Falcon.

            I had to replace the brake light switch on the Falcon and a 91 Taurus the same week. Same switch

  10. stingray65

    That 250 cubic inch six with a 3 speed automatic behind it – all the power and speed of a lethargic 4, with the gas mileage of a hot V-8, but it would be quieter and smoother than a 240D.

  11. sgeffe

    I seem to recall seeing that the wipers on Mavericks and Mustang IIs were at least close to horizontal when in the parked position. Not even close on these!

    And I wonder if that steering wheel was a replacement of some kind? It looks period-correct, but it doesn’t have a blue oval in the hub. You can see it in the Mercury brochure, but probably not if you wanted cruise control.

    • Timothy Harris

      It is the correct wheel. Ford didn’t put the blue oval on cars again until 1982. Previous to that you could find all manner of crests and such adorning their products, as well as with the Ford name spelled out

  12. Carmine

    The buyer should run a Marti Report, that should give a breakdown of how many ESSess were made for that year.

    I’d pass on the ESS too, I also had never seen one in person either. If at gunpoint I was forced to choose a Granada/Monarch, I would go with a loaded up rare Grand Monarch with leather, 4 wheel disc brakes and a 351….that’s actually kind of a nice car, you can put the gun down.

    I had also forgotten that there was a Monarch ESS too, they didn’t even bother to give it a different name.

    The Granada/Monarch also brought up memories of the forgotten mid-90’s Sean Connery/Lawrence Fishburn suspense mystery “Just Cause” where Connery, an attorney and law professor that specializes in trying to overturn convictions of falsely accused criminals uses a “My Cousin Vinny” like defense to get a murderer exonerated by using the badge engineering of a Monarch vs a Granada in the appeal.

  13. Carmine

    My comment is awaiting moderation for some reason? The sensor needs to be turned down from Snowflake to Normal…..

  14. Jeff S

    I remember the Car and Driver road test on the ESS. They were seriously snarky about the entire car, as you might guess. The last sentence was classic (I am paraphrasing, but I think only a little): We think Ford should spell it: American Sports Sedan.

  15. George Denzinger

    I remember these cars. In 1978, one of my brothers was looking for his first new car. We were a “Ford” family, my dad was a huge fan and all of us kids bought Fords of one kind or another. He looked at these cars, but he was more interested in a sporty, yet practical car, like a Volvo… But without the payments of a Volvo. He ended up with a Mercury Zephyr ESS, which was a further extension of the whole ESS line. (There were even ESS Pintos, ask me how I know…) The Granada/Monarch, in any version, just did not interest him. As it turns out, the Zephyr was a total POS with numerous issues right from the start. God bless him though, he kept the car for eight painful years. At least the AMC Eagle he bought next was a solid car.


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