When writing about automotive history, I often end up wallowing around in the Automotive Dark Ages. This terrible, soul-crushing time extended from about 1973 until at least the promise of a return to quality, performance and motoring excitement in the middle-late 1980s. Of course, the reason that I love the Dark Ages is because there were just so many cars that were born, lived and died in those years that seem to have been largely forgotten. However, just because we don’t see the streets crowded with Cordobas, Mavericks and Vegas any more doesn’t mean they didn’t rule the roost at one point.
Well, okay, that might be a bit much. They didn’t ‘rule’ anything, not with power, or stylistic restraint or quality of build and materials. They did, however, rule by the sheer weight of numbers. Despite increasing competition from offshore, a lot of the “loser” cars of the ‘70s and ‘80s sold in truly massive numbers. That in itself says a lot. When you can shift that many mediocre cars, it just tells you that everything else is that much worse.
The 1970s were a time of interesting automotive development. Everyone wanted things to be smaller (except Cadillac, it seems), more efficient and more “imported”. European flavour was the “seasoning du jour”, although how exactly simply using flat black trim made something “European” is still up for debate. This desire to exude the quality and flair of European cars was a fixation of many manufacturers. Sadly, the usual results were more akin to green-eyed apery versus actual useful emulation. This, combined with the rise of the “personal luxury” automobile, gave rise to some interesting exercises in automotive design. When I say “interesting”, of course, I mean “generally sad” or “blandly forgettable, but laughable in hindsight”!
One such car, now largely forgotten, which had such European pretensions was the Ford Granada. The Granada was a “compact luxury” car that was, for its day, fairly compact, but only “luxurious” if optioned out to the max. It was a car that fit somewhere between the Torino and the Maverick, sharing more in common with the former than the latter. It was only “compact” because of the era in which it was first sold; by the end of its life (in 1982) it was considered mid-sized.
Stylistically, the Granada takes the “three box” design to the max. With a flat front and rear, and slab sides and roofline, the Granada was not going to be wind-cheating in any way, shape or form. It came in a two-door and a four-door form, and there were multiple option packages and equipment/trim levels. It came standard with a 3.3L (200 cid) inline six, although you could get the 4.1L (250 cid) I6 as well. If you didn’t care about the “efficiency” of your Granada, then you could get the 302 or 350 V8s, too. I use the “cid” numbers for the eights because that’s more of a North American engine thing to do. The inline sixes are more European, so they get the litre call outs. That’s how I roll… it’s not just Granada that has Euro-flavour!
Despite bland styling and a predictable lack of driving manners and excitement, the Granada was just what people wanted! (See, I told you they were sad times.) Amazingly, Ford managed to sell over 2 million of them between 1975 and 1982, with over HALF of that in the first three years! Everybody wanted one, but once they had it, they were cool just hanging onto it, I guess.
Of course, with shoddy ‘70s metallurgy and build quality that was only marginally better, most Granadas have disappeared from our roads. However, I can remember flocks of these things rotting all around me while I was growing up. They were like automotive zombies, the “driving dead” (Maybe “being towed dead”, is better?) that you knew you could outrun, but never outnumber. By the time the Taurus came around to replace them though, I think most had passed on to their next life as beer cans.
Despite this popularity, it seems that model makers of the ‘70s were not to be swayed. MPC seemed to focus a lot on GM stuff (likely due to promo work), and AMT and Revell never bothered to kit many of the popular-selling Fords of the middle ‘70s. So, that means that despite selling millions of cars, the Granada is not memorialized in plastic in any way commensurate with its sales success. In fact, no 1/24 or 1/25 models of the Granada (or its Mercury counterpart, the Monarch) were ever made. So, what can a loser-loving modeller hope for?
Salvation comes in the weirdest forms. As it turns out, Lindberg of all companies made a veritable treasure chest of ‘70s loser machines! I’m talking great stuff like Venturas, Cordobas, Monarchs, those beaky Grand Prixs, Monzas and Monza-based Skyhawk, Olds Omega and, yes… a Granada. These were simple kits, marketed in 1/32 as snap-tites. They are little more than small promos, and likely didn’t attract much attention at the time. They were apparently a favourite filler of dollar store clearance bins. Some were even reissued into the ‘90s; my brother has a few, including the Century and Grand Am. However, most passed, like their real-life counterparts, into the obscurity of time, and have rarely been seen again.
Because of this, finding examples of these kits is almost unheard of unless you go eBay shopping and directly look for them. They’re not something that just shows up on store shelves anymore, and I’ve never seen one at a model show, built or unbuilt. However, my brother has! He managed to get his paws on a couple at a local nostalgia show. One was the 1978 T-Bird. The other was, as you can guess, the 1976 Granada! Knowing I’d love the latter, he kept the T-Bird for himself and gave me the Granada.
An Unusual Review:
I generally don’t buy built kits. I have plenty unbuilt and I see no reason to mess around with someone’s gluebomb. HOWEVER, there are exceptions, and this is one of them. You don’t turn down a “mini-Lindy” loser car unless it’s unsalvageable. Sadly, at the same show, my brother saw the same vendor actually had a tonne of these things, but they were all melted and destroyed. The person who “built” them decided to do them up as if they were in a demo derby. This is roughly similar to deciding to let your child finger-paint over a Renoir because it doesn’t match your living room carpet. Eternal hellfire for said builder aside, that means that my Granada is indeed built, and very, very poorly to boot. However, I will still review it as a standard out of box; you’ll just get to see it built! I have found a Worthpoint.com listing for one, so I boosted the pics of the box and its contents from there. You’ll see there’s quite a difference in the two issues of the kit… So, now, on with the show!
There were quite a number of different approaches taken to the art on these little kits. However, for the most part, the different issues use the same art but with different lettering. Sometimes, the year of the car is on there, sometimes it isn’t. In any case, the box is a small, end-opening affair that is full colour all the way around. On the front (I’ve not seen the back, but I assume it’s the same as the front) is a big picture of the Granada, comin’ at you in front three-quarters aspect. It’s in red, with black vinyl top and that ridiculously huge vinyl side trim/rubstrip stuff that seems to have been a Ford fetish in the ‘70s.
In that box, there is a white Grenada body and chassis with a very simple interior and steering wheel and something else (maybe a dashboard?) in black. There’s a rack of chrome, four tires and the glass. So, clearly, we don’t have a very complicated specimen rolling off the Lindy press-line. No worries: if you don’t like it, you’re free to go and build some of the other Granada kits out there… oh, wait… That’s right. You DON’T get a choice, so you’ve got to like it!
All that sounds pretty conventional, right? Well, that’s where my example is a bit different. When I got mine, it wasobviously second hand, and when it was given to me I unwrapped it from its paper towel swaddling and Ziploc container (to keep it from losing parts) to find… Red. Well, red and yellow and white. WHAT? It looked like what would have happened if Ronald McDonald had been made into a car. In fact, there’s some weird thing in the States (primarily) wherein people will customize cars into giant rolling billboards for their favourite brands. I’ve seen McDonald’s ones and this is very close to the same feel.
What’s white on the normal kit is red here, meaning body and chassis. The interior is black. For reasons known only to the last owner, the vinyl roof was painted yellow. It’s that crappy old Testors 7ml-bottle yellow, too. The weirdest part, though, is the rubber. All four tires were… white. WHITE! W.T.F? I got an impression of those old “No Skid” white tires that used to adorn cars of the early 1900s. Who makes a kit with WHITE TIRES??? Clearly, Lindberg does, but man… that looks really, really weird. I can’t explain it, and I can’t find any other example online like it. Oddly, my brother got the ’77 Thunderbird form the same person, and it also a.) is red and yellow (mind you, it’s painted – it was moulded in orange) and b.) shod with white tires. Is this a later issue? I didn’t know there WAS a later issue! If anyone knows, please drop me a line…
As far is kits go, this one is typical Lindberg; it has good external detail, but the interior is utter garbage. Of course, this wasn’t meant to be a detail-oriented superkit. It’s a basic representation of a Granada, and that’s it. On that note, it does it very, very well. The body is well-shaped and all the trademarks are there to tell you that this is a “Ghia”-trimmed vehicle. There’s the vinyl moulding between the tail lights and the wide belt-line moulding as seen on the box. The vinyl top is also nicely done and looked better once I stripped it down. There’s nice texture and seams on it, and properly handled, it should look killer.
Now, not all is perfect in Lindy-land. There are a couple of egregious sink marks on the car; one on each front corner just behind the parking light wrap-around. These are MAJOR, and will require a lot of work to get rid of. However, you know me… sink marks and bad fit mean nothing in the face of resurrecting a malaise-era “Dark Ages Pesudo-luxo Chariot”! The windows are also not in the best shape, but that’s not Lindberg’s fault; the previous owner put it together with HOT GLUE (Saints preserve us…) and then some paint got thrown on it, too. This wasn’t an issue if you were going to melt the car like his others, but since this survived, it’s going to mean a bit of work. Still, a few passes with Novus 1 and 2 really cleaned things up, so I might be okay now.
The chrome pieces are quite nice; they’re well-moulded and accurate, as far as I can tell. The grille texture is great, and the rubber bumper guard guards (Gotta love the ‘70s!) are clearly present. Even those weird little grilles on each side of the headlights are done right! Oddly, though, the chrome is applied over clear plastic. Normally, the base colour for the plated parts is one of the kit colours, so red or black. However, when I held the car up to the light, I could see THROUGH the chrome! It’s very much like some of the old (1950’s) Christmas ornaments I inherited from my grandmother – they’re translucent in a similar fashion because the chroming is wearing off the glass of the ornament. I’ve never seen “glass” chrome. When I stripped it for this article, it really felt strange to hold clear bumpers and a clear grille.
The interior, though, is hopeless. They are very simple and devoid of any real distinguishing detail. The interior has no sides, and without a dashboard and steering wheel, looks a little empty. Still, even with them, there wouldn’t be much to see. There’s carpeting texture, though, and some little ripples in the vinyl-like seats. For what you get, it’s not terrible, just terribly insufficient!
The chassis is an equally poor offering. When I got the Granada, it was on inside-out, so when I took the kit apart (thank GOD it is screwed together) I got to reveal the surprise inside! Just like the old Transformers Pretenders, though, it really wasn’t worth the anticipation. The detail is generic at best, and the large “Granada 373” and “The Lindberg Line” do little to add authenticity. Everything is moulded in, and very shallowly so. The axels go in like on an old Hot Wheels car, held in place by a bit of plastic that clamps the axles and which allows them to be seen from the underside. Huh…
While the real Granada racked up impossibly good sales numbers, it clearly didn’t seem to fire the imagination of the model kit industry. With only this one little model to show as proof, it’s almost like Ford’s Mercedes-wannabe never even existed. However, it did, and while few survive today, there are still a few people who like and enjoy the cars. In that way, this kit is a good representation of the real thing; there aren’t many of it around either, and most people just don’t care. Those who do, though… well, they care a lot!
As far as kits go, these 1/32 models don’t hold up to others in the same scale by other makers. They are massively over-simplified, and the Granada looks only like a Granada from the outside. From inside and underneath, the model is very generic and looks cheap and toy-like. There’s also no engine, since it’s a curbsider, and the moulded-in chassis detail only reinforces it’s kinship with 1/64 diecast cars. It’s also a highly simplified build, and in this case, lacking even the dashboard and steering wheel, you can barely say it’s a model. Rather, it’s more of a “representation” of the real thing, in semi-abstract form; it’s like a drawing, leaving you to infer the things you cannot or don’t see.
Despite all these drawbacks, though, the Lindy Granada is AWESOME! I mean, it’s a GRANADA for Pete’s sake! You wanted run-of-the-mill? You GOT it! Also, this isn’t a kit that’s going to force your hand for superdetailing; there’s no engine to wire nor suspension with which to fidget. It’s just there to be built, and it’s up to the modeller to do the best he/she can with it to try and bring the thing to life. It’s like a Matchbox airplane in that it’s a great representation of something without being overwrought. That doesn’t mean you can just do a hackjob on it though. I have a feeling that these little kits do not camouflage laziness well.
It’s a perfect kit for a beginner, and it’s a great painting exercise for someone more experienced. Sadly, because of its rarity, it’s not a kit a lot of people are going to be able to experience. Of course, there aren’t as many people who lust after building ‘70s loser machines like I do. Or are there? We know Round 2 has the rights to Lindberg. Maybe, if we’re lucky, some of these awesome little guys will find their way back into the light at some point. We ca only hope!
Until then, if you see any of these mini-Lindys around, grab ‘em. They’re not going to break your brain, and you’ll have a model of a pretty esoteric subject when you’re done. After all, I can’t be the only one who builds things to get the “They made a kit of THAT??” reaction from their friends! And heck, if you don’t want ‘em, you can always send them to me!