If I had been told on 18th September 1971 that I was about to start a period of my life when I would not only be driving but actually enjoying driving a Ford Executive, then I would have laughed hysterically. For in my imagination there could be few cars further from my normal means of transport, i.e. Austin-Healey, Porsche 365, Porsche 365C, Porsche 911, and Alfa GTV to cover the last 15 years.
However, fate was to play a big part the next day when the RAC/GPDA mobile barrier at the chicane at Thruxton got out of control after being clobbered by a Formula Three back marker. That was the start of 22 weeks in thigh-length plaster and my grateful acceptance of a long term test on an automatic Ford Executive.
The first impression of the Executive was its size. It would have looked large under normal circumstance’s, but after three weeks flat on my back and only one day walking on crutches, it looked “ginormous”. Size apart, it was very roomy, with adequate space for a plaster to be deposited with the heel in a shaped polystyrene block, courtesy of the London Hospital plaster department, and the thigh sunk well into two cushions and the edge of the well-sprung seat.
Probably for the first time ever, a car of this type lent to Motor Sport was driven as most owners would drive it, because violent acceleration, braking or cornering caused so much pain that it wasn’t worth it. For steady cruising up to 75 m.p.h. the car was smooth and effortless; over 75 m.p.h. it became necessary to concentrate and keep a firm hand on the tiller. One remarkable feature of this big Ford was its ability to sneak into small parking spots in the narrow streets of Soho. It was almost unbelievable that with only a foot to spare the car could be accurately parked tight on the kerb and with its incredible lock could get out in three without humping or boring.
Instant starting on cold mornings, quick heating to a comfortable atmosphere and 13,500 miles of trouble-free motoring added up to a better picture than I had ever imagined. On one afternoon and evening only did the Executive not respond to the conditions, and that was on the North Yorkshire moors during the RAC Rally when blizzard conditions closed in, trapping many spectators on the moors all night. The Executive just managed to slither and slide south to the rain line, where I was able to stand on my crutches without falling over every time I left the driving seat and the car was able to find some adhesion, but that was not a fair test for a business-man’s Express.
With six months of Ford motoring behind me, Harry Carlton, Ford’s very experienced Press Officer, suggested that I might like to compare the Executive with its replacement, the three-litre Granada. So for the last three weeks I have driven a Granada GXL in the same way that I used the Executive. I don’t intend the following remarks to be in any way a road test (W. B. will do that much more efficiently at a later date) —they are a series of first impressions stepping from the old to the new.
Firstly, although the internal measurements are larger, the Granada feels much smaller to drive, the external measurements are a little smaller but not as much as the impression from behind the steering wheel. The instruments are laid out much more to my liking and all the controls a driver needs are on stalks at his fingertips, i.e. flasher, dipper, indicators and two-speed wipers.
Driving away the GXL feels more powerful and the speedo. slips up to 50 from the lights, in roughly the time the Executive took to reach between 35 and 40. The brakes feel more positive, and that first round about which felt fast before at 30 is now comfortable at over 40. Town driving all round shows improvement, but it is when the Granada gets its teeth into a chunk of motorway that it is really different; with the same feeling of safety and relaxed effort the Executive had at 75 m.p.h., the Granada has at 105 m.p.h. This 100-plus motoring comes up so easily that it is difficult to keep inside our ridiculous 70-limit, especially as the ventilated discs on the front make stopping from 100 m.p.h., even several times in a few minutes, quite effortless and safe.
The new independent rear suspension is felt to work when the speeds are kept up. Fast lumpy corners where the Granada’s predecessor would have jibbed at around the 60 mark can now be negotiated without lots of wheelspin, and so on and on. The Granada is a larger step forward than usually occurs when a manufacturer brings out a new model and I would say that a lot of Ford’s racing know-how has gone into the new Granada, to make their business-man’s express a that much better road car. With any luck. Ford may forget where this particular Granada is hiding and when W. B. does his road test report I can tack on a few further observations when the mileometer has added a few thousand more. — M. J. T.