I don’t know about you, but I derive genuine joy from feelings of absolute bafflement. There’s a strange sort of freewheeling glee that comes from contemplating things that simply make no sense. I think that’s why I love Ford’s late 1970s ad campaign for the U.S.-market Granada, where somehow everyone involved managed to delude themselves that the Ford Granada was a dead ringer for cars made by Mercedes-Benz. I grew up around these Granadas and Mercedes (Mercedeses?) and I am here to tell you, as an eyewitness: absolutely nobody mistook these cars for one another.
Seriously, nobody did. It didn’t fucking happen. I suppose maybe, in the dark, with an old Amish grandma who wasn’t familiar with cars and maybe was a little drunk, too, maybe that person would mistake a Ford Granada for a Mercedes, but that’s as far as I’d go.
This is why I’m so baffled Ford leaned in so very, very hard to this ad campaign. Here, let’s look at some examples:
Look at that ad—it claims the neighbors confuse them and grandkids call the Granada a Mercedes. I’ll excuse the kids, they’re just dumb Sugar Smack-addled late ‘70s kids, and those neighbors may be engaging in some cruel private joke. But Ford? Ford should have known better.
Those cars simply do not really look alike. I mean, yes, they’re both fairly upright sedans with hood ornaments and tallish, chrome-slathered grilles, but that’s about it. Hell, if we’re going on such general criteria as that, then pretty much any mid-sized American sedan of the era can meet the same Benz-confusion criteria as the Granada. Here, look:
There’s a Plymouth Volare and a Mercedes-Benz 240. Can you tell which is which? Of course you can, because you’re not a moron, but I promise you that Volare has as much in common with that Mercedes, styling-wise, as that Granada does.
I mean, the whole basic design vocabulary is different! The Granada is all about sharp corners and crisp creases and bevels on bevels and fussy details while the Mercedes takes a much more rounded approach to its body contours and a more restrained approach to detailing.
Plus, Mercedes was using completely different lighting, with extremely distinctive big, ribbed taillights and wraparound indicators. The proportions weren’t really the same, either, with the Benz having much shorter overhangs front and rear—dammit, it’s a totally different-looking car.
Aside from it being a three-box sedan, they don’t look alike! Ford, somehow, decided they’re going to die on this fucking hill:
What? Are you kidding? No. No no no. Sure, you painted them the same color, but that Granada does not look like that Mercedes. The Granada isn’t terrible, but, come on, who are you kidding? Nobody who didn’t read Newsweek with their fingertips looks at that rhomboid opera window on the Granada and those B-pillar louvers on the Benz and thinks, huh, same thing! Nobody.
Maybe the cars look more similar in motion:
Huh. No, they don’t not even a little. What about the sedan?
Uh, still no. They’re both cars, I’ll give you that, Ford.
Jesus, Ford, give it a rest! It’s getting embarrassing now. Nobody mistook Granadas for Mercedes-Benzes. It didn’t fucking happen.
Did these ads work? Is there one single recorded case of someone promising someone a Mercedes and trying to slip a Granada past them and hope they’d, you know, not notice? Was anybody about to pull the trigger on a new Benz and then see a Granada and think, holy shit, that’s close enough!
I mean, the Granada would likely get your ass to and from work just fine, and in that sense would be a fine replacement for a Mercedes. But if you wanted a Mercedes, I don’t think a Granada would have ever been seen as close enough.
Ford’s ad agency people must have been really, really convincing. But at the same time, I’m not even really sure how much they bought into it, considering they tried selling the Granada like this, too:
This time it’s a dead ringer for a Cadillac. Sure, why the fuck not, 1975 Ford. Why not. It looks more like the Caddy than that Rabbit, that’s for sure, and, fuck it, that’s probably good enough?
Right, late ‘70s Ford? Nothing really matters, does it? Grenadas are Mercedes. Ford-Benz. Whatever the hell you want. Knock yourself out.