Ford Granada Mark II

Cast your mind back to childhood summer holidays, and some of us are old enough to remember bucket-and-spade days on the coast of our own country, slurping up ice creams and trying not to get pecked by seagulls. The seaside town I grew up in was one of those places; long sandy beaches, deckchairs in the sun, and the hourly mad dash to the pubs and cafes because it started raining again.

In the Sixties, all that changed. Cheap package holidays sent the working classes off to the Mediterranean, where they could get wrecked on sangria, insult the locals, then come back with a straw donkey and some serious sunburn.

Ford of Europe knew exactly where all this was going, and knew that to market their lastest line-up of cars, they needed to tap in to this new-found Mediterranean flamboyancy. In line with the jet set, the names Cortina and Capri had been chosen to adorn Ford's saloon and sports cars respectively, instilling the range with a fun-in-the-sun flavour and conjuring in the minds of potential buyers the image of drinks by the pool filled with fruit and umbrellas. To continue the theme, the Large Executive Saloon had the name of a Spanish town slapped on its rear end, and was flogged to the masses as the Ford Granada.

The car itself was standard fare, with the straight lines and large cabin space a known formula, proven to have worked on both the Cortina and the Escort, which is no surprise considering the brainpower that had gone into them. The two European Ford corporations of Britain and Germany had collaborated on those projects to make continental cars that could be built and sold in both countries, and the Granada was to follow the same successful recipe. With a steady reliable drivetrain nestled under a roomy yet sensible body, the car won over managers and chiefs on both sides of the Channel, becoming a staple of the highways and putting up a decent fight against other, more luxurious contemporaries.

And as the Seventies exploded, so did the story of Granada, both the town and the car. The former, throttled for years by the oppressiveness of its dictator-general Franco, suddenly boomed as airports opened and hotels sprang up all along the coast. The beaches accepted a trickle, then a stream, and now a torrent of fat Northern Europeans, slathered in suntan lotion and basking their bellies in the sun. And in 1977, the Granada too went through a revolution, and with a new range of fleet-friendly engines and performance upgrades, it became an industry benchmark for affordable performance saloons, with Ford's beast comparing favourably to much more expensive offerings from superior manufacturers like Mercedes. The big men with cigars in both Dagenham and Cologne could slap themselves on the back for their cleverly designed Mark II.

Yet the cleverness of Ford's naming convention somehow became oddly reversed. Despite the engine range running from basic 1.6's to roaring 3-litre V6's, the car picked up a reputation not of poverty, but of the working class. Rather than the car absorbing all the foreign charm of its namesake town, the opposite happened, and the name Granada became permanently associated with fat sweaty Brits, sunburnt and shouting at Spaniards. The affluent masses, with their complete lack of social grace, tarnished the Granada forever.

It's that sort of social cheapness that sullies this Granada here. The single exhaust pipe and prosthetic-limb colouring point to the feeble engine under the bonnet, which is far more likely to be a four-pot from Dagenham than a V6 from Cologne. And yet someone has chosen to adorn both ends not just with "Ford" or "Granada" but with another name, "Berta", stamped boldly in black and white on the numberplate.

This sort of vanity is relatively common further west, where overpaid and egotistic executives purchase personalised plates for their cars, either as a display of wealth or, more cynically, for other more personal shortcomings. So for someone to pay such a price (and it's not cheap in Poland) to do the same thing to a decaying 30-year-old saloon is a particularly delicious joke. Are they desperately trying to catch up with the money that pours into Warsaw year after year, or is it a cruel jibe at the besuited owners of Porsche Cayennes, highlighting others' vanities by playing them at their own game?

Whatever the reason, Granada proved not to be the right name for the car, and for the third edition, released in 1985, the Spanish name was dropped in favour of the more astrological Scorpio; a sign that Ford no longer wanted their cars tainted by the actions of Brits on holiday. But I can't help feeling that, for a big heavy German such as this, Berta, or even Helga, might have been a better name.