Torque of the Town

Ben Wilde’s Granada was built to be a re­li­able fam­ily run­about, per­fect for nip­ping out to grab a pint of milk. But that aired-out stance over huge rims sug­gests that all is not as it seems — and wait till you see what’s un­der the bon­net...

Classic Ford - - READERS PROJECTS SPECIAL - Words Daniel Be­vis Pho­tos Chris Wall­bank

If there’s one mod­i­fy­ing trend that de­fines the mod­ern age, it’s the pre­mium resto­mod. A lot of peo­ple like the idea of retro looks with mod­ern per­for­mance; in­deed, you’ll have un­doubt­edly spot­ted a grow­ing fond­ness for high-end cars that have been reimag­ined this way. Singer 911s, Ea­gle E-Types, Al­fa­holics GTAs, the fu­sion of the old and the new has never be­fore been man­i­fested with such sump­tu­ous at­ten­tion to de­tail. You see, th­ese aren’t just en­gine swaps. It is, within rea­son, ar­guably pos­si­ble to fit any en­gine into any car and make it work (sure, you’ll strug­gle to squeeze an Isotta-Fras­chini straighteight or a Pratt & Whit­ney ra­dial en­gine into an Austin Metro, but there are peo­ple who’d give it a go…), and the cult of the en­gine-swap is no longer a cult. Ev­ery­one’s at it — Honda VTECs into Mi­nis, Vaux­hall XEs into Es­corts, you name it. But it’s not al­ways just a ques­tion of an en­gine swap: some­times, it’s more of a life­style swap. Those Singers and Ea­gles, they’re not sell­ing for eye-wa­ter­ing prices be­cause they’ve just had new pow­er­plants grafted in — they rep­re­sent a brand-new, 21st Cen­tury ver­sion of a clas­sic car. Old-school looks with mod­ern power, fuel econ­omy, brakes, ac­cel­er­a­tion, sus­pen­sion, seats, electrics, com­fort and re­li­a­bil­ity. And in much the same vein, what we’re look­ing at here is a 21st Cen­tury Mk2 Granada.

Now, Ben Wilde hasn’t gone down the mil­lion-pound route of cre­at­ing a Singer-equiv­a­lent Granada. No, he’s kept the de­tails clas­sic and cor­rect, and sim­ply up­dated the fun­da­men­tals — a more-mod­ern BMW en­gine, on-trend air-ride, and a fas­tid­i­ous at­ten­tion to de­tail. Ben’s the man be­hind the grow­ing Ford Frenzy group on Face­book, so it stands to rea­son that he’d want to do things prop­erly. Be­sides, this is no fash­ion-for­ward flash in the pan for him… he’s been pok­ing about old cars since day one.

Salad days

“I’ve al­ways been in­volved with cars from a young age,” he ex­plains, “from at­tend­ing banger rac­ing with my un­cle, who used a Mk2 Es­cort for Su­per Banger Rac­ing at War­ton Stock Car Club, to help­ing him fix cars when­ever I had a chance. I used to love Vaux­halls, and owned a Mk1 As­tra GTE, var­i­ous Mk2 Cav­a­lier Cal­i­bres, Nova GSIs and GTEs, and so on. But I al­ways had a soft spot for Fords, and ended up build­ing a Di­a­mond White Sap­phire RS Cos­worth. Once that was com­plete I fan­cied some­thing else to build.”

Why a Granada? Ben lives near Metro Sal­vage in Bolton (as fea­tured on BBC1’s Scrap­pers), and he’d ac­tu­ally been down one day to look at a

Mk1 As­tra; it wasn’t for him, but while he was there he spot­ted a white Granada. “My lit­tle lad was with me and he loved the car straight away,” he says. “It was mostly com­plete, with a 2-litre Pinto and five-speed ’box, and stan­dard right down to the wheel trims. I did a deal there and then.”

With a child­hood spent span­ner­ing, it prob­a­bly won’t sur­prise you to learn that Ben un­der­took ev­ery as­pect of the Granada’s trans­for­ma­tion him­self; aside from the re­paint and a few bits of ma­chin­ing work to the driv­e­train, what you’re look­ing at is a com­pletely home­built achieve­ment. And peer­ing un­der the bon­net, you’ll spot that seis­mic changes have taken place. “A few bits of the ig­ni­tion sys­tem were miss­ing, so I de­cided to swap in a dif­fer­ent en­gine,” he non­cha­lantly shrugs. “I wanted an old car with a mod­ern pow­er­plant, and I liked the idea of a torquey and tune­able diesel with strong re­li­a­bil­ity and good mpg, so I found a found a 1999 BMW 530d with a man­ual ’box at rea­son­able money and went from there.”

But, of course! And the en­gine wasn’t as hard to squeeze in as you might think, re­quir­ing lit­tle

more than mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the ra­di­a­tor shroud and a lit­tle cross­mem­ber notch­ing to clear the sump; with some cus­tom mounts made up for the en­gine and gear­box, ev­ery­thing was sit­ting ap­prox­i­mately where it should, and the gear se­lec­tor was short­ened to fit in the Type-9’s orig­i­nal hole. Hav­ing ex­per­i­mented with re­tain­ing the Ford diff on a cus­tom prop and dis­cov­er­ing that the ra­tios were all off, Ben grafted the BMW diff into the Granada sub­frame along with the BMW’s prop­shaft, which all works very neatly.

“The orig­i­nal rear beam was notched and strength­ened to ac­com­mo­date the BMW prop run­ning through it, and cus­tom mount­ings were made to hold the diff,” says Ben. “AJ at Jiz Mo­tor­sport made the adap­tors to fit the Ford shafts onto the BMW diff.” And then came the fun part: the wiring. The 5-Se­ries loom was painstak­ingly un­picked, and re­worked to en­sure that the en­gine and an­cil­lar­ies would all run with­out com­plaint; the orig­i­nal im­mo­biliser still works, and Ben’s got func­tional warn­ing lights plus an OBD port for di­ag­nos­tics — it even all works with the orig­i­nal Granada di­als! He’s man­aged to trick the BMW en­gine into think­ing it’s still in a BMW, which is very cun­ning in­deed.

“The throt­tle pedal was mod­i­fied for fly-by-wire, and the clutch was con­verted to hy­draulic,” he says. “A cus­tom in­ter­cooler was made to fit be­hind the grille, and there’s a full cus­tom stain­less ex­haust from the turbo back.”

Big air

With the driv­e­train run­ning like a sewing ma­chine, it was time to ad­dress the chas­sis. At first the car was run­ning 2 inch lower springs, but Ben wasn’t happy with the ride so he em­ployed some lat­eral think­ing. “I bought and stripped a Mk5 Golf that had air-ride fit­ted,” he ex­plains, “and kept the tank, com­pres­sors, wiring and Easys­treet man­age­ment. I was told that run­ning bags on a Granada would be dif­fi­cult due to the dampers run­ning through the springs on the front and rear, and the dou­ble-wish­bones on the front. I was de­ter­mined to keep the dampers in the orig­i­nal lo­ca­tions, so set about find­ing a suit­able set-up: I used GAZ ad­justable dampers


and found the cor­rect airbags I needed, which were Uni­ver­sal Air Aero bags. Lots of mod­i­fi­ca­tions, brack­ets, and many hours spent mak­ing them fit and work cor­rectly! The bags all fit­ted in the orig­i­nal spring lo­ca­tions and the dampers run through the mid­dle — so now I have lots of op­tions for ride-height ad­just­ment, and no more trou­ble with speed bumps!”

The air-ride ticks a sig­nif­i­cant box, as this was built from the off to be a prac­ti­cal daily-driver — some­thing Ben could jump into with the fam­ily and go any­where with­out is­sue. The aes­thet­ics are fab­u­lously old-and-new, with the slab-sided three-box wear­ing a crisp new coat of Di­a­mond White, pe­riod Ford spoil­ers, Granada Re­caros, and the all-im­por­tant ’80s back­flash – but the man­ner in which it sits on the floor over those car­toon­ishly large-look­ing Rota wheels gives it the air of a Hot Wheels toy. Retro looks, mod­ern per­for­mance; Ben’s cre­ated some­thing at the zeit­geist of 2018 mod­i­fy­ing here, and he’s done a fab­u­lous job. Keep your Singer 911s — we’ll take the diesel Granny, thanks.

Clever tweaks mean the orig­i­nal Ford gauges all work cor­rectly with the new BMW en­gine and loom.

Tank for the air sus­pen­sion hardly makes a dent in the Granada’s huge boot.

Well, it was...

Those 18 inch Rota wheels sit well up in­side the Granada’s arches cour­tesy of the air sus­pen­sion. Gen­uine RS ac­ces­sory spoiler (just) skims the Tar­mac.

Now the Mk2’s fin­ished, Ben reck­ons he has the per­fect clas­sic Ford — ideal for fam­ily and fun.

A Granada Sport do­nated its Re­caros for Ben’s project.

It looks big, but the 2.9 en­gine went in with lit­tle more than some ra­di­a­tor shroud and cross­mem­ber mods.

So ’80s back­flash was an all-im­por­tant ad­di­tion.

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