By on August 14, 2011

In the LeMons world, the Index of Effluency is the Holy Grail, the elusive prize that makes teams ditch their RX-7s and E30s and install cages in the likes of Hillman Minxes and Pontiac Executive wagons. You get the IOE by turning many, many more laps than anyone ever imagined your car could do, and we’ve never had an easier IOE decision than the selection of today’s winner: the Swamp Thang 1978 Ford Granada coupe.
My personal history with the Granada taught me that this is one of the worst cars that Detroit grunted out during the Malaise Era (despite being the direct descendant of the reasonably reliable early-60s Fairlane), and the Swamp Thang’s 302-cubic-inch V8 wasn’t really much of an upgrade over the base 250 six. This Granada ran fine from green to checkered, knocking out slow-but-steady laps all night long. Every bushing in the suspension was completely shot, calls to the engine room for more power produced zero results, and the rock-hard tires never found any purchase on Circuit Grand Bayou’s racing surface… but in the end, the old Ford won both its class (C) and the top prize of the race.
Adding a note of extra drama to the proceedings, Unununium Legend of LeMons Spank was an arrive-and-drive member of the team, which gives him an all-time-LeMons-record four Index of Effluency awards. Spank himself feels that, since he didn’t help build the car, he doesn’t deserve IOE honors, but I disagree. Either way, an impressive accomplishment for the team. Congratulations, Swamp Thangs!

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23 Comments on “And the Real Winner Is…...”


  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    god help me i had one of these lead sleds. geesch

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    Eh, not terribly impressed by the reliability if I must say. What you have to remember is that this is one of the simplest cars Ford ever made, with some of the most proven “technology” ever. Sure, the quality control wasn’t great, but then again there’s no fancy-pants engineering to go wrong. Body, frame, and one of Ford’s most-proven engine designs that they churned out zillions of over the years. Still, congratulations.

  • avatar
    Bryce

    Careful MM the Hillman Minx/Humber 80 was a successful race car in its day very tunable and with decent handling Harold Heasley was the 1960 Saloon car Champion in NZ aboard a Humber 80 he beat Jags Zephyrs etc with a rebadged Hillman Minx

    • 0 avatar

      The Ford Capri was also a very successful race car in its day, and yet every Capri to race in LeMons has been absolutely terrible. Same goes for the Mitsubishi Starion and many other successful-in-their-day cars. I stand by my statement that the Minx would be an IOE-grade LeMons car.

      • 0 avatar
        PintoFan

        I think the reason that Capris haven’t been more successful is that every one you can find for $500 (or “close” to $500, let’s be honest) is going to be an immense piece of crap not even close to roadworthy. They are very collectible cars with a rabid fanbase, so even neglected examples have good value. Same thing goes with Mustangs- 5.0 and 4.6 GT’s don’t go for less than $500 unless they are completely ruined. You could probably make the same case for the Starion, but then again it was junk when it was brand new.

      • 0 avatar
        Bryce

        None of the cars that raced successfully back in the day were $500 worn out dungers they were new cars thats probably the big difference I have a tidy 59 Minx Ive yet to run it for 12 hours let alone thrash it round a track but its old with 96000 miles basicly worn out a perfect IOE car then.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve heard the “it’s an inherently superior car that doesn’t do well in this racing because the cheap ones are totally ruined” argument many times, and I disagree. For example, we’ve had a couple of very cheaty LeMons Capris (which I zapped with many penalty laps), driven by experienced racers, and they’ve had their doors blown right off by legit 500-buck Saturn SC2s and Dodge Neons. Obsolete designs get stomped by more modern designs, all else being equal.

      • 0 avatar
        outback_ute

        I was going to ask if anyone has raced a Minx… A mate & I did a navigation rally event in a standard ’57 – scrutineer commented it had been a while since he’d seen a white wall cross-ply tyre!

  • avatar
    Loser

    My mom bought one of these new back in 1976. It was a turd brown 4 door with the 250. She put 115,000 neglected miles on it with very little trouble. Towards the end the rear bumper was held on with rope. Bumper jacks, impact bumpers and Ohio winters do not mix. What killed it in the end was all the front end work it needed. Parts and labor would have been more than it was worth. Don’t know how the engine lasted, oil was very rarely changed and only checked when the light came on.

  • avatar
    skor

    Sorry but this car was not derived from the Fairlane, its progenitor was the Falcon. The Falcon became the Maverick and the Maverick became the Granada. The Fairlane morphed into the Torino.

    • 0 avatar

      The Fairlane, the Falcon, and all their relatives shared the same basic chassis and suspension design.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        The 1950′s Fairlane was a full size model. The 1962 Fairlane was an intermediate size car that shared it’s basic design with the Falcon, but rode a longer wheelbase right from the start….115″ vs. 109 for the Falcon. Some of the chassis parts interchanged between the early Falcons and Fairlanes, but the Fairlane quickly started to gain weight and similarities disappeared. The original Mustang used the Falcon chassis until 1967 when it was switched over to the Fairlane underpinnings, BTW.

        The 1975 Ford Granada…Ford offered an entirely different car in Europe called the Granada….was developed by stretching the Maverick a few inches. The Maverick was nothing but a rebodied Falcon. Granadas are wonderful donor cars for people who are rebuilding original Mustangs or Falcons. The front spindles and disc brakes from Granadas of this era are direct bolt-ins on early Falcons/Mustangs. A number of other suspension parts will bolt in as well. I once removed a fat sway bar from a Granada and bolted into an early Falcon….I think I paid $10 for the bar at an auto bone-yard. Shocks will swap from Granadas to Falcons as well.

        The point is that the Granada was born of Falcons, and not Fairlanes…the Fairlane being another offshoot of the Falcon.

        One more interesting factoid, Ford sold something like 2.5 million of these Granadas back in the day. They weren’t good cars, but they were not the worst that Detroit offered back in the 70′s either.

    • 0 avatar
      Bryce

      Falcon Failane Mustang all the same but Fairlanes had better ball joints etc than Falcons but chassis wise they are the same car

  • avatar

    My cousin’s wife drove a Granada with the 250 six. Since I knew more about cars than he did, he called me up once when they couldn’t get it started. I figured out that it wasn’t getting fuel from the mechanical fuel pump. For some reason I checked the dipstick and the oil was water thin and smelled like gasoline. The pump had failed in such a way that it was dumping fuel directly into the crankcase. I’m trying to imagine the conflagration that would have happened if they just fixed the fuel pump, leaving a not very high viscosity and quite flammable mixture in the oil sump. That’d be an interesting test. My guess is that eventually the bearings would fail, get very hot and ignite the gas/oil mixture.

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      That was a common occurrence with lots of cars that used mechanical fuel pumps….this was not limited to the Granada or Fords for that matter.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @Ronnie: That particular failure mode of mechanical fuel pumps isn’t that unusual. The first time I encountered it, one of my high school buddies’ Monte Carlo was smelling of raw gasoline. The fuel pump diaphragm had ruptured and was squirting fuel into the crankcase while still pushing it up to the carb. The car would run (poorly) and smell awfully from gasoline.

      We swapped out the fuel pump, but never gave a thought to the raw gasoline in the crankcase. Once the car was up to temperature, the gasoline being far more volatile than the oil, just evaporated into the atmosphere.

  • avatar
    lothar

    78′s had rectangular head lights……the several I had went close to 200k with routine repairs and regular maint. 302 or 250 with the jatco trans was pretty bullet proof. rear seals could be a problem, sometimes in high mileage the timing chain was the end.

  • avatar
    Motorhead10

    Buddy of mine had one of these (a ’77 I think) in high school (mid-80s). I think his Pops got it for him as punishment. We installed a cassette stereo and kickin’ speakers that “fell off the back of a truck”. System was worth more than the car. We found one unpaved parking lot of some local business. We would do donuts with Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop” CRANKING! He’d stop – I’d run out and pour a quart of oil in it – and we’d be right back at it. One Friday night on the way out to socialize, we pulled in and the lot was paved. Not a word was spoken the entire drive to the Ground Round.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    Ah, the Ford Granada…This was one of the finalists when I was in the market to buy my very first brand-new car in fall, 1975! The other candidates? Ford Bronco, Jeep CJ5, Chevy Camaro & Nova, IH Scout II and Chevy C-10. What did I buy? Chevy C-20! Go figure…

    These LeMons races? I’m not really a race fan, though at one time in my life I favored drag racing, but LeMons? To me, it’s a Demolition Derby, but where the cars actually try NOT to run into each other!

    Still, I read these accounts each week for some reason.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    My family had a Monarch for many years of mostly trouble-free motoring

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    This car is actually a 1975-77 model; the 1978-80 had, as someone stated earlier, rectangular headlights and a different grille and taillights. It was probably one of the earlier versions, since the FORD lettering is above the grille. Don’t ask how I know all of this.


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