It’s time for us to invert the muesli box of history, sweep away the fine dust of progress and pick out a nutty, raisony cluster of intrigue. Welcome to our second visit to The Carchive for this week. I’ve been looking forward to covering this car for ages, because, in truth, I’ve always felt rather sorry for it. It’s the 1994 Ford Scorpio. “Classic and distinctive looks combine with highly responsive performance” Ford of Europe, in 1993, had turned a corner. The Mondeo had been launched to widespread critical acclaim proving that the Blue Oval still had some tricks up their sleeve. Better still, they had proven themselves still capable of producing cars which were genuinely great to drive after a good few years where the model range had looked, well, a little stale. So, with the mid-market exceptionally well served by the Mondeo and the lacklustre Fiesta and Escort still selling inexplicably well, Ford wondered whether the same magic could be applied to the old-stager Granada / Scorpio line, which had been around in its current, MK3 guise since the mid ’80s. After vetoing a completely new ground-up design, the decision was made to visit a comprehensive restyling upon the existing model; the old centre section combined with a new, more interesting nose and tail. The idea was to create a car with the presence and prestige that the Scorpio had never quite been able to boast. To end up with something which could hold its head up proudly in an arena becoming dominated by cars like the BMW 525i. The result, sadly, was pretty disastrous. “To create a car that stands out from the crowd and transports you into another world” Full marks to Ford for effort and bravery, but only partial credit for thinking things through. It was true to say that the new Scorpio (the UK name Granada was finally dropped) looked like nothing on Earth, but there was good reason for that. The nose was dominated by a huge, oval, chrome dipped grille and a pair of massive single-bulb headlamps that gave the car the expression of a lobotomised toad. The rear end was a mass of painted metal with a single acrylic strip down at bumper-level which incorporated the tail-lamps, all topped with a ribbon of chrome. It was roundly criticised for looking “too American”, whatever that meant. Furthermore, the age of the centre section just couldn’t be disguised. The non-flush glazing, the high waistline and the general familiarity didn’t quite gel with the brave-new-world treatment found elsewhere. And most tragically, that was as far as most people looked. “Scorpio is a car where confidence clearly comes as a standard feature” Those who weren’t put off by the looks were rewarded by a car which was, genuinely, very good indeed, at basically everything. The handling had been perfectly OK for the last eight years but further polishing had brought it into competition with the best in class. The ride quality was very good. The engines ranged from the acceptable twin-cam two-litre engine to the the excellent 24 valve V6, engineered by Cosworth and with 205hp to its credit. There was a diesel, too, which was perfectly tolerable. To get the best out of the Scorpio it was the inside that counted for most. The new interior was, quite frankly, bafflingly and surprisingly brilliant, certainly compared with what had come before. The layout was contemporary and clean, the materials were comparable with the best European rivals and the equipment was piled high, especially on top-line Ultima models. The seats were comfortable enough to make a Lear Jet blush and there was enough space front and rear for all occupants to don suits of armour or Sumo wrestling bodysuits as per taste. It had all the answers. And still nobody cared. “The way ahead for luxury motoring is clearly charted” Once the novelty had subsided the revulsion that people shuddered with on first sight of a Scorpio seemed to wear off. Nevertheless, toward the end the Scorpio was treated to a facelift which, in my view, somewhat transformed the challenging looks into something halfway handsome through the simple expedient of repositioning the blue oval to the centre of the grille and darkening the headlamp bezels, but, y’know, it was still a Scorpio, and by then Jeremy Clarkson had performed his “.…so ugly it makes small children cry” and “mummy, there’s a monster in the Garage” routines a few times too many. At the same time, the market for large saloon cars with “non-premium” badges was drying up somewhat throughout Europe, as people realised the considerable appeal of taking out crippling finance agreements on the BMWs or Mercedes-Benz that they had always felt were out of reach before. When the Scorpio was finally taken into the woods and shot in ’98, Ford ceased to offer a large luxury saloon in Europe, and haven’t since; with flagship duties now being spread between Mondeo and Galaxy. Besides, with Ford now owning Volvo and Jaguar, it didn’t seem that the Scorpio would be missed too badly. Today, stocks of good Scorpios are fast dwindling, beloved by the banger racing fraternity for their compatibility with old Granada parts, their strength and their sheer cheapness. A good dozen are probably destroyed at dirt-oval races every weekend. Shed a tear. Somebody. Please. (Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer promotional materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Ford Motor Co. Yes, I love the Scorpio. But I’m also an inveterate Rover 800 apologist, so my opinions are probably of dubious value)
The Carchive:- The 1994 Ford Scorpio
RoadworkUK is the online persona of Gianni Hirsch, a tall, awkward gentleman with a home office full of gently decomposing paper and a garage full of worthless scrap metal. He lives in the village of Moistly, which is a safe distance from London and is surrounded by enough water and scenery to be interesting. In another life, he has designed, sold, worked on and written about cars in exchange for small quantities of money.