With Nicola away for the weekend, having finished the vacuuming, cleaned out the rabbit, removed (most of) the weeds from the driveway and done my fare share of tidying, I can reward myself with a lengthy stroll around the dark, dank tunnels in which The Carchive has been crammed. There’s a strange smell down there, that I hadn’t noticed before, which was enough to drive me away after visiting the first chamber, but while there I grabbed this slender document.
It’s another result of Fords flirty relationship with Mazda in the ’80s; The Laser.
“Ford Laser, the brilliant breakthrough”
Gotta love hype, aincha? Breakthrough? Well, it’s difficult to see how, exactly, taking a Mazda 323 and grafting what appears to be the front end of a Ford Cortina onto it was about as much of a breakthrough as when Lionel Croft, 45 Coverdale Avenue, Burton-on-Trent realised that he preferred the taste of brown sugar in his tea over that of caster sugar; i.e. not very significant a breakthrough At All on a global scale.
The Australians clearly thought it was a terrific idea.
“Whether you’re young or you’re old, single or proud parents, the Laser L presents a very appealing picture”
This is encouraging; it seems that the Ford Laser was being touted as, essentially, the ideal car for people. Assuming you carried most of your internal organs on the correct side of your skin, assuming you were alive, fully functional and generally suited to car-ownership, the Laser was for you. And as basic as this premise may have seemed, Ford were determined to crow about just how clever their thinking had been.
“How do you get generous interior room and comfort into an externally compact car body, as well as provide a high level of equipment?”
Well, what I’d have done was begin with a compact floorpan and a transverse engine to maximise interior capacity versus exterior bulk. That would have sorted out the first part of the quandary. But then, and here’s the clever bit; I’d fit lots of standard equipment. This is my answer to what didn’t really seem to be a particularly challenging poser. “How do you bake a cake that’s a sensible size, yet still make it taste like chocolate?”
Make a cake and put chocolate in it. A “chocolate cake”, if you will.
Nonsense aside, the standard equipment didn’t actually seem to run to all that much, to be honest. There was a radio, some adjustable mirrors, ashtrays, reclining seats, all that kind of stuff. But nothing that seemed especially headline grabbing. That was, until Ghia came along.
“….without climbing out of your Laser Ghia you can release the rear hatch via a floor mounted lever. That’s convenience. That’s class. “
Oh My God You’re So Right. In the early ’80s such unfeasible technological advancement was Hot Stuff, a legacy of just what had been made possible in this microchip age. Don’t tell anybody that all it took was a linkage and a length of wire. With such things miracles are possible.
Such had become the meaning of Ghia all around the world. In England, as Australia, as America, the Ghia name had come to symbolise some woodgrain and an upscale upholstery finish, and perhaps a set of more deluxe wheel covers.
“When you are behind the wheel and sitting inside, that the Ghia badge becomes even more meaningful.”
It was all about the name, but of course the Ghia crest also brought with it “…a package of features to transform the car into a car for the more discerning“. I’m actually not sure just how discerning one can actually be if they still end up in a remodelled 323, regardless how many map reading lights, digital clocks and tailgate release levers it may possess. Nevertheless, Ghia wasn’t the only lifestyle option Ford had up its sleeve with the Laser. If you were a real man you obviously wanted one of these:
“Laser Sport, a breakthrough in combining sporty style with small car economy”
Now we’re talking. Breathtaking performance and never-before-seen dynamics were brought to the Laser by the throbbing monster that lay beneath that bonnet which….. was exactly the same as that in the Ghia. 1.5 litres and 72 horsepower were at your command, offering the same degree of sportiness as a game of cribbage or choosing some wallpaper. Yeah, it was a tape ‘n sticker package and did nothing whatsoever to change the actual mechanical setup. They did paint the centres of the wheel black, though, which makes all the difference.
I remember seeing Lasers in Cyprus when I was younger, and wondering just what the hell was going on. It may not have been the most egregious example of re-badging ever to have happened, but why Ford felt it necessary to put that front end on the perfectly OK 323 may never be made completely clear. This only afflicted the first, KA models, the KB that followed ended up looking far more generic, and possibly none the worse for it.
(Disclaimer:- All images are from original manufactures brochures, taken by me out on the street with my neighbours wondering what on Earth I was up to. Copyright belongs to Ford by the way)