Ben Wilde’s Mk2 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…
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 straight-eight 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 Mk2 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.
“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 Mk2 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.”
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.
Words Daniel Bevis
Photos Chris Wallbank
Read the full feature on Ben’s Mk2 Granada in the November 2018 issue
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