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No vehicle better sums up the pluses and minuses of Malaise Era Detroit machinery to me— yes, there pluses— than the 1979 Ford Granada that my parents bought in 1980 from Hertz.
It served as my dad’s daily driver for a year or two, until he upgraded to a new Bonneville, and then it became the unloved “extra car,” driven only when the A-list car was in the shop or doled out to the teenage offspring to ensure humiliation at the hands of their Celica-driving peers.
I took my first driver’s-license test in this car— dubbed “The Ramada” by my well-traveled salesman dad— and drove it whenever I couldn’t fire up a single one of my wretched personal fleet (including, at one point, a ’69 Corona, a 3 ’67 GTO, and the world’s most terrible ’58 Beetle; you can see the Competition Orange ’68 Mercury Cyclone that succeeded these cars in the photo above). , but the Ramada makes the list (the dual-control ’78 Rabbit Diesel in which I took my driver-training classes in 1982 is the only car that beats the six-cylinder ’79 Granada in my personal Dangerously Underpowered Cars Hall of Fame voting).
At this point, I think it’s time to cue up the Merle Haggard; Merle expresses the “rolling downhill like a snowball headed for hell” sense of the country’s direction at that time better (and in way fewer words) than I ever could.
So, the Malaise Era: I’m defining its span as the 1973-1983 model years and defining its origins with such certitude because I invented the term during my first few months at Jalopnik, as a semi-ironic reference to Jimmy’s speech and the general sense that the future would suck permeating the formative years of my generation.
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In many ways, the Ramada was a truly miserable car to drive; I struggle to come up with an adjective that does justice to its 250-cubic-inch six-banger’s performance. From a standing start, you’d mash on the gas and the car would hesitate for a second or two, seemingly gathering its thoughts, and then there’d be this sort of a burnout— hey, I was a teenager in a street-racing town in which only revving big-blocks could drown out the incessant Randy Rhoads solos and low-flying A7s— and even the most vicious, C4-annihilating neutral-drop couldn’t get more than a pathetic chirp out of the Ramada’s tires.