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The Carchive:- The 1994 Ford Scorpio

Chris Haining May 29, 2014 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 29 Comments

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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)

  • Sjalabais

    I remember how the German press slaughtered the Scorpio when it was new. Their main motivation was certainly to show that its competition – inevitably also the "proper" German saloon cars – were better in every way.

    A couple of years ago, when I sold my '71 Volvo 145, I ended up in a Citroën Xsara wagon for a couple of weeks. That was a real desaster. So with my spine doing the thinking, I just bought a 245 again. But during that time, I also found out that relatively new Scorpio wagons – cars of a nice size – are extremely cheap. My neighbour at the time, a Ford mechanic, drift-racing a Mustang, was very clear: "Don't be so stupid and buy a Scorpio. They are all rusted out underneath!". So I didn't.

    and they still are among the absolutely cheapest vehicles you can buy, and most certainly among the cheapest value-per-€-investments one can get.

    Always a pleasure to witness your knack for witty writing, Chris!

    • I don't car how ugly it is, if I could get running and driving, RWD, manual transmission, 4-door car for under $500 I would be all over it. If it lasted 6-12 months it would be a great.

      • Sjalabais

        Agreed, this is also how I used to buy cars. But at the time I sold the 145 for one reason only: Our first child was on its way. Buying a high maintenance car as a short term investment wasn't our strategy anymore. Prices in Norway are also quite a bit higher: , just for the fun of it.

        • For $500 it would be a 3rd car. I went from a 1996 BMW Z3 M Roadster conversion to a 2011 Silverado Extended Cab Work Truck when our first arrived. $500 is about scrap value for cars here in the US so it is hard to find anything that runs in that price range. Scrap steel is about $0.11/lb or $0.05/kg, so a 4000lb car is worth $440 at a scrap yard.

        • nanoop

          0-50kKr – exactly my bracket!
          There's even a 2.9i Cosworth, and they are wise to use a pic of the engine as opening picture…

          But based on my single Ford sample (Focus), they start rusting about 40 seconds after the "no-rust warranty" ran out (12 years for mine). I'm not sure if this is brilliant engineering or a let down…

  • PotbellyJoe ❤❤❤❤♡

    <img src=";
    Appropriate Image attached…

  • Van_Sarockin

    Well, it's a shame that the only grille they could lay their hands on was an old one from Mercedes – cleverly installed upside down. And the front clip bears no relation to the rest of the car, which is otherwise sort of handsome.

    But from the interior, and looking at that superior dash, you can't see the grille. So, who cares?

  • Manic_King

    People would would point and laugh, it really is/was atrocious looking thing, like some dumb monster from the depths of the ocean. Marketing material photogs have tried to find the best angles, but even here it looks bad, in real life it's just butt fugly.

  • stigshift

    The perfect car! Assuming that you are Stevie Wonder.

  • faberferrum

    A lobotomised toad! Lol. That rear end shot looks like a sunset picture, with the blue oval as the setting sun. The interior does look comfy though.

  • Do any of my fellow Hoons see a late model design of a Korean product out front and an older Lincolnesque out back?

    • Devin

      Ssangyong Chairman specifically.
      <img src="; width="500">

  • ptschett

    I didn't realize that Ford had inflicted a chiclet-button single-DIN-slot radio on European customers too. Looks like it's even the same basic button layout as the NA one. I wonder which came first?
    <img src="; width="500"/>
    (Not my car or my photo, but exactly what my '96 T-bird has…)

    • The Ford "2000" series of DIN size stereos ran all the way through the '80s, moving onto the chiclet button units around 1992, I remember being surprised when I saw similar units being used in the US when I visited in '93. I may be totally wrong, but I got the feeling that the European versions were slightly more sophisticated.

      <img src="; width="400/">

      This was the top-line version, "2008" found in Scorpio, with RDS, twin FM tuners, full logic cassette and CD control. Actually sounded pretty good, too.

      • Manic_King

        Message button? Mind control or "I've got message for you, Mr. thief, do not, I repeat, do not take this stereo……ow"

        • Sjalabais

          RDS?

          • Manic_King

            What, you've seen stereo with message button before? I haven't, maybe it's obscure function noone uses but still….

  • Devin

    I always enjoyed how in the '90s Ford went slightly bonkers, between this, the AU Falcon and the '96 Taurus.

  • Rover1

    There is/was a nice wagon version, too.
    <img src=";
    <img src=";

  • wunno sev

    when i was a small child my family used to make an annual pilgrimage to hang out with more family in the UK, and i would spend the two or three weeks familiarizing myself with forbidden fruits from across the pond. the scorpio always stood out to me. i'm not saying i did or didn't like it, just that when i saw it i watched it with particular curiosity.

    now that i am older, i can ask: am i the only person who likes the sedan rear end? i thought it was cool as a youngster.

    maybe i'm just too american.

    • The rear end was my favourite bit, kind of a bit Lincoln MKVIII. I'm ashamed that it didn't catch on over here

  • nanoop

    Scorpio has something in common with Scipio; while wildly successful on one hand (Spain/Afcrica vs. interior), they finally didn't fit into the political and social system (too much uncontrolled power/too much front design).

    I like the rear end, but I like the 928, too.

  • luokyio

    I've been reading Redusernab a long time, and now I really had to do my first commenting 🙂

    I have two of these nowadays, with consecutive license plate numbers even. And I love them, and never going to sell either of them. And if I come across another frogeye in excellent shape (which most of them are not anymore) and cheap price (which they pretty much all are), I very well may buy another.

    I've grown to like these very much. I bought my first one in 2008 without knowing anything about these, then ended up selling it later and regretted it so much that I bought it back. And a month ago I found another one for sale in my town, in good condition, so I had no other choice than get it.

    One of my Scorpios has even had couple of brief visits ( http://redusernab.info/2012/10/11/hooniverse-asks-… and http://redusernab.info/2013/06/18/used-car-reviews… ) at Redusernab articles, courtesy of Antti,

    • Battles

      My experience with these is that people who like them REALLY like them. I bought a W124 estate from a trader who had my W124, three S500s and two E500s on her driveway and she preferred to daily drive a Scorpio. She had a Cosworth 2.9 in purple (!) and it was her fourth in five years. She got her first as a trade in and kept it.
      She said it felt like an American car, I suspect she's never driven an American car…

      • luokyio

        I have to say that the Scorpio feels absolutely nothing like an American car. I would actually prefer if they would be more like US cars to improve comfort, but on the other hand the driving characteristics would probably suffer.

        • Manic_King

          Well, the seats were much softer than comp. (MB with their veneer on the springs and BMW, Opel with their much harder seats) had and looked oh so comfortable, too. So maybe in someone's mind these were soft velvety American luxury like.
          Nothing to do with car's handling or other driving properties, though.

  • Buickboy92

    Ford no longer owns Volvo or Jaguar. Volvo is now owned by Geely and Jaguar along with Land Rover are owned by Tata.

    • Yeah….."with Ford now owning Volvo and Jaguar, it didn’t seem that the Scorpio would be missed too badly".

      I meant in 1998. Thanks, though.

  • Krautwursten

    I've always liked the rear of the Scorpio as a kid. It looked so sophisticated and very American with its unusual rear light design and red glass (but still amber flashing) indicators. The front, not so much. A very disturbing grin.

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