Lindberg 1/32 Scale 1976 Ford Granada (no. 373) / Mercury Monarch (no. 377) Model Kit

information and review ©2003 by Tony Lucio


 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The 1976 Ford Granada and 1976 Mercury Monarch were replicated in the form of two model kits produced by the Lindberg Company in the mid 1970’s. As part of their famous “Lindberg Line” of scale replicas, these were easy-to-build 1/32 scale “Snap Kits” which did not require glue or paint. To this day, they stand as the only licensed replicas of any version of the American Ford Granada and 1970’s Mercury Monarch ever produced. I am fortunate to own one of each, and thought I would share my insights and experiences with the kits.

 

While the model year listed on the box is 1976, the cars themselves are almost dead-on for both the 1975 and 1976 model years, and only very slightly off for 1977. Depending on how picky you are, they may only be “merely passable” for the 1978-1980 model years, but it’s as close as we’ve got and indeed, may ever get. It is unknown how long the kits were produced and in what quantity, but if you’ve ever tried to find one, and seen the prices they routinely fetch, it’s obvious that they are quite rare indeed. 

 

My Background

 

Before I go any further, let me first establish what I am reviewing and why.  When I was growing up, the car my parents had was a 2-door 1979 Granada, white with a red landau (half-vinyl) roof, and as base level as options and trim get.  I loved that car. Even as a young child, it struck me as unique compared to anything else on the road, and as I grew older I appreciated its refined boxiness and pleasing proportions even more.  Unfortunately, routine short trips, seeing 3 children from cradle to varying stages of adolescence, and 13 Chicago winters took their savage tolls; despite my pleas it was put to rust in 1992.  It is a persistent dream of mine to own another 2-door Granada or Monarch; unfortunately my relative lack of funds, plus the difficulty in finding one in good shape, keeps it just a mere dream.

 

In early 2000, a year and a half after discovering that some sort of kit had actually been made, I finally managed to win a mint-in-unopened-box Monarch kit on an ebay auction.  I had really been searching for a Granada, but was willing to settle on the Monarch in light of the fact that either kit rarely turned up, and always ignited a bidding war when it did: a pure case of “I’ll take what I can get”.  I cherished the model too much to risk painting it until my skills improved, but I assembled it and enjoyed it immensely.  After a year or so I finally decided to sand the roof to make the Landau top my parents’ Granada had.  But I still didn’t paint it.  I watched ebay regularly for other models, and only saw 2 or 3 from 2000 – early 2003.

 

In July 2002 I moved to another town, and visited a local antique shop that specializes in model trains (another passion of mine) and old toys.  The deal with shops such as this is “You never know what you’ll find”, so it was worth a shot.  Well there was nothing for me on that day, and I had no particular reason to become a regular customer… but in March of 2003 I inexplicably felt a sudden, out-of-the-blue urge to pay a visit there again.   Lo and behold, when I walked in the door, sitting all by itself on the counter was an assembled, “70’s yellow” Granada!  The owner said he’d just pulled it out of a box of stuff he’d bought from someone, only moments before I walked in the door. Amazing! It surely had been calling me, so I gladly paid $10 for it on the spot.  It was dirty and glued together, but solid, and more importantly had the correct badging to match the car of my childhood memories.  I then purchased an airbrush, and after several months of practice, I finally took the plunge and painted my Granada and Monarch. 

 

Thanks for bearing with me! Now, on with the review:

 

Overview

 

Examining the kit as a whole, it’s obvious that the production molds were initially created for the Granada, and later reworked to produce the Monarch kit. This is evidenced in a few places. The Granada underframe spells the name “GRANADA” out in raised letters directly on the chassis detail, with the kit number “373” below; “373” is also spelled in raised letters on the underside of the body shell as well. On the Monarch kit, the letters are raised in a blanked-out area where the original mold lettering and underframe chassis detail was filled in, and the new names (“MONARCH”, “377”) stamped in place.  In addition, the headlights and taillights are only 100% accurate for a Granada, but I will elaborate on this particular nuance later. 

 

Since the Granada was made first and then the mold was changed (but not until kit nos. 374, 375 and 376 were already spoken for), it is possible that it may be rarer than the Monarch. My own observations via ebay would seem to validate this, but of course it cannot be authoritatively proven. One could also argue that if 3 more kits were produced before the Monarch, that the Granada enjoyed a decent production run during that time. At this point it’s anybody’s guess.

 

Each kit consists of 25 pieces, plus an instruction sheet.  I have grouped them here in a chart as subassemblies based on purpose and likeness of colors in the kit.  I will go into further detail on the subassemblies below. First things first: there are no motor or separate chassis parts/details to speak of, and the interior is spartan at best. There are no functioning parts (opening doors, steerable wheels) either. Still, it’s a great start, and what we’ve got consists of:

 

Body shell

Kit Color A

 

Front grille

Chromed / Clear

Underframe

Kit Color A

 

Headlight & signal assys. (2)

Chromed / Clear

Interior floor & seats

Kit Color B

 

Taillights (2)

Chromed / Clear

Dashboard

Kit Color B

 

Front bumper

Chromed / Clear

Steering Wheel

Kit Color B

 

Rear bumper

Chromed / Clear

Window insert

Clear

 

Wheels (4)

Chromed / Clear

Axles & Screws (2 ea.)

Metal

 

Tires (4)

“Rubber”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, a decal sheet was included, at least with the Monarch kit I got out of the box. It was a flame pattern (matching the box artwork) but I deemed it a bit ostentatious, so I didn’t use it.   Since my Granada was orphaned with no box, I don’t know if a decal sheet was provided for it, but box art I’ve seen would not seem to indicate so.

 

Okay, now on to specifics about each piece.

 

 

Body Shell and Windows

 

The body shell represents a stylish 2-door model in Ghia-level trim, featuring a full vinyl roof and wide-pattern bodyside molding. It’s molded in one solid piece of thick plastic, in colors that seem to roughly mimic basic factory colors in which the real cars were available (I have seen deep blue, emerald green, white, and harvest yellow).  There’s no way to tell what color you’ll end up with until you open the box. Surprise! 

 

Overall proportions are dead-on. There are no unsightly mold seams, ejector-pin scars or other such blemishes on the exterior, and detailing is crisp and sharp.  I am particularly impressed with the fender emblems! They absolutely nailed the stylized scripted font: dead-on perfect, raised relief with such fine detail that I wonder how in the world they did this 25 years ago. The hood and trunk badging is also in excellent proportion and crisp detail, although the “F O R D” on the front of the Granada seems a little large, especially when compared to the “MERCURY” on the Monarch.  (Incidentally, it is this badging, located on the header panel and not the grille, which makes this model accurate for the 1975 through early 1976 model years.  In 1977, the lettering was integrated into the grille itself).

 

The texture of the vinyl roof is very nicely done, with realistic grain and crisp rib lines and seams in the places you would expect.  This same grain texture is used in the raised molding trim on the sides of the car.  Unpainted chrome trim is present where it should be and around all windows.  Windshield wipers are molded onto the cowl at the rear of the hood, but do not have that much detail, although the cowl vents look quite good. Seams and lines between fenders and “opening” panels are nice and crisp.  Handles and keyholes are properly placed on each door.  Overall, the design and execution of the car body is just about perfect in both the Granada and Monarch versions.

 

Unfortunately though, it is not without a couple minor flaws.  The biggest problem is a set of “dimples” on the front quarter panel, just behind the turn signal socket.  This is likely a result of the molding process available 25 years ago: considering the type of plastic used and the complexities of the mold in this area (keeping it one solid piece with appropriate contours, a big mounting lug for fastening the underframe, and mounting holes for the headlights and grill, must have been a challenge). If you plan to paint your model, it may be possible to use modeling putty or filler and sanding to even out the dimples, but putty usually has a way of making itself evident again over time even after it’s been painted, and it’s tough to sand the area properly without messing up the wheelwell contours.

 

Another slightly bothersome trait of the kit is once again a result of the production process. Apparently, the body shells were cast on onto a sprue (a common and necessary practice), and the individual shells were then broken off and packaged at the factory. You can see the sprue attachment point directly underneath the trunk lock, and it is hard to eliminate completely. Carving any excess sprue material away somehow leaves a small dimple or rough texture. Of course, it’s possible that instead of excess, the breaking of the sprue may have taken a small nib out of the trunk instead. Either way, because of it’s proximity to other fine details like the trunk badging and outboard finish panel (the wide, fancy vinylized bar on Ghia models, covering the gascap, where the car name is spelled out), filling and sanding is a debatable proposition. It would have been better had they attached the shell to the sprue at the bottom of the car, but it’s a moot point now.  In reality though, you can clean this up fairly well and if you paint the other details you’ve been given, most people won’t notice or even care.

 

There is one other problem that may not really be a flaw, but is definitely something to be mindful of. While the shell is very sturdy, it has a definite weak spot in the A-pillars, especially the driver’s side. Of the two examples I own, the Monarch’s was cracked out of the box, and the Granada’s was also broken (although it was “used” as I explained earlier). I have also seen some ebay sellers mention this defect on their examples. Whether this is all a coincidence of time and handling taking its toll on a naturally fragile part, or a true manufacturing defect, is indeterminable today. Strangely, the passenger A-pillar does not seem as prone to crack.  Fortunately however, the defect is usually limited to a nice clean break, without warping the plastic. It’s possible to simply align the A-pillar straight and repair / reinforce the break using CA adhesive on the backside. If done properly, the crack is virtually invisible!

 

The windows are cast in one “Hotwheels style” piece such that the front and rear windshields and rear quarter (“opera”) windows are accounted for.  In other words, when assembled, the side (door) windows are open. It’s a pretty straightforward part: There are tabs at the base of the windshields that, when sandwiched between the shell and the interior, hold it in place.  The clear plastic used in this kit is not quite the same as we are used to today, and discolors if certain glues or solvents are used.  

 

This last point is merely an observation, but worth pointing out nonetheless: I mentioned that the plastic is quite thick and sturdy, and this is evident when you look at the doors. The chrome trim panel at the base of the window would be quite thick; a feature that carries into the quarter panel opera windows as well.  This is forgivable and not really worth fretting about. I just thought it was interesting, in comparison to the model kits available today, which would probably have scale-thickness doors and flush-fitting quarter glass, if such a kit were available.

 

Don’t let the flaws fool you.  They’re understandable and forgivable considering we’re dealing with a 25+ year old kit that is long out of production.  The rest of the detailing, aka the important stuff, is dead-on and begs to be seen.  Even by today’s standards, the shell still rates a solid 8 on a 10-point scale.  No Granada or Monarch fan would be disappointed!

 

Underframe, Tires, Axles, and Wheels

 

The underframe is a no-nonsense, straightforward part. It’s a flat piece of plastic with enough chassis detail cast one side to be interesting, but it’s not contest-quality resolution either.  Still, components such as the frame rails, lower control arms, oil pan, catalytic converters, mufflers and exhaust, floorboards, differential, gas tank, and leaf springs are all evident.  There are two holes for the set of screws to thread through and fasten the underframe into the lugs molded onto the underside of the body shell.  The underframe is sized such that it nestles snug into the body shell once it’s screwed into place: very nice touch!

 

 

 

The tires are your basic generic fare: hard semi-rubberized black plastic with a generic tread pattern, and “Super Mini-Lind” sidewall lettering.   The wheels are molded in clear plastic with chrome plating, and are potentially troublesome.  It seems this plastic does not age well, and as a result either the chrome finish may be dull or worn, or the plastic will be brittle, or both.  This was evident in both of my kits… both sets were brittle, and on the Granada, the chrome had completely worn off, to the extent that I wonder if they were chromed at all!   Still, with care you shouldn’t have any trouble trimming the sprue bits from the wheels, pressing the wheels into the tires, and then onto the axles, without breaking them. You can also paint the wheels in a chrome or argent color if the original finish is worn (I got creative with the clear ones on my Granada).

 

The detail of the wheels themselves is at first hard to pinpoint, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover they are actual Ghia wheels from the 1975-1976 cars! Many different kinds of wheels and hubcaps were offered in real life, and lots of model kits simply substituted “generic” wheels, so this is no insignificant detail!  The kit wheels evoke a small spoke pattern connecting a central hub to a thick outer rim with what could have been an optionally painted trim ring.  In real life, these wheels are somewhat rare, but I have photos of them.  Over the years there were other Granada and Monarch wheels that featured each of these elements, but not quite all at once like this.   

 

Cutouts exist in the underframe where the wheels go, and two lugs are present in each one, to hold the axles square. Two more cutouts exist where the part of the underframe is pushed up to form tabs to hold the axles level.  The plastic is not soft enough to allow the tabs to serve as any sort of suspension, so unless you want to replicate the Granada’s Achilles heel, aka the infamous Sagging Leaf Springs, breaking them would not be a good thing!  Each axle slides between a set of lugs on one side of the underframe, under the tab, and out between the lugs on the other side.  Thus, the model has a pretty rigid suspension. (It sure beats sagging leaf springs, though!)

 

Interior Parts

 

If there were a part of this kit I would consider disappointing, this is it.  I have seen other Lindberg kits of the period, such as a lowly 1978 Chevy Monza 2+2, that had every last interior panel and knob accounted for.  Compared to that, there’s little to get excited about here.  In fairness though, the other models are in the larger 1/24 scale, and it’s possible that the entire line of 1/32 snap kits of the period were pretty lacking in the interior department. Still, the overall flavor is there, and Spartan may be a good thing, as I will explain:

 

The three interior parts are molded in a color different from the body shell.  I can’t speak for intent or taste, so there’s no telling what kinds of color contrasts were packed or what you’ll end up with.  My Monarch came as a green body with black interior (um, no?) but the Granada was yellow with a white interior (better…). Listings on ebay auctions seem to yield even more color combinations. Again, there’s no telling what’s inside a sealed box.

 

 The floor and seat assembly isn’t a true “assembly” as it’s molded in one piece.  It features a rough stylized texture meant to simulate carpet, but it is not as fine as the texture on the vinyl roof.  In fact, my first thought after looking at it was “shag pile”.  The seats are bucket front with headrests, and bench rear.  The rear seat seems a bit narrow though, as if this piece could have been used in a convertible; in reality this is to give sufficient depth to the wheelwells. There is a small deck behind the rear seats, and a firewall at the front of the part.  The detail on the seats loosely resembles the prototype base-trim vinyl seats, but is not an exact match, and could be generic to any other model kit.  There is some sort of console between the front seats, but again, it is not an exact match to any real Granada I have ever seen.  There is not even a transmission shifter (which would have been interesting since real Granadas with floor shifters are extremely rare).  Speaking of transmissions, the driveshaft tunnel runs from the firewall and stops at the center console; the rear floorboard is flat. The assembly nestles snugly between tabs cast onto the top of the underframe. But in spite of the fact that it fits very well into the assembled model, it seems designed as a generic stand-in that could have been modified for use in other kits as well.

 

  If the seats are generic and indistinguishable, at least the dash is better.  You can clearly recognize the overall shape, and the trim panel in front of the passenger’s seat is there, complete with a raised spot in the center where the name badge or optional clock went in the real cars.  Moving over to the driver’s side, an instrument cluster is present. A couple random buttons, and a centered, square speedometer panel further identify it as a Granada / Monarch dash, but at this scale, there’s no real distinguishing features.  There is a lip molded under the dash piece, to align with the top of the firewall on the floor / seat assembly.

 

The steering wheel and column screams “Ford Motor Company in the 1970’s” and was doubtlessly used in many, many other Ford model kits (just as the real ones were!).   It inserts into a notch cut into the firewall, under the dash.

 

Even though the kits were marketed as not requiring glue, and it is indeed possible to assemble them that way, I personally prefer to fasten the dash to the firewall with glue. You can even use white glue, should you ever want to separate them again. Also, the steering wheel has a tendency to sag if you don’t dab a little glue on the column and wait for it to set when you insert it into the firewall notch.

 

Overall, the interior is there to get the silhouettes in place… nothing more, nothing less.  But this is perfectly understandable by the standards of the time: at 1/32 scale, with the interior in the car, you really can’t see much in there anyway, unlike the exterior where everything is plain to see. The dashboard is a nice piece however, and is actually visible; when painted appropriately to represent the fake wood trim, and touched up with some black spots on the instrument panel and where the A/C ducts would have been, it looks very good indeed!

 

Which brings me to my only real gripe about the kit: There are no interior door trim panels!  I can understand not needing super detailing on the seats and floor on a 1/32 scale car, but if you look through the side window, the bare door interior staring back on the other side is hard to ignore.  Painting it is a good start.  Maybe I’m too picky, but I might try molding my own out of clay.  And that may actually be a blessing in disguise:  Depending on packages, trim levels and options, there was a dizzying array of interior panels used on Granadas and Monarchs (I could probably think of at least a dozen off the top of my head), so if you are so inclined, you could fashion your own to be exactly the one you want.

 

Exterior Trim / Chrome / Detail Parts

 

Finally, we get to the assortment of small parts that plug into the little holes on the body shell.  Not surprisingly, these parts are what give the model its character and identify it as one year/model vs. another.

 

Let’s start with headlights, as they clarify an earlier statement.  I said that the car was truly only 100% accurate for a 1975-1976 Granada, so let’s analyze:  First, the headlights are round, which makes it a 1975-1977. 1978-1980 cars featured square headlights and did not have the fancy turn signals.   Also, we eliminated late 1976-77 due to the automaker’s name being on the header panel and not the grille.  So that narrows the years, but what about the Monarch kit? Why is it not 100%, even if the year is correct? The answer is, because the headlight bezels included for either kit feature the chromed hollow-bar-grid texture that was ONLY used on the Granada thru 1977.  Monarchs had a solid “dish” headlight bezel, painted or chromed, surrounded by a square chrome trim ring.  The turn signals also differed:  Granadas had a solid piece of glass, whereas Monarchs had the same glass but with 5 horizontal chrome ribs wrapping across it (another popular 1970’s FoMoCo styling cue). These features visually set the cars apart, so there you have it. Still, the parts are interchangeable on the real cars, so… don’t let it bother you too much.

 

Nitpicks aside, the headlight bezels themselves are chrome-plated clear plastic, just like the wheels.  The casting detail is quite good!  I don’t know the technical term for the hollow-grid-bar pattern used on the 75-77 Granada front, but it is cleanly and crisply reproduced.  The headlights have a nice reflector lens pattern on them, and the turn signal lenses also mimic an appropriate prototype reflection pattern too, but without the shield/crest emblem that was present on the Granada.  The same piece can be used on either the left or right side: just flip it over.  These pieces (and the taillights and bumpers) need to be removed from sprue within the kit itself, so a little flash cleanup is necessary to get a good flush fit.

 

While we’re at the front, let’s get the grilles accounted for. Unlike the headlights, these ARE model-correct.  The Granada’s is fantastic, and has the grid-bar pattern finely reproduced (another detail that limits its pass-off potential for the 78-80 cars, which had a more simplified pattern).  My kit exhibited the strange lack of chrome on this part, which I can’t determine as either intentional, age-related, or due to previous handling.  Nonetheless, it was see-through and looked a little odd until I touched it up a bit.  The Monarch grille is simpler: just the “waterfall” vertical-bar pattern. Mine had all of its chrome plating and looks great on the car. Both grilles insert into a large socket on the front of the shell, with a tight near-precision fit, so the net effect is that the grille looks fully seated and clean on the front of the car, and the proper wrap-around effect is present.  Very, very nice!

 

 

Let’s get the bumpers out of the way.  They’re pretty straightforward after all, we’re only talking about bumpers.  But they do feature the ever-popular (at the time) vertical rub bars, both front and rear. The entire piece is chrome-plated so you will need to paint the rubber pad portion.  You should also paint the lower radiator air intake holes on the front bumper with a flat black color.  It should also be noted that the chrome plating itself may be rather dull, but this is easily rectified with new paint.

 

Finally, onto the taillights. Once again, we have clear plastic parts with chrome plating. They are also interchangeable between left and right sides, and nestle into sockets for a nice effect. Unfortunately the Monarch gets another strike against it as the taillights are once again only accurate for a Granada.  Only Granadas had the split-horizontal taillights with solid center backup lens, and that’s what we have here.  Monarchs had full solid panels, with the amber in the center (or no amber at all on some models).   On the other hand, the effect is subtle enough to be duly noted by someone looking for it, yet be safely overlooked by someone who isn’t as concerned.  A true purist might also note that while the chrome surrounds are represented on each color panel, the crest and shield emblem that Ghias had on the backup lens is not.  Oh well… you can’t have everything!

 

 

Tweaks and Tips

 

Now that I’m done rambling about the parts, let me offer a few tips and observations here that I couldn’t fit above.

 

  1. I cannot stress this enough: Unless you are a true god of the model paintbrush (which I readily concede that I am not), DON’T EVEN THINK about painting the body with a traditional paintbrush!!  it’s likely that you will do one of two things: 1) You’ll end up getting too much paint over those wonderful fender and hood / trunk emblems, thus diminishing their fine detail – or – 2) You’ll thin your paint so it won’t puddle up the details, but then color won’t stick to the model either, and you’ll have a fine mess.  At least I’ll admit that’s always been my problem!  An airbrush will give you a far more even, consistent coat, get into those tiny cracks, seams, and crevices, and most importantly, not leave any nasty brushstrokes!  As hard as these models are to find, you don’t want to risk ruining them in the paint booth.  Of course, that’s just the opinion of someone who is not quite the master brush painter… so if you are more skilled, then feel free to ignore my advice.
  2. Try stripping the chrome off the turn signal and taillight lenses (front and back).  If you use Testors taillight enamels, they will actually appear transparent when you’re done. The effect is subtle but great! 
  3. I wet-sanded the roof to make the landau (half-vinyl roof) option. Use modeler’s sandpaper in  progressively finer grits and be careful on the A-pillars.
  4. I nitpicked about specific model year details strictly to be imformative.  Don’t let anyone stop you from using these models to represent the 1977-1980 cars. 99% of the general population won’t know the difference (of course, the 1981-82 cars were significantly different!).  Following are some suggestions for modifying to your specific year / model:
    1. For 1975-1977 Monarchs: You could fill or file the headlight bezel detail to be smoother, and paint the bezel appropriately. Or just paint it without all the filing. Painting the center taillight panel amber (leave the inboard one white) is an easy and immediately obvious change.

For 1978-1980 cars:

    1. You’ll have a bigger task up front.  The Monarch grille can be used without complaint but Granadas were more simplified these years. You can try painting the entire grille black, and then highlight the major gridlines with silver (thus hiding the “hollow box” in each grid space… this is the best you can hope for since it would take a sadist to actually file them down). To make an ESS, you can leave the grille mostly black and paint just the major horizontal grid bars.   
    2. For the “modernized” headlights and turn signals, your only option is to use putty and make your own by filling in the entire notch.  Fortunately, the square headlights would be forgiving to carve, but this still requires patience and skill (more than this author has). 
    3. For taillights: Don’t forget to change the center taillight panel to amber on a Granada and red on a Monarch. On both models the inboard panel was white. Also, there was no chrome or argent trim between the panels.
    4. For a unique touch, cut a small piece of styrene to make the “twindow” bar that was popular on the 78-80 cars (I did this on mine).  You could also make a solid panel and flare it out slightly with louvers for an ESS.
  1. You could surely swap wheels from other 1/32 kits.  A set of full-spoke or turbine wheels would be an authentic and interesting substitute.
  2. The stock mirrors would be easy enough to fabricate… just cut a small square and mounting shaft, paint silver and mount on the car.  Sport (aerodynamic) mirrors would best be made out of modeling clay.   A thin piece of .080” wire would make a fine antenna.   Hood ornaments might be more difficult, though!  

 

Conclusion

 

While their status as the ONLY replicas of their namesake arguably makes them the “Holy Grail” for the American Granada or Monarch fan, these Lindberg kits are excellent additions to any model car collection.  Their relative rarity makes them a centerpiece, and they represent a rare type of kit: one that honors a commonly overlooked nameplate that served the “everyman” driver well in its day.  Considering their age, the level of detail holds up well, even against today’s CAD-assisted, precision-molded kits.  Their snap-fit design and ease of assembly means that the model can be assembled and enjoyed, yet still be disassembled to retain the “original condition” appearance that “mothballer” collectors insist on.  And, the literally countless variations in the prototypes’ appearance means that modelers will have no trouble creating a unique and personal yet realistic model.  In short, it’s a must-have kit for both the discerning model collector, and Ford Granada / Mercury Monarch enthusiast.

 

 

Thanks for reading my review.  If you would like to share any constructive comments, corrections, or suggestions, I would gladly welcome them at goingincirclez@msn.com.   Finally, I do hope to get better pictures for this document in the near future.  My digital camera has been having major focusing problems lately.


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