1973 Ford Mustang Grandé: The Mustang Brougham
You know the Mustang, I know the Mustang, most everybody knows the Mustang. Well … the obvious ones, anyway. Shelby GT 350, 1965 2+2 GT, Boss 302, Boss 429. All the usual suspects. But there are a lot of Mustangs out there that have been nearly elbowed off the stage, overwhelmed by their hi-test, high-value brethren. In fact, should you mention certain Mustangs to certain Mustang owners, you may cause them to grow pale and run away. Mustang II! Mustang Grandé! Mustang Ghia! Mustang L! Mustangs with six-cylinder engines and wheel covers! Augh! In gold!
For some, it’s like throwing cloves of garlic at a vampire. But let me tell you, I love those Mustangs, which were the majority of Mustangs back in the ’60s and ’70s. And the Broughamiest pony of them all is the subject of today’s post: the Grandé, available from 1969–73.
The Mustang was the Falcon that went to finishing school and came back better than ever, nearly unrecognizable, and was an instant success. Designed from the start to be eminently configurable for nearly any whim or taste, it could be equipped as anything from a basic inline-six, zero-option suburban runabout, to a thoroughbred V-8 sprinter. And the available extras, colors, and trim levels only expanded as the decade wore on. The 1967–68s got new sheetmetal and a bigger engine bay to accommodate big-block power, thanks to Bunkie Knudsen.
The 1969 model year delivered another restyling, adding a little more length in the process. A luxury model, the Grandé, made its first appearance in Ford showrooms. And while all 1969 Mustangs appeared, well, grande, they were only 3.8 inches longer than the ’68 models and rode the same 108-inch wheelbase. The Mustang Grandé was the Mustang aping the Mercury Cougar for a change.
The Grandé was rather elegant, with its subtle metallic colors, notchback roofline, vinyl roof, full wheel covers, whitewalls, and, of course, a suitably plush interior. Grandés were priced about $200 above the basic Mustang hardtop (that’s about $1500 today).
The Grandé was the Ford mothership coming back to an idea that first appeared at the Lincoln-Mercury division: the Mercury Cougar XR-7. Meant as an upper-crust Mustang variant for L-M dealers, the Cougar was a nicely styled pony car, with its finer interior, Schick electric-razor grille, and concealed headlamps.
Poor Mercury: Perpetually moving between junior Lincoln and upper-crust Ford over the decades. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Mercury finally came up with something new, a luxury pony car, and then two years later Mustang copied it. Yes, of course they two are corporate cousins, but the ’69 Grandé looks an awful lot like a knockoff of the Cougar XR-7, right down to the plush seats, roof line, and chrome trim. At least the Cougar still set itself apart with its hidden headlights and full-width taillamps, compared to the luxury Mustang.
The 1969 Grandé sold 22,182 copies, not bad for a first-year model. It was a simple formula. Take a standard model, dress it up, add more chrome and a vinyl top, and presto! More profit. So naturally, the Grandé returned for ’70.
Ford was a natural at this, due to Lee Iacocca’s love of all things Brougham. It started with the LTD, then moved through the line: Ford F100 Ranger, Gran Torino, Thunderbird Landau. There were even Luxury Decor Groups for the Maverick and Pinto, for heaven’s sake. Despite a new vinyl canopy-roof option, Grandé sales were down, to the tune of 13,581 units. Perhaps that was due to the availability of more tantalizing ’70 Mustangs like the Boss 302 (my favorite Mustang; Dad had one in Grabber Yellow), Boss 429, and Mach 1. By 1970, the writing was on the wall for muscle cars. Perhaps more folks wanted a Mach 1 or Boss for one last hurrah, rather than Grandé luxury.
Mustang was redesigned once again for 1971. Compared to previous versions, the ’71 Mustang was kind of a lead sled, appearance-wise. The “classic” Mustang look had been replaced with a billiard table-size hood, smooth sides, and flying buttress C-pillars on the hardtop, reminiscent of the 1968 Charger.
The ’71s were longer, lower, and wider than any previous Mustang, but—as with the ’69 model—the look was in large part an optical illusion. Versus their predecessors, they had a wheelbase only one inch longer, and a mere 1/10th-inch in additional overall length.
As expected, the hardtop, fastback, and convertible all returned for ’71. The Boss 302 and Boss 429 had been dropped, although a new Boss 351 fastback offered partial compensation. In terms of power, everything was available, from a 145-hp, 250-cu-in six to a Ram Air Super Cobra Jet 429 with 375 horses. Six-cylinder Grandés started at $3117 ($21,050 today), and V-8s at $3212 ($21,700).
You’d think Ford would have consulted a Spanish-English dictionary before bestowing “Grandé” nomenclature on these plush mini-T-Birds. In Spanish, “Grandé” means “large,” not “great” or “grand.” Unintentionally accurate, eh? Well, it looked good in fancy script.
The 1973 Mustangs, like all ’73 cars sold in the United States, received a 5-mph front “safety” bumper. Unlike some other makes and models, however, it was not a gigantic chrome “park bench” or the ’72 bumper with honking huge bumper guards.
The ’73s featured an integrated, color-keyed front bumper, which looked pretty good compared to how some other manufacturers were coping with the new bumper regulations.
The 1973 Grandé had a 109-inch wheelbase, overall length of 193.8 inches, and a curb weight of 3059 pounds. MSRP before options was $2946. For comparison’s sake, a plain Jane ’73 Mustang hardtop had a base price of $2760 ($18,150).
By comparison, a 1965 Mustang had a 108-inch wheelbase, was 181.6 inches long, had a curb weight of 2583 pounds, and carried a base price of $2372 ($20,600). So we’re talking about one inch of wheelbase, about a foot of extra length, and about 300 pounds added when discussing this generation. And the 1972 Mustang had a length of 189.51 inches, so the extra 4 inches on ’73s was due to the new 5-mph bumper.
So, while it was not exactly a Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham, it certainly looked much bigger, especially with that billiard table-sized hood. And just for chuckles, the 2021 Mustang is 188 inches long, with a 107.1-inch wheelbase and curb weight of about 3500–3800 pounds. Even the new variant isn’t drastically different in its overall footprint, which is pretty impressive considering it’s been on the market for 56 years.
Whether you ordered your Mustang as a hardtop, convertible, or fastback, or even as a Grandé, you got the same engine: a 250-cubic-inch inline six-cylinder with 95 horsepower. But as was the case with pretty much every American car back then, you could easily option up some more oomph. In the Mustang’s case, you could get the ubiquitous 302 V-8 with 136 hp or go top drawer with the 351 V-8, available in either 154- or 156-hp guises. And keep in mind that although those figures don’t sound so exciting to modern ears, the two V-8s certainly provided additional torque, compared to the Falcon/Maverick six.
But I am certain that there were still many Mustangs coming off the assembly line with the base 250 that year and plenty without stripes, spoilers, and Magnum 500 styled steel wheels. And plenty of plain white base hardtops with hubcaps and no A/C. Even the Grandé itself was more of a mini-me Thunderbird than a high-horsepower bruiser. It was for people who wanted a little luxury and style, but without the price tag and big-car dimensions of the Thunderbird or LTD.
Hey, it was 1973. The Baby Boomers were growing up, starting their professional careers, and having kids. Just a few years later they were likely buying LTD wagons and Cutlass Supreme coupes.
With that in mind, the Grande was actually a nice, plush boulevardier. Broughamy, yet sporty as well. No, it wasn’t a classic ’65 Mustang, but no one was going to mistake it for a Custom 500 or Biscayne either. To my eyes, this Mustang has some style—and clearly remains a Mustang with the characteristic long hood, short deck, and triple taillights. The lines are clean and trim, at least when compared with the bulky, frequently awkward silvermist and refrigerator-white CUVs and SUVs that we see on the road today.
The 1971–73 Grandés received all the usual Mustang features, plus bright pedal pads, deluxe cloth-and-vinyl high-back bucket seats, deluxe instrument panel and steering wheel, electric clock, special door panels with integral door pulls and armrests, dual paint accent stripes, color-keyed sport mirrors, bright rocker and wheel lip moldings, vinyl roof, and more.
Annual Grandé sales for the 1971–73 period were 17,406, 18,045 and 25,274, respectively, a telling sign of the advancement of Broughamage in America. Plush was in! And while both the Grandé and the zaftig Mustang would go away after ’73, the Brougham Mustang would carry on in Bristol fashion through the early Fox-body years, albeit as a Ghia, not a Grandé.
Ford was now trumpeting comfort and handling, not quarter-mile drama—rising insurance costs had seen to that. After ’73, the Grandé and the convertible were dropped; eventually, the convertible would return, but the Grandé would not.
I spotted this excellent green Grandé (Medium Green Metallic, according to the 1973 Ford color chart) in downtown Davenport, Iowa, in September 2017, just as summer was starting to fade to autumn. I was on my way somewhere, but upon noticing this rather uncommon FoMoCo product sitting off of Iowa Street, I immediately pulled over, parked, and walked back to check it out.
It was in remarkably nice shape, from the paint to the sheetmetal to the upholstery. It was either a restoration or an amazingly well-preserved original, perhaps with a fresh paint job. It was for sale too, though there was only a number and no price listed. It will make a nice cruise-night car/Sunday driver for someone. And I bet it will get a lot more attention at shows than more frequently sighted Mustangs.
Yes, the Grandé was a kind of odd offshoot of the classic pony car. Luxury over sportiness, but not over-the-top Broughaminess like a Frank Cannon-approved Continental Mark IV. You don’t see these very often any more, not even at shows. Not even at Ford-centric shows. So spotting this Me Decade Mustang made my day.