Ford revamps model names and options to stay with customer desires

First you see it; then you don't. If you're looking for a Ford Fairmont wagon in 1982, you'll have to look to the Ford-built Granada, not the Fairmont. Both car lines are intermediates and about the same size.

In fact, there isn't even a Fairmont in 1982, if you want to be exact, because all Fairmont cars become Futuras. It just shows the identity crisis that now is barging into the auto industry and may confuse the car buyer even more than he is by the price gyrations and numerous efforts of the auto industry to get the public to buy.

Ford, which will introduce an all-new Fairmont lineup in 1983, has opted to switch the wagon to the Granada, thus leaving the 2-door coupe and sedan series as Futuras. Then next year the company will scrub the current Futura lineup entirely for an all-new front-drive replacement, code-named Topaz.

Meanwhile, the up-scale Granada series gets its first station wagon, complete with Squire woodgrain side trim.

Smaller than the full-size LTD, it does its job with fewer stops at the fuel pump. Standard engine is a 3.3-liter, in-line ''6'' with lockup automatic transmission and two trims, the L at at a base price touching $8,000; and the GL at some $400 more. A 3.8-liter V-6 is an option all across the Granada line. The fully loaded version I've been driving for the past few days carries a total price, including a bevy of options, of $11,480.

For one thing, the tailgate is hinged at the top and swings up with ease. But so does the tailgate window glass as well. With a few light items to drop into the back, all you have to do is swing up the window. For heavier cargo, lift up the entire tailgate.

The Granada wagon ride is soft - most US motorists seem to like it that way - while the handling is sure, smooth, and quick.

Indeed, getting back to the confusion now slipping into the terminology of the genre, all the car manufacturers are in the same fix.

Ford has retired the Lincoln Continental for the Continental alone. Speak of a Lincoln and a Lincoln Town Car drives up to the curb.

In some cases, Pontiac is switching to numbers in line with some of the imports, both European and Japanese. The Pontiac J-2000 is its version of the General Motors J-car; and the A-6000 is the old LeMans. No longer the Century, Buick now dubs its 4-door sedan and wagon the Regal. The Century returns later when the new front-drive A-bodies hit the road.

Look for a lot more Nissans on the road, not Datsuns which have identified the Japanese maker's cars and light trucks up to now. The Nissan Stanza does not carry a number, following in the tire tracks of the Maxima before it. (It makes it much easier for the automotive reporter who has always felt it necessary to use the name Nissan after the word Datsun, or vice versa, in a story.)

What the auto industry looks for now is surely not confusion, but consensus - and the hope that a lot more people will buy.

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