This article might seem either interesting to you, or maybe awkward, depending on which decade you grew up in. For the former, this article will serve as a good dose of reminiscence while the latter might probably imagine how weird Ghana’s roads looked like.
In all, this article will make you appreciate how fast Ghana’s streets have evolved due to changing trends in the automotive industry and how interesting the future might look like. Here are 10 of the most popular sedans in Ghana before the 21st century.
1. Peugeot 504
Having had a long, rich legacy of durability and styling in much of Europe and the world over, it wasn’t a tough decision for Ghana’s middle and upper class to fall in love with the French-made Peugeot 504. The 504 was adjudged ‘European Car of the Year’ in 1969, after which its fame spread across much of Africa in the 1970s and 1980s. Its popularity in West Africa was aided by the siting of a 504 production plant in Nigeria.
In Ghana, the 504’s durability assured its survival on the streets for a long time. In fact, the wagon version, which was given the nickname ‘one pound, one pound’ became popular in the 1980s and 1990s on the Accra-Aflao stretch. The few surviving 504s are still on the streets of Accra, with most being used as commercial cars that shuffle between Nkrumah Circle, Dansoman, and North Kaneshie.
2. Nissan/Datsun Bluebird
Probably the most popular sedan marques in Ghana before the 21st century, Nissan and Datsun (both produced by Nissan Motor Company of Japan) gained much recognition in Ghana in the 1980s with their Bluebird model.
The Bluebird was very visible in most parts of the country and was virtually used by all and sundry in the city centres for both private and commercial purposes. It was known for its durability and agility and with its powertrain ranging between 1.6- to 2.0-litre engines, the Bluebird was always ahead of its competitors including the Lada Nova but slightly behind the Toyota Corona.
3. Lada Nova/Riva
From Russia, with love! This Soviet-made (Russian) sedan was marketed under two names – Lada Riva in the United Kingdom and Lada Nova over the rest of Europe. The Nova model was popular in Ghana because they were mostly left-hand drives while the Riva meant for the UK market had its steering wheel on the right.
The Lada Nova/Riva cars were not hard to find on the streets of Accra because quite a number of civil servants owned a Nova/Riva. Its popularity was, among other reasons, due to its fuel-efficiency. Most of the trims available in Ghana at that time had engines ranging from 1.2-to 1.6-litre and were usually 4-speed manual cars.
4. Toyota Corona/Carina
Traditionally the main competitor for the Nissan/Datsun Bluebird, the Toyota Corona gained some prestige in Ghana in the 1980s because of the power its engines delivered, which surpassed those in the Bluebird range at the time. The 1980 Corona’s engine capacity ranged from 1.6- to 2.4-litre, so much power for a saloon car at that time.
Possibly the Toyota Camry of that era, the Corona was used by senior public servants and lawyers. Its sister model, the Toyota Carina, received similar recognition around the 1980s too, although its engine capacity was less than that of the Corona. The Carina had engines ranging from 1.4- to 2.0-litre. However, both cars were known for their sleek interior, distinctive bodywork and strong engine, the features that made the duo win the hearts of many Ghanaians in that decade.
5. Mercedes-Benz 300D (W123)
The Mercedes-Benz 300D, also called the W123, was recognised as a top-notch luxury car for Ghana’s elite and political class in the 1980s. The 300D offered everything the affluent in society could ask for in that decade. It had a stylish and spacious interior and its engines which ranged from 2.0- to 3.0-litre offered more power than anyone could ask for at that time.
In addition to its 4- and 5-speed manual transmissions, some models of the 300D also came with a 4-speed automatic transmission, a new and rare technology at that time. Much respect was accorded to users of the Mercedes-Benz 300D in Ghana in the 1980s. It therefore, came as no surprise that W123 models surpassed their predecessor, the Mercedes-Benz W114 models, to become the most successful Mercedes, selling 2.7 million cars before it was replaced with the Mercedes-Benz W124 after 1985.
6. Opel Rekord/Ascona/Kadett
These three Opel models served different classes of Ghana’s society in the 1980s. The Rekord was an executive car and deemed as a substitute to the Mercedes-Benz, probably because both marques are German-made. It served the purpose of those elites who either wanted to save a few cedis on their car purchase or did not want to be in the limelight.
The Ascona, which was a large family car, and the Kadett, a small family car, were both used by middle class families in Ghana’s cities and were later used as taxis as they aged. The Ascona has since had its name changed twice – first to Vectra in 1988 and then to Insignia in 2008. The Kadett was also replaced by the Astra in 1991.
7. Hyundai Pony
The Hyundai Pony is the only South Korean car on the list. The small sedan was South Korea’s first mass-produced car from 1975 to 1990. The Pony was a popular vehicle on Ghana’s roads in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Pony’s powertrain ranged from 1.2- to 1.6-litre engines, making it one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the list – similar to the Lada Nova/Riva. The Pony is no longer in production. It was replaced with the Hyundai Excel and the Excel was replaced with the Accent.
8. Mitsubishi Galant
With its engines ranging from 1.6- to 2.5-litre, the Mitsubishi Galant of the 1980s had an engine spec for every one and every pocket – both those who had low budget for fuel or those who wanted more power.
The Galant was very popular among the working class in the 1980s in Ghana. It was seen almost everywhere in the city centres, especially in Accra. It came in 5-speed manual and 3-speed automatic and with engine sizes ranging from 1.6- to 2.5-litre.
9. VW Jetta
Arguably the most fuel-efficient German sedan export at the time, the base versions of the Jetta had a 1.1-litre engine while top of the range had a 1.6-litre engine, still very fuel-efficient than most of the sedans in this list. In fact, the Jetta’s engine size was just same as that of the compact car VW Type 1, popularly known as the ‘Beetle’ or ‘Apotro car’ in Ghana.
The Jetta of the 1980s came in 3-speed automatic, 4-speed manual and 5-speed manual. It was the ideal car that earned decent respect for the middle to upper class in Ghana in the 1980s. You probably might have known someone who owned a Jetta.
10. Honda Prelude
Fitted with a sunroof, having a power steering, and boasting of a sporty look with its two doors (all as standard features), the Prelude was indeed the ideal sport coupe of the 1980s. Although the Prelude wasn’t too common on Ghana’s roads compared to the others on this list, it was embraced by the ‘old but young at heart’.
The 1978-1982 Prelude, which were common in Ghana in the 1980s, came with 1.6- and 1.8-litre engines and had various transmissions – 2- and 3-speed automatic and 5-speed manual. The Prelude was simply the most economical sport car of the time.