I have always loved the Ford LTD. The top trim full-size Ford. Top of the heap. The most Broughamtastic. But what does LTD stand for? There are many opinions. One favorite is “Luxury Trim Decor.” But no one is certain. Ford never truly defined it. But no matter what one’s opinion is on the lux-Ford acronym, one thing it most certainly meant was luxury.
If I start talking about the LTD’s history, we’ll be here all night. And I want to focus on my favorite, the 1975-78 models, so let’s try to be concise, shall we? The Ford LTD first came on the scene in 1965, as a deluxe trim Galaxie 500, available initially in two- and four-door hardtop versions.
In that same record-sales year for Detroit of 1965, its arch-rival, the Chevrolet Caprice, also appeared, initially as only a four-door hardtop.
It was an interesting time. Muscle cars and pony cars were still going gangbusters in the mid Sixties, but Brougham was just starting to make incursions into the buying public’s mind-beyond the expected Cadillac, Lincoln and Imperial mindset, of course.
The ‘Low-Priced Three” suddenly had luxury! Power accessories, padded top, ample chrome, whitewalls and all the expected finery. Even Plymouth got into the act with the VIP, a super-deluxe trim Fury, but it only lasted through the 1969 model year. But the LTD, now that had some staying power.
From 1965-67 it was largely a deluxe Galaxie, with premium trim, “panty cloth” deluxe upholstery, luxury wheel covers and padded top. Starting in 1968, hidden headlamps were added. And the top of the line Ford wagon, the Country Squire, added the LTD full width grille with those aforementioned hidden lamps.
And so it went. The LTD was always the premium big Ford. By the early 1970s, it was an institution. Standard Ford, full deluxe trim, hidden headlamps, premium interior, full power. A Lincoln Continental. Not quite, but not bad.
The Galaxie 500, formerly the belle of the ball, slowly but surely became second banana. The LTD reigned supreme.
The final year for the Galaxie 500 in any way, shape or form was in model year 1974. By that time, it was clearly not the flossy, gadget-laden motorcar it had been in say, 1964. Still a nice car, no doubt about it, but not strictly first cabin.
When the 1975 Fords debuted in model year 1975, the Galaxie 500, that bastion of upper-middle class standard of upper-middle class suburban modernity, was no more.
In its place were LTDs. Lots of them, in three trim levels. Base LTD, the middle class Bloomfield Hills-approved LTD Brougham, and the top of the line, first cabin LTD Landau.
The Landau was as close as you could get to a Lincoln Continental Town Car at your favorite local Ford store.
True, it was still a Ford, but the resemblance to more formidable and Broughamy FoMoCo luxury sleds was unmistakable.
It may not have been a Continental Town Coupé, but it still had about 75% of the look, with its opera window, fender skirts, padded vinyl premium bodyside molding, and Landau roof…
And luxury cloth interior, with deluxe embroidering on the seatbacks, plush carpeting, power you-name-it…
Opera windows, and full six-passenger accommodations!
And if you wanted plush, top-tier LTD Landau featues, but preferred to omit the fender skirts, that was no problem whatsoever! In that case, the deluxe vinyl bodyside molding simply followed the rear wheelwell outlines, and carried on to the rear bumper.
And if you preferred glove-soft vinyl to cloth, that was also no problem.
In fact, a special cream and gold two tone vinyl was available to LTD Landau buyers, a very comfortable-and compelling-choice.
At any rate, the Ford LTD was a favorite among luxury (or is that near-luxury, in today’s terms?) full-size buyers in the mid Seventies.
The 1976 LTD Landau retailed for $5,613 as a coupe and for $5,560 as a sedan.
The ’76 Landau coupe stood in at 4,346 pounds. 29,673 were built.
Alongside 35,663 Landau sedans.
1977 LTD Landaus were largely the same as the 1976s, but with one distinction. The 1977 Caprice Classic, the LTD’s cross-town rival for years, was newly downsized.
Not everyone was totally enamored of the shrunken Chevies (at least, not yet) and so LTD sales got a bit of a bump sales-wise.
1977 Ford LTD Landau sales went from 35,663 to 65,030, at $5,742 a pop. Curb weight of these fender-skirted, hidden-headlamped yachts was 4,319 for the sedan and 4,270 four the Landau coupe.
1977 Ford LTD Landau coupe sales, by the way, were 44,396. Price? $5,717 each.
The final year for these Broughamtastic FoMoCo yachts was 1978. Changes were few. Which was good. Because they were so excellent.
I have to confess. I’m biased. I’ve always loved these LTDs. Especially in Landau guise, with hidden headlamps, extra chrome, and interior plushness. I saw the featured car, a triple Jade Green 1977 Landau sedan, at the 2018 Nauvoo Grape Festival car show this past Labor Day weekend. As soon as I saw it, I fell deep in lust with its Jade Broughaminess, and knew I was going to write it up.
It was, with apoligies to Ferris Buller, so choice. True, it had some rust, the door panel on the front passenger side was AWOL, and the fender skirts were absent as well. But who cares, in this color? This FoMoCo jade green is one of my most favorite automotive hues, and I couldn’t help but love it.
My mom’s parents had a 1977 LTD II when I was a toddler. Even then, cars were a big deal to me.
I even called my Grandma Mae “Grandma Green Car” way back when, circa 1982, because of their car, which was identical to this one.
So you might understand why I went all gaga when I saw this Jade sedan at the show. It took me back. Wayyyy back! And so, I always treasure seeing these 1970s Jade Ford products, whether an LTD, LTD II, Thunderbird, Continental Town Car or even a Fairmont. It’s just the way I am. I don’t apologize for it! And it’s why whenever I hear the name “LTD” I think, love to drive!
I remember the TV ads Ford ran in 1977 when Chevy downsized the Caprice/Impala. The basic theme was “road hugging weight” that only the still full-sized Ford could supply. I seem to remember they also had some interviews with proud LTD owners who claimed they got 20+ mpg from their LTDs, which I always assumed could be achieved by rolling down a steep hill with the 12 mpg motor turned off.
Those were as tedious to drive as they were pleasurable to ride in…we tend to forget. You didn’t maneuver it, you gave orders to the helm.
I understand the visceral lure of big, ponderous, stately cars…but the only way I’d live with one, is if I could hire a driver. And have my own gas pump.
When these were new, I was getting around in a Super Beetle. Not that economical, compared to today…about 24 mpg; but, noisy and unheated, it still made driving fun.
Beautiful. That triple Jade Green is one of the loveliest color schemes ever applied to an automobile.
I remember my parents looking at these in 1976. Same green inside and out. My 10 year self fell in love with it and I remember being pretty bummed out when my mother chose a maroon Cordoba over the green LTD. In the end I ended up loving the Cordoba. It’s the car i learned to drive and it was much cooler with bucket seats and console shifter. I remember my cheap dad wouldn’t spring for the Corrinthian leather so we were stuck with Corinthian vinyl.
Terrific, as usual. I can remember during this time the amount of time and discussion friends would spend going over the selection of colors and options before buying. Split seats, power seat, type of vinyl roof, cruise control…it just served to make the eventual purchase that much more special.
This was from the era when I first started to notice cars. When the new downsized Chevys came out I thought that these Fords were the most antiquated, old fashioned things on the highway. To this day I generally regard Ford as one step back from the competition, with brief moments of brilliance.
I was driving a 74 Super Beetle back then. I remember these as 4 doors. I have absolutely no recollection of the 2 doors. Back then a Ford was a Granada or a Pinto to me.
my grandfather had a ’77 in that very green/green color, though not a landau (didn’t have hideaway headlamps.) I forget how many trips to Lansing we went on with me sitting unbelted in the center of the front bench seat.
My great-aunt had a base ‘77 coupe in red over red with the brocade fabric. She was maybe 5”5’, and I remember how, despite having power steering that probably could have been operated with a fingertip, she would have to practically manhandle the wheel to turn!
She drove that car for six or seven years, then decided to trade to a new Fox-body LTD (in the classic Ford “Tu-Tone” beige-over-gold) after she pulled to a stop at the end of her street, and the rear bumper fell off due to rust! (That car was so long that she couldn’t close the garage door all the way! Fortunately, the Fox LTD and her next and last car, a ‘91 Taurus, fit, but barely!)
I thought there was a base Custom 500 Sedan and Wagon available after the ‘75 nip-tuck at least through ‘76 or ‘77, but I saw a Custom 500 Coupe for ‘77 on “oldcarbrochures.com,” with a Sedan and Wagon listed in the seating-options chart, but nowhere else in the booklet. I was probably thinking of ‘74, the second year of the new design.
I thought the Galaxie became the bottom line as they moved into the mid & lat ’70’s. Don’t remember any Custom 500’s. Hmmm…& I don’t have any literature to look it up.
Thanks for the memories, Tom! Dad bought a ‘75 Town Coupé in triple green with ‘velvet’ interior. We called it a “road sofa.” I’ll never forget the moan produced by the Motorcraft four barrel when the secondaries opened. Cornering lamps, rear seat reading lamps, opened door reflectors and lamps- it was ‘replaced’ by a four door Chevette automatic, and I was grateful that I was by then old enough to opt out of some family trips.
I saw another like it on CL a few years ago, except this one had leather and a moonroof… not sure if I should be glad I resisted the temptation.
You probably had to go for the 302 newly available to take advantage of the dropping weight to get to that low twenties mpg on the highway. With the relaxed gearing, it won’t be fast. Unless you are comparing it to some more expensive biggest of the line import with a 2 liter engine. None of those will be quieter than a Rolls Royce, although I think Audi claimed more rear legroom, versus the Rolls not the LTD. The value for the money was not LimiTeD on these.
It would have been an interesting test for a downsized Caprice with a 305 to take on a LTD with a 302 and a Gran Fury with a 318. How much economy and speed were you really gaining for the smaller, boxier bodies versus cars sized and styled for more optimistic times
Another great piece by Tom Klockau! I finally got around to reading this – great writing and pictures, as always. These 1975 – ’78 LTDs may be one of maybe five (?) cars of that era that I think look as good with fender skirts as without (not a fan of fender skirts, in general).
I’ve always liked the look of these cars. You mentioned your Grandma Mae – the second car I remember my grandparents owning was a mint-green LTD sedan of this generation.
I can’t take my eyes off all the little, luxury details on these cars – the fabrics, the filigree decorations on both the outer moldings and interior vinyl, the woodgrain, the type fonts – it’s like a nice thrift / vintage store on wheels.
Again, well done.
Watching Barnaby Jones on Decades TV the other weekend he drove Ford LTD’s. The series started with Barnaby driving a 1973 2dr dark brown Brougham and each year Ford furnished a new year model for each season. I have a 1972 LTD 2 dr and I love my car it turns a lot of heads but 1975 thru 1978 were exceptionally nice looking models. My aunt special ordered a 1975 Brougham 2 dr so I had the honor of driving a new 75 LTD in the day.
I do love the ’75 – ’78 2 door Landau’s with fender skirts and hideaway headlights. The 4 doors don’t do so much for me. The 2 doors have the unusual greenhouse with the mini opera windows a little like the Thunderbird’s. I love the ‘Birds of this era as well. I’m sure that the larger rear side windows helped with visibility. Maybe someday I will be able to get one, even though they have weak performance. A little rear gear change could make all the difference.
Thanks for the great article! I inherited my Great Uncle’s 1977 LTD Landau coupe he bought brand new before getting a new job/company truck so it stayed parked in a/c garage with only 30k miles (most just running it on blocks) ever since. I’ve loved/wanted the car since I was 10 years old and can NOT wait to get her running turn key to take family trips!
If I remember correctly, I think LTD was supposed to be an abbreviation for “limited” albeit, in a somewhat cryptic allusion to being a “British” descriptor, thus denoting “class.” Anyone else remember this explanation? Enjoyed your writing.
That’s absolutely the case, and it’s why the most expensive Fords today wear a Limited badge. When the Explorer Limited came out in 1996 to revive that badge, there was much discussion about the LTD.
The problem with the actual LTD wasn’t dissimilar from that facing the Caprice in later years: you used the old highline badge for the whole line. By 1977 every full sized Ford was an LTD.
“1977 Ford LTD Landau sales went from 35,663 to 65,030”
One item you left out in your write-up. The LTD Brougham model was discontinued after ’76; so the ’77 LTD Landau model wound up doing double-duty to some extent. Such was one reason (certainly not the only) why sales nearly doubled.
While the ’77 full-size Fords still enjoyed a nice sales bump (exceeded 400,000 units); sales of the downsized ’77 Chevys broke the 650,000 mark.