And so it was that the Panther replaced the Nimitz-class 1978 Ford LTD and Mercury Marquis. The Lincoln Continental and Mark V got a one-year reprieve and were finally downsized along with their Ford and Mercury brethren for model year ’80.
While similar overall to the big GMs, the Fords were just a little more rectangular, especially the wagons. But they sold, although perhaps not quite to the same phenomenal extent as the B-body Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Oldses and Buicks.
The cars themselves sold respectably. Keep in mind GM was still the 800-lb. gorilla back then, and had more dealers and more brands. And more clout! But when the second gas crisis struck in late 1979–only a year after the Ford and Mercury Panthers debuted–many in the automotive industry wondered if even the downsized full-sizers would play in Peoria.
During 1979-81, it was predicted that gasoline could triple or quadruple from the current rate, and for a while the Panthers were set to expire in about 1983. Pontiac had gone so far as to dump their B-body Bonneville and Catalina in 1981, putting the vaunted Bonneville nameplate on a LeMans with a nose job. If the dire fuel shortages had come to pass, the 1977-style GM B-bodies and FoMoCo Panther platform cars would have likely all been toast circa 1982-84.
The big LTD and Marquis very nearly had the same fate as the big Pontiacs, as the Fox-body LTD and Marquis were intended to replace the Panthers during 1983-84. But then a funny thing happened: The doom and gloom scenario did not appear, and indeed, gas started to drop. People started buying big cars again. Ford changed their plans, and the Panthers became the “Grand Marquis” and “LTD Crown Victoria.”
And thus the LTD hung in there. It had gotten a couple of new grilles and trim pieces between 1979 and 1987, but it was pretty minor, and folks who weren’t seriously into FoMoCo’s Broughamier offerings back then could have had a hard time telling which year was which.
Ford finally gave the big LTD CV a much-needed facelift in 1988. It brought just a little bit of the FoMoCo corporate “aero” look to the Panthers, with a much smoother nose and, on the sedans, the rear quarters and taillamp panel. Coupes were dropped. The LTD wagon and woody Country Squire got the new nose, but the ninety-degree-angle rear quarters carried over. Grand Marquises got the same treatment, but for some reason, I preferred the Fords.
I first saw our featured subject back in winter of 2013 while driving home, at about 10:00 at night. I vowed to return the next morning for pictures, but the next day it was gone. Dagnabit! Fortunately, it reappeared at the end of March. I was very attracted to the deep maroon paint, and the matching leather was an added bonus. I’ve always thought that the luxy big Detroit barges look best in burgundy, navy blue, jade green and black.
It was remarkably well-preserved, save for some wear to the leather on the driver’s seat and armrest. I imagine it was someone’s grandfather’s pride and joy, most likely bought new, until recently. It was very clean, and for sale too. I was tempted…but if I got it that bug deflector on the nose would have to go! Eventually I succumbed to Ford Motor Company Brougham addition, and bought a Town Car about six months after these photos were taken.
There was just something about them. I remember the first 1988 LTD Crown Victoria I saw. I was eight. We had hopped in our cream-yellow 1986 Volvo 240DL wagon and driven to the Wisconsin Dells on vacation, me, Mom, Dad, and my younger brother and sister. We stayed at a neat resort right on the lake. We went on the ducks, took the boat tour of the rock formations, and in general had a fine time.
We had our own cabin, there was an outdoor pool, and me and my younger brother and sister were in hog heaven. I still remember the goofy Dells jingle on the radio, as it played about four times a minute. It started; “Downtown Dells is the place to be…” and was very annoying, even to my second-grade ears. I still remember that dam jingle, thirty years later!
Anyway, one night I went with Mom to go to the main office to get some ice. It was early evening, probably twenty minutes or so to sunset, and there in the parking lot was a brand-new ’88 LTD Crown Victoria. In midnight blue, with the snazzy turbine alloy wheels. I was a Broughamaholic even back then, and was very attracted to that car. Of course, my Volvo-driving parents wouldn’t have touched one of those big boats with a ten-foot pole. Just not their kind of car. More like something my grandparents would enjoy, though they stuck more to Thunderbirds and Lincoln Marks.
Anyway, I’ve always loved the 1988-91 LTD Crown Victoria. And if my cherished childhood memory has not convinced you, might I add it was also the preferred motivation of Andy Griffith, AKA Ben Matlock, TV attorney-at-law. Another classic TV show from the ’80s I remember well. Though I recall that in most episodes he drove the earlier, more squared off LTD Crown Victoria, the 86-87 model. But whether an earlier one or an aero-schnozzed 1988-91, I love ’em!