Car Show Classic: 1977 Ford LTD – Fall From Grace

Confession time: I have a real soft spot for the 1971-72 Ford LTD. Yes, the very same Bunkie-beaked Fords that Paul famously whipped while working for Towson Ford as a lot boy in the early 1970s, but cut me some slack: I was three years old when my parents got their new 1971 Galaxie 500. For me, it was love at first sight.

Love may be blind, but it isn’t stupid. It didn’t take long for my wandering eyes to realize that some Fords were even more special than our special (to me) family Galaxie. In particular, those that had a full-width light bar between the brake lights where our Galaxie had but a simple filler panel. These three lamp cars were emblazoned with the letters L-T-D. What exactly did this cryptic triptych mean? Who knew? Who cared? Certainly not me.

I saw the rear ends of these LTDs a lot because it seemed like they were always passing our Galaxie on the highway. Young me thought that the LTDs must somehow be allowed to travel faster than my dad’s Galaxie, but I now know it was mostly due to the sedate pace at which my dad drove.

1972 Ford LTD

1972 Ford LTD


Whatever nascent LTD flame I may have had burning inside of me, it didn’t take Ford long to extinguish it. The 1972 model brought a rear end that looked a bit too much like a Dodge Polara. LTDs now had a simple reflector where there had been functioning lights the year before.

1973 Ford LTD

1973 Ford LTD


The 1973 refresh brought battering ram 5 mph bumpers that all but eliminated the Bunkie Beak that I found so enthralling.

Which brings us to our featured car. The 1975 model year brought several changes to the full-sized Fords. For starters, the Galaxie 500 name was now gone, meaning that exactly 20 years after it first appeared, the debasement of the LTD name was complete and total. Everything from base taxi and police spec Fords to the most button-tufted brougham was now an LTD.

1975 also brought the LTD a styling refresh so generic and bland to the point of being non-descript. To add insult to injury, Ford quit doing any annual styling refreshes on the LTD, leaving this anodyne design to soldier on unchanged for four more years. While most cars got rectangular headlights by the 1976 or 1977 model year, the LTD would have been one of the few cars left sporting the old-fashioned-looking round headlights in 1978. Indeed, if it wasn’t for the “arrest me” red color of the feature car, I likely wouldn’t have photographed it at all.

Properly identifying these 1975-1978 LTDs can be perplexing even for experienced car spotters, as running changes were minimal. Still, I was able to identify this example as a 1977 model based on a few minor details. The presence of an 85 mph speedo meant that this car was a 1977 or later model, while 1977 was the last year for the “brocade” style fabric on the interior of this example. 1977 it is, then.

Car & Driver’s David E. Davis Jr. famously called Detroit interiors of this vintage “whores drawers.” Really, I can’t hope to top DED’s mic-drop comment, so I’ll just give you a closer look at these particular drawers.

The flossier LTDs sported hidden headlights (perhaps to hide their shameful round headlights), but these were never common even when I was a kid. Most LTDs were sold like this example – air conditioning and maybe a few other options sprinkled on. If you wanted something fancier, the Lincoln-Mercury dealership was just up the street, after all.

While we generically refer to these cars as being from the Brougham Epoch, 1977 was actually the first year the LTD lineup lacked a Brougham model at the top since the LTD Brougham first appeared in 1970, Ford having discontinued the LTD Brougham trim level after 1976. Perhaps sensing the inevitable “brougham backlash” or the onset of “brougham fatigue,” the top LTD in 1977 was simply called the “LTD Landau.” Also gone that year were the rear fender skirts (also seldom ordered as I recall), although the popup headlight covers were still on offer for the few still willing to pony up for them.

But really, these changes just amounted to little more than the movement of deck chairs. What chance did this moribund 1977 LTD (whose bones dated back to the Johnson administration) have up against Chevrolet that year, the first year of their newly downsized B-body, and arguably GM’s second-greatest hit ever? Even my nine-year-old self knew it was game over for the LTD, and I became (for a brief time, anyways) a firm acolyte of the Mark of Excellence.

The new-for 1978 GM G-bodies landed a second one-two punch against Ford, this time the target being the bloated, Torino-based LTD II. That same year my Dad left the Ford fold for Chevrolet when he got his brand new 1978 Monte Carlo. By that time, the 1971 Galaxie was thoroughly used up and rusted out, seven years being about all you could expect a car to last on the salt-strewn streets of Ohio back then. He had even had the rust repaired and the car repainted a few years earlier, but the rust soon returned with a vengeance.