Ebay Find: 1983 Ford LTD Brougham – All Things to Nobody

A compromise is a scenario in which every participant gets at least some of what they want. But it could also be a situation where no one gets what they want. An old adage in real estate, after all, goes that if both the buyer and seller were unhappy, then it was probably a good deal for both parties.

The Fox-body LTD, sold from 1983 to 1986, seems to be the embodiment of compromise, trying to span the gap between the Great Brougham Epoch that preceded it, and the aerodynamic epoch that followed it. Did anyone actually come out a winner in this compromise? Surviving examples from this generation are surprisingly scarce, so let’s take a look at this first-year Brougham model I found on eBay.

The few diehard Brougham fans that were still remaining in 1983 were probably feeling the pinch of this compromise as much as anyone. For starters, the LTD name, once affixed solely to the top rung full-size model, by 1983 had been Cutlassed across multiple vehicles. The full-size model was now called the LTD Supreme (checks notes) sorry, the LTD Crown Victoria, to better differentiate it from the “regular” LTD, which was essentially a Granada/Fairmont with a shovel nose and tail. This new LTD would be the smallest car to ever wear the LTD name, smaller even than the Torino-based LTD II of the late ‘70s. The debasement of the LTD name was now total.

Sure, there was still a vinyl roof and wire wheel covers (the latter not being present on the featured car) to appease the rapidly dwindling number of Brougham fanatics, but those hose-off vinyl door panels are a long way removed from the door cards LTD buyers got a generation earlier in the 1965 LTD.

And what exactly is the deal with that chintzy, tacked-on switchgear? Those look like the aftermarket power window and power lock conversion kits that JC Whitney sold back in the day. I had to double-check with the brochure to confirm that those are indeed factory pieces.

Further compromises were made under the hood. While every LTD of yore (including the much-maligned LTD II) came with some sort of V8 engine, no V8 was available on the new for 1983 LTD. Instead, engine choices were limited to the 2.3L Lima 4 (an engine that originally saw service in the Pinto), the even older 3.3L Falcon six, and the new-for-1982 3.8L Essex V6. The 2.3L was even available with a four-speed manual transmission – I would love to find an LTD so equipped, but I suspect I will find a three-headed goat before I find a surviving 4-cylinder, 4-speed LTD. The Falcon Six was dropped after 1983, and the four-banger only sold in the hundreds, so the vast majority of the Fox body LTDs were equipped with the 3.8L V6, as is the featured car.

In one final concession to the Brougham crowd, plastiwood was spread throughout the cabin, including, randomly, some surrounding the definitely-not-a-cupholder cubbies between the front seats.

So the Brougham contingent was left largely unfulfilled by this compromise. As a bridge to the aero era, does this LTD fare any better? While the ads for this generation of LTD certainly make a lot of hay about this LTD’s aerodynamic bona fides, my modern eyes are just not seeing it. Other than the slanted front and rear clips, it still basically looks like the box the successor Taurus came in.

1985 Ford LTD Brochure

1985 Ford LTD Brochure.


For its penultimate year in 1985, The Fox-body LTD had one last reinvention up its sleeve, this time (improbably) as a euro-inspired sports sedan. With the development of the Taurus well underway at this point, this change was almost certainly made to ease the public’s transition into the radical new Taurus.

The white-walled, vinyl roof Brougham model got banished to a single tiny photo in the 1985 brochure (second from the top in the image above, in case you are curious). Also sent to the trash heap were the bright wheel well trim, headlight buckets,  and side moldings. Every other LTD in that year’s brochure sported a steel roof and blackwall tires.

1985 Ford LTD LX

1985 Ford LTD LX.


In LX guise (available only in 1984 and 1985), which included a sport suspension and a 5.0L V8, the LTD effectively functioned as a four-door Mustang (which it basically was, since they shared the same Fox platform bones and even the same “phone dial” alloy wheels). Never in its previous 20 years had the LTD ever been marketed as a performance car.

Predictably, the LTD LX was a slow seller, with only 3,367 finding buyers between 1984 and 1985. Good luck finding one today – even the many sleuths here at CC have yet to spot one. Ironically, those few who could overcome the cognitive dissonance of the LTD LX were probably the least disappointed by the compromises embodied by the transitional Fox-bodied LTD. By all accounts, the LTD LX was a pretty solid sports sedan for the day – not surprising given its Mustang GT running gear. The LTD LX even saw duty at Bob Bondurant’s high-performance driving school as instruction cars.

While Ford CEO Don Peterson may have found performance religion at this time, Ford’s LTD customers decidedly did not. Unfortunately, the concept of an LTD sport sedan was a bridge too far for most buyers, so for the final abridged 1986 model year the LX and its V8 engine were both out, and whitewall tires were back in.

At this point, the LTD name was just about used up. The mid-size LTD would be gone after 1986, being replaced by the far more successful Taurus (ironically a name that would also ultimately get used up, but that is a story for another day). The Panther-based LTD Crown Victoria would soldier on for a few more years, before dropping the “LTD” and just becoming the Ford Crown Victoria in 1992.

Can you think of another car that tried to appeal to as many audiences as the Fox body LTD, from the button-tufted brougham crowd to aero family sedan to sports sedan? Did anyone truly get what they wanted out of this compromised LTD?

Related Reading

Curbside Classic: 1985 Ford LTD – The Father of the Brougham Era Becomes the Surrogate Mother of the Aero Era

CC For Sale: 1983 Ford LTD – My Kind Of LTD?

Vintage Reviews: 1983 – 1986 Ford LTD, LTD/LX, & LTD Brougham – Lethargic, Tuned or Dutiful?