Curbside Classic: 1973 Ford LTD – It’s Not Easy Being Green

(first posted 8/1/2017)      Ever since fellow editor JP Cavanaugh excoriated a 1973 Ford LTD, I have been on diligent patrol for one to provide a much-needed counterpoint to that disheartening tome of his.  Someone around here needs to defend these mind-blowingly awesome Fords and after three years nobody has ever stepped up to the plate.

For shame.

JP didn’t have to seek out such a shitty-looking Ford; it was brought to him.  At a CC meet-up, after we had consumed too many frog legs and mint juleps, Jim told a story about a client offering him a classic Ford in lieu of cash payment.  Having test-driven it, Jim admitted to being sorely tempted as he was tired of being cut off in his Honda Fit and viewed an LTD in this condition as being an extended middle finger on wheels for his slogs along the interstates around Indianapolis.

In the end, Jim concluded owning the LTD was a bad idea, suspecting it could be an automotive dalliance he might soon regret.  That sentiment is understandable; that poor LTD he drove does have the automotive equivalent of chlamydia.

Conversely, this ’73 LTD (or maybe it’s a ’74 – there’s really no tangible difference) is as pure as the day she rolled off the line.  See how the lines of this LTD simply flow as beautifully as words from Shakespeare?  See how the paint on the doors sparkles like the pinky ring of a mafia boss?  They just don’t make them like that anymore.

Compare this Ford to the ’73 Chevrolet Impala / Caprice, a car that does its damnedest to look like it has a pot-belly and a receding jawline.

Get a load of those bumper guards up front.  Where do you think George Lucas got his inspiration?

And let’s not even consider the bulbous porkulence that was the pear-shaped ’73 Plymouth Fury with its banana-seat shaped tail lights.  It and the Chevrolet have about as much shape as mashed potatoes.

In comparison, this Ford is slicker than wet silk doused with WD-40.

This LTD was a veritable Hercules, doing its best to kill the competition.  The full-sized Ford almost did so, too.  At 941,054 biggies going out the door, this was a mere 50 cars less than Chevrolet.  Truly a terminally ignored herculean feat by Ford.

This mesmerizing LTD is also planted on the second best-selling Ford passenger car platform of all time, behind only the Model T.  The market knows a good thing when it sees it.

Like JP, I have had exposure to these LTDs since they were rather new but in an admittedly different capacity.  Seeing this suave and debonaire Ford triggered recollections from times passed.

My Grandpa Albert’s older brother Lyle and his wife Jessie had a ’73 Ford, but it was the lower-trimmed Galaxie.  Living down several miles of washboarded gravel roads, that Galaxie was as unflappable as a mailbox welded to a truck crankshaft mounted in reinforced concrete.  Nothing fazed it and the pillowy soft ride of these Fords were a godsend for people living on rough roads.

So many malign these big Fords for their dreamy soft rides.  Odds are a hemorrhoid or two would prompt a huge change of heart for these curmudgeons.  Ford had better ideas even before they started bragging about it.

Then there was Mitch and Agnes’s LTD, the one I rode in many times.  The grandparents of a school friend, their LTD was still going strong well over a decade and a shockingly high number of miles later.  Given the way that car accelerated it likely had the available 429 or 460 V8 – it would make your neck snap like a green bean fresh from the garden.

The room inside their LTD was amazing.  At the time I was shoehorning my narrow butt into the rear seat of the 1983 Plymouth Reliant my parents owned.  The difference between the Reliant and the LTD was like comparing Paris, Missouri (population 1,193) to Paris, France; even now, I get verklempt thinking about all the glorious room that LTD had.

As an aside, Mitch knew how to make an impression on gullible boys.  During one visit he started talking about his time in the army during World War II.  I remember something along the lines of “Boy, I was in a company that didn’t take shit from anybody – especially officers.  The brass got real suspicious of us for losing so many lieutenants to friendly fire.”

While Mitch wasn’t exactly Barnaby Jones, the preeminent private detective from the 1970s, they did share one trait…

Both loved their ’73 Ford LTD.

And let’s not forget that other celluloid celebration of the magnificence that was the 1973 LTD.  Remember The Driver from 1978?  When they could have picked any car, the producers picked a ’73 LTD (or Galaxie) for this most awesome chase.

The can of whoop-ass opened by that LTD came as standard equipment from Ford.

The LTD simply had a lot going for it.  Not every car can inarguably prove itself to be quieter than a Jaguar.  There is also no question on which has better reliability; a 1970s-era Jaguar is being used as a benchmark, after all.  For anyone who has ever surveyed land, they know benchmarks don’t move – which pretty well sums up the Jaguar.

There is one point about the LTD I will readily concede to JP; the visibility out the side of his example was about as non-existent as chastity in a bordello.  One could speculate this LTD was quite predictive of cars from the 2010s.

Prescience, by Ford.

Times and visibility had evolved in the decade since Ford built this in 1963.

While Ford is perpetually and merrily hurled under the bus for their incredibly original solution to the problem, they really did have a Better Idea for improved visibility.

It’s called opera window.

I was fortunate enough to find a four-door, which was 65.9% of LTD and LTD Brougham production, the body style best exhibiting the ripped muscularity that was the full-sized Ford.  I’ll say it again; park this LTD next to an Impala and Fury from the same year and you’ll be looking at two bloated blobs and a Ford.

Despite my concession, I do feel the need to brag about the superior find that is my pine needle-colored LTD.  This Ford appears to have spent its life in reasonably temperate climes and is in remarkable, but not perfect, condition.

Somewhere along the line, this LTD received a mighty fine undercoating.

Whoever applied it did get overzealous in their work.  While it’s doubtful the undercoating was applied by the highly skilled craftsmen at Ford, even if it was we must remember that in 1973 comfort and quiet was Job One at Ford; quality was still about two years away due to corporation prioritization.

All this liquid asphalt has enhanced this LTD to being as rust-resistant as stainless steel.

These LTDs simply had so many wonderful things going for them; the LTD never rested on its laurels.

Might the 1973 Ford LTD be the perfect vehicle?  For the time, yes.  It looked good, it was comfortable, and this car could effortlessly pull to the salvage yard all those lesser 1973 model cars that had rusted in half by 1976.  Such talent and versatility was sorely lacking in every other car sold in the United States in 1973.

As was typical, Ford was ahead of the times, blazing new trails to ever better and more attractive products.  Sadly, as is human nature, the detractors continually poo-poo such things.

As Kermit the Frog would say, it’s not easy being green.

Found July 2017 along US 50 near the Mariosa Delta, just east of Jefferson City, Missouri.