Curbside Classic: 1975 to 1978 Ford LTD – Living The Dream

How is it there have been nearly 14,500 articles at CC and we’ve never had much of a write-up about a four-door LTD of this vintage?  Life can be so mysterious.

Then again, has anyone ever been so fond of these four-door LTDs as to write one up?  We’ve had explorations of the highly related and dreamier appearing 1973 and 1974 models so I’m taking a life-experience approach with this one.  Waxing poetic over every LTD that comes along simply diminishes their unabashed grandeur.

Before we get started, let’s discuss those wheels…rather, let’s not.  They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea although, like any shirt they are so easily changed it’s really not worth talking about, is it?  Somebody likes them and if that helped save this LTD from being recycled into a dishwasher, good for them.  It’s obviously been sporting them for a while as the tread on the tires was getting thin.

The positive of having such wheels is one can easily check the condition of their disc brakes.  It sure beats pulling off a wheel cover, fighting lug nuts, jacking up the car, and removing a boring old steel wheel.  The brakes likely stay a lot cooler this way given such ample room for heat dissipation.

Having seen the presumed owner of this LTD made me wonder about the type of person who bought these when new.  While there are 1,504,331 individual stories to answer that quandary, based upon production of this iteration of full-sized Ford from 1975 to 1978 (including wagons), I do know of one.  This story could have happened any year from 1975 to 1978 as the physical changes were negligible but, if I had to guess, I’d speculate it was in 1975 or 1976.

Let’s also not forget this LTD is based upon Ford’s second most popular passenger car platform ever, behind only the Model T.

Velma is on the far right

Velma is my mother’s first cousin, the oldest child of my Grandpa Albert’s older brother Lyle and his wife Jessie.  This is Velma’s senior picture from 1959, so given the longevity in my family she’s just now middle aged.  But back in 1975 Velma and Joe had two pre-teen children to haul around and they purchased a white LTD to serve this purpose.

I always found Velma’s LTD to be rather fetching despite my life-long aversion to white cars.  Seeing that LTD in the parking lot at school everyday certainly helped in keeping this irrational infatuation flared up.  No doubt a huge influencer of my infatuation was a memorable ride in Velma’s Ford.

While I’ve covered it before, I was related to seemingly half the faculty at Egyptian School in rural Tamms, Illinois.  My father was president of the school board, my mother had been the school nurse (she quit due to my arrival in 1972), my paternal grandmother was head cook, a cousin-in-law was my fourth and fifth grade teacher, and so forth. Among all this was Velma who was the office secretary.

During second grade in 1979 I had many repetitive cases of strep throat which ultimately led to that fun and joyous occasion of having my tonsils severed from my throat with instruments approximating a chainsaw.  It was almost like clockwork; along came the first of the month and I was sick.  Mrs. Moses, the school nurse, didn’t want me hanging around to infect others, primarily her, so I invariably got sent home.  On one occasion Velma came to the rescue, taking me the fifteen miles to Lyle and Jessie’s house so I could cool my heels until my mother arrived.

We made the trip in her white LTD.

At the time my parents had a base model 1973 Ford Torino, the one with the freakazoid front end as seen on the white sedan in the middle of this picture.  Seriously, I never saw another one like it until the early to mid-1980s – and that was on television.  But these LTDs were all over creation, thus feeding my curiosity, and in retrospect Velma’s LTD was quite nicely equipped.

While I was quite sick at the time of my riding in Velma’s LTD, I wasn’t in a complete stupor.  Sitting on the cushy red front bench seat, floating smoothly, quietly, and confidently down the county road that serviced the school, I noticed some unusual buttons on the steering wheel.  When I asked Velma about them she said it was for the “cruise control”.  I had never heard of, let alone seen, such a thing at that point in time.  I was curious.

Velma, perhaps amused by my question, showed me not only what the “cruise” button did, but also what the “coast” and “accel” buttons were for.  When she pressed the “accel” button, the torque of that Ford V8 could be measured by the pull on my seven year old neck.  It pulled better than any other 351 I’ve experienced, making me now wonder if Velma’s LTD had the optional 400 (6.6 liter) or 460 (7.5 liter) engine.

Writing this has finally answered why I have a sweet spot for these LTDs.  Is that a success or what?

That white LTD stuck around until the early 1980s when it went away for something following the footsteps of what Lyle and Jessie had purchased a year or two prior – an Oldsmobile Delta 88 diesel.

Lyle and Jessie never had any noteworthy issues with their Olds diesel, putting around 150,000 miles on it before being traded for a Buick LeSabre.  I’m not sure that was the case with Velma and Joe’s Delta 88.

A few years later Velma’s Olds disappeared for a five-speed Nissan Maxima.  Shortly after purchasing that Nissan, Velma stopped by the house one night.  She didn’t appear any too thrilled with that Nissan and she was already tiring of shifting gears.  A passing statement was made about still missing her white LTD.

When I last saw Joe and Velma in February 2018 they were driving a Toyota Avalon hybrid.

And who was driving our featured LTD?  A tall, slender gentleman who appeared to be in his 60s, perhaps older.  He had a wisp of gray above his ears and had a very relaxed yet dignified air about him.  When I spotted him putting items in the back seat as I was leaving the hotel, I suspected he was a long-time owner of our featured LTD.

Close inspection revealed this LTD wasn’t born in such a desirable color.  The roof is the giveaway, as is the paint flaking from around the rub strips on the door.  This Ford left the factory in a horrible pastel yellow, a color that seems to have been applied to something like 84.7% of these LTDs.

Perhaps this is another reason I liked Velma’s white LTD so much – it wasn’t yellow.  The other two LTDs of this vintage percolating around the town of 450 where I grew up were both the same putrid pastel yellow as our featured LTD was originally.

We are a good way into this recollection of an LTD creating positive impressions upon my young mind.  However it would be negligent to not further explore how these LTDs were produced in times best described as unique.

In what is perhaps the most unique element, the smallest available engine was Ford’s 5.8 liter (351) Windsor V8 until 1978 when the 5.0 liter (302) was made standard on sedans.

To bolster the unique, the 351 was the standard engine in taxis – at least in 1976.

Only producing around 150 horsepower to lug around 4,400 pounds, all going through a tall geared 2.75:1 rear axle, the 351 was likely the most rational choice.  That available 460 would have made for a memorable taxi but would have played even less nice with the fuel budget of the taxi company.

Sales of full-sized Fords were down considerably to around 350,000 by 1975 from the amazing 941,000 sold in 1973.  A fuel crisis does have results.

But what is the most unique (or eccentric or tacky or trendy or unsavory) element about these should also be the most predictable.  This was the 1970s, after all.  For a car that was pleasantly innocuous in its purest form, Ford saw fit to muddle that up.

Let me introduce the LTD Landau.  When I was only five years old I thought these were a mobile travesty.  At some point I remember seeing a front-page picture in the local newspaper showing a car in which the driver had lost control and crashed into a brick building, thoroughly wasting the car.  It was a light colored LTD Landau similar to the one pictured here.

A part of me was happy this event had beautified the highways of North America.  But that’s just me; no doubt somebody here will think these are the cat’s meow.

But enough about unique times.  Seeing this LTD was a genuinely enjoyable experience early on a cold, wet November morning.

There has been periodic discussion on these pages about the true meaning behind the initials of Ford’s “LTD”.  In seeing the owner of our featured LTD and the general happiness that seemed to surround him, combined with my cousin Velma’s fondness for her white LTD, the true meaning has become evident.  Able to enjoy a smooth, quiet, and comfortable Ford, the owner was, like many other LTD owners over time, simply Living The Dream.

Found November 18, 2019

Bloomington, Indiana


Related Reading:

1973 Ford LTD “It’s Not Easy Being Green” by JS

1973 Ford LTD “Bring On The Bloat” by JPC

1978 Ford LTD two-door “The Last Of The Whoppers” by Richard Bennett

1975 Ford LTD two-door “The Stupidest Name For The Stupidest Roof Design Ever” by PN

1975 Ford LTD two-door “Hoop-Tee-Dee” by Joseph Dennis