Curbside Classic: 1977-1979 Ford LTD II S – The Longest Mid-Size Car Ever or The Stripper Mark V Sedan

By now you undoubtedly know that I’m not exactly a fan of Fords of the seventies. Most of my vitriol (so far) has been directed at the big LTD/Galaxie and the Granada, which earned CC’s award of The Most Malaise Car Ever. And the Mustang II, of course. But that’s because we’ve managed to avoid the car that best sums up Ford’s “issues”   during this period (bloat, crappy space efficiency, wallowing handling, mediocre performance, lousy fuel economy, and dated, overwrought styling). That would be the mysteriously-named LTD II. No longer.

But let’s not focus on all of those negatives. It’s 2018, the sun is shining, this is terrific rare survivor (only 46k of these “S” sedans were ever made in three years), I’ve become mellow in my old age, and therefore I’ve found some positive qualities in this car for me to expound upon. And we’ll try to unravel the mystery of its name. But that might all be a bit more challenging than hoped for. It is a Ford from the seventies, after all.

Let’s start right out on a high note. Or a big one, anyway. What it all boils down to is that the LTD II was the longest mid-sized car ever, with a whopping 220″ of overall length. And with a wheelbase of 118″, it takes the cake in that category too. That’s a full foot longer than the comparable 1977 Malibu Sedan, and still a half foot longer than an Olds Cutlass sedan. Remember how the Buick Electra earned its “225” name? This should have been called the Torino 220. But that would have been too painfully truthful.

But there’s a silver lining in even this very large, dark cloud: Think of the LTD II as a bargain-priced stripper Continental Mark V four door sedan. For a mere 40% of the price of a 1977 Mark V, one got essentially the same car under the skin, with all the same proportions that made the Mark so mark-worthy. Admittedly, the Continental version was bestowed a two inch wheelbase stretch and an even longer front overhang. I wonder if anyone has ever tried to turn an LTD II sedan into a Mk V four door? It can’t be that hard.

Thinking of this as a MK V sedan has been very therapeutic for me. Instead of seeing a bloated, mammoth, mid-size sedan, I see a cheap, lighter and slightly shorter Mark V sedan. Isn’t it helpful to have an overly-active imagination? Or eyes that are going soft?

Does this help? it’s getting closer…somebody please photoshop me a Mark V four door sedan.


Of course there’s some trade-offs to be made for that 60% reduction in price. But frankly, this suits me much better than the pillow-tufted velour bordello interior of a Mark. I’m a frugal, practical kind of guy, and most of my local drives are to the hardware store in my dirty work pants. Or down a gravel road to a trail head. I’d much rather do those in this. Well, that’s not to say I’d really like to do those in this; in fact the thought makes me rather queasy.

The parking lot at my local little hardware store is tiny. I like to nip and tuck in traffic. And this is how I like to bop down the gravel and curvy forest roads of Oregon in my xBox, at between 40 and 50 mph. I don’t exactly see myself drifting through some of these turns in this Mark V sedan. And I’m not exactly seeing it as the ideal long-distance road trip mobile either, although it would undoubtedly keep me from getting expensive tickets. Just keeping up with the flow of traffic would be more of a concern.

The default negative thing to say is that these cars have pathetic space efficiency, given their outside dimensions. It’s true, but I won’t repeat it here. The new 1978 Fairmont was undoubtedly every bit as roomy and of course drastically smaller and lighter overall. But compared to getting into a genuine Mark V back seat, this is a real treat. See, everything really is relative.

One might be tempted to assume that there would be serious trade-offs in terms of performance compared to the Mark. Admittedly, the LTD II’s standard 139hp 302 V8 gives away all of 20hp to the Mark’s 159hp 400 V8. But to pay two and a half times as much for an additional 20 hp is a pretty lousy deal, eh? And for few bucks more, one could get the LTD II with the optional 149hp 351. Oh wait; checking the ’77 brochure it says the 400 is optional too. And the Mk V weighs a whopping 700 lbs more. Now we’re really building a Mark V “S” sedan. Sadly, the automatic transmission is standard; a three-on-the-tree with the 400 would make a sweet combination. It might actually be able to peel a bit of rubber.

You see, the “S” in this car’s model designation really stands for Sport! What else? Stripper? Superlative? Stupid? Stellar? Stultifying? Naw; we know when Ford puts an “S” on one of its cars, it really means it.

That was the easy part. Figuring out why the hell Ford chose to call this Torino with a nose and butt enhancement “LTD II” is perhaps the last remaining mystery of automotive history that I have not yet figured out or heard a plausible explanation for. Ford used “II” when it downsized and changed the nature of its Mustang; in relative terms, that almost makes some sense. And Chevrolet used it after they fixed the worst problems of the Citation. But why this? To create confusion?

In search for a clue I went back to the brochure for some profound marketing insight/BS. Eureka! There it is! “It marries LTD quality and luxury with the sporty spirit of the Mustang II”. At last I am enlightened and the last remaining automotive history mystery is solved. My life’s work in understanding Ford in the 70s is finished, and I can now retire now and shut down CC. Good night and good luck.

Oh wait a minute; that’s for the top-of-the-line LTD II Brougham. What about the bottom-of-the-line LTD II S? Is this a marriage of LTD luxury and Mustang II sportiness? I’m still mystified.

How about “It marries LTD excess size with the bad proportions and long front overhangs of the Mustang II“?

That might work for me.

Ford’s lame explanation about the LTD II having “the sporty spirit of the Mustang II” blew up in its face in 1979 when the new downsized genuine LTD arrived, riding a four inch shorter 114″ wheelbase, and with a foot shorter overall length and about 500lbs lighter. The once semi-logical order of things was now truly turned upside down.

That might explain why LTD II sales went into the toilet in 1979, to under 50k for all versions. The naming of this car is mysterious enough, but why Ford decided to keep it around after the one and true LTD was downsized is a true headscratcher.  Well, Ford was charging headlong into its near brush with bankruptcy just two years later, so if you’re going to self-immolate, the LTD II was useful tinder. More like a big log to throw on the fire.

Did I veer a bit astray from the path of positivity? And this all started out on such a high note. The thrill of finding a genuine LTD II, and an “S” no less, put me in the right mood. I just stood there in the golden glow of a summer sunset, squinting my eyes and seeing a Mark V stripper sedan. But now that I’m home and sitting here in my chair, which must be made of cynictium, trying to make sense of its name has put me on a downward slide. LTD II? The sporty spirit of the Mustang II?


They should have just called it the Mark V II.  Just need to replace that damn Ford emblem with a genuine Continental one.