Curbside Classic: 1977 Ford LTD II Brougham – The Thunderbird’s Less Successful Brother

(first posted 05/23/2012)    Here we have a rare bird, the Ford LTD II. You almost certainly remember its corporate sibling, the downsized 1977 Thunderbird. The LTD II was a victim of the T-Bird’s success, so much so that it is a largely forgotten car today.

While the 1977 Thunderbird and LTD II may have looked all new, they really weren’t. Under the skin, they were the 1976 Ford Elite and 1976 Gran Torino, respectively. Like its predecessors, the LTD II was all about a soft, Lincoln-like ride, at the expense of any sort of handling and roadholding.

Just like the Torino, a full lineup of vehicles was available in coupe, sedan and station wagon versions. As was the case with most American cars in the 1970s, the basic versions had relatively few creature comforts, but a long option list could correct that if you had the green.

The Thunderbird, which we’ll cover in a future CC, was available in a two door coupe only. It differentiated itself from LTD II coupes with hidden headlights, full-width tail lights, and a unique “basket handle” roofline with an inset opera window in between the front and rear quarter windows.

The entry-level LTD II was the S, which came in all three body styles. While they did feature a 302 V8, power steering, power front disc/rear drum brakes, and an automatic transmission as standard equipment, they were still rather plain.

All LTD II models got those stacked rectangular headlights, regardless of trim level. It appears that this new style originated with Chevrolet on the 1976 Malibu Classic and Monte Carlo. Then Ford got into it with the LTD II, and Chrysler with the mid-size Monaco and Fury in 1977. Finally, the 1978 Cordoba got them. Were there others?

Next up was the LTD II, which had more brightwork and a nicer interior. One of my earliest car memories is of my Mom’s parents’ jade green LTD II sedan, much like the one pictured above. It was triple green: paint, vinyl top and interior. I was extremely young at the time, but I liked that car. It may also be the reason my favorite color is green!

Station wagons were also available in all three series, but showed their Torino origins much more clearly than the coupes and sedans. Naturally, the wood-sided Squire was the top of the line LTD II wagon.

The wagons are also the rarest LTD IIs, as they were only made in 1977. 1978 models would be limited to coupes and sedans. All wagons got the 351 V8. It was optional on other LTD IIs, as was a 400 CID V8.

So, was there a Brougham? You bet there was a Brougham! The top of the line model, Broughams were available in two door or four door versions. You had your choice of a canopy, landau or full vinyl roof, depending on the body style.

While the coupe was rather attractive in your author’s opinion, it never had a chance against the Thunderbird, which outsold it many times over. Actually, the 1977 T-Bird outsold the entire nine-model LTD II line by a comfortable margin. The lower price of 1977 T-Birds vs. 1976 T-Birds and the snob appeal of the Thunderbird name were major factors. Despite this, LTD IIs sold pretty good in their first year, selling 40,000 more units than the 1976 Torino line.

Naturally, the Broughams had the nicest interiors. In addition to the cloth shown here, it was also available in vinyl. Bucket seats and a console with floor shift were optional on coupes. The instrument panel was nearly identical to the Thunderbird’s.

While the LTD II may have looked good to Ford product planning when it was being designed in 1974-75, by the time it came out in 1977, it was nearly a dinosaur. The all-new ’77 full size GM B-bodies were smaller, better handling and roomier than the LTD II, while the 1977 Malibu, its primary competition, was in its last year in a similar size.

The 1978 Malibus – and Ford’s own 1978 Fairmont – would make the LTD II look like an antique. True, Chrysler was in the same boat with its midsize Fury and Monaco lines, but at least they had the mid-size police market. Ford didn’t.

LTD II sales steadily went downhill in 1978-79, with its 1972 Torino underpinnings becoming ever more apparent. After the all-new Panther platform ’79 LTD debuted, LTD II sales got even worse, as the fresh, modern LTD and Fairmont caught most Ford fanciers’ attention in the showroom.

Ford tried to keep things interesting with its Sport Touring and Sport Appearance packages (seen upper right and lower right in the photo above), but it just wasn’t enough, and the plug was pulled early in the 1979 model year with less than 50,000 made that year.

I was prompted to write all this after one of our frequent readers, chrisgreencar, shot this very nice Brougham coupe recently and posted it to the Cohort. I have not seen an LTD II in at least a dozen years (excluding the LTD II-based Ranchero) and seeing it brought back a lot of memories. Too bad about Ford’s timing. I wonder how it would have done if it had come out in 1975?