Somewhat surprisingly, Road & Track’s very first road test was not of an MG, but of a rather prosaic 1947 Ford. So it seemed fitting that in their 25th anniversary issue (June 1972) they would revisit that with a comparison test of 1947 and 1972 Fords, to take stock of just how changed a big Ford was after a quarter century. It makes for interesting reading, and it’s undoubtedly the only reason they would have tested a ’72 big Ford, since by that time they had pretty much sworn off such ungainly and unseemly things.
And this test has a special significance to me, as you all know my deep feelings for the 1972 LTD. I was curious to find if R&T shared any of those.
Here I am having just finished my evaluation of and musings on a 1972 LTD. And I came so close to buying it. I should have, in retrospect. But that’s life; the dance of ambiguity, indecision and irony.
But I was shocked by R&T’s opening paragraph, which ends with these painful words: “the 1972 Ford LTD is not much fun to drive”. What!?! So I’m not the only person in the world that thinks that? But that’s just for starters.
Here’s more from R&T’s poison tongue: “it has nothing that could be described as “handling”…the steering is completely devoid of feel, it’s very slow and it’s very loose. The first few inches of wheel movement produce nothing. Then understeer sets in, the tires squeal, and it goes approximately where the driver intended it to go.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. But when I do, I get a lot of blow back.
R&T’s LTD had the same 400 V8 as the one I considered. They managed to hustle it from 0-60 in 11.8 seconds. That’s a good two and a half seconds more than what its 1967 predecessor with a 390 V8 did it in. A half second slower per year, on average. Not exactly progress.
But of course that was better than the 1947 version with its 100 (gross) hp 239 cubic inch flathead V8, which took 21 seconds for the same sprint. That’s still quite a bit faster than the 1975 Ford Granada (23.1 seconds).
A couple of thoughts on the 1947 Ford’s performance. R&T said that the Ford “was heavy for its class”, but a curb weight comparison shows that at 3066 lbs it was within a few pounds of the Chevy (3060) and Plymouth (3037). There’s also a comment about how the Ford was “especially strong at low rpm”. That’s a bit contradictory to the facts, as the Ford V8’s torque peak (180 lb.ft. @2000 rpm) was at a significantly higher rpm than its six cylinder stablemate (188 lb. ft. @1200 rpm), which also had more total torque, confirming insider’s advice that the six was a better all-round performer than the V8. Not surprising, since the six was new in 1942, and the V8 dated back to 1932.
Both the Chevy and Plymouth sixes also had their torque peak at 1200 rpm. The Ford V8 simply needed more revs to make its power, which is pretty consistent with the reality of an engine with more cylinders, all other things being roughly equal.
Road & Track admits that the 1947 Ford wasn’t much fun to drive either: “at 55 mph, a good cruising speed for the day, the driver has his hands full. it jumps on bumps, pitches over dips…” Not surprisingly, given its primitive Model T-style suspension with solid axles and transverse leaf springs. That was pretty obsolete in 1947, and one (me, anyway) could say the same thing about the LTD in 1972.