The Ford LTD Landau was a working man’s luxury car
It started in the mid-1960s. The dealers charged with moving metal for lesser divisions of the Big Three started clamoring for more luxurious versions of their largest cars. Rumor has it that the reason stemmed from the division managers being forced to drive cars from the actual divisions they managed, rather than being permitted to choose Cadillacs or Lincolns for personal use. How true this is, we may never know.
Ford started the trend in 1965 when the LTD (for “limited”) version of its Galaxie debuted. Chevrolet quickly jumped in and offered the Caprice the following year, and before long Plymouth offered a VIP trim of its Fury. It was then possible for the average motorist to own a car that looked almost as elegant, and was almost as luxurious, as the average Cadillac, Lincoln or Imperial. The effects these “blue-collar Broughams” had on the actual luxury brands is a discussion for another day.
Ford brought out a second generation LTD for 1969. Several styling revisions throughout the 1970s would keep the big Fords fresh and competitive for a number of years, until a number of factors, primarily the downsizing at GM, forced Ford to follow suit by 1979.
1977 was the pivotal year at rival General Motors, with their smaller large cars, but over in Dearborn, Ford was still, to quote a line from Motor magazine, “Home of the Whopper”. The Panther platform was, to put it charitably, late in arriving. Ford was short on budget compared to GM, but more importantly they were more conservative. They weren’t prepared for the eagerness with which buyers would embrace the 1977 B- and C-body cars. Not only did the new GM efforts have tremendous space efficiency, they also looked razor-edge modern.
To keep buyers interested, Ford did the only thing they really could, which was to flaunt its “full figured” sedans to the people who thought GM had gone too far with their downsizing. Advertising often would compare the LTD Landau to the Cadillac Sedan DeVille, and show how one could own a car as large as a Cadillac for considerably less money. Many traditional buyers agreed, and the big Fords (and Mercury) continued to sell reasonably well.
In 1975 Ford introduced the Landau trim, which would soon replace the Brougham edition. The Landau was distinguished from lesser LTD models with hidden headlamps, ornate trim on the deck lid, and wider body side moldings. LTD Landau script was featured on the front fenders. The inside was remarkably plus and featured high-back extensions which Ford called “flight bench seating”. Nicer door trim and a few extra features gave the LTD Landau just enough flash to justify a higher price, and lent the car a stately, almost Lincoln-like appearance.
Our example here is a wonderfully kept Landau on display at a small car show that was a part of a Malaise Motors gathering this past weekend in Michigan’s Thumb region. Apparently the original owner was concerned about preserving the upholstery for a future owner, as they had the seating covered in plastic seat covers that covered the entire seating areas! My parents had a well worn 1972 Chevrolet Impala when I was born, and it had these same seat covers. Even as a young child, I couldn’t understand why someone would want to hide the beautiful upholstery that was underneath.
A 400-cubic-inch V-8, air conditioning, stereo and a few other options brought this car’s MSRP to a reasonable $6976, which translates to $29,188.69 in 2019 dollars. Quite a bit of car for the money, and attainable to quite a few middle class families.
In 1979, Ford’s downsized sedans arrived. The company tactfully retired the “bigger is better” advertising as if it had never existed. The Landau model continued as the alpha LTD, but would be retired after 1982, in favor of a new name that would survive more than 30 years in one form or another: the LTD Crown Victoria.