1973 Ford LTD Brougham: The Quiet Ford
By the early 1970s, Ford had a full lineup of cars. Gone were the days of the one-car line, when the two-door, four-door, convertible, and wagon were built on the same basic body and had different trim levels. Pick a year, say 1953, and the Ford was the Ford. It stood alone. You just decided whether you wanted a Customline, Crestliner, Country Squire, or Sunliner, and picked a six or a V-8, chose your colors, and that was about it.
But by ’73 it was a completely different story. The full-size Ford, which had been the only Ford (unless you counted trucks 20 years prior) was still going gangbusters—941,054 Fords were built for ’73, but you had many other choices. Mustang, Thunderbird, Gran Torino, Maverick, and Pinto all shared your local Ford dealer’s showroom.
And the LTD Brougham was the ritziest big Ford you could get in 1973, unless you sprung for the Thunderbird. LTD had steadily been taking over the full-sized Ford lineup since it first appeared in 1965 as a super deluxe package for Galaxie 500 two- and four-door hardtops. From 1965–69 the LTD was the top of the line, but starting in 1970 there was an even flossier LTD Brougham, with nicer upholstery and even more chrome.
As the early ’70s moved into the mid-’70s, the standard LTD gradually replaced the Galaxie 500 as the volume big Ford, while the Galaxie steadily got more basic, finally disappearing from the lineup after the 1974 model year. After that, it was all LTD all the time, at least for retail customers. The Custom 500 was still available for taxi and police uses.
They, and all full-size 1973 Fords, were completely redesigned inside and out. One interesting new feature was a jumbo glove compartment. It was enlarged to a capacity of 676 cubic inches, more than twice the size of earlier LTDs. Another was optional power mini-vent windows. A deluxe take on the old-style manual vent windows, they retracted before the main window section did, allowing fresh air without having to open the entire window. But back to the 1973 Brougham.
As the top of the line, it had all the regular LTD features, plus a distinctive high-back Flight Bench front seat with individual folding armrests, in addition to cut-pile carpeting, carpeted lower door panels, vinyl roof, full wheel covers, and color-keyed seat belts. A stand-up wreathed hood ornament and Brougham nameplates on the sail panels identified these cars from outside.
Under the hood, the standard engine on LTD Broughams was the 351-cubic-inch V-8 with two-barrel carburetor. For more oomph, you could order a two-barrel 400 V-8, four-barrel 429 V-8, or four-barrel 460 V-8. Power brakes, power steering, SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic transmission, and an electric clock were also standard on the Brougham.
A trio of models made up the Brougham lineup: a $4113 four-door sedan, $4103 four-door hardtop, and a $4107 two-door hardtop (all about $26K in today’s money). The two door was the most popular model, with 68,901 built for the year. For comparison, the cheapest 1973 big Ford was the $3606 Custom 500 sedan; 42,549 were sold.
By this time Ford had been touting the quietness of its cars for several years, and it was heavily played up in ads and brochures. The ’73 brochure extolled Quiet Quality: “We also build in quiet, with the most advanced acoustical materials and soundproofing techniques. Thick fiberglass—under the roof, under the hood, on the firewall, in the trunk, and on the floor—keeps road noise outside.”
There was even an ad in ’73 in which the LTD was deemed quieter than an engineless glider. While the glider registered 82 decibels at 60 mph, the LTD coupe did even better at only 65 decibels. Not bad. Solid, heavy and large, with a 121-inch wheelbase and overall length of 219.5 inches. To put that in perspective, a 2022 Lincoln Navigator is 210 inches long.
Ford had a good year in 1973. The LTD was named Motor Trend‘s Full-Size Sedan of the Year, and the company itself took a 22.69 percent share of the U.S. new car market. The most popular full-size Ford of all was the wood-clad Country Squire station wagon, with 142,933 sold. In 1973 the full-size station wagon was still king, and most suburbs were crawling with them, along with Mercury Colony Parks, Chevy Caprice Estates, and Pontiac Grand Safaris.
Our featured car sports an aftermarket Continental Mark IV-style oval opera window. They were relatively popular on larger Detroit cars back then; I recently watched an old episode of The Rockford Files in which James Garner drove a 1973 Olds Toronado that had one. I even recall as a kid seeing a few 1971–74 LTD coupes with those windows, although those cars were decidedly rough by the late ’80s.
Every Mother’s Day weekend, the Loafers car show is held in downtown Hannibal, Missouri. A friend in Jefferson City, Jason Shafer, used to live in Hannibal and told me about the show. As Hannibal is about halfway between his and my current cities, we usually meet there to have lunch and attend the show. This LTD has been there several times, though not every year. It looked even nicer in person than it does in these pictures, and I was completely smitten with that dark green interior. Hopefully I’ll make it to the 2022 event and get to see it again!