1977 Ford LTD Country Squire: Suburban luxury from the Wagonmaster
What says 1960s–70s upper-middle class suburbia better than the Ford Country Squire? Before minivans, before SUVs, and before crossovers, these were the ne plus ultra family hauler for upwardly mobile moms. Sure, you could get a plain vanilla Ford wagon, a Country Sedan—later on, just the plain LTD wagon … but they didn’t have that most excellent simulated wood trim. Those woodgrained flanks and vacuum-operated hidden headlamps were a mark of distinction when attempting to one-up the Joneses in the ’70s. And they were seen everywhere in suburbia during the Me Decade, as easily and as frequently as Explorers, Santa Fes, and Traverses are seen today.
The Country Squire had been a Ford staple for many years by the time the 1975–78 versions started appearing in Ford showrooms. Introduced in 1949 as a two-door, steel-roofed wagon with real wood inserts in the doors, quarter panels, and tailgate, they were soon a family staple, seen in driveways everywhere. The 1975 model was a restyled version of the 1973 Ford, with new front and rear styling, and several new interior options across the board. The Country Squire gained a new grille and hidden headlights, shared with the plush LTD Landau series.
All LTD wagons were powered by a 400-cubic-inch V-8, backed by a Select Shift Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission. A 460 V-8 was optional—a handy upgrade for those who used their LTD to pull a speedboat or Airstream trailer. Other standard features included power brakes, power steering, and a power tailgate window.
LTD Country Squires added the usual woodgrained vinyl sides and tailgate, framed by light fiberglass wood-toned moldings. An extended range fuel tank was optional, adding an extra eight gallons to the already good-sized tank. Other Squire standard features included full wheel covers, dual-note horn, electric clock, cargo area light, and rear door courtesy light switches.
These were the biggest Ford wagons you could get: 225.6 inches long (121-inch wheelbase) and 79.9 inches wide. And there was a lot of interior space, with 94.6 cubic-feet of cargo volume—more than 100 if you counted the below-deck storage.
One interesting feature on these wagons was the dual rear-facing seats, which turned your Country Squire into an 8-passenger wagon. It was very different from the rear-facing seats found on most Detroit wagons of the time, with the exception of the 1971–76 GM B-body wagons, where the third row actually faced forward. Ford’s famous Magic Doorgate made it a lot easier to get in and out of the jump seats, too. They folded down, like typical tailgates, but flipping a switch made them open from the side for passengers. Hence the term “magic.”
If the standard interior wasn’t to your liking, there were several optional interior choices. The Landau Luxury Group was the best interior you could get, with embroidered split-bench seating and shag carpeting. It was essentially the same interior found in top-drawer LTD Landau sedans and coupes.
Only slightly less plush was the Squire Brougham option, which featured a split-bench seat with fold-down armrests and passenger recliner. It was, as you might have guessed, lifted from the LTD Brougham series. Most Country Squires were loaded, and popular options included the SelectAire air conditioner, Automatic Temperature Control, vinyl roof, and a luggage rack with built-in woodgrained wind deflector.
However, if you didn’t want to flaunt your good fortune, you could get a plain-sided LTD station wagon, load it up with options, and the neighbors wouldn’t be the wiser. But then you’d miss out on those cool hidden headlights.
Whether basic or fancy, these wagons were just the thing for hauling the kids to the Grand Canyon or towing your boat up to the lake for the day—back before minivans, then SUVs, then crossovers, effectively replaced them throughout the U.S. But if National Lampoon’s Vacation had been done in the ’70s, one of these wood-clad family yachts would have been Clark Griswold’s ride!
A friend of mine in Chicago, Jonny Valadez, absolutely loved these things. His dad had one when he was a kid. Of course, those of us who love cars tend to be heavily influenced by what our parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents drive. I grew up in several 1980s Volvo 240 and Volvo 740 station wagons and sedans. And that’s why I drove Volvos myself for approximately 20 years, until I started buying Lincolns, which my grandparents drove. I recall riding in my grandfather’s navy blue 1977 Continental Mark V when I was very young. So I can relate.
Anyway, Jon had several of these LTDs. He had a red one in college, and this green one eventually was sold to a collector in Europe. Yes, these 1970s full-size American cars are quite popular in European countries like Italy, Germany., and Finland!
The final one was this root beer brown Country Squire, which he picked up cheap late in 2015. It actually looked pretty decent, but he told me it was pretty rusty. He just drove it to enjoy and tinker with. He even drove it in the winter.
But he had several cars at the time: a ’76 Mercedes 450SL, a ’76 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau, and another Mercedes, and an early ’80s 300TD station wagon. So (if I am remembering correctly), when a father and his teen son approached him at a car show a few months later and asked if he would sell the Country Squire, he did. Presumably it is still roaming greater Chicagoland today.
But sadly Jonny isn’t. He was my age, but he passed away early in 2018. Over the previous several years, I’d made many friends in the car clubs in Chicago, despite living in the Quad Cities area, and we had several mutual friends. Early in February of that year, I got the call. Despite a sudden snowstorm the morning of the memorial, I managed to point the Town Car up into the Chicago suburbs for the memorial and met several of our mutual buddies there, as well as several other folks who knew Jonny well that I hadn’t met before. We still keep in touch today, thanks to social media.
There are still times I’ll find a model car that’s really cool or see something really neat at a show, and I’ll think, ‘Man, Jon would have gotten a kick out of this!’ And that was what was running through my mind when I saw this remarkably nice 1977 LTD Country Squire at a cruise night in April 2018.
This car, resplendent in Light Jade Metallic with jade green interior, had a claimed 56,000 miles and was extremely sharp. This was the next-to-the-last year for the really big Country Squires. In 1979, the first downsized full-sized Fords would replace them, in response to the recently-downsized ’77 Chevrolet Caprice and Impala.
Say what you will about social media, but through it, I met a kindred spirit. And he was a serious station wagon man, particularly when it came to these Country Squires. So today’s article is dedicated to him. Godspeed Jonny V, wherever you are. Hope you’re driving a wagon.