Monday, August 23, 2010

Briefly: 1977 Ford LTD – “[NSFW]”

(H/T: The idea for a capsule review is stolen… er, appropriated… from The Truth About Cars.)

Oh, dear, what have we here?


No, not those ones.

At one point my truck Rusty was disabled while I was wrestling with a brake issue. As a journo in Thermopolis, Wyo., I needed wheels.



(Important statistics about Thermopolis include: 65 miles to the nearest Wal Mart, 180 miles to the nearest Interstate on-ramp, a larger population of mule deer within town limits than humans. God how I miss that place.)

After making a deal on this LTD, for $500 I think, I asked my boss for an advance to ensure my mobility. Rusty was still running, but the loud noises coming from underneath (eventually diagnosed as a broken spring in a rear brake drum) did little to encourage confidence. He signed the check.



The baby blue beast coddled a 2 bbl 351 Cleveland V8 under the hood, which Wikipedia tells us was the most common powerplant, one step above the 302 but less gruntworthy than the optional 400, 429 or 460. (The 351-M was also available.) Connected to a three speed slushbox, the LTD never threatened excitement. To estimate 0-60 times did not require a watch with a second-hand.




Once the C6 found top gear the driver could fall asleep, especially on some stretches of Wyoming highway. While discussing another Ford with disconnected steering I said I felt more like a helmsman than a driver in that truck. In the LTD, I felt more like an admiral: give orders to someone, who will communicate them to the ship, then to the captain and finally through the XO or COB to whoever has their hand on the wheel.


U.S. Hwy. 20/Wyo. Hwy. 789 near Boysen Dam, about 15 miles south of Thermopolis.
Throttle response was similarly ponderous. Few cars produced today boast 351 ci (5.8 liters for you metric sticklers) of displacement but many have much, much more horsepower than this CAFE/EPA/CARB strangled beast. Torque was merely adequate for this application, lugging around about 5,000# dry. NASCAR could have adopted this drivetrain instead of using restrictor plates, although it may have slowed the cars too much.


While driving the LTD, it was advisable to take on the persona of a grizzled old sea captain.
Inside was another story. While it would be more interesting to strap a saddle on a lame sow than drive the whale, interior comfort was exceptional. The 250,000 mile seats were still in good shape. Only the AM radio and dash clock had died by the time I acquired the LTD in 2008. Amazingly, the original R-12 air conditioner still worked. You’ve not been in a comfy car until you enjoy R-12 air on a 110 degree day.

The trunk slept eight… 12 or 14 if you were figuring Mafia configuration. The doors locked and the windows rolled down. Fuel mileage was in the high single-digits, although I’ve heard 20 mpg was possible if you drove off a cliff very quickly. There were seat belts for six and all could be used comfortably save for six-footers in the back.




Reliability was good. The automatic choke worked well enough in the cold months and a thorough going-through of the engine returned some vigor to the old workhorse. That said, who bought these things new? Some years ago I had an ’83 Caprice (perhaps we’ll discuss that another day) and I would argue that car was superior in every way to the LTD. (It should be noted the GM B-bodies, or which the Caprice was one variant, were downsized dramatically in ’77.)

Eventually I grew tired of the whale and put a sale sign in the window. It started at $1,000 and continued slipping until an elderly couple purchased it for $800. Unfortunately, the “bulletproof” C6 developed fluid issues several months after I sold the car, but the last time I was in Thermopolis it was still cruising the streets. A horrid car, but resilient.





UPDATE - 21 Sept. 2010.
A reliable source informs me the "resilient" LTD was found abandoned on a rural highway, "dead." Rest in piece... peace.

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