Posted in Matchbox

Policing the highways, chapt. 1 – Ford LTD

So what the heck does LTD stand for, anyway? Maybe one of my American readers could enlighten me. Luxury Trim Decor? Lincoln Trimmed Down? Lacklustre To Drive? Lame, tedious design? No, of course not! We love the boxy Ford LTD! Well, I do at least. But with such a mysterious name, what secrets does the Ford El Teedie hold?

The Car: Ford LTD

Picture it: the year is 1973. Egypt and Syria have just invaded Israel. Egyptian forces reach the Sinai Peninsula uninhibited, and Syrian forces plunge into the Golan Heights.

Three days later, the humiliating defeat of the Arab Nations is on the table – Israel uses superior military tactics to force the invaders back. Tensions are high between the USA and the USSR, both of whom had been supporting their allies – Israel and Syria respectively – with arms.

Anyone who knows history remotely will know what kind of impact the Yom Kippur War had, and how it shocked the western world. It took only six days for the US to involve themselves with the war, and a relative instant for OAPEC (the Organisation of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) to hike their export prices up to the Americans and their friends, including the UK.

The 1973 oil shock and the resulting stock market crash was probably the first great long term economic disaster since the Great Depression for the USA, the shockwaves of which can still be felt in today’s petrol prices. I know a lot of my American friends are complaining about gas prices going over $2 a gallon. Try coming here – it’s closer to $10 a gallon.

So what does all this have to do with our Ford LTD?

We have to go into a lot of boring stuff regarding fuel economy and consumption to understand some of the finer details of our current iteration of the vehicle. But, in short, in 1975, something called “CAFE” came about, which stands for Corporate Average Fuel Economy, and was a bunch of standards applied by the US government to improve the, you guessed it, average fuel economy of vehicles produced in the USA.

The results? They were okay, I guess, if you consider a 14% drop in fuel consumption worth the supposed massive increase in road deaths over the same period. (Europe, in the meantime, with its crowded cities and narrow streets, began a love affair with the compact-car)

In 1977, Ford were boasting the “curb-hugging” capacity of their full-size cars, comparing them to GM models, which had been downsized following the historic backdrop. They weren’t so smug when GM’s smaller cars proved a hit, and had their own arms twisted by CAFE soon after. One such victim of the new trend was indeed the Ford LTD, which, in previous years, had sat upon a 121 inch chassis and was powered by a big-block V8. Now, on a shortened chassis that was all new, and powered by smaller V8s, the car had shed 400 pounds of weight without a compromise on roominess.

A 351 V8 was an optional step above the 302 V8, but was dropped in 1981 with the CAFE regulations… except for police cars!

As time went on, the trim package of “Crown Victoria” returned to the Ford LTD lineup and would become a car in its own right. The LTD and LTD Crown Vic became separate vehicles, the LTD being downsized, and the Crown Victoria taking its place as the full size North American family sedan, and the most commonly seen police car in the country.

And what says American Law Enforcement more than a black and white Ford Crown Victoria?

The Model: Matchbox Ford LTD.

It says “Made in China” on the base, but this car is about as Matchboxy as a Matchbox can be.

Nobody makes police cars better than Matchbox in my view, and just look at this thing: pure style, road presence, and accuracy.

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The moulding of the body and the square headlamps and grille would be great just on their own. But add on those spotlights and a radar gun, and you have one of the coolest police cars ever produced in small scale.

A great feature of these cars is also the two-tone roof bar light. Using two separate pieces of plastic riveted to the inside of the roof, Matchbox are able to have multicoloured lights to add to the interest of the car.

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Beneath that blue tinted window is a nicely detailed interior.

On the heavy metal body, this version comes with “County Sheriff” motifs upon a silver stripe on each side, with a 9 pointed star. The bonnet hosts the same star – the words “County Sheriff” are in small type within – and “SHERIFF” below. It also reads just “SHERIFF” on the boot lid. The roof reads “S-27” behind the light bar. The unit number (27) is on the front fenders, while the numbers “911” are on the rear.

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Matchbox purists will notice the wheels are not stock. I changed them, as the originals were gummed up and rusty with age. I was considering restoring the body, but I like the current colours too much, so I’m in the process of buying an old restore job in order to have another for my collection.

The car comes with a plastic base in chrome.

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All in all one of the best looking police cars in my collection, next to the Plymouth Gran Fury and more recent Dodge Monaco models.

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Ford LTD Facts

  • The LTD trim originated as a package on the iconic Ford Galaxie 500, then became a separate line in 1966.
  • The 1975 LTD was built on the “Panther” platform, which was all new.
  • The Mercury equivelant of the LTD was the Grand Marquis.
  • It was downsized in 1983 to replace the unsuccessful Ford Granada.

Featured Image: 1987 Ford LTD Crown Victoria by Charlie. Original

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Author:

Graphic designer, writer for Classic American auto magazine, journalist.

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