Ford LTD P6, 1976-79 - Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Ellen Dewar

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Looking a little like its English brethren the Ford LTD was the Rolls-Royce of home-grown premium product and long-lasting to boot

From Unique Cars issue #271, Mar/Apr 2007

FORD LTD P6 1976-79

Da-dum-de-dah, da-dum-de-dah... Hands up all who found that little tune rattling through their heads the moment this Buyers Guide subject hove into view. Just how many P6-Series Ford LTDs were sold in Wedding Car White is impossible to know. Likewise the quantity of couples that said "I do" before riding off to the reception in one of these ‘Rolls-Royce’ fronted Fords, but there would have been plenty.

Ford Australia began building Fairlane-based LTDs in 1973. Following decades of reliance on US-sourced big cars, its decision coincided with a sharp increase in fuel prices and the perception that wallowing two-tonners were an untenable indulgence.

There was also the little matter of Holden’s Statesman that was challenging the Fairlane for dominance of the ‘executive’ car market and would shortly introduce a leather-trimmed Caprice to take on the LTD.

| Market review 2016: Ford Fairlane ZC-ZK 351/LTD/Landau

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The P6 LTD was based on Ford’s square-edged ZH Fairlane and appeared in showrooms during September 1976.

Mechanically, the new LTD was proven and uncomplicated – a 5.8-litre V8 with a three-speed FMX transmission and sky-high 2.75:1 rear axle ratio that diminished acceleration but kept average fuel consumption at under 20L/100km. Four-wheel disc brakes were standard, as were variable-ratio power steering and a limited-slip differential.

Interior appointments were a step above Fairlane standards and helped justify an introductory price of $14,000 that would climb to $17,500 by mid-1979. The dash was finished in fake timber, a remote boot release and air-conditioning were standard. Windows from the outset were electrically-operated and six-way electric seat adjustment was added during 1978.

Leather trim was a commonly-specified option, except on ‘Silver Monarch’ models that cosseted their occupants in cranberry-coloured crushed velour and the Town Car that had leather seats as standard equipment.

Appearances are everything in the prestige vehicle world and Ford scored a major coup with its choice of frontal aspect for the P6 LTD. However, its ‘Rolls-Royce’ visage had unintended consequences for at least one buyer.

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Steve Koukouletas, who related the tale, is selling our featured LTD Town Car on behalf of his uncle, who has owned it for the past eight years. "My uncle is a priest in the Greek Orthodox Church," Steve said. "When he got the car some of the church community thought it was a Rolls-Royce and were saying he must have been robbing the church funds to afford it.

"He had to spend quite a bit of time convincing them that it was really a Ford and not worth anything like they thought it was."

ON THE ROAD

Concerns over the car’s size and bulk are understandable. LTDs of this era measure almost 5.5m in length and are nearly two metres wide. Weight of 1830kg inevitably impacts on fuel consumption but does allow the car to legally tow large sports boats, caravans and even horse trailers.

Owners who use these cars for towing frequently fit extra leaves to the rear springs and adjustable shock absorbers but they can still suffer damage from prolonged use as heavy haulers.

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The boot is shallow but very long and certainly large enough to accommodate an LPG tank. The standard 75-litre petrol tank provides a highway range of up to 500km and will cost $80-100 to fill. On LPG, Steve Koukouletas says, the Town Car will deliver 380km for a fill-up cost of $30.

The 5.8-litre V8 is an engine of impeccable credentials and even when faced with the handicap of Australia’s hastily-enacted ADR27 emission controls could still move a heavy car with ease.

Acceleration from rest to 60km/h took under 5.0secs, with 0-110km/h taking 11.9. Figures for the vital 80-110km/h overtaking increment came up at an impressive 5.1secs – 1.7secs quicker than a 5.0-litre Holden Caprice.

Even an ex-hire car I checked out some years ago on behalf of a friend demonstrated the inherent toughness of these LTDs. It was white of course and showing 335,000km, with leather trim and carpets that were worn but not beyond redemption. Somewhere along the line it had acquired a set of ROH alloy wheels that allowed the skimpy FR78 radials to be replaced by lower-profile ER70s.

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Dual exhausts delivered a muted and satisfying rumble and foot-floored acceleration had the big Ford surging away from the lights and running quickly to 80km/h. Throttle kickdown worked well, however road tests of the cars when new recommended manual downshifting for improved response.

You might think a car that had spent around 15 years working hard for its keep would bounce like a tomcat on a trampoline when faced with a second-rate road. Not so.

Except for a little slop in the steering, the suspension felt tight and handled rough bitumen predictably and without any untoward noise.

That LTD’s most memorable quality was its ability, despite high kilometres and an obviously hard life, to do everything expected without fuss or complaint. It was simply one of the most relaxing cars I had experienced and that impression was confirmed by the Town Car’s current keeper.

"Just like being in a limousine," is Steve Koukouletas’ assessment of the red and black beauty. "It has only done 212,000km but it is still 30-years old and after that you’d think things would start feeling a little loose and worn but it is just so quiet and feels so strong."

Downsides of the big Ford’s lugubrious manner were the variable-ratio power steering that felt fine at suburban speeds but a little too light for precise cornering and seats that look inviting but provided little in the way of side support.

Despite a glowing assessment, my friend had second thoughts about feeding a 5.8-litre engine and bought a six-cylinder ZJ Fairlane instead. I didn’t go back for the LTD and I regretted it for years after. The asking price at the time was just $2400.

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HOW MUCH?

Almost 6000 of the P6 series LTD were built (including 250 Monarchs and 400 Town Cars) and survivors are easily found in the used vehicle market. Cheap examples in decent condition are far less common and $5000 is the minimum spend for a tidy car. Providing you’re not overly concerned about appearance, untidy but usable LTDs are available at $2500-3500.

LPG conversions are popular and commonplace but don’t add a great deal to values when compared to petrol-only cars of similar quality. A 118-litre fuel tank was optional but it’s rare to find a car with this boot-shrinking extra.

"There are plenty of LTDs around but very few really tight, well-kept cars," Steve Koukouletas said. "When my uncle wanted to move up from a ZH Marquis we had to look for ages for this car and I can’t imagine they are any easier to find today."

Silver Monarch and Town Car versions aren’t yet booming with the same ferocity as Falcon GTs and V8-engined Fairmonts, and enthusiasts seeking a car to preserve can still obtain an outstanding example for less than $15,000.

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BUYER'S CHECKLIST

BODY & CHASSIS:
Rust attacks virtually everywhere but is most devastating in the lower firewall, rear spring attachment points, inner sills, floors and under the vinyl roof covering. Have a good look at the steering box attachment points for rust and cracking. Spare panels from the windscreen back are shared with the ZH Fairlane and not especially difficult to find. Front mudguards and especially that distinctive grille are scarce and must be in good condition. The heavy doors sag on their hinges and can be difficult to close. LTDs that have been used for heavy towing can stretch, so look for inconsistent or enlarged gaps between the rear doors and quarter panel and around the boot-lid. Correct-pattern vinyl for Town Car roof covering is almost unobtainable.

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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION:
Far better news here as the 5.8-litre Cleveland V8 is very durable and relatively cheap to rebuild. Oil leaks around the timing cover, from the rear of the engine block and cylinder heads but can be ignored unless severe. Power steering pumps leak and cost around $400 to replace. Soft or broken engine mountings will cause vibration under heavy acceleration. The heavy-duty transmission and differential are very tough and, if serviced regularly, can last for decades without need for an overhaul while the nine-inch differential is among the toughest diffs in existence.

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SUSPENSION & BRAKES:
Noisy, creaking front suspensions are typical of older Fords and shouldn’t eliminate an otherwise good car from contention. All of the parts needed to return these Ford front ends to excellent health are available and affordable. Rear leaf springs that sag can be reset but cracked leaves need to be replaced and a complete spring set bought second hand could be in the same condition or worse than the one needing replacement. These heavy cars are hard on front brakes; squealing and a pulsating pedal denoting worn pads and warped disc rotors.

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INTERIOR & ELECTRICAL:
Lots of low-priced LTDs appear in sale ads wearing sheepskin on their seats and that’s bad news for buyers. Retrimming the interior in leather and to ‘show’ standard will cost the better part of $10,000. Electric windows that are slow or jerky when activated may, according to Steve Koukouletas, need nothing more than renewal of the mechanism’s nylon bushes.

Ford LTD P6, 1976-79 Specs

NUMBER BUILT: 5896
BODY: all-steel, integrated body/chassis four-door sedan
ENGINE: 5.8-litre V8 with overhead valves, single camshaft and four-barrel downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 162kW @ 4500rpm, 429Nm @ 2700rpm
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h – 10.6secs, 0-400m – 17.1secs
TRANSMISSION: three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Front – independent with coil springs, control arms, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar. Rear – live axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs and telescopic shock absorbers
BRAKES: discs front and rear with power assistance
TYRES: FR78S14 radial
PRICE RANGE: $1000-15,000
Contact:  Fairlane & LTD Social Club

 

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