1976-79 Ford LTD P6 - Buyer's Guide

By: Guy Allen, Cliff Chambers, Photography by: Ben Galli, Guy Allen

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Our favourite story when it comes to the P6 Ford LTD of the late 70s is that of a hapless Melbourne priest in the Greek Orthodox Church.

He happened to own one of these gentlemanly giants and, thanks to the ‘Rolls-Royce’ grille on the front, at least some of his parishioners became convinced he had his hand in the proverbial collection jar – how else could a humble priest afford a Roller?

The efforts were made to kill off the rumours and assure everyone it really was a Ford, and not a particularly valuable one on the second-hand market, but to no avail. He had to get rid of it. Sad.

The owner of this car, Kevin Crough, says he had one of these giants when they were a new car. "I used to work for the government, and I had one when I was raising four sons and it was great. You could fit everyone in, fit all the gear, it was comfortable, the boot’s ginormous.

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"I said to my wife, when I retire I want to get one of those. So I found this car." That was the beginning of a four-year restoration process, which we’ll talk about in another issue.

Meanwhile owners like Kevin regard this as the last ‘proper’ limousine built by Ford Australia. Made from 1976 through to early 1979, they shared a lot of componentry with the Falcon and Fairlane ranges, but visually went all-out to get away from the Falcon look. Buyers said they wanted something distinctive and that’s what they got.

Obviously the big bluff styling is the clue, along with the ‘Rolls-Royce’ grille and the distinctive twin headlights. Oh, and here’s a bit of trivia – those hubcaps are from a Thunderbird. Some 5900 LTDs of this generation were made, including two special editions. One was the Silver Monarch (painted silver with red velour interior) to mark Queen Elizabeth’s silver jubilee; Plus the upmarket Town Car, intended to combat the Statesman Caprice. Some 250 and 400 were made of each.

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Under the sheet metal, you scored some fairly high-end mechanicals. A 351 Cleveland 2V was appointed to shift the 1800kg lump, backed by a three-speed auto and a version of the company’s famed nine-inch differential.

You got four-wheel disc brakes all round, upgraded dampers and roll bars and variable-ratio power steering. If you ticked enough options, leather interior and electric seats were part of the fit-out.

Rear seat room in these things is generous – the rear doors are enormous (extended by some 12cm), though the front in this example was less generous with the optional electric seat adjustment in place. That can limit the range of the thrones, which is not an issue for average-sized folk, but tall drivers will find it a little more restricted than ideal.

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As was fashionable at the time, the LTD features a vinyl roof. Not only did it look the part but it also hid a component of the manufacturing. The chassis was cut and shut for extra length by around 12cm and the vinyl cover meant Ford didn’t have to spend too much effort tidying up the joins in the roof. Over the years, that becomes a rust trap.

Those little quirks aside, the big P6 is an impressive bit of kit. As Kevin suggests, it carries a huge amount of humans and gear, while being a pretty handy tow car. The interior is plush and you get the sense you could travel a long way in comfort.

Performance feels much the way you’d expect with the big lazy V8 up front. It gets away without hesitation and there’s plenty of poke on tap for overtaking. There’s a little body roll through turns, but not as much as you might expect in this well-kept example while the braking is better than average for the period. Back in the late seventies, this would have felt like a very special car.

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Kevin says he spent a long time finding this example and ended up stripping it for a rebuild anyway. As a result, his view is there aren’t that many survivors – maybe 10 per cent of the originals, because owners couldn’t be bothered restoring them once they wore out. That could well be right.

We found a couple for sale, and the prices weren’t high. Really, they looked like bargains compared to something like an upmarket XA through to XC V8 Falcon. The catch would be to find something that’s not going to end in tears in the body shop, which is where a car like the one you see here – that’s already been restored – could easily end up fetching serious money.

Would you be happy if you owned one like this? I reckon so. Just point it at the opposite side of the country and stop when you see the ocean…

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FORD LTD P6 BUYING
- Cliff Chambers

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 $12,000 is the minimum spend for a tidy car. Providing you’re not overly concerned about appearance, untidy but usable LTDs are available at $5500-7000.

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.

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"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 might still obtain an outstanding example for less than $25,000.

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VALUE RANGE - FORD LTD P6

FAIR: $9000
GOOD: $15,000
EXCELLENT: $25,000+

BUYER'S CHECKLIST: P6 LTD

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 ever 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 & Electrics

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.

1976-1979 Ford LTD P6 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 
Contact: Fairlane & LTD Social Club

 

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