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Random Car Review: The 1984-85 Ford LTD LX – The Hot Fox That Slipped Under The Radar

Random Car Review: The 1984-85 Ford LTD LX – The Hot Fox That Slipped Under The Radar

Fourteen different model names rode on Ford’s Fox platform between 1978 and 1993. All of those names have different reputations: the Ford Mustang and Mercury Capri get the automatic pass because of their pony-car status, the Lincoln Continental Mark VII earned it’s spot because of the LSC, and the Ford Fairmont, Mercury Zephyr and Ford Durango ute are notable simply because they are Genesis. The 1983-1988 Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar coupes had NASCAR victory, which is something that can’t be said about their 1980-82 versions, and the less said about the Lincoln Continental sedan, 1980-82 Ford Granada and Mercury Cougar sedan/wagon, the better.

ford ltd

Then there is the 1983-86 Ford LTD. Along with its Mercury Marquis twin, these cars were an odd stop-gap fill in between the failure of the Granada/Cougar and the arrival of the front wheel drive Taurus/Sable. Basically the Granada with a slightly more aerodynamic nose and a different tail design, the LTD was simply around to make the most of it’s short time in production. It did well enough, but a rear-wheel-drive midsize sedan wasn’t in fashion and Ford knew it.

ltd lx black

One person who could have cared less about front-wheel-drive or fashion, however, was Bob Bondurant. Bondurant had been running Mustangs at his high-performance driving school, but he wanted a sedan so that demonstration drives (also known as “scare the passenger” laps) could be done. Given that many members of the board at Ford were Bondurant graduates, it didn’t take long for the basic concoction to get whipped up: the 165hp 5.0 H.O. block was stolen out of a Mustang and shoved in, backed with a five-speed. All of the police-spec suspension made it’s way onto the prototype car for the LTD LX, and once completed, Bondurant and Ford president Don Peterson tested it out. Bondurant was impressed, and Peterson suddenly saw a way to capitalize on the “Euro Sport Sedan” trend that Detroit had been trying out. Surely, a V8 LTD that had Mustang internals and Bondurant’s seal of approval could outsell the Pontiac 6000STE and Dodge 600ES…right?

ltd lx advert

Wrong. The numbers are a little loose, but 3,260 give or take a few LTD LXs and a tiny handful of similar Canada-only Mercury Marquis LTS were sold before the performance plug was yanked in 1985. What happened? The car had favorable press and was very competitive, but enthusiasts went cold when they found out it was automatic only, and even with blacked-out trim, a tachometer, floor shifter and console, it still looked, for the most part, like every other LTD on the lot…which meant “boring”. And then there was the shift to front-wheel-drive cars that was in full force. A sedan that was the second warming of what was the 1978 Ford Fairmont was just plain dated in 1985, and the idea of a sporty sedan was too ahead of its time for the American marketplace.

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18 thoughts on “Random Car Review: The 1984-85 Ford LTD LX – The Hot Fox That Slipped Under The Radar

  1. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    Only 165HP from 5 litres?

    My right bollock has more than that!

    But – swap in a nicely tuned motor, slam the suspension way down and slap on a coat of satin black – mmmmmm tasty!

    1. Mr.Blue

      Thats what the cfi 5.0’s made when coupled to an auto in ’84 & ’85 mustang GT’s…………the 4bbl. models made 175 (’84) and 210 (’85)………bondurant got ripped off if he got cfi with a stick lol………….

      1. Jasen

        The LTD that Bondurant converted was a 4bbl/5spd. The Fleet cars after that were all LTD LXes from Ford with the CFI/AOD. He still has one left that they use on the track. It was in one of the (American) Top Gear episodes a couple years back.

  2. Nick D.

    One of these with a 331 turbo and a very quiet exhaust could be a great way to separate some fools from their money

  3. ImpalaGuy

    We had one of these (unmarked/police package) at work. Was one of my favorites to take out on night shift. The rear end would get really light if it was wet out. Don’t ask me how I know.

  4. LTDScott

    Hey, that’s my car in the video! Nice write up. These cars are starting to get some appreciation and values of good ones are going up. They’ll never be as popular as the Mustang, but for the people who like the novelty and practicality of a fast sedan, they’re rad.

    My is currently apart in my garage getting a heart transplant in the form of a rebuilt bottom end and a new blower in addition to the aluminum heads and intake I have now. Should be good for 350+ HP at the wheel.

    1. Jasen

      Funny thing Scott…. The grandmas versions are going up in price. Which may be good for the LTD LX. Hell, Rory just bought that Red LTD LX. The one that Grandma didn’t like in gray and had painted red. lol. He’ll be converting it to SEFI and an IRS. I think he MAY do a manual swap as well.

  5. Jeff T

    I had one of these. Bought an ’84 in 1994 from the original owner and drove it for nine years. It was a fantastic car- perfect size, very good handling (all Mustang GT suspension, including the quick-ratio steering) and comfortable as heck .
    The big letdown was power. Even though it used the Mustang GT engine, the 165 HP is accurate. Living in CA, I couldn’t legally modify it, so just drove it stock. I would have enjoyed another 100-200 HP, and a stick would have been icing on the cake.
    A bit of trivia- the LTD was continued into the 1986 model year (including a few LX’s) because the Taurus was delayed. That car was supposed to replace the LTD completely for ’86.

  6. Richard Warburton

    I had one of those over here in England many years ago in Police spec from an American air base.
    Ran low 16’s on skinny van tyres!

  7. Robert

    My friend had one. With 5 lug conversion for the wheels a built AOD some simple bolt on mods for the suspension, intake, cam and exhaust. It was an awesome sleeper. A 100hp nitrous hit was the icing on the cake. Was paying for itself and then some from unsuspecting Vette, Camaro and Mustang weiners.

  8. Ed

    I had the Merc version, Marquis LTS, bought in the early 90s for a daily driver when I also had my 87 5.0L Mustang which was becoming more of a track car at the time. Had leftover suspension bits, wheels & tires etc. to swap on to the Marquis, it was a fun driver. The stock AOD trans had a very crisp calibration, when I had my stock Gatorback tires and 10-hole wheels off the Mustang bolted on, it would bark them in to second.

    The best was when I would open the hood, and people saw the big spun aluminium air cleaner lid with the dual snorkels, and finned “Powered by Ford” valve covers … they would almost always ask if I had swapped in that engine. LOL

    It even got me on to TSN, the Canadian equivalent of ESPN, when they were covering the Ontario regional autocross series. I was running the car in a fairly low stock class because of the way it was classified, and did pretty well with it.

    Around the same time, my best friend Stu had an LTD LX, and we had an acquaintance that also had a Marquis LTS. My car got run in to by an early 80s full-size Buick on the highway, sent spinning along the guardrail, and was a write-off. Got it back from the insurance company and parted it out. I found out recently that there were only 136 of the Mercs produced … dang.

    1. Roger

      See my reply to LTDScott, I found a black LTS in southern Ohio and purchased it this weekend. Gonna be a lot of fun building this car 🙂 .

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