In 1965 General Motors brought American cars into the modern era with a total remake of its full size lines that may have been designer Bill Mitchell’s finest hour. That same year Ford also remade its full size cars but took them in an entirely different direction. While GM’s new cars had lines that were at once smooth, flowing and muscular, Ford went for an upright, formal, chiseled look that, while attractive enough, did nothing to help the Number 2 car maker elbow its way to pole position in the sales charts.
Vertical headlights were a distinctive styling element of the ‘65 Fords. The look wasn’t new, of course, as it was a signature design cue for Pontiac starting in 1963 and had even appeared on the Nash Statesman in its swan song year of 1957. Chrysler gave Plymouth a suspiciously similar look to its full sizers in 1965, as well.
The big Ford’s 119” wheelbase chassis stayed in production for four seasons with annual changes in the body shell. Each year the sharp edges were smoothed, the fenders became more rounded and the stacked sealed beams made their last appearance in 1967.
The ‘68s, such as this LTD, brought the headlights back to horizontal and hid them behind flip-up doors on the premium versions. By this time Ford was practically admitting that the sharp edges of the ‘65s were a mistake and adopted some of GM’s design cues such as the rounded humps of the rear flanks.
The LTD was first introduced in 1965 as an upmarket trim package for the Galaxie but Ford never told us what the letters were supposed to stand for. Some speculate that LTD meant Luxury Trim Decor, a plausible explanation given that the company later offered LDO packages on other models and specifically told us that those letters stood for Luxury Decor Option. I remember standing in a used car lot with my mother in the late 1960s and hearing a salesman tell her that he believed that the letters stood for Limited, again, plausible enough given that some car makers (including Ford) still use the word Limited to denote high-end models. On the other hand, LTD might not have stood for anything at all.
As is often the case, a kind of evolution occurred with the name LTD as time went on. It spent a few years denoting the highest trim level for the biggest Fords but later became the only name for them with the word Brougham tacked onto the higher trim models. Ford liked the name LTD so much that it renamed the mid size Torino the LTD II in 1977. The nicest full size Ford became the LTD Crown Victoria after it transitioned to the Panther chassis but later the LTD was dropped and Ford’s full sizer became just Crown Victoria. Oh, and don’t forget the Fox platform LTDs of the early to mid 1980s.
The ‘68 LTD in the picture was spotted on Wisconsin State Highway 42 between Ellison Bay and Northport in Door County. It’s been parked in this same spot, with the for sale sign, for at least the past six years. The photo was taken last year but the car is still there this week.