The Truth About Cars » Ford LTD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 15:44:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Ford LTD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1987 Ford LTD Country Squire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1987-ford-ltd-country-squire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1987-ford-ltd-country-squire/#comments Sat, 01 Jun 2013 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490126 01 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill the faux-woodgrain Country Squire Junkyard Finds never stop? Not if I can keep finding them! We started this sequence with this ’76, then followed up with this ’77 and this ’86. Today’s Squire is another Panther platform “woodie” wagon, Detroit’s traditional rear-drive family hauler for the late 1980s.
04 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car couldn’t carry the staggering volume of cargo that its gigantic 1970s predecessors did, but it still made the Taurus wagon seem cramped.
08 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith an EFI-equipped 302-cubic-inch V8 and overdrive automatic transmission, these cars got pretty good fuel economy for the time. Yes, the Taurus was a lot more frugal.
14 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis example, which I spotted in Denver a couple of weeks ago, seems pretty solid except for the bashed-up left front corner.
11 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt drove to the accident, but nobody wants to spend $1500 to fix a car that’s worth— at best— a grand. Next stop, Crusher!
10 - 1987 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSuch class!

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Ford LTD Country Squire LX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1986-ford-ltd-country-squire-lx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1986-ford-ltd-country-squire-lx/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 13:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490109 01 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince we’re on a Country Squire Junkyard Find roll, with a ’76 Squire on Wednesday and a ’77 Squire yesterday, let’s take a look at a Panther Squire today. Yes, Panther Love even extends to Reagan-era woodie wagons!
09 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 1979-91 Panther-based Country Squire was much smaller than the dreadnaught that preceded it, but it still had room to haul a family of six in relative comfort.
04 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThanks to the lightweight Panther chassis and electronic fuel injection (starting in the 1983 model year), owners of 1980s Country Squires were able to crack the magical 20 highway MPG fuel-economy barrier. The mid-70s Squires were lucky to get double-digit fuel economy (downhill, drafting 18″ behind a semi).
10 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s hard to imagine phony wood paneling worse than the stuff used by Ford in the 1970s, but the bean counters managed to find an even cheaper source for the stuff by the 1980s.
02 - 1986 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese were pretty good wagons, in spite of the archaic 60s-flashback decorative touches, and you still see quite a few on the street today.

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Ford LTD Country Squire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1977-ford-ltd-country-squire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1977-ford-ltd-country-squire/#comments Thu, 30 May 2013 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489981 02 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe saw a 1976 Country Squire Junkyard Find yesterday, after going seven months since seeing this ’75 Country Squire, but this Denver yard has given us back-to-back (actually, tailgate-to-tailgate) Malaise Era Country Squires. Today’s find is in far better shape than yesterday’s (which is both cool and saddening), so let’s check it out!
11 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin1977 was the second-to-last year of the extra-huge LTD Country Squire, and the factory shipping weight of this machine was a mighty 4,674 pounds. That’s 554 pounds more than the 2013 ZL1 Camaro, so you know we’re talking about a pretty hefty car here.
10 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 400M V8 in this car didn’t make a lot of power by 21st-century standards (if I look up the horsepower number for the ’77 400, we’ll all get depressed), but the torque was sufficient to haul a family of nine in comfort. Note the high-altitude spec on this sticker.
20 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLooks like this car was sold in Denver, and— 36 years later— it will die in Denver.
06 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s in pretty decent shape overall; no rust, most of the upholstery looks pretty good.
17 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinManual windows, Ford Aeronutronic AM radio, and hideaway headlights. Not exactly luxurious by current standards, but these cars were very comfy on long road trips. Anyway, Blondie sounds best on AM.
13 - 1977 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith scrap cars going for $240/ton, this car was worth more as parts and steel than as a street-driven vehicle. How many remain?

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Junkyard Find: 1976 Ford LTD Country Squire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1976-ford-ltd-country-squire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/junkyard-find-1976-ford-ltd-country-squire/#comments Wed, 29 May 2013 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489883 04 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe perceived usefulness of full-sized station wagons of the Malaise Era dropped down to about zero when minivans and SUVs became mainstream family-hauler options in the late 1980s. You see a few wagon freaks restoring these things nowadays, but for every Country Squire that gets restored (or even preserved), a hundred others get sent to the knackers. Here’s a well-worn ’76 that I spotted in Denver a couple weeks back.
16 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe saw a ’75 Country Squire in this series last fall, but big Detroit wagons have become very rare sights in junkyards during the last half-decade or so.
09 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinGrowing up a Malaise Era kid, just about every family had a Country Squire or its GM or Chrysler counterpart; these cars were the Voyager and Explorer of their time. My family had a Chevy Beauville van instead (bought new for a Minnesota-to-California move), but the idea was the same: rear-wheel-drive, body-on-frame construction, big V8, kid-barf-proof cloth or vinyl interior.
14 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis is the 460-cubic-inch big-block, good for 202 horsepower and 352 foot-pounds of torque… and about 9 MPG on the highway. Yes, the horsepower number is depressingly low, but torque was what mattered with these cars.
07 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe faux-wood trim succumbed to the Colorado sun decades ago.
17 - 1976 Ford Country Squire Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAfter 37 years, this car has been used up.

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Junkyard Find: 1975 Ford LTD Country Squire http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/junkyard-find-1975-ford-ltd-country-squire/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/junkyard-find-1975-ford-ltd-country-squire/#comments Mon, 01 Oct 2012 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461857 The big Fords of the Malaise Era don’t show up in the wrecking yards much these days, after several decades of being commonplace. The Taurus has replaced the LTD as the most common Ford product in high-turnover wrecking yards, and will likely hold that honor for another decade or two. Still, you see members of the full-size Ford family in The Crusher’s waiting room every now and then; here’s a Country Squire in Northern California.
I was 9 years old when this car was new, and the Country Squire was the standard family hauler of the era. Imagine all the SUVs and minivans you see dropping kids off at school and replace them in your mental picture with Country Squires and you’d have a fairly accurate image of 1975… except, of course, that most kids back then braved a daily gauntlet of murderers and molesters and got their own damn selves to school. My own family never had a station wagon, instead relying on an industrial-strength ’73 Chevy Beauville van with red-plaid-cloth interior for family-road-trip duties, but I rode in plenty of Country Squires on Little League trips and so forth.
Photo source: Old Car Brochures
The Country Squire name spent quite a lengthy period as the top trim option on the Galaxie wagon, with Country Sedan badges slapped on the lower-level full-sized Ford wagons. By 1975, however, the Galaxie name was long gone.
It appears that the last owner of this wagon added some pimpin’ upholstery to the tailgate. Note the very luxurious bottom- and side-hinged tailgate on this generation of Squire.
I’d look up the horsepower figures on the smogged-out V8 in this car, but it would just make everybody depressed. Let’s say low-triple-digit horsepower and halfway decent torque and leave it at that.


When it comes to wagons, nobody swings like Ford!

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Junkyard Find: 1971 Ford LTD Brougham http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/junkyard-find-1971-ford-ltd-brougham/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/junkyard-find-1971-ford-ltd-brougham/#comments Thu, 20 Sep 2012 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460914 It’s going to take decades for the last of the Broughams to work their way through the junkyard system; the Detroit Brougham Era ran from about 1965 through 1990, and that’s a lot of cars bearing heraldic crests and Nearly Velour™ interiors. In recent months, we’ve seen this ’88 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance, this ’73 Mercury Montego Brougham, this Olds Delta 88 Royale Brougham, this ’72 Mercury Marquis Brougham, and this ’81 Pontiac Bonneville Brougham (I can see the need to search for some Chrysler and AMC Brougham Junkyard Finds now). Today, our Broughamic Junkyard Find dates back more than 40 years, to the heyday of the Big Detroit Brougham Era.
This is a true four-door hardtop, complete with hideaway headlights, big-inch engine, and lots of glitz.
From the Model T to this!
I’m pretty sure this is a 400M engine, a longer-stroked and more grandfatherly relative of the 351 Cleveland. No doubt members of the Ford Smog Motor Jihad can tell us more.
Bring back the Brougham!

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Time Machine Dilemma: It’s 1973 and You Have Enough Cash For a New LTD. What Do You Buy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/time-machine-dilemma-its-1973-and-you-have-enough-cash-for-a-new-ltd-what-do-you-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/time-machine-dilemma-its-1973-and-you-have-enough-cash-for-a-new-ltd-what-do-you-buy/#comments Thu, 26 Apr 2012 14:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=441706 The discussion of yesterday’s Junkyard Find, a 1973 Ford LTD, got a bit heated at times. Some felt that the ’73 LTD was an abomination too horrific to contemplate, while others (including most who had actually driven one back in the day) opined that it was a pretty comfy pseudo-luxo-chariot and no worse than its contemporary rivals. Both sides have valid points, which got me to thinking about what I would do if a time machine were to drop me off at Auto Row in 1973 with the money to buy a new LTD (assuming I was required to spend the money on a new car, instead of giving it to my 7-year-old 1973 self with instructions to buy Microsoft stock a few years hence). Would I get the LTD… or something else? If something else, what?
So, the list price of a 1973 Ford LTD four-door hardtop sedan was $3,833, equivalent to about $19,800 in 2012 dollars. Consulting my stack of Standard Catalogs, I’ve come up with a few choices in the same price range; those of you with your own sources for 1973 car prices should refer to them now.
After a lot of agonizing, I’ve narrowed my choices down to two. One would be a ’73 Plymouth Scamp, equipped with the optional 240-horse 340-cubic-inch V8, four-speed transmission, and limited-slip rear axle with the craziest gear ratio available at my friendly Plymouth dealership. The base V8 Scamp was $3,000, and the drivetrain options would have pushed that price up to around $3,400. With the remaining 433 bucks, I would be torn between blowing it all on a loud aftermarket 8-track stereo and a bunch of Black Sabbath tapes and blowing it all on the usual street-racer-style intake/cam/carb/headers engine upgrades.
My other choice would involve a trip down the street to the Datsun dealership, where I’d be tempted by the incredible $2,306 price tag on the ’73 Datsun 510. With $1,533 left in my pocket, I’d be able to take the 96-horsepower L18 engine and add Webers, a big cam, etc., then throw some fat sway bars and stiffer spring at the suspension … and still have enough left over for the aforementioned 8-track and Sabbath tapes.
So, here are some more 1973 cars with list prices below (or not much above) the LTD’s $3,833. Sorry, the cheapest BMW 2002 was $4,498 and the Alfa Berlina was $4,437.
AMC Javelin AMX: $3,191
Audi 100 Coupe: $3,695
Buick Luxus Hardtop Coupe: $3,718
Chevrolet Camaro Z/28: $3,470
Chevrolet Impala Custom Coupe: $3,836
Chevrolet Monte Carlo Landau: $3,806
Dodge Challenger with 340: $3,192
Dodge Charger Special Edition: $3,375
Dodge Polara Hardtop Coupe: $3,752
Fiat 124 Sport Coupe: $3,674
Ford Maverick Grabber: $2,541
Ford Mustang Mach 1: $3,088
Honda Civic Hatchback: $2,250
Mazda RX-2 Coupe: $3,495
Mercury (Ford) Capri V6: $3,261
Mercury Cougar XR-7: $3,679
Mercury Montego MX Wagon: $3,417
MGB: $3,925
Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme Coupe: $3,323
Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Wagon: $3,788
Opel Manta: $2,850
Plymouth ‘Cuda: $3,120
Plymouth Duster 340: $2,822
Plymouth Fury III Hardtop Coupe: $3,883
Plymouth Satellite Sebring: $3,109
Pontiac Catalina Hardtop Coupe: $3,869
Pontiac Firebird Formula: $3,276
Pontiac LeMans GTO: $3,494
Triumph TR6: $3,275
Saab 99L: $3,845

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Ford LTD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/junkyard-find-1973-ford-ltd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/junkyard-find-1973-ford-ltd/#comments Wed, 25 Apr 2012 13:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=441583 Every time I see a junked Ford LTD of this era, I recall my early-childhood memories of my grandfather’s ’69 LTD hardtop. My parents had a ’67 Ford Custom and a ’49 Cadillac sedan at the time, and I thought Grandpa’s super-clean LTD was the most luxurious transportation imaginable. Nowadays, of course, most big Fords of the 1965-75 period that one encounters are total hoopties… but even a junked Early Malaise Era LTD still retains a bit of its original class.

You know, the ’73 LTD really was a better deal than the ’73 Jaguar XJ6!
Lowriders, hot-rodders, and ironic rockabilly hipsters don’t care for big Fords. They suck alarming quantities of gas, so it’s hard to justify one as a cheap beater. Mostly, these cars just get used up, then sit in a forgotten driveway for decades before getting crushed.
These cars were very comfortable, and held together reasonably well (as long as you didn’t mind electrical problems and lots of front-suspension looseness after 50,000 or so miles).
This one boasts the shockingly heavy but torque-centric 429 engine. Real-world highway fuel economy was probably just barely into the double digits, which became an issue not long after this car was sold.
Look, it’s one of the infamous Park-To-Reverse Settlement stickers!

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Junkyard Find: 1969 Ford LTD Four-Door Hardtop http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/junkyard-find-1969-ford-ltd-four-door-hardtop/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/junkyard-find-1969-ford-ltd-four-door-hardtop/#comments Fri, 11 Nov 2011 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=417721 You don’t see a lot of intact 60s Detroit cars in the junkyards of Denver, where I now live. When I return to my old haunts in the San Francisco Bay Area, as I did last month, I find that a steady trickle of these old survivors still flows into the self-serve yards. Here’s a big Ford I found in Oakland.
The sight of this car gave me some weird childhood flashbacks, because my grandfather had a black LTD hardtop just like this one when I was a little kid. I remember being awed by the grandfatherly luxury of the thing as a four-year-old. The vast interior, the quiet ride. When I grow up, I thought, I’ll have one of these!
Of course, the fact that these things had all become hopeless 13-year-old hoopties by the time I got my driver’s license sort of soured me on my ’69 LTD dreams, especially since one of my scurvier high-school friends drove one with a coat hanger for a radio antenna and a bunch of Fang stickers all over the interior.
Of course, I also thought the Porsche 914 was a seriously cool car when I was a little kid, particularly the ones with the big P O R S C H E decals on the sides. At least the LTD has all these great pieces of Detroit style all over the place.
Like, for example, the hideaway headlights. Yes, I know, these things never worked once the car got past about five years of age, but you still have to admire them.
The vacuum-operated mechanism for the headlights is big, cheap, and clunky. The whole setup probably added 50 pounds to the car’s weight, but anyone who objected to that probably also thought that the F-105 was too heavy. In other words, communists. Bad people.
In 1969, the LTD was the top trim level for the full-sized Ford, and the four-door hardtop listed for $3,261. Compare that to the $2,632 price tag on the six-cylinder base ’69 Custom two-door. This car’s curb weight was listed at 3,840 pounds… or 90 pounds more than the 2012 V6 Mustang. The 302 Windsor was the standard engine for the ’69 LTD, but this one appears to have received a Malaise 400M swap at some point along its long journey… which has now come to an end.

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And the Real Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/and-the-real-winner-is-20/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/and-the-real-winner-is-20/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2011 02:35:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=412540 Some 24 Hours of LeMons fans get all excited about the team that turns the most laps at a race, but the real cognoscenti know that the Index of Effluency (the prize given to the team that accomplishes a great racing feat with a car that never belonged anywhere near a race track) is the pinnacle. Only the most legendary LeMons heroes manage to win the Index of Effluency more than once, and now South Carolina’s Tunachuckers have driven their two-ton Ford to that achievement.
It’s possible that the Tunachuckers now have more 24 Hours of LeMons trophies than any other team; I believe today’s IOE gives them a total of seven. They started with a ’66 Volvo Amazon, which was replaced by the LTD after getting stuffed into a tire wall at Carolina Motorsports Park last year.
The LTD was tremendously slow (though it did blow the doors off a Fiero and a Cavalier), but reliability is more important than speed in an endurance race. By the time the checkered flag waved Sunday evening, the LTD was in 36th place (out of 66 entries). Astonishing!
Not only did the Landau manage to get through a weekend of racing with no mechanical problems (making the Ford 400M one of the most reliable Detroit pushrod V8s in LeMons history), it set a record for the largest number of passengers during a Saturday night LeMons paddock party: 44. Yes, 44 people managed to get in or on this car, raising the gross vehicle weight to something north of five tons, and the LTD hauled them for a few laps around the CMS paddock in this condition. Try doing that with your E30.
Congratulations, Tunachuckers!

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And the Real Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/and-the-real-winner-is-15/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/and-the-real-winner-is-15/#comments Mon, 11 Jul 2011 01:17:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=402122
When a first-time 24 Hours of LeMons team finds some ancient hooptie that’s been rusting in a field for a decade and makes a “race car” out of it, most of the time that team spends the entire weekend thrashing on fuel-system components, shriveled transmission seals, and rodent-gnawed wiring. This did not happen with Team NASA’s Space-Shuttle-themed 1978 Ford LTD wagon.

The old Ford was quite slow, what with its original shocks and Malaise-grade 400M engine, but its drivers kept out of the way of the faster cars and never once visited the Penalty Box. Other than an hour-long pit stop to deal with a vapor-lock/dead-starter problem, the wagon never broke down; the team rebuilt the entire fuel system with fresh parts and thus avoided the bad-gas adventures of the Tunachuckers’ ’75 Ford LTD Landau that we saw last month. In the end, the NASA LTD finished in 34th place (out of 56 entries), a miraculous performance from a dead-stock Malaise wagon. Congratulations, Team NASA!
Note: For more B.F.E. GP adventures, check out Longroofian’s coverage over at Hooniverse.

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Malaise Heavyweights Do Battle: 1979 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 versus 1975 Ford LTD Landau http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/malaise-heavyweights-do-battle-1979-mercedes-benz-450sel-6-9-versus-1975-ford-ltd-landau/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/06/malaise-heavyweights-do-battle-1979-mercedes-benz-450sel-6-9-versus-1975-ford-ltd-landau/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2011 23:30:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=396913
Of all the cars at the ‘Shine Country Classic, none inspired more speculation than the ’75 LTD of the Tunachuckers and ’79 W116 of NSF Racing. So many questions! Would either car be ready for the green flag on Saturday morning? Which one would be quicker around a road course? Could an ungodly complicated Teutonic flagship even make one lap on a race track after 32 years and a 99.97% value depreciation? Could Grandma’s long-abandoned big Ford roar into life and survive on the race track with little more than a cage installation and a hasty tune-up? Each team had joined the elite of LeMons veterans, with one Index of Effluency win apiece, so expectations of horrible failure were high.

The Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 is, of course, one of the most legendary Mercedes-Benz luxo-bombs ever built. In 1979, you’d have handed over a staggering $50,190 for one. That’s $155,482 in 2011 dollars, according to the CPI Inflation Calculator. With the money a 450SEL 6.9 cost, you could have bought a brand-new Ferrari 308GTB and had enough left over to buy a pair of 1979 Z/28 Camaros. Put another way, the ’79 450SEL 6.9 cost roughly the same, in inflation-adjusted dollars, as seven 1975 Ford LTD Landau sedans.

The Tunachuckers’ 1966 Volvo Amazon got pretty well destroyed in a brutal wreck at last year’s LeMons South Fall race, so the team scoured the woods of South Carolina for a replacement car suitable to their status as Legends of LeMons. Finally, they got this ’75 LTD Landau for free, from the original owner’s son. It ran, sort of, and came with a 153-horsepower 400M engine.

NSF Racing, having had such a helluva time keeping their 340-powered 1962 Plymouth Fury running at the previous race, decided their mechanical skills would be better applied to a two-ton-plus Mercedes-Benz flagship with Citroën-licensed hydropneumatic suspension, 417-cubic-inch overhead-cam engine with 32-year-old Bosch fuel injection, and brakes better suited for autobahn cruising than a tight, brake-eating road course. As we often say in LeMons racing, what could possibly go wrong?

Hmmm… that hacked-up wiring harness doesn’t look promising. You say the battery isn’t charging and the engine won’t start? Plenty of time, my friends. Plenty of time!

Actually, the clock was ticking Friday night, with no sign that the big Benz would be ready to go in time for the green flag the next morning. The bar coming out of the rear window opening was intended for the mounting of a huge disco ball, as befitted a coke-dealer-grade Malaise Mercedes. Quick, to the parts store for a new alternator!

Meanwhile, things were looking better for the Tunachuckers. Their 400M engine fired up on request… but why does the exhaust smell like 20-year-old bad gas? “Don’t worry,” said team captain Mike, “We drained the bad gas and flushed the fuel lines when we got the car.” Wait, the tank hasn’t been cleaned? Uh-oh…

When the race started, the LTD roared right out onto the track and began racking up some stately laps. The old Ford wasn’t exactly fast, but it kept up with the likes of the S10 with a couch in the bed, B23-powered Volvo 244s, and the like. The 6.9 wasn’t quite ready, but the NSF guys assured us that it would hit the track “real soon.”

After a few hours, the NSF 450SEL cruised onto the track, its electrical woes apparently solved. It had respectable power down the straights, but the Citroën suspension didn’t respond very well to the turns. The brakes quickly became hotter than the sun-facing side of Mercury. Still, NSF was in the race.

The Tunachuckers’ troubles were just beginning, however. After an hour or so on the track, the engine started losing power and misfiring. The driver would pit, the crew would swarm around the LTD for a while, and then the car would return to the track for a few laps. Repeat. Endlessly. Repeat. Endlessly.

Maybe it’s the distributor! No, wait— maybe it’s the coil! No, wait— we’ll try swapping on the spare carburetor, while we rebuild the old one! All the while, the smell of ancient, varnish-and-rust-enhanced gasoline permeated the Tunachuckers’ pit space like a murderous miasma of misery. Everyone knew: the decades of weird petroleum compounds in the fuel tank were flowing right through the fuel filter, contaminating the gas and fouling the carburetor.

I had my timelapse TrunkLidCam™ mounted on the LTD, in hopes of getting good on-track shots of cars stacked up behind the Ford’s vast bulk in the turns (which I did get, the next day). Most of Saturday’s photos turned out to have been taken while the LTD was pitted during its many hours of fuel-misery-related repairs. Here’s a video of the still photos captured by the TrunkLidCam, to give you the idea.

The Tunachuckers finally gave in and removed the car’s gas tank. The stuff they poured out was a chunky semi-opaque brown liquid that didn’t much resemble gasoline. Clearly, the crap in the tank would be contaminating any fuel that went into the filler.

Let’s try rinsing it out with water!

Dumping in a few pounds of nuts and bolts and shaking the tank vigorously helped some, but the team was getting increasingly skeptical about the tank’s utility.

After all that work, the inside of the tank still looked pretty ooky. At that point, the Tunachuckers put out the word: we need a fuel cell.

The NSF Racing 6.9 had to pit due to electrical-system ailments, engine overheating, transmission leakage, and burning brakes, but the car was spending a lot more time on the track than the LTD. Fortunately, they had the help of 2010 Unununium Medal Legend of LeMons Speedycop and his Galaxie-buildin’ teammate DC Doug.

Back at Tunachuckers HQ (right next door to NSF Racing HQ), the team had decided to give up on the hopelessly contaminated factory fuel tank and focus on finding a fuel cell. Fortunately, South Carolina is one of the racin’-est states in the country, particularly the part of the state in such proximity to race-obsessed Charlotte, and the concentration of used race gear in local garages is quite high.

Another local racer knew a guy who knew a guy who had a defunct roundy-round dirt-track car in his yard, not far from the track. 150 bucks for the allegedly good fuel cell. Done!

Of course, installing a fuel cell in a car isn’t just a matter of plumber’s tape and zip-ties. Well, actually, it is, but LeMons requires more substantial mounts. Here’s Mike welding up some brackets to hold the cell down in the trunk.

Measure once, cut fifty times. Repeat. Something like that. Eventually, the cell was mounted and hooked up, but the Tunachuckers weren’t done yet. According to the LeMons Safety Guide, fuel cell-equipped vehicles must have a metal bulkhead separating the driver from the cell.

The Tunachuckers canvassed the paddock in an attempt to find a piece of sheet metal big enough to cover the rear-seat opening into the trunk, with no success. Then, inspiration: just slice a big chunk out of the LTD’s roof!

A couple of guys wielding Sawzall and cutoff saw took about 45 seconds to produce the required bulkhead.

Self-tapping screws and metal tape finish the installation.

Ready! Sadly, the checkered flag had already waved over Saturday’s race session, so the LTD would have to wait for the following morning to get back onto the track.

Sunday morning: Both the LTD and the 6.9 were on the track for the green flag, and both ran well. The Benz was running laps a few seconds quicker than the Ford, but the LTD’s pushrod V8 had a throatier roar than the 450SEL’s OHC powerplant. Both cars plowed through turns in highly dramatic, tire-squealing fashion.

It was at that point that Judge Speedycop, sidelined from racing his team’s Lincoln Mark VIII by an injured left ankle, suited up and took the wheel of the NSF Racing car. Just like that, the 4,400-pound Mercedes started howling around the track with times just a few seconds off the pace set by the E30s and RX-7s. We figured it was only a matter of time before Speedycop cooked the brakes and deposited the car in CMP’s notorious Swamp Full Of Poisonous Snakes, but he kept the big German on the track. Best lap: 1:07.871, versus an overall best lap of 1:01.594 (set by the suspiciously NASCAR-pro-looking Grumpy Old Men & A Nurse team in an extremely cheaty 4th-gen Firebird; when was the last time you found a WS6 engine and transmission at U-Pull-It for 50 bucks?).

Both Ford and Mercedes-Benz stayed on the track for most of Sunday’s race session. In the end, the 6.9 beat the LTD, 307 laps to 267 (the overall winner had 768 laps). Best lap time for the LTD: 1:13.524.

When it came time for the awards ceremony, it went without saying that each of these teams would be taking home some trophy hardware. Not the big one, which went to the Greene County Moving Company S10 and its 526 laps, but something. For the Tunachuckers and their incredible LTD Landau, the Most Terrible Yank Tank award (usually this is the Least Horrible Yank Tank award, but we modified it to suit the car). This may make the Tunachuckers the team with the most LeMons trophies in their collection; they must be over a half-dozen by now.

For bringing the coke-dealer-est car ever built, NSF Racing got the coveted Judges’ Choice trophy. Congratulations, NSF Racing and Team Tunachuckers!

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