The Truth About Cars » 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, 16 Apr 2014 22:47:47 +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 » 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: 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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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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New or Used: Cefiro! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/new-or-used-cefiro/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/new-or-used-cefiro/#comments Thu, 10 Nov 2011 18:17:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=417131

 

TTAC commentator bumpy ii writes:

It’s definitely going to be used in this case. Anyway, I’m looking to pick up a fun weekend car in another 3-4 years. I like to plan ahead. Here’s what I want:

* 4 doors
* RWD
* manual transmission
* normally aspirated inline 6
* (the kicker) curb weight under 3,000 pounds
* preferably built after the Reagan administration (most everyone had their emissions stuff sorted out by then)

From what I can tell, this narrows the list down to 4 cars (in order of preference):

*Nissan R32 Skyline
*Nissan A31 Cefiro
*M-B 190E 2.6
*BMW E30 325i

Am I leaving anything off? Any particular reason to favor or discount one versus another? Budget: I dunno, up to $10k if necessary. I’m in Virginia, and I’m willing to wait until the Nissans hit the DOT import exemption.

Sajeev Answers:

Why narrow your focus to I-6 motors? They are a bit slow by modern standards and are pricey to make more palatable, unless they are fitted with factory turbos. Oh, and they tend to wiggle like a wiener dog when they overheat, eating head gaskets and warping (aluminum) heads in the process. While I understand the premise of your quandary, all of these vintage racers will get their asses handed to them by a Fox Mustang (or LTD, since you want four-doors) with a full Griggs suspension, late model brakes with ABS and a souped up Windsor motor. Hell you don’t even wanna pick a fight with a 265hp, 6-speed (auto) Camry SE with a few chassis mods. There’s no better bitch slap than Toyota’s best Q-ship, especially from a 70mph dig: the 6 to 3 downshift is just nuts in that car!

And to be a real jerk, let me also tell you what 10 grand will buy in a tastefully modified 4th-gen Camaro or Firebird. They are the most underrated piece of “cheap” iron out there, even with the awful interior and terrible reputation from their collective owners. Buy one, twist the key and be better than 90% of the vehicles on the planet, even box stock.

That said, I am importing a brown Ford Sierra Ghia from the UK, so perhaps I need to encourage you. With the Sierra in mind, the only one from my list would be the Cefiro. If you are gonna be spanked by a new Camry, why not do it with class and style?

Hot Rod Griggs Fox Body LTD, son. Think about it.

Steve answers:

Inline 6? My good God man! What on Earth makes you want to drive an engine from the middle ages? Do you have some type of unique fetish for old Celica Supras and E-Classes?

Actually, I think a late 80′s MB W124 four door would actually be quite close with the weight and engine specs… but why? I’m sorry but I just have no love for the inline 6′s other than their supposed ease of maintenance (which is not nearly the entire equation when it comes to these old engines).

I would think about it some more. Years, many years. Maybe to the point of near death. If an inline 6 is a must have then just get yourself a nice old Merc or BMW for about 2 to 3k and just play with it for a while. There is no good reason to blow $10k on a proverbial Reagan era spec sheet.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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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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Curbside Classic: GM’s Greatest Hit #3 – 1979 Chevrolet Caprice Classic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/curbside-classic-gms-greatest-hit-3-1979-chevrolet-caprice-classic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/09/curbside-classic-gms-greatest-hit-3-1979-chevrolet-caprice-classic/#comments Tue, 21 Sep 2010 15:50:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=366238

[Here's my other contribution to Panther Appreciation Week; my prior Panther CC is here]

In the long, strange and sometime tortured evolution of the classic large American sedan since WWII, there are exactly two moments when that species really hit the mark: The 1955 and 1977 Chevrolets. Everything else was fun to look at, fantasize about, ridicule, look back on with rose-colored glasses, or endlessly debate about. Yes, the fins of the late fifties were amusing, as was the build quality. And the endless bloat of the late sixties through the mid seventies may have generated some memorable childhood impressions, but cancer isn’t exactly a sustainable model upon which to base the family sedan. But just as the whole segment was about to metastasize into utter irrelevance, GM gulped the chemo, and built the finest and final expression of the genre.

The problem with peaks is that they inevitably require valleys. We’ll come back to the ’55 Chevy soon, but lets just say that it was the final expression of the immediate post-war ideal; a delayed fulfillment of GM’s 1939 Futurama. A modern, powerful and stylish car, yes; but still practical, comfortable, and efficient. Unfortunately, that ideal soon got replaced with this:

The industry’s mid -fifties fascination with ever-more flamboyant and less practical modes of transportation soon overtook any serious consideration of what a mere sedan entails. And it was that preoccupation/ADD that largely contributed to the domestic industry’s downfall and near-demise. While the Europeans (and later the Japanese) took the matter of developing family sedans seriously, the Americans simply got lost, or caught in Sputnik fever. The results speak for themselves.

The 1955 Chevy sat six in comfort on its tall sofas, and had lively performance from its all-new small-block V8, despite it having only 162 (gross) hp. Tipping the scales at just over 3100 lbs, fuel economy was very decent, given the technology of the times. And its size and weight lent the ’55s a degree of handling and maneuverability that was soon a distant memory. By the early seventies, the big Chevies weighed over 4500 lbs, with fuel economy in the low teens.

In 1973-1974, the Obese Three got caught in a nasty trap of their own making. The energy crisis made the big barges more irrelevant than they were already on their way to becoming. Even the “intermediates” had swollen to well over 4000 lbs. and relied on big blocks to motivate them, the the compacts no longer were that. The cancer had metastasized, and was now deadly. The problem was in affording the cure.

Only GM had the ready resources to initiate a drastic downsizing across the board, involving essentially every vehicle in their vast lineup. It was to be the most ambitious undertaking and restructuring in the automobile industry since Henry Ford idled all his factories for months to retool them for the Model A. GM was about to reinvent itself, starting with its big cars.

The result was nothing less than shocking, if you were around in the fall of 1976. The new Chevrolet, and all the other GM B-Bodies, were the biggest single model year change since the crazy ’58-’59 one-two punch. Its wheelbase lost half a foot, and overall length was down almost a full foot. The tightly chiseled new body also lost 4″ in width, and actually gained 3″ in height; heresy! The literal decline of the American sedan over. But not at the expense of interior room: unlike any American big sedan for decades, the new B-Bodies were designed from the inside out; what a revelation! Interior dimensions equaled or exceeded those of its bloated predecessors, and the seating position was now distinctly more upright.

Starting with a seating buck doesn’t mean that the exterior has to be homely. GM rediscovered that it was possible to make a shorter and taller sedan beautiful, inspired by no small part by the big Opel sedans that arrived in Europe eight years earlier, in 1969. And of course, there was the Seville, which preceded the Caprice by two years. GM was adopting wholesale a new styling language that started with the Opel in ’69, and made last into the early nineties.

The new 116″ wheelbase was almost exactly the same as the ’55, and weight was also down by almost a thousand pounds from the ’76s, to as little as 3500 lbs. Sitting on a completely new frame and suspension, the new Chevy felt remarkably handy as well as competent, especially if optioned properly.

I’ve mentioned him before, but one of our engineers at the tv station at the time was an ultra-GM nerd, and he used the fleet arrangement we’d set up to buy lots of carefully-specced GM cars for the station, employees and friends. One of the most memorable was the ’77 Caprice.

He was desperate to put one of them together from the brochure, and talked one of his well-heeled buddies into letting him order one up. We pored over the option book, and the result was pretty impressive: a white sedan (no vinyl roof) with the 170 hp four-barrel 350, and every HD option number that could be checked off, including of course the F41 suspension package. When it arrived, we test drove it extensively before delivering it to its happy new owner. For the times, the F-41 Caprice was simply fucking awesome; a mega-jump forward from the flaccid lumbering barges Chevy was selling the year before, and everyone else was still peddling. For the first time in ages, GM gave me a ray of hope about it’s capabilities and its future.

And it wasn’t just us: the buff-books raved about the F-41 equipped big Chevies, and not just because GM had slipped them a ringer or a dose of GM Kool-Aid. During the B-Bodies’ long reign until 1990, an F-41 suspended big Chevy was simply the best handling big domestic sedan there was in the land. And don’t even mention the word Panther.

I admit to never having been bitten by Panther fever, and that probably a lot has to do with its earliest incarnations. It was simply inferior to the GM B-Body, period, in pretty much every conceivable way. Starting with its looks:

When Ford finally cranked out its new downsized LTD in 1979, it was all-too obviously a poor imitation of the handsome Caprice. The Ford had an even shorter 114″ wb, which hurt its proportions, and it rode on really tiny little wheels and tires, all-too often adorned with the cheapest and tinniest fake wire wheel covers this side of the Pep Boys. To the undiscerning eyes, the Ford may have been just the helping of mashed potatoes and gravy its Midwest buyers were looking for, but for someone cross-shopping (at least mentally) European sedans in LA in 1979, the Ford just came off as half-baked.

As were its dynamic qualities: the Panther’s suspension hadn’t been given the police car treatment yet; the 302 of the times was totally anemic, and Ford’s AOD transmission was a jerky-herky affair. Truth is, I wasn’t the only one; the buyers recognized it too.

The new B-Bodies propelled GM to a final upsurge in market share and sales, culminating in that grand blowout year of 1978: 9.66 million cars sold, and a 46% US market share. Heady times. And it was coming right out of Ford and Chrysler’s hide, pushing both of them into the verge of bankruptcy. GM’s bold and expensive gamble paid off, for the time being. Too bad it couldn’t maintain its momentum.

The downsized intermediate RWD A/G Bodies that arrived two years after the full-size sedans was never quite as all-round competent, and plagued with GM’s ever-tightening purse: non-opening rear windows, self-destructing downsized transmissions, etc. The B-Body was the high water mark, sadly it was all pretty much was downhill from there.

Did the B-Body have its flaws? Undoubtedly, and like all GM cars, generally the result of cheap components or assembly quality. Well, the interior wasn’t exactly much to look at either, if one had become spoiled by European standards. Whatever; those were the times when GM could still wow the Europeans with a good exterior styling job, but just don’t even open the door. It least it was comfortable and roomy.

For you young-uns who can only see (or imagine) a sea of yellow CVs as NY taxi cabs, it was once a very different story. The B’s utterly dominated the taxi and police market in their day, for plenty of good reasons. The Panthers only were embraced wholesale after GM pulled the plug on the B’s; well, or morphed it into the that Moby Dickmobile, the 1991 Caprice. GM totally lost (shocked) me with that; but I understand the pull it still has, especially with the wagon version, and here at TTAC. But the fleets were not happy: GM could still be building the ’77-’90 version today, as it frankly should be, like the Tokyo cabs Toyota still builds in Japan.

Why not? GM could’a/should’a have kept the 77-90 Caprice in production, and owned the fleet business all of these past thirty years, like Toyota’s Crown Comforts  (or whatever they’re called) in Japan. Just imagine ordering up one of them now with the latest in GM V8 power under the hood. And this week could have been B-Body Appreciation Week at TTAC.

More New Curbside Classics Here

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