By on November 11, 2011

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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47 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1969 Ford LTD Four-Door Hardtop...”

  • avatar

    I had a ’69 2 door LTD in high school with the 302. The thing I remember most about that car is that it wouldn’t start if it was below 20 degrees and that the trunk about the size of a regulation soccer field. I hauled lots of friends around in the front, and in the trunk of that car.

    That car exhibited some really odd, er scary handling characteristics when pushed even slightly hard. I swear you could feel the bottom of the doors scraping the ground, but there were no scratches or gouges to prove this.

    I replaced it with an ’82 Tercel, which was about as polar opposite as a car as you could get.

  • avatar

    I remember when these came out, and it seemed everyone in the neighborhood had to have one. Too many were painted in that awful avocado green, obviously quite popular with the masses at the time.

  • avatar

    We had a Ford dealer just down the street and I remember that avocado green color on what seemed to be half the new cars on the lot back then.

    The “cockpit” dash of the ’69 Fords impressed me as a freshly licensed driver, but otherwise the things were gas-sucking, wallowing boats.

    My favorite big 1969 car had to be the CHP Dodge Polara. While I came from a GM family, Grandpa defected to Mopar back then.

    • 0 avatar

      That dash design garnered much harsh criticism from the auto scribes of the day, and the buying public didn’t like it much either. It has to win some sort of automotive reverse-ingenuity award for the ashtray location alone, never mind the radio placement.

      • 0 avatar

        Any Plymouth conquest customers would be instinctively punching the buttons on the Philco amplitude modulated infotainment device to shift gears.

        Wow! Clock delete on the top trim level and putting the radio WAY out of the reach of passengers. I found the lighter. Where is the ashtray?

      • 0 avatar

        I’ll tell ya later-keep looking ha ha
        RE: the clock delete-that’s just it-this model was
        no longer top trim, there were two optional interior upgrades
        after this. This is a mid-year model that is basically a Galaxie 500 with hideaway headlights.I actually have a piece of dealer sales lit on it, but see no way to attach it to my reply.
        If I had to guess, Maybe one of Lido’s boys found out that a lot of people liked the look of the hideaway front end, but balked at the price.
        EDIT: I just looked again and I see the ashtray is missing, so no-fair I guess. It’s in the part that reverse-sweeps away from the intrument cluster-faces the passenger at about a 45 degree-angle. The vaunted Ford ”front room”. For the driver, it’s ashtray by brail-I remember my Mom whined about this incessantly. If you got power locks, they were controlled by a single switch just above that, equally tactily challenged.

      • 0 avatar

        I rather like the way the radio is out of the reach of passengers. Don’t touch my sounds when I’m driving.

        Nikita, I believe the ashtray is on the right side of the “cockpit”.

    • 0 avatar

      @Ronnie Schreiber, I absolutely agree! All radios should be on the left to keep passenger nitwits from messing with it. I was also immensely pleased when car companies started to offer power window lock-outs so the driver had complete control over the windows.

  • avatar

    My dad had a pea-green 68 Galaxie 500, which this reminded me of. So many cool features, but I think I like the wide sweeping speedometer the best.

  • avatar

    My grandfather had one too. Also a ’69, I think, dark green. Don’t remember the engine for sure but I thought it was a 351, not a 302. He was kind of a cheapskate and had always had base-model 6 cyl Ford sedans until that LTD, which was his last one. Decent car, for what it was.

  • avatar

    Grab those front wheel covers-They are the “Luxury” wheel cover-worth a few beans to the right person-They are made up of a bunch of little die-cast fins and were prone to being flung off if someone was brave enough to try and throw one of these into the curves. Other than the AC and the PS & PDB, it’s quite a low option unit. It has the mid-year bean-counter-instigated “Standard” interior option,basically the same as the Galaxie 500, which replaced the previously standard somewhat better LTD interior. They were so damn chitzy they even deleted the clock, which up to then was standard in an LTD.
    What was formerly standard was now an upgrade called “Luxury Trim”, which was NOT the Brougham option, which was even plusher and cost more.
    If you might suspect I have a serious affliction for these things , you’re right. I guess it has something to do with my dad’s several year steady diet of a new LTD, XL or Galaxie for a several year run during my “wonder years”. It’s somewhat poignant for me to find this entry on November 11th, this being Remembrance Day in Canada and him being a WWII vet. I miss the cars and I miss him. I love these things, warts and all.
    Check out my avatars ride.

  • avatar

    Sure that’s not an FE engine? (assuming a 390)

    Those valve covers look familiar…

    • 0 avatar

      The engine badge on the passenger side fender reads, “390” (zoom in the image); I think you are right, it looked like an FE to me too.

      • 0 avatar

        The first time I looked I just glanced at the engine pic and assumed that was a 1975&up “engine family” emissions sticker,
        but a closer look reveals a earlier one, with much simpler information and instructions. That is an FE for sure, the 390-2 barrel, which was the only FE offered from ’69 on to it’s demise 2 years later. The only exception to this was the 428 Police Interceptor. This was somewhat curious since the 429 Lima
        was the new and only big-inch choice for civilians. The PI FE got a 2 year reprieve.
        Read about it here.
        I kind of thought that for a swap to a dissimilar engine family that the ancilliarys were sure cleanly re-installed.

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right, it is an FE. Saw the emissions sticker and assumed it was a 351M or 400M swap. Ford made the 390 for, oh, 117 years, so Malaise units were easy to find.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually the 390 barely just missed the malaise era for cars,at least, 1971 being the final year. It lasted in pickups until 1976. Interestingly, the ’71 buyer could choose a 390 FE or a 400M for a mid-incher.

  • avatar

    My ’69 was a stripped-out Custom 500. I bought it in ’92, as a daily driver when my ’83 Ranger needed a head rebuild. I paid $200, drove it for 3 months, and sold it for $200 when the Ranger was finished.

    It made quite a few interesting memories in that 3 months.

  • avatar

    The one thing I like about the new Taurus is how the rear taillights evoke those on the big 1960’s Fords. I love all big Fords from 1949 through the last Panthers.

  • avatar
    dvp cars

    …..forgot about those left side radios… passenger-meddling with the Philco AM on that baby!…..hard to tell if it’s a tilt wheel, the lever doubled as the turn signal stalk in that era, and some old coots only realized they had the option when dealer personnel adjusted it during a service visit. I personally broke at least one stalk, thinking that all T-Birds had the feature……alcohol may have been involved.

  • avatar

    Ahh, the memories. My grandmother had a ’69 Galaxie 500, powder blue with the “Sportsroof” (white vinyl in this case) version of the the hardtop 2-door. It too had the 390. But I swear it had a clock, because I remember trying to restore it to service. Rode like an absolute dream on the highway, even better the faster it got. Bumps in turns were an entirely different matter. That 390 made any ’76 Aspen/Volare’ seem absolutely eager to run in comparison on a cold morning. I remember seeing it stalled on the side of the road many a morning from the school bus.

    This car was supposedly bought by one of the local dealer’s salesman after being a demonstrator. Supposedly he bought it for his daughter and did something to the speedometer so it ready 5MPH faster than reality. I later determined he just took the front of the dash off and took needle-nose pliers to the pointer.

    I see this car has an honest-to-God horn bar, but her car had a piece of rubber with contacts that went around the inside of the rim of the wheel. Impossible to blow below freezing; blew itself continually above about 85. Luckily the hood latch was outside so everyone on the mill hill eventually learned how to open it and unplug the horns. Ford was nice enough to make them very accessible.

    Speaking of unplugging, see that wire over the top of the compressor? Goes to a set of brushes for the electric clutch that needed replacing every now and then if you wanted A/C. They went for years without A/C. Once I convinced them to get it fixed, it of course wasn’t too long until the evaporator blew out after years of non-use.

    The hazard…errr, emergency flasher switch was a piece of art, too. Too hard to just pull out; it canceled when the wheel was turned, just like with the turn signals. No use even trying to use them if towing with the rear off the ground. And if the front was off the ground, those huge brake/tail lights were illuminated by a single bulb behind the back-up light, so no one would likely see them anyway. After a few years, most cars’ taillights were as bright as these brake lights were. The house was unpainted steel, so it didn’t exactly qualify as “argent”. They could hold amazing amounts of rainwater if the lens was at all cracked, though.

    In Ford’s defense, it should be noted that the failure mode was a spring-loaded opening of the headlight doors. Yes, I know no Galaxie 500 had them, but my brother’s friend’s ’70 LTD did. They closed reliably once the engine started, I must add.

    It’s odd about those front wheel covers. They look exactly like those on my other grandmother’s 1973 LTD Brougham. Surprised they went unchanged that long. The rear ones look very much, though not exactly, like what were on the ’69 Galaxie 500.

    Brings back memories, but not many I’d like to relive.

  • avatar

    My Dad had a 69 LTD. But in a break with the rest of you, his was robin’s egg blue. I remember it as being a very nice car.

    I later drove one of these with the 4 bbl 390. It was the last really nice driving big Ford I experienced. The 69-70 was still a very tight structure, not like the loosey-shakey 71.

    The problem with these was that they were the biggest rustbuckets in Ford history – which is saying something. In northern Indiana, these things had huge holes in fenders and doors by the time they were 4 years old. With a properly designed body, these could have been the nicest big Fords of the 60s.

    I remember the odd dash – both the radio and the antenna were on the drivers side. The dash designer must have had teenagers.

  • avatar

    Brings back memories. My dad’s company car was a 1970 LTD, fire engine red with a black vinyl top. Oh yea! Learned to drive and got my license aboard that beast. Also got in my first collision. Practicing for the driving test on a Sunday morning in a deserted mall parking lot. Driving along minding my own business and this woman pulling out of a parking aisle onto the two lane road on which we were traveling just forgot to stop and plowed into the front fender on the passenger side. I was never so glad to have my Dad along for the ride. My grandma bought the LTD when my dad got his new company ride, a 1973 Caprice Classic four-door pillarless sedan in mustard poop beige. Which my younger brother nearly totaled after getting his license. Good times.

  • avatar

    Book ’em, Danno.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    These we all over the place back then. I had many a neighbor with one. The radio placement always got me. Maybe they did not ewant little Johnny to reach over and change the station from Mom’s EZ Listening to Top 40. Where did the optional 8track go?

  • avatar

    I was brought home from the hospital in one of these after my birth! Belonged to my Great-Grandfather. Was a bit famous in the family as the rear bumper was found sitting on the garage floor one morning having rusted off when the car was 4-5 years old.

    He owned it until he retired, then traded it in on a ’76 Vega. Baby-blue station wagon – I got to drive that heap when I was in high school, he kept it until he died in ’95. The Vega had 20K on it at that point. Probably the last one on the road in Maine.

  • avatar

    Interesting cars these were.

    This one looks like the last owner could not judge distances, judging by the dents in curious places and it also looked like the original paint may have flaked off at some point in spots and was simply resprayed and a little to thickly as it’s cracking and not very even.

    We had some friends who had a dark green ’70 Ford LTD I think based Country Squire wagon and it had the third row seats.

    I remember riding in the back of it on several occasions.

    My Dad had a base ’71 Ford Custom 4 door sedan and it lasted and lasted and lasted, though to be fair, he’d bought it in I think 1978 and sold it to my youngest sister’s good friend Michelle and her husband at the time in the early 80’s and they took it to Panama where he was stationed and they lived there for a bunch of years before moving back to the states. Sold the car down there to a local and it was STILL rolling about the area and if I recall, this was in I think the ’90’s, may have been in the late 80’s.

    So needless to say, even if the 71’s were loosey goosey, they tended to last where rust wasn’t an issue.

    A character in “Tales of the City” drove a squished pea green 69 or 70 Ford like this one, but in the 4 door sedan so it may have been the base Custom and the story takes place in San Francisco in 1976.

  • avatar

    I like how the gas gauge is front and center in the dash. A reminder of the good old days when poor fuel economy only necessitated a larger gas tank.

    I can only imagine the conversations about Mpg back in the day: “wadda ya mean it only gets 9 miles per gallon….jest put a bigger tank in it, 30 should about right.”

  • avatar

    I’m pretty sure it was “only” 25 gallons. Most I ever saw either one hold.

  • avatar

    Does anyone know where the ignition key receptacle is in this car? A near identical except for being pale yellow car starred in one of my first profoundly irresponsible automotive acts, and I could swear I remember the ignition switch being on the right side of the steering column like it was yesterday. All I see in that location on this car is what looks like a hazard light switch. Where did the key go? Did it move to the column in the next model year?

  • avatar

    CJin…the ignition switch on this model is on the lower left hand side of the instrument panel. It was moved to the column on the 70 models. Even though the dashboard was an awkward design I think it was pretty cool looking.
    I knew alot of people that owned these back in the day, of course who doesn’t? They were nice looking cars in my opinion, too bad they rusted and crumbled away in short order. I remember seeing many of them ony 4-5 years old with the back bumber either missing or tied on with a piece of rope or bungee cord.
    My oldest sister’s husband had a 70 XL, red with a black vinly top and the new for 70 351 cleveland. It lasted for many years, but they lived in Alabama.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      In 1970 just about all U.S. models moved the ignition switch from the dash to the column. Apparently the reason was the steering interlock system to prevent car theft. Car thieves eventually figured out on some models that you can pull out the cylinder using common hand tools or a dent puller, shove a screwdriver in the slot and start the car.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep, and I think pretty much all cars, domestic and imported had to have the ignition on the column in the US but everyone else outside of the US/N.A. came along with that requirement shortly after I think.

        As for the requirements, I keep thinking it began in ’69 and that was perhaps due to some cars already having it by then (most likely early intro 70 models late in the year) even though the requirement began in ’70 but I could’ve sworn some cars built for the ’69 model year had them too.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Moparman! I thought I was losing my mind. My friend’s car was in almost the same condition as this one, and that was back in 1984. I remember the car stalling on me as I was making a left across a major road that was carrying traffic back from the huge horse racing meet that we had just left. The car wouldn’t restart, cops were on the scene, I was 14 years old, there were open beverages in the car, and it was becoming a tense moment before I realized that the problem could be related to the floppy gearshift lever. Sure enough, by using my left hand behind the wheel to pull the gearshift as hard towards Park as possible, I got the starter to engage and left the scene in a 390 powered burnout.

      • 0 avatar
        dvp cars

        …..cjin…you’ve described the starting procedure to a (model)”T. Unless you were left handed, you had to drape your left arm around the back of the wheel, pull and wiggle the column shift, and simultaneously keep trying the starter. Used car guys and tow-truck drivers did this instinctively…..what’s bugging me is I can’t remember if the problem could be solved equally quickly by trying it in “neutral”.
        Ford had another shift lever problem in that era, or shortly before. Occasionally, the transmission would shift from “P” to “R” on it’s own while idling…..injuries, deaths, and enormous lawsuits resulted. It was a serous problem for Ford, almost as bad as their infamous Pinto fuel tank fires.

      • 0 avatar
        MRF 95 T-Bird

        DVP Cars I owned a 70 Mustang in the late 70’s, early 80’s Ford did what was necessary to reduce their liability. Apparently the parking lock mechanism within the automatic transmission was faulty unlike the Audi 5000 imbroglio which was driver error. They sent millions of owners a sticker stating that you should hold your foot on the brake and use the parking brake. I stuck mine up on the visor.

        ciddyguy It seemed like every 70 Vehicle had the steering column interlock. My 70 Mustang had it while the similar 69 had it on the dash. My uncle had a very nice 69 Plymouth Fury III coupe and the ignition was on the dash.

    • 0 avatar

      I like ignition on the dashboard…our ’98 Intrigue had that. Much like some 1990’s Toyota models. But it was on the right side.

  • avatar

    My dad had a ’70 LTD, same color as this one. I thought the 351W was standard in the LTD, not the 302. He had to order ours because he wanted the vinyl seats, seemed all the local dealers only had cloth. I thought it was cool as hell with the hidden lights. The car rusted out so damn fast though. The rear wheel lip mouldings had nothing left to hold them on after 3 winters. Ford was offering to repair the rust on these cars if you had not exceeded a certain amount of miles. Ours had exceeded the miles. Not sure how true this is but my dad claimed Ford had used cheap steel from Japan on these cars due to a steel strike in the US. Back then “made in Japan” was a joke to people. I begged my dad to keep it until I was old enough to drive, I didn’t think 9 years was too long to wait.

    I remember the dealer giving him a white ’69 XL to drive for a few weeks while we waited for the ’70 to come in. The XL had that cool updide down “U” shaped auto shifter on the floor, I thought for sure our 4 door LTD would have the same thing. When we went to the dealer to pick up the ’70 my dad asked me what I thought. I told him I liked the white one better. That ’70 LTD was one more reason my dad stopped buying American cars after 1975 but I still loved it.

  • avatar

    My great aunt had a ’71 LTD in a silver-blue color; she kept it for ten years (that was her usual trade-in interval; she went ’60 Bel Air, ’71 LTD, ’81 Cutlass, ’91 Century, 2001 Buick of some kind, then passed away). I remember how quiet it was, and that massive console that faced the driver. This was in a period when most of my extended family were Ford people for some reason; they had a slew of LTDs, Grand Marquis (Grand Marquises?), and even a couple of Pintos after the ’73 oil embargo.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Boy does that dashboard picture bring back memories.

    We had a Country Squire. Ford heavily promoted those cockpit style dashboards.

    Notice the location of the radio? Only the driver had control of it.

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