The cars we loved.
For Americans who are old enough the word landau has come to mean a kind of tacky half vinyl top popular on luxury cars of the 70’s. Scholars might know the word landau as a type of carriage used by the Royal Family in Britain. To even fewer, it meant automotive luxury, not just the look of it applied to mid-priced intermediates. In Australia, for a short spell from 1973 to 1976, the name was sonimoius with top drawer luxury and performance. While the landau association was building steam (and losing muscle) in America, Ford of Australia was building a world-class sports coupe, called of all things the Landau. The Landau was sold in Brazil after 1975, but as a four door sedan more like the LTD. In Australia, the Landau was Ford of Australia’s answer to the US Thunderbird sports coupe. Why the Thunderbird had lost its way and was offered as a four door, the Landau was basically a two door version of the Australian LTD luxury sedan.
The Landau was basically a heavier XB Falcon GT with front end bits from the LTD. In keeping with Ford’s parallel design trends in America, the Landau had luxury overtones similar to the American Mercury Cougar via concealed headlamps. While American cars with landau in their names often had half vinyl roofs, the Australian Landau came only as a full vinyl top. Its C pillars extended almost to the rear of the car to form a sleek flying buttress look like the American Dodge Charger.
The hardtop coupe only Landau had an Australian built low compression version of the famous 351 Cleveland V8. It produced 290 hp, an impressive figure for a time when power ratings elsewhere were taking a beating thanks to government emissions regulations. The Landau offered quite a bit of innovation for its time. “T-Bar SelectShift Cruisomatic”three speed automatic allowed manual shifting. The Landau and the LTD were the first Australian cars to have this feature. When equipped with the V8, the Landau could get to 60 mph in 8.5 seconds. For all it’s lavish luxury, the Landau looked like most other cars underneath with its independent front and live axle rear setup. Landau’s had big for its day 15” steel wheels with die-cast wheel covers. At 3,790 lbs, the full-sized coupe was a quiet and comfortable cruiser with all manner of gadgets inside.
These cars came fully loaded with power windows, four-wheel disc brakes and air conditioning. Of the few options available, a cassette stereo and leather interior topped the list. As Australia’s first home-built luxury sport coupe, the Landau was alone in the marketplace. Although the HQ Holden Monaro was close in concept, It would be years before any direct competitors would come along. When the LTD was updated Ford decided not to continue the Landau due to poor sales. By the end of production in 1976, Ford had built just 1,385 cars. The energy crisis had finally caught up with the Landau as the market for big coupes was drying up around the world.
The Landau leaves a legacy of luxury and performance and was one of Australia’s first world-class cars. As such it’s likely to earn the respect already reserved for great names like Monaro, Commodore or Falcon.