The cars we loved.

1984-1985 Ford LTD LX: The Original Four Door Mustang

1985 Ford LTD LX

1985 Ford LTD LX

American performance sedans have come a long way since cars like the Pontiac 6000 STE and Dodge 600 were considered Detroit’s best efforts.  Although the first widely accepted modern American sports sedan from Ford might be the Taurus SHO, there was actually a short-lived sedan before it that connected with everyone from NASCAR drivers to police officers, a full decade before the B body Impala SS ever saw the light of day.

That car sprung from the Fox platform, the same fertile ground that brought us everything from the Mustang to Granada. One of the more prolific spawns from that platform, the Fairmont was the basis for so many variants, that it’s difficult to find Ford cars from the era that did not have a little bit of Fairmont in them. The LTD, once a big proud sedan, the type of car you might see in an episode of 1970 era episode of Barnaby Jones, had morphed into the midsized LTD of the early 80’s. Ford was working on its revolutionary Taurus/Sable pair and needed a stopgap until it arrived in 1985. By stretching the Fairmount body and giving it an aerodynamic front end, the new LTD was born.

Typically the LTD was equipped with a four or six cylinder engine. As they were, they sold well and did what they were expected to do, as long the road was straight and you were not in a hurry. That’s where former NASCAR and Formula 1 driver Bob Bondurant steps in. His Arizona based police certification driving school needed a fast car that could carry more than two people. His affiliation with Ford meant that while he could have chosen nearly any car they were making at the time, the new LTD fit the bill best. It already had much of the same chassis bits as the Mustang, so with some borrowed Mustang parts including a similar 5.0 V8, he created a performance car that fit the bill.

Impressed with Mr. Bondurant’s, creation, then Ford President Donald Peterson, rushed a production version of the car to market, and called it the LTD LX. The LX badge was beginning to symbolize no-nonsense performance in the Mustang and did not disappoint in the LTD. With only 3,260 built in what amounted to  a model year and a half, very few LX cars survive today. The LTD’s Mercury twin the Marquis also got a similar treatment in even smaller numbers for Canada as the LTS. Due to the Bondurant connection the LTD had become a popular police car with a beefed up suspension mostly separating it from the civilian car. Inside was not a lot to suggest that you were in a sport sedan beyond the tach on the instrument display. A full console further distinguished the LX from the more run of the mill LTD. No room for bench seats here, as the LX looks to have nabbed it’s front sport seats straight from the Mustang’s parts bin.

1985 Ford LTD LX Interior

1985 Ford LTD LX Interior

While today the output of 165 hp for the 5.0 litre V8 does not sound all that impressive, it was a big deal for the time. The closest competitors from Pontiac and Dodge had V6 engines and were more or less cosmetic specials with less power. The LTD was not without its exterior decoration, but it was subtle and in the form of black out trim and vaguely Thunderbird like 14in wheels on Goodyear Eagle GTs. Like the Mustang, the LX had a live rear axle with a four link suspension in back with a MacPherson strut setup up front. Brakes were disc with drums in the rear. For all intents and purposes, having an LX was the closest thing to a four door Mustang GT.

The motoring press was impressed, as the LX generally ranked above the Pontaic 6000 STE and Dodge 600 SE in most performance tests. 0 to 60 was an almost leisurely 9 seconds, but that was believed to be mostly from the limitations of having a four speed automatic transmission, the only sore point with most testers. Transmission aside, part of the LX’s appeal was that it did not draw too much attention to itself. With only three colors offered for each of its model years and more limited interior color options, the LX hardly stood from the horde of LTDs at dealer lots. Aside from the blackout trim, red LX badges distinguished the car as did the slightly wider tires and aluminum wheels.

Whatever fame and limelight the LTD LX got was cut short by the arrival of the Taurus. Like a younger sibling stealing all the attention, the Taurus slick aero shape made everything else look dated (LTD LX included). Regular versions of the Taurus performed nearly as well as the outgoing LX. For a while in 1986 the two were sold side by side, showcasing the evolution of Fords take on the sport sedan. Finding a second-hand bone stock LX would be difficult today. Because the LTD in general is a Fox platform car, many enthusiasts have taken to dropping in V8 engines from Mustangs along with suspension bits from the Ford/SVO parts bin to make their own take on the LX. One of the biggest modifications was the addition of a five-speed manual transmission. Form a historical perspective, the LTD LX may have been Ford’s first real attempt to make a sports sedan in the mode of the Europeans, even if it took an old NASCAR guy to get the ball rolling.

1985 Ford LTD LX

1985 Ford LTD LX


14 comments on “1984-1985 Ford LTD LX: The Original Four Door Mustang

  1. ltdscott
    March 7, 2013

    It’s FAIRMONT, not Fairmount.

    • autopolis
      March 8, 2013

      Thanks for catching that.

  2. BoB Miller
    December 7, 2013

    did these engines have the gt-40 heads???

    • autopolis
      December 7, 2013

      I don’t know, but considering that the original GT40 was from the 60’s and a new GT40 would come much later, it’s unlikely. The LTD LX had a rather stock Mustang 5.0 V8. It’s possible that it could have had a GT-40 derived head design (like the Mustang), but I doubt it.

  3. Walt
    January 9, 2014

    I owned one and loved it. The engine had a different crank and firing order compared to the low output 302 V8, and finned aluminum valve covers that said “Powered by Ford.” With its dark silver finish it was one of the best ‘sleepers’ ever. After mine was stolen I replaced it with a Gen 1 SHO — then replaced that with a Gen II model. But I still recall the LTD fondly.

  4. Matt
    January 25, 2014

    I’m looking for help with dash cluster wiring can you help or send me to someone who can


    • autopolis
      January 26, 2014

      Hi Matt, I’m afraid that I could not help you there. Good luck.

  5. Mark Moore
    June 24, 2014

    The GT-40 heads Bob referred to have nothing to do with the GT-40 racing program from the 60’s, or the Ford GT from a few years ago. It’s actually a head & intake design used on the Mustang GT & 5.0 LX in the 80’s & 90’s.

  6. Gail
    September 24, 2014

    It’s Bob Bondurant, not Bodurant. We had one just like this bought new in 1985. I sure miss that car.

    • autopolis
      September 27, 2014

      Thanks for catching that, I knew I should have asked Google how to spell his name. Those were great cars and sadly almost no one remembers them.

  7. Jasen Ross
    October 12, 2014

    Still MANY “Fairmount” misspellings in there. Also, the 84/85 LTD LX had the same non roller HO CFI AOD 5L as the 1984 Mustang.

    • autopolis
      October 12, 2014

      I corrected the two Fairmont misspellings for the two people who cared. Specific technical details about fuel delivery systems or other details a car has are sometimes outside of the scope of this blog. It’s really about what I liked about a car from a performance, design and market perception point of view. Unless some technical spec is exceptional for being ahead of its time (as the LTD LX was not) I’d likely mention it. There’s always sources like your Facebook group for that kind of detailed information.

  8. r masten
    September 27, 2015

    i bought a 1985 new and i still have it. my son is in the process of restoring it. your horsepower numbers do not match mine as i had 220 hp. the car was a great performer out of the box and i had my share of fun with z28s and all the mopar stuff of the era. only thing close was the super coupe t-birds.

    • autopolis
      September 28, 2015

      You had (or will have) a great sleeper on your hands. My power numbers were based on brochures and ads from 1984 (165 hp) and 1985 (175 hp). Of course there are plenty of aftermarket goodies available for the 5.0 and who knows what extras dealers might have offered.

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This entry was posted on February 23, 2013 by in 80's Cars, Ford Motor Company, Mercury and tagged , , , , .
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