Ford Competes with Chevrolet
Arriving at midyear in 1965 were the poshest big Fords ever, the $3300 Galaxie 500 LTD hardtop coupe and sedan, claimed to be "quiet as a Rolls-Royce." The times were indeed a-changin'. With intermediates taking over in competition, the big Fords no longer needed any sort of "performance" image to support sales.
The 1965 platform got a minor touch up for '66, and LTDs gained "7-Litre" companions powered by the Thunderbird's big 345-bhp 428 engine. The following year brought new outer sheetmetal with more flowing lines and "faster" rooflines on hardtop coupes. LTD became a separate three-model series, adding four-door sedan but losing the slow-selling 7-Litre models. Hidden-headlamp grilles marked the '68 LTDs and Galaxie XLs as part of a lower-body restyle for all models.
A new bodyshell arrived for '69 with a two-inch longer wheelbase, a "tunneled backlight" for newly named "SportsRoof" fastbacks, and ventless door glass on hardtops and convertibles. LTD sales continued rising. Ford had built nearly 139,000 of the '68s; it built more than twice that number for '69.
Ford kept pace with Chevrolet in the '60s production race, and actually beat it for model years 1961 and '66. Ford would be number one again for 1970 and '71 at slightly over two-million cars to Chevy's 1.5/1.8 million. Ford enjoyed its first two-million-car year in 1965, though that was a great year for all domestic automakers.
Ford wouldn't lead Chevy again until the late '80s, but it generally fared well in the '70s. Still, Dearborn was the last of the Big Three to abandon traditional full-size cars -- and the first to suffer for it. In the wake of the OPEC oil embargo and the first energy crisis, Chrysler pushed compacts while GM went forward with plans to downsize its entire fleet. Ford stubbornly resisted the winds of change, promoting its aging big cars on the basis of greater passenger space and the presumed safety of their "road-hugging weight." But the public didn't buy this cynical line -- or as many of the cars.
In large measure, this denial reflected the personal view of chairman Henry Ford II, who decreed there would be no wholesale rush to smaller cars, no vast capital investment in new technology. As a result, Ford greeted 1980 a critical two to three years behind GM in the fuel efficiency and "space" races -- and at a critical sales disadvantage next to its domestic foes and a horde of fast-rising Japanese makes. The firm would recover, but not before making drastic product changes.
For more on the amazing Ford, old and new, see:
- Ford New Car Reviews and Prices
- Ford Used Car Reviews and Prices