Editor’s note: This or That is not a comparison report between two vehicles, but rather a feature that enables us, in an idyllic world, to add a collectible vehicle into our dream garage on a weekly basis, but with a catch: We can only pick one vehicle from this pairing and it has to be for enjoyment purposes rather than as an investment.
This episode of This or That explores the mid-priced, full-size luxury market equipped with a hint of factory performance via the choice between a 1968 Ford LTD Brougham versus a 1968 Plymouth Fury III. Each were former features in our family of Hemmings publications.
As was the case throughout the decades prior to, and after, the 1968 model year, one could divide the buying public into four general segments: Those who preferred economy; work vehicles; performance cars; and full-size platforms. Of the latter, the “traditional” customer base was comprised of folks who were generally middle aged and lived at least a moderate lifestyle, each more interested in a reliable vehicle with ample passenger capacity and comfort rather than tire-shredding torque. The demand for power had more to do with being nimble in traffic; but not always. Full-size cars could often be found with big-blocks tuned in similar fashion to those housed between the wheelwells of their supercar intermediate, or in some cases, pony car brethren. Take, for instance, the pictured 1968 Ford LTD Brougham.
As outlined in the feature article,
The most common powerplant in an LTD for 1968, regardless of bodystyle, was the venerable 390-cu.in. V-8, in either 265 or 315hp guise, though an economical 210hp Challenger 302 was actually the factory standard. A three-speed manual was also standard, although given the clientele, it should shock no one that the self-shifting Cruise-O-Matic was a very popular option.
Yet, surprisingly, Ford did offer a four-speed manual against the beefier 390, a combination that in all likelihood would have been more fitting in a sportier XL fastback, which shared its underpinnings with the upscale LTD.
And then there was the 428. It, too, was on the option chart, accompanied by either the automatic or four-speed. However, unlike the pony cars across the hall, this variation of the big-block destined for the full-size platform didn’t come with the “Cobra Jet” label. It was instead the same regular production FE-series engine introduced back in 1966, touting a 4.13 x 3.98-inch bore and stroke, a cast-iron crankshaft, intake manifold and cylinder heads with 2.04/1.57-inch intake/exhaust valves, and a single four-barrel carburetor. At 10.5:1 compression, horsepower ratings came in at 340; torque at 462-lbs.ft.
Even though it wasn’t as hot as the CJ, this [Q-code] 428 might still be considered immediately worthy of muscle status if it were wrapped in a more appropriate Ford shell. When used in conjunction with the 213.3-inch bulk of the LTD, you would expect–even assume–that it would be backed by an automatic. That’s where our feature car starts to get strange: It was equipped with a four-speed from the factory.
It gets better. According to the car’s only owner, and the car’s build sheet, power steering was not included; however a factory vacuum gauge mounted in front of the floor shifter was – a “four-in-one” Ford gauge featuring a swing-arm vacuum gauge, with oil, water and volt gauges recessed below. Other factory-installed options included air conditioning, power front disc brakes, a 4.11:1 geared Traction-Lok differential and an automatic load-leveling system in conjunction with the heavy-duty suspension. Reportedly, Ford assembled six LTDs in this manner out of a total production run of 138,752 units. Motor Trend announced their road test results of a 1968 LTD four-door hardtop in their May 1968 issue. Equipped with a 340hp 428-cu.in. engine, automatic transmission, 2.80:1 final drive ratio, power steering and power front disc brakes, it went from 0-60 MPH in 9.3 seconds and tripped the quarter-mile timing lights in 16.8 seconds @ 84.1 MPH.
Not to be outdone, cross-town rival Plymouth had been steadily building 168,001 examples of their 1968 Fury III, which included 60,472 two-door hardtops. Unlike Ford, however, the Fury III didn’t arrive in customer hands with a standard V-8, but rather a 145hp, 225-cu.in. Slant Six. There was plenty of power on tap via the option chart, stating with the 230-hp 318, and then jumped right to a pair of venerable 383 engines: a two-barrel equipped, 290-horse variant; and a 330-hp edition with a four-barrel. Top option was the powerful 440-cu.in. V-8 rated for 375hp. A three-speed (limited by engine choice) was standard, and even though a four-speed was available the most popular choice of transmission was the TorqueFlite automatic.
The Fury III’s unit-body chassis supported not only Mother Mopar’s torsion bar suspension system up front, complemented by rear leaf springs, but also a near bullet-proof 8 3/4 differential, 11-inch drum brakes and 213.1-inch long body, no matter the number of doors (station wagons wore a longer body). That body, incidentally, enveloped all-vinyl bench seats (hardtops and convertibles), or a combination of cloth and vinyl within sedans. Front and rear armrests, radio, safety lamps, cigar lighter and an “instrument panel with non-glare floodlamps” were also standard equipment. Customers could have sprung for tinted windows, power steering, power brakes and air conditioning.
Motor Trend also tested a 1968 Plymouth – though an upscale VIP model – which was powered by a 330-horse 383, which fed torque through a TorqueFlite transmission and 3.23:1 final drive ratio. According to their report, published in May 1968, the Mopar went from 0-60 in 8.5 seconds and ran the quarter-mile in 17 seconds flat at 86 MPH.
Armed with this knowledge, which of the two would you add to your stable and why?