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Open Diff: Automotive obscurities

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1985 Ford LTD LX. Photo by Jeff Koch.

In 1984 and 1985, Ford build a four-door, 5.0-liter Mustang. It wasn’t called a Mustang, of course, but it carried a Mustang V-8 (albeit the de-tuned one that came with the automatic transmission) and it rode on the Fox platform, just like its smaller stablemate. The Ford LTD LX sedan probably wouldn’t have been built, had it not been for the relationship between the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, the Ford Motor Company, and its then-president, Donald Petersen.

The Bondurant school had long used Mustangs for its instructional programs, but packing students into the rear seat for demonstration laps was challenging. In search of a sedan that could be modified for track use, Bondurant realized that the fourth-generation LTD rode on the same platform as the Mustang, and therefore could (likely) be modified to meet his needs without a significant amount of effort.

1985 Ford LTD LX

1985 Ford LTD brochure, highlighting the LTD LX’s features. Brochure images courtesy The Old Car Manual Project.

Stories differ as to whether Bondurant built a Mustang-powered LTD, with the police suspension package, in his own shops or with Ford’s assistance and engineering. Once the Bondurant car was completed and tested, Petersen was reportedly so enamored with the end result that a production version was given the green light, and the Ford LTD LX hit the market in mid-1984.

While the Bondurant car had been built with a five-speed manual transmission, the production LX models came only with a four-speed automatic, limiting output of the 5.0-liter, throttle body fuel-injected V-8 to 165 horsepower and 245 pound-feet of torque. With a 3.27:1 final drive, the sedan was capable of a 9.0-second 0-60 time, on the way to a quarter-mile time of 16.84 seconds at 81.3 MPH. Top speed was said to be 115 MPH, and in comparison to other affordable performance sedans of the day, the numbers were respectable.

1985 Ford LTD LX

To ensure the LX was fast in more than just a straight line, the model received handling upgrades like a Traction-Lok differential; front and rear anti-roll bars; unique gas-filled struts and 205/70 HR14 Goodyear Eagle GT tires, which could be mounted on lightweight cast aluminum wheels as an option. Outside, the LTD LX wore charcoal bumper guards, black moldings with a red accent, and a chrome-plated dual-tip exhaust, while inside highlights included front sport seats and a tachometer.

Despite Ford’s best efforts, the LTD LX was not a sales success, and advises that just 3,260 examples were built in the car’s two years of production. Though the model has developed something of a cult following in the decades since, it isn’t clear how many examples remain today.

It certainly isn’t a car we were familiar with, although one did appear in a Modified Muscle segment in the March 2008 issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines.  It was reader (and former LTD LX owner) Wayne who tipped us off to the car, which brings us to our Open Diff question: what other obscure performance-related cars, from domestic and foreign manufacturers, are we missing out on?