The Ford Motor Company was far and away the least predictable of all the major automakers during the early 1960's. Chrysler was in survival mode, culling DeSoto and many other models - although the Dodge Dart
was a standout. General Motors on the other hand forged ahead at reasonably steady rates - good cars evolving as you would expect.
Ford however seemed to have alternating fortunes, from the runaway success of the Mustang to cars that only succeeded in being failures, such as the Edsel and Continental II. The capricious nature of Ford during this time had many journalists scratching their collective heads as to what would be offered for the 1965 model year.
For some reason best known to the company directors of the time, one year's Ford or Mercury would be a smartly styled vehicle with great sales appeal, only to be followed up by something seemingly designed and made from an entirely different auto maker.
The 1960's became the decade where the annual custom was to await Ford's new cars with a certain amount of friendly concern. Nearly everyone wanted the new Ford to be a success, particularly given the companies great leap into car racing had endeared them to a legion of new fans.
And that is why we have chosen to write about the 1965 model in particular. The difference between a '65 and the '63 or '64 offerings was both great and good. A few road testers even commented that the LTD felt most like a medium-priced General Motors sedan. It didn't even sound like a Ford, being noticeably more quiet than its arch-rival, the Chevrolet Impala
Produced as an unabashed luxury vehicle, the LTD was not, as some cynics suspected, just another Ford dressed up to delude the masses. It was a finely detailed car in any context, complete with $18.50-per-yard (at the time this represented a premium few others could match) seat coverings and a massive list of accessories that elevated the price of the Galaxy LTD to $4560.10. The base price of the LTD was $3313.00 - a more realistic figure - and it was the 16 optional items - including a $363.80 air conditioner - that boosted the price to four-and-a-half grand.
Arguably the best on item on the options list was the
390 cubic inch, 300 hp engine that was standard in the Thunderbird and cost an additional $137.60 on the LTD. The bigger engine supplied the kind of torque (427 lbs-ft) that was needed to pull a car of this size around in proper fashion and with reasonable economy (13-16 mpg).
Aimed At The "Step-Up" Market
At the time that was a great deal of money to pay for any Ford - which makes it hard to determine which competitive vehicles Ford were targeting - perhaps they were simply creating a new market segment. Reading through the marketing blurb for the 1965 models, Ford company officials claimed the Galaxy LTD was aimed at a "step-up" market, in which buyers of the regular Fords and Chevrolets were looking for added prestige. The concept was apparently valid, because the LTD quickly proved to be a sales success (at some cost it should be noted to Ford's Mercury brand).
Sponge and Wallow
The Galaxy LTD was, as you would expect, extremely quiet and would glide along on a suspension system that was suprisingly compliant and not the evil "sponge and wallow" many suspected would be the case. That's not to say it was in any way nearing sports car type handling, and there was an obvious bias toward boulevard cruising. After all, the LTD weighed in at a hefty 4000-lb. (without the accessories) and rode on a 119-inch wheelbase.
Many were trying to figure out what Ford had done to change the Galaxy's character so much over the '63 and '64 models. The answer was a new rear suspension, which utilized coil springs (replacing the ineffective longitudinal leaf springs used since 1949) located by a well-engineered pair of parallel trailing arms, a torque reaction member, and a panhard rod. All of the old Ford habits of wheel hop and poor adhesion under braking and acceleration were a thing of the past.
The front suspension was nearly identical to the Lincoln's, and featured an upper wishbone, a transverse lower control arm and a diagonal drag strut in conjunction with traditional ball-joints and coil springs. The performance of this front-end layout was markedly inferior to that of the rear. Bumps caused the front-end to hunt, in a kind of corkscrewing motion, so that every substantial bounce-rebound cycle would cause a mildly unpleasant circular movement around a longitudinal axis that roughly paralleled the car's center of gravity.
Check around the internet and you will find many claining this was the result of a change in toe-in/toe-out characteristics on bounce and rebound (toeing in on bounce, toeing out on rebound). It also caused the car to lunge into turns at normal highway speeds, giving the driver the impression that he had over-steered. This mannerism was shared with the T-bird.
Quieter Than A Rolls-Royce - Seriously
On the marketing side, Ford announced that their 1965 models were quieter inside than the fabled Rolls-Royce. Big claim, but it was actually true. The tests which arrived at this rather startling conclusion were carried out with utter impartiality (two new Rolls were bought for the experiments) and the results were not exactly what had been hoped for. The original basis for the project was to indicate that the Ford was almost
as quiet as the Rolls - which at least had a chance of appearing creditable to the general public. There was enough displeasure at the actual results that the advertising campaign was nearly cancelled.
Ford attributed all of its sound-deadening success in the 1965's to a new method of mounting the body to the frame whereby contact points which might resonate road noises were studiously plotted and then avoided. This was a much more valid approach than just packing in more insulation. This new technique did make the 1965 Ford an exceedingly quiet automobile, but the most pertinent fact about the whole Ford - Rolls comparison was not the former's silence, but the latter's relatively high interior noise level. Of course there were (we believe) a number of US cars such as the Lincoln, Cadillac and Imperial - that were better sound-proofed than the Rolls Royce.
Though Ford could claim to have jumped on the three-speed automatic transmission bandwagon long before Chevrolet (which in 1965 still persisted with the two-speed Power-glide), their Cruise-O-Matic lacked the overall smoothness of the new General Motors' three-speed Turbo Hydr a-Matic (used on Pontiac, Olds, Buick and Cadillac) or the flexibility of the Chrysler Torque-Flite (a brilliant transmission of which we have prasied in other articles on this site). Upshifts with the Cruise-O- Matic tended to be accompanied by a noticeable forward surge would have seemed out of place on an otherwise smooth and silent automobile. The throttle linkage permitted the driver to down shift to second gear below 88 mph for bursts of passing acceleration.
The position of the driver's seat and steering wheel were beyond reproach and all the controls fell easily to hand. Minor complaints included being able to knock the power window buttons with your left knee, and night-time gear selection could be difficult because the selector panel but not the indicator needle was lighted - a strange oversight.
At launch the exterior appearance of the Galaxy LTD was the subject of widely varied opinion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but for the record we think the 65's were a vast improvement over the paunchy look of the 64's. The sales figures indicate we are not alone. General Motors had a minor setback during 1964 caused by an October strike, enabling Ford to leap into the 1965 model year with an increase in market penetration. This may explain the initial success of the '65 Galaxy's. As far as sheer quality and luxury were concerned, the LTD
marked a zenith for the FoMoCo. It was a vast improvement over earlier Fords, and was the equal or better than anything else in the market segment - even if that segment was a "Step-Up".