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Ford cars of the 1970s - USA

Ford Pinto, 1971
Ford Pinto, 1971 Image courtesy of The Ford Heritage Vault

Ford cars in the 1970s were getting smaller, but the range was getting larger.

Competition from imported cars such as the VW Beetle, Toyota Corolla and Datsun 510 inspired a much smaller American Ford. The Pinto, launched in 1971, was aimed at buyers tempted by foreign cars.

The fuel crisis in 1973 saw a drop in demand for larger and more powerful cars. Ford's reputation was based on large cars at value for money prices. By the end of the 1970s the full-sized Ford was no longer full-sized.

At all sections of the market, smaller meant more sales. Ford introduced new compacts, the Maverick, the Fairmont and the luxury Granada.

Muscle cars did less well with new emissions legislation. The Mustang also became a smaller car. The Mustang II was based on the Pinto chassis. The original Mustang was derived from the much larger Ford Falcon compact.

Economy cars continued to be popular. By the end of the decade Ford USA imported Ford Europe's popular small car, the Ford Fiesta. The US version had a 1.6 litre engine as standard.

A complete list of Ford cars from the 1970s in America is:

Ford full-sized cars

Ford Galaxie 500, 1972
Ford Galaxie 500, 1972 Image courtesy of The Ford Heritage Vault

At the start of the 1950s there was just one Ford car, essentially the 1949 Ford. It got an annual face-lift. It sold with different bodies: sedans, coupes and station wagons. There were different trim levels with different and changing names, such as Deluxe, Custom and Crestline. Their lineage went back to the Ford Model-T.

In the 1970s there was still a range of full-sized Fords with different trim levels and body styles. They were called full-sized cars to distinguish them from later compact and mid-sized ranges.

Ford sold the following ranges of full-sized cars.


Custom was originally the top trim level of the 1950 Ford. By 1970 it was the lowest trim level on Ford's full-sized car range. 1972 was the last year of the Custom trim level.

Galaxie 500

Galaxie 500 was a mid-range full-sized car in the 1970s.


XL was originally a more luxurious and more powerful version of the Galaxie. The last XL was made in 1970.

Ford LTD, 1973
Ford LTD, 1973. This car shows the more aggressive look of the mid-1970s. Image: public domain


LTD was originally a luxury Galaxie 500. It became a separate cars range in 1965.

In 1975 LTD became the base spec for a full-sized Ford.

In 1979 Ford downsized the LTD making it a mid-sized car.

LTD Brougham

Historically Brougham was a car in which the driver sat outside the main carriage, like a coachman on horse-drawn coach. In 1970 Ford used that name to describe a new level of luxury trim for the Ford LTD.

LTD Landau

The Ford LTD Landau was introduced in 1975 as the top of the range full-sized Ford. It featured concealed headlights and a vinyl roof.

Ford Gran Turino, 1974
Ford Gran Turino, 1974, as used in Starsky and Hutch
Image: public domain

1970s Fords in films and TV series

The most famous 1970s' American Ford in a TV series was the red Ford Gran Turino driven by Paul Michael Glaser in 'Starsky and Hutch'. David Soul, who starred with him, also drove a 70s' Ford, a scruffy 1973 Ford Galaxie 500.

The Galaxie 500 made frequent appearances in 1970s films and TV shows. There were a couple of Ford Galaxies in 'The Streets of San Francisco'. Clint Eastward drove a 1972 Ford Galaxie 500 in 'Magnum Force'.

As the Galaxie 500 became an old car, it got old car parts. You see a very battered one in the 1983 film 'Suburbia'.

The muscle cars of the 70s were also favourites in films and TV. A 1971 Ford Mustang called "Eleanor" featured in the 1974 film 'Gone in 60 Seconds'. The car was customised to look like a 1973 car.

A real 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 was the car driven by Steve Coogan in the 2006 comedy 'Saxondale'.

Another big Ford, the Custom 500, appeared in 'Hawaii-five-O', in 'Magnum Force', as a Police car in 'Klansman' (1974) and in the 1973 film 'White Lightning'.

Also look out for a 1971 Ford Country Sedan in 'The Six Million Dollar Man'.

The compacts were less popular film stars. A 1974 Ford Maverick was the star of the 1997 made for TV film 'Runaway Car' and a less than glamorous 1978 Ford Fairmont was owned by Claudia Blaisdel Carrington in the soap 'Dynasty'.

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Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

Mid Century ★ Facts & Figures ★ Collectibles

Retrowow - vintage, retro and social history

★ Mid Century ★ Facts & Figures ★ Collectibles ★