Unfortunately suffering the reputation of being a cheap economy car, the Pinto has still made its way into popular culture.
Introduced in 1971 as competition for the new import and domestic subcompacts, the Pinto was meant to be so simple a vehicle that Ford could produce this vehicle with little time and money.
Manufactured by the Ford Motor Company, the Ford Pinto was introduced in 1971. The twin of the Pinto was the Mercury Bobcat that was introduced in Canada in 1974, and in 1975 to the U.S. The Chevrolet Vega and AMC Gremlin were also introduced at the same time.
The most successful of the U.S. designs, the Pinto was the base model for the newly designed Mustang II.
Built and produced in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada, and California, the Pinto began in 1968 under Lee Iacocca, Ford executive.
The body styles of the pinto were a 2-door coupe, a two-door station wagon, a three-door hatchback, and Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon. A small conversion wagon that came with round 'bubble windows' in the side panels was very popular during the late 1970's.
Originally introduced as a two-door sedan in 1971, the three-door Runabout was added mid-season to the line. Standard equipment for the vehicle was a high back, slimline buckets seats, a totally vinyl upholstery, ventless door windows, interior dome light and much more.
Receiving the same standard equipment, the 3 door Runabout also received a fold-down rear seat with load floor color-keyed carpeting and passenger compartment color-keyed carpeting.
The engine was a British built 1600cc inline OHV four-cylinder with a four-speed transmission.
A conventional design, complete with unibody construction that had an engine mounted in the front driving the rear wheels through either a live axle rear end, an automatic or a manual transmission.
The suspension was a very unequal-length A-arms that held coil springs that were suspended on leaf springs with a live axle on the rear.
With an optional power assist attached to the rack and pinion steering, the styling resembled the Ford Mackerick. With very low seating that nearly reached the floor, the grille and tail light themes resembled the Maverick. In 1972 the main updates to the Runabout was the addition of a larger rear window. The new two door wagon was also introduced this year.
The exterior of the Pinto remained the same except for the redesign of the front bumper guards and rear bumpers. Now nearly one and a half inches longer in length, the standard and optional equipment remained the same from 72 to 73. Federally mandated safety requirement were enforced in 1974, mainly in the area of massive safety bumpers. The bumper was plain on the base trim models, though it came with rubber faced and vertical guards.
In 1975 a 170 cubic inch OHV V6 engine was available as the optional engine only in the station wagon while the 2.3 was now standard equipment. The 1.6 L Kent engine was praised by Road & Track.
The original engine had a British-constructed 1.6 L OHV I4 along with a German made 2.0 L SOHC I4. The 1.6 L was dropped in 1974k and the new 2.3 L engine became available. In 1975, the 2.8 L V6 engine was made available.
The major fault of this vehicle was the alleged design of the fuel tank that hinted in the result of deadly fires and explosions when rear end collisions occurred.
The lack of a true rear bumper, as well as any major structure between the rear panel and the tank, was the cause of the fear of the tank being thrust during a collision by the numerous bolts that could puncture the tank.
Federally mandated safety requirement were enforced in 1974, mainly in the area of massive safety bumpers. The bumper was plain on the base trim models, though it came with rubber faced and vertical guards.
The door could also potentially jam during the hazard of an accident made the vehicle a potential deathtrap. Refusing to pay the minimal expense of a redesign, Ford made the decision to pay the possible lawsuits. The supposed characterization of Ford's gross disregard for human lives in favor of profit let to large lawsuits, criminal charges and a expensive recall of all affected Pintos. Gaining a reputation for manufacturing 'the barbecue that seats four', Ford lost several million dollars during this scandal. Forbes Magazine included Pinto on its list of the worst vehicles of all time due to the alleged engineering, safety and reliability issues. At one time, the Pinto was referred to as 'the car nobody ever loved, but everybody bought'. In 1976 the appearance of the Pinto was updated to include a new argent painted egg-crate grille with inset square parking lamps. It also had updated bright headlight bezels as well as a bright front hood lip molding. Interior changes included a choice of either all vinyl or sporty cloth. To attract younger drivers the Pinto Stallion was introduced in 1976. Now an option on both the sedan and hatchback, the V6 was now offered. In 1977 a new soft nose with sloping hood and flexible fender extensions were offered and revised the appearance of the Pinto. Now new larger rear taillights, an optional all-glass third door and extruded anodized aluminum bumpers were featured. The Cruising wagon which was styled along the lines of the Econoline Cruising van was available in 1977. In 1979, the Pinto had a new look that included rectangular headlamps, a new sloping hood and fenders as well as a slat style grille. The ESS option was available in 1979 for sedans and Runabouts with both black grille and exterior accents. In 1980, the final year for the Pinto the V6 was dropped, which made the 2.3 OHC 4 cylinder the only engine available. Both the ESS and Cruising wagon were still available. In 1981 the Pinto was replaced by the Ford Escort. The Pinto faced competition with the Toyota Corolla, Datsun B210 and several other smaller Japanese vehicles. The Pinto was a poor rival when compared to these more dependable, durable vehicles. The Pinto Pangra was sporting vehicle that was released in limited numbers by Hungtington Ford in Arcadia, California. Nearly 200 models were sold during 1973 and cost approximately $5,000. The Pangra was fitted with a stock 2 liter engine that was fitted with an AK Miller turbocharger, and had a newly redesigned fiberglass nose with pop-up headlights.By Jessica Donaldson