Ford Pinto: See the bestselling sub-compact economy car from the ’70s & ’80s

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Ford Pinto The bestselling sub-compact economy car from the '70s & '80s

Test driving shows why the Ford Pinto paces sub-compact field (1972)

by Ryan Rees, Sun-Telegram Automotive Editor

There are over a dozen subcompact cars on the market to choose from. After testing most of them, for a comparison review, it is hard to pick one to start with.

During the next several weeks, this column will be looking at the various small cars on the market, and will try to give some kind of guideline for prospective buyers as to the various models’ pluses and minuses.

To begin with, let’s take the Ford Pinto. The Pinto is a runaway winner in the styling category. The Pinto is a great example that a small economy car doesn’t have to be ugly.

The Volkswagen Beetle has become a part of the American scene with its beetle-shell body design. It’s still ugly.

The Chevrolet Vega is a close second in styling, but all the rest either look like boxes stacked on top of one another or a mixture of European, Oriental and American styling.

The Pinto has a graceful, slowing body shell that is also functional. The two-door sedan model is rounded at the back, which provides more headroom in the back seat than, say, the Vega, which has a sharply sloped rear deck on its sedan model.

Pinto has also outdone the others in the optional station wagon model with its sporty Squire option. The Squire Pinto has wood-simulated siding on the outside which makes the Pinto look like a miniature Country Squire Wagon, the big, big Ford station wagon.

Pinto Wagon from Ford 1972

Even without the wood siding, the Pinto wagon has a stylish look. The rear door pops up easily out of the way. With the rear seats folded flat, there is lots of room for hauling small loads.

On the regular Pinto model, the rear door also flips up for easy access. One drawback is that there is no trunk space in the Pinto except for a small area behind the rear seat. You can’t lock anything up in a trunk out of sight as in most of the other small cars.

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The window space on the Pinto rear window has been increased by about eight square inches that not only improves the looks, but makes for much better vision out of the rear mirror.

Inside, the Pinto has more shoulder room than any small car in the field. The Mazda is a close second in this field and also takes the comfortable seat title with Pinto second.

There is plenty of legroom in the Pinto, both front and rear. The bucket seats in front and the near bucket seats in the rear make the Pinto a four-passenger compact.

The instrument panel on the Pinto is clean and simple but I have to wonder about the emergency brake location between the seats. Most European-built cars have the emergency brake in that place and Ford seems to have just followed blindly along. There is plenty of room under the left side of the dash for the release handle.

Vintage Ford Pinto cars for 1972

The Pinto four-speed transmission is desired over the three-speed automatic because of better acceleration and response.

With an air conditioner and an automatic transmission, the Pinto is very sluggish on starts. I found that it was much better to start out in first and shift through the automatic manually for better acceleration around town.

The four-speed is standard and I think it is a lot better. It’s not hard to handle, even for the wife who may not think so. My wife preferred the four-speed to the automatic after comparing the two.

The Pinto offers two engine sizes: a 1,600 cc and 2,000 cc four-cylinder. The 1,600 has an overhead valve design and the 2,000 overhead cam. Of course, the 2,000 is stronger, and if you order air conditioning, it’s almost a must.

A couple of other points I liked best about the Pinto were the low seating arrangement in the car. In the Pinto, you sit down low, close to the ground, which gives a feeling of added safety. You don’t get the feeling that you’re sitting on a box inside a bigger box as in some other models.

The front seat belts are fairly easy to locate, The rear seat belts are located in the interior side paneling for easy access since they retract into the side but the clip remains outside for easy location.

Another thing is the sporty options and paint effects that can be added on to the Pinto to give it a more sporty look.

The sub-compacts are designed for economy, and the near $2,000 price tag most carry is for a stripped model with few frills. However, with the Pinto, there aren’t too many frills that you need. Carpeting is standard, the four-speed transmission, racing side mirror, disc brakes and cloth-woven seat fabric are all standard.

For my own personal tastes, I liked the Pinto best of the so-called sub-compacts, It has the sporty styling, ease of handling, comfort and options that I look for in a car.

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New Ford Pinto MPG (1975)

34 MPG. $2769. The country’s best-selling sub-compact economy car now has a new model with higher mileage at a lower price than the leading foreign car.

MPG: These three letters can change your mind about looking to the imports for good mileage. When you see them on our newest version of America’s best-selling sub-compact, you’ll know you’re looking at a car that beats even the VW Beetle in price as well as EPA test mileage.

You can buy the new Pinto MPG now —at no increase in price—and get the same kind of standard equipment that makes the regular Pinto so popular: rack and pinion steering, 4-speed manual with floor-mounted stick, overhead cam 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine with solid-state ignition, front disc brakes, and more.

Best of all, Pinto MPG comes with the same type of Lifeguard Design Safety Features found in our full-size Fords including side door beams, protective bumpers, and many others. (If there’s one thing more important than better mileage, it’s peace of mind when you’re driving.)

New Ford Pinto MPG (1975)

Pinto MPG

High mileage with a wide choice of models — priced lower than any foreign wagon.

New Ford Pinto MPG 1975 cars

Compare the 1980 Ford Pinto

It may be America’s best small car value

Join the Pinto family. Introducing the 1980 Ford Pinto. Take a close look — you might want to join the Pinto family — over 2-1/2 million strong and growing!

  • 3-door Runabout
  • Squire Wagon
  • 2-door Sedan

Better ideas for the 80s. FORD.

Vintage Ford Pintos from 1980

Compare Pinto

Have you noticed how many multi-car families are all-Pinto families? To live with a Pinto is to know it and love it.


Ford Pinto for ’77

Classic 1977 Ford Pintos

Classic 1977 Ford Pintos

Vintage 1970 Ford Pinto cars

Vintage 1970 Ford Pinto cars

Vintage Ford Pinto cars for 1975

1975 Ford Pinto cars

1970 Ford Pinto cars

1970 Ford Pinto cars

Vintage Ford Pinto cars for 1971

Vintage Ford Pinto cars for 1971

Pinto cars 1971

Pinto cars 1971

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