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Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

Posted October 23, 2017 10:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: classic auto Ford Legacy Pinto

A popular car for the decade, it was produced by the Ford Motor Company, the subcompact Pinto is today best known for its propensity to combust in rear-end collisions. Despite its horrific portrayal in Pinto Madness, published by Mother Jones magazine in its September/October 1977 issue, later fatality rate data revealed the Pinto to be on par with other subcompacts of the day and certainly not the threat it was purported to be in both print and broadcast media.

Looking for a subcompact to counter the market onslaught from Japanese and European automakers, Ford Motor Company began work on the model that would become the Pinto in 1967. By December 1968, the basic design concept was approved by Ford Product Planning, but there was a catch: Lee Iacocca wanted the Pinto to be in dealer showrooms by the 1971 model year, condensing the typical 43-month development cycle into just 25 months. Furthermore, Iacocca insisted that the new model weigh no more than 2,000 pounds and cost no more than $2,000, standards that were considered by engineers to be set in stone.

Despite its unfair reputation, a lot of ingenuity went into the Ford Pinto, from the ground up.

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#1

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/23/2017 2:00 PM

The worst thing about the Pinto's and the Vega's were how quickly they would rust out...but that was nearly every car in those days....other than that they were cute little cars...

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#5
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/24/2017 2:36 AM

For reference:

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#2

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/23/2017 5:43 PM

Let's see - the car was designed to be cheap and a little on the flimsy side, and was pushed through engineering and into production at double pace.

So... what does this observation 'Misunderstood' relate to?

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#3
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/23/2017 6:45 PM

I think they are referring to the rumors that they were unsafe because the gas tanks were in the back, there was a fabricated claim that when struck from behind they would burst into flames...However it turns out they were just as safe as other cars in this category....the upside is that they were cheap to buy used to turn into drag cars....

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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/23/2017 8:31 PM

It was the Crown Vics that burst into flames.

Popular police cars Crown Victorias prone to explode, tied to dea

"Ford knew there could be issues with the position of the car's fuel tank as early as the 1960s, documents obtained by The Palm Beach Post show. Ford has known about this, said Patrick McGroder, an Arizona attorney who represented families of burn victims, including two in Florida. They have known about this forever."

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#13
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/25/2017 1:28 PM

"...there was a fabricated claim that when struck from behind they would burst into flames..."

Maybe the news media rigged them with igniters to get a good story...?

http://articles.latimes.com/1993-02-10/news/mn-1335_1_gm-pickup

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#15
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/25/2017 11:34 PM

What what WHAT? My understanding is that was in fact a proven FACT not rumour.

Can you provide some verifiable and reliable links to prove this was all some fabricated litigation con (which is the only reason I can think of that this was fabricated)!

This isn't going to turn into a global warming true/false argument is it, because those NEVER go well.

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#6

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/24/2017 9:20 AM

I learned to drive in a Pinto station wagon. That car had a rough life, and was the first car I'd ever seen throw a rod. Poor Petey, I miss rear wheel drive small cars every time it snows.

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#7

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/24/2017 9:30 AM

These were good running cars, there really wasn't anything wrong with them compared to all the other vehicles on the road at the time. Their reputation was destroyed because Ralph Nadir wanted to write about how unsafe cars on the road were and used Corvair as his example. The engine out performed volkswagon engines in dune buggies. My Dad made an off road vehicle by cutting down a '65 Volkswagon van and building up from that with angle iron and aluminum sheet metal. It was really unsafe for off road, with no door, no seat beats and no top or windshield and no back seat. It was two wheel drive, and he put a Corvair engine in it with a manual transmission. That thing climbed and was nicknamed the Tin Goat, even though its skin was all sheet metal with pop rivets. I could climb hills that were nearly vertical, where dune buggies with their Volkswagon engines would attempt and start rolling, and we saw buggies take a roll back down, my Dad would take our Tin Goat with no roll bar up those hills and make it. That flat six, rotary engine had the power. I don't have a picture of what it looked like, but to give you the best description I can. It's profile looked similar to a Volkswagon Thing with no doors and no top and no doors. It had fenders that were flat and boxy and you could sit on them. the headlights stuck out the top of the front fenders and you could put your legs around them and sit and we did sit on those fenders and ride around off road during hunting season. We took it places where 4x4's would chicken out and go back.

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#14
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/25/2017 2:40 PM

That flat six, rotary engine

It was a horizontal flat six (Boxer) not a rotary. A tremendously underrated car.

Yenco and John Fitch modified the cars and they were true Porshe eaters. I had a friend with a Yenco Corvair race me in my Triumph Spitfire at Lime Rock and he made me look silly.

The greatest mistake by owners was to run the front tire pressure to 33 or so lbs as it required 18 to 19. ALWAYS READ THE MANUAL!!!!

The movies showing the Corvair rolling over were made without sway bars and with the tire pressure bumped up. It was all staged. Ralph Nadar made his money.

The Pinto had its gas tank placement problems but even more so was the Crown Vic. Several cops died in rear ender collisions with the Crown Vic. by catching fire.

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#8

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/24/2017 9:38 AM

In 1978 when I got out of college and was at my first job, my best friend had a Ford Pinto hatchback. It was an ugly thing and had a NRA sticker on the back windshield.

We used to actually play tag with our cars, just slight bumps. Neither of us had nice cars - I had a Toyota Corolla (with a semi-automatic choke!).

8 years later, I had moved to another job across the country and my friend had developed mental issues and committed suicide - with a gun shot to his head in a commuter parking lot.

I will always remember that Pinto.

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#9
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Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/24/2017 10:00 AM

TMI!

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#10

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/24/2017 12:04 PM

Good things about the pinto :

1. Easy to park in parking lots.

2. Small and manuverable.

3. Great gas mileage.

4. Lots of legroom for front seats.

5. Easy to work on engine.

6. Acoustically, great for putting in a high power stereo system.

Bad things about the pinto :

1. While the 4 cylinder engine was underpowered, the 6 cylinder engine was overpowered for the transmission and it was easy spin the rear wheels and burn up clutches.

2. There was a huge blind spot on the right hand side for the hatch back & with the trunk model, not only did you have the huge blind spot, but you also had another huge blind spot because the rear trunk lid was so high, making it easy to bump into things when you were backing up.

3. The solid rear axle and short wheel base made it easy to spin out when braking hard on slippery surfaces.

4. Teeny Tiny side mirrors.

5. Entry doors as wide and long as on the much bigger car, the Chevrolet Camaro.

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#11

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/24/2017 12:19 PM

The Pinto was not the first car to use the top of the gas tank as the floor of the trunk or to put the filler in the middle of the rear panel just above the bumper.

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#12

Re: Misunderstood Cars: The Ford Pinto

10/24/2017 2:41 PM

Pintos were tough. I have 9 acres and we used to have 2 Pintos we ran around the woods. Nothing could make it more than a couple hours but those 2 Pintos lasted all summer. One had so much oil leaked under the hood, we would drive it until it caught fire then drove it to the creek and put it out. Wait a half hour to cool and do it again. Both those Pintos ran until for some reason the ring gear on the flywheel would get sheared off and we couldn't start them anymore. Great memories!

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