Best of the Worst: 1977 Ford Pinto Country Squire

The U.S. has always desired to compete with overseas’ automakers small cars, but hasn’t always been successful. Enter the Ford Pinto, a car that today is more synonymous with flammable construction than being a Beetle beater. The 1977 model featured on eBay this week is packed with options, and has the added rarity of being a fully-loaded station wagon without any rust. Find it here on eBay with the high bid still below $5,000.

The Pinto went head-to-head with the Chevy Vega and AMC Gremlin, but used powertrains sourced from European-market Fords for their proven reliability. Designed originally as a two-door sedan and then as a hatchback, the wagon version joined the lineup in 1977, both as the panel van-styled Cruising Wagon and the Country Squire seen here. The Cruising Wagon’s porthole windows and the Country Squire’s faux wood trim distinguish the two, which were sold until 1980.

Unfortunately, the Pinto is most famous for a history marred by controversy. Critics claimed that the lack of reinforcing structure between the rear panel and the gas tank could cause it to move forward in a crash and be punctured by bolts on the differential. A rear-end collision that caused the occupants of a Pinto to be badly burned after the fuel tank ruptured sparked an investigation into the design of the car, and had a devastating impact on Pinto sales.

The Pinto Country Squire featured here has only 69,000 miles and still wears its original orange paint and wood trim. It also retains many other features, including a V6 engine, wire wheels, air conditioning, power steering and power brakes. The interior isn’t nearly as bad as one might expect for a 70s-era economy car, with attractive black vinyl seats, woodgrain dash and a floor-mount shifter. The seller doesn’t include much detail about the condition of the interior, but after leading a gentle existence in the pleasant South Carolina climate, we’re guessing there’s not a whole lot else to say.

With the 2.8L Cologne V6 churning out 98 b.h.p. and a healthy 140 ft. lbs. of torque, the ’77 Pinto definitely offered customers a lot of bang for their buck. This Country Squire is loaded to the gills, but is there more to its mechanical condition than meets the eye? The seller doesn’t elaborate on the car’s service history, other than saying that it retains its original engine and transmission. While it does appear clean and straight, we would want to know a bit more about its health before placing a bid on what many still consider as one of America’s worst cars.

Comments

  1. Bob B

    Beautiful ! and a great color too !..I’ll take it !

  2. J. Pickett

    Two minor issues, one, all Pintos had floor shifters. Automatic or 4 speed, the only transmissions offered. Two, one of the engines the 2.2 4cyl. was developed here and had a long career in European Fords. Third and finally the author says the wagons were introduced in 1977, My brother-in-laws 74 must have been pre, pre,pre, production prototype. The fire problem was real but solved by a recall. My mother had an early 1971 with the 1.6 and four speed, lasted very well, My Brother-in-law;s 2.0 was a wagon 74. Also quite durable. The Post office continued to use their Pintos for years after they were out of production. And they did not have the massive engine and rust problems that the Vegas did.

  3. Lon

    The media did a great job overstating the issues with the Pinto. It was a very good little car, and the problems the news outlets chose the accentuate were actually very rare. Killing off the Pinto got us saddled with the Escort! Way to go! :P That being said, the Pinto Country Squire, the base Wagon, and the Cruising Wagon were great little gas savers! They beat the Vega, hands-down!

  4. Lon

    That ‘smiley’ should be : P.

  5. Rick Rothermel

    I used to rent Pintos in Anchorage in the mid-70s when I worked on the Pipeline, and particularly enjoyed the silver wagon that I drove a few times. Though it was a 4-banger 4-speed, it was a LOT of fun. I could do reverse 180-degree spins on snow and black ice all day long because the car was balanced almost 50/50 front to rear.
    More important, the utility of the car was impressive and it was easy to drive. Pinto window sills are high, and the instrumentation is practically non-existant. The subject Squire is probably not as charming. The automatic/V6/AC/PS combo is a negative to me because it reduces gas mileage severely as it slows the car down and disrupts the balance. There were usually problems with the early ‘emissions compliant’ carbs and smog systems, but if the timing is kicked a few degrees the V6 can come alive.
    This particular car is cool in its own way, and the orange/woodie combo has to be rare, probably only a few hundred of the combo produced. Not my ultimate Pinto (huh?), but with a little care and some tweaking it could be a LOT of fun for its new owner.

  6. David

    I had hundreds of laps under my belt with my 2.3 litre mini stock Pinto…..they were much better cars than their reputation in the day and for what they were…..

  7. Mark

    Out here in the west you still see tons of Pintos in daily use, cant say that about Vegas or Monzas. I worked for two Ford dealers and have also spent my share of time in wrecking yards and never have I seen a burned out Pinto.

  8. cookieboy

    wagons were introduced in 1972, cruising and panel wagons in 1977.

  9. Uriah

    I’ve had a bunch of Pintos. The factory V6 wasn’t THAT much more powerful then the four (at least with the a/c turned off…) but they were lucky to get 20mpg on the road, less in town. The little 2.4 4 speed would do high 20s if you drove like you had some sense. I don’t think they had a v6 4 speed either, if they did I’ve never seen one and I’ve owned/looked at a bunch of Pintos/Bobcats in my life. Had a Cruising Wagon for years we swapped a 302/C4 into. Fun little car, somebody even put shag carpet in the back. Groovy. It got about the same mileage the V6 did, and I think a 5.0 fuelie with a 5 speed would do far better.

  10. RICKY LAWRENCE

    The Pinto was actually a very good reliable car that was simple to work on and easy to put a v8 engine in it. I had a lot of friends that owned Pintos and they would run the devil out of those cars and they would just keep on going.. I would like to have one now with has prices the way they are. It would be nice if ford would build another one with the safety features they have on cars now,like air bags and the likes. Real good cars in my opinion.

  11. Doug M

    Thanks for stating that the interior is black! for some reason my monitor showed it with a green color where the sun hit it and I couldn’t imagine a green interior with orange paint! Pintos were funky, but not that funky!! I have driven a yellow pinto wagon with the wood trim, just like above but with a 4 cyl. 4speed. It was indeed, very balanced and very good in the snow!! (the in-laws offered it to my wife and I when we were in college -used to tow it behind their motor home. I declined, and bought a used Sunbeam Alpine. Later, they offered us their Vega wagon after towing it a few years. I declined again and bought an old Jag XKE for $2300 to drive. In their downward-spiral of poor choices for tow-rigs, they followed the Vega with the worst choice yet: a Renault Fuego!! When was the last time you have seen one of those still on the road?!?!)

  12. Mads Henriksen

    Oooh dear, I’ve mercifully forgotten those. How truly and utterly hideous. It is in fact so vile and horrible, that it’s kinda cool. Meanwhile in Europe, a Company like Citroën built the GS Break (The French called their Estate cars “Break” for some reason) – If you don’t know it , try and google it. It was a very pretty car, with hydraulic suspension, 4 disc brakes (also hydraulic, so they couldn’t fade as LHM cannot boil) with FWD, an all-alloy and very revvy 4 cylinder Boxer with only 1200 cc, but it could oupterform this monstrosity, and thanks to its trick suspension, very good aerodynamics, and its low gravity point, it handled beatyfully. With 5 Speeds as an option, they could go 160 KpH. The GS made it stateside in very limited numbers, some were imported as they turned old enough. They were (are) as comfortable as the DS – very interresting cars!

  13. Stephen Wilson

    I think there was some potential in the I-4 OHC but I don’t think there was an aftermarket for it in the US.

  14. Ron

    The media are always hungry for sansational news, They don’t care if a good product or a good company gets trashed as a result. Audis self acceration, Pintos blow up, or GM only makes big gas guzzlers. Anything to entertain viewers, with no accountability.

  15. cardog

    The fire problem was nonsense and media hype. It has been proven that Pintos were no more likely to catch on fire in a rear end collision that any other small car. In fact they were not the most likely not had the most incidents per capita, (carpita?)

  16. BradL

    Some time in the mid to late 70s, my mom and sister were rear ended while driving a Pinto. They had stopped for a car ahead that was making a left turn and was hit by a Delta 88. The impact pushed them into the car ahead and was hard enough to cause the doors to jam, forcing them to climb out the windows. Since this happened at the height of the Pinto media blitz, panic set in when the doors wouldn’t open. Fortunately, there was no fire.

  17. Karl

    As noted above, the wagon was introduced in ’72. It was also the only version that was never a potential firebug–the wagon’s rear structure was stronger than the runabout’s. In any case the problem was resolved in ’74 when Ford strengthened the rear structure to hold the 5-mph bumpers mandated that year.
    My family owned quite a few Pintos, and they were very much a mixed bag–two of them (both ’73s) had electrical problems that drove us crazy; on the other hand, one was absolutely bulletproof and we should have never gotten rid of it.

  18. His Royal Flatulence

    A sixty-ish relative of mine owned a Bobcat V-6 wagon when they were new, and I remember he had loads of trouble with it. It replaced a 3.5 liter Mercedes sedan, something which I didn’t understand then and don’t understand today. I think I recall he traded it in after only 18 months or so on something Japanese, and he drove Japanese cars ever after.

    But this beauty is a very cool time capsule, if you have a sense of humor and don’t take yourself too seriously.

  19. Mark W

    Cool looking version of the pinto wagon. Nice color I don’t recall seeing on the the road back in the day. That said, my Dad had one of these, albeit the 4 cyl 4 speed ‘MPG’ version with a real tall rear end in it. Net result, no usable torque, 4th gear was almost unusable around town. The front end on it was horrific. Steering input feel was zero, and it only vaguely influenced the direction fo the car. Not a huge fan. Would rather have his old blue 71 Torino wagon (woody) with the 351 Cleveland instead.

  20. Mike Behan

    @Ron, cardog The media does over sensationalize the news at times but it doesn’t change the fact that Ford rushed the Pinto into production and they knew they had a problem as early as the pre-production crash tests. Their cost benefit analysis determined it would be cheaper to pay out lawsuits than an $11 fix to modify the gas tank. Still a cool looking wagon though.

  21. Steve

    I asked my finacee if she wanted this car instead of a Subaru Forester, and she declined! Imagine that! What 70′s cred and groovy looks she would fetch on the old school Pinto Wagon!

  22. big mark

    i had one of these wagons with a 351 cleavland it was fun to drive

  23. Jim Hindman

    The Pinto wagon came in 1972. I would love to have one. The wagon had a little different design relating to the fuel tank. It was somewhat more safe than the 2dr & runabout.

  24. Duffy Bell

    My sister in law bought a 73 Pinto new. 3 years later it had so much rust it had to be scrapped.

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