Cheap 1980 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon Project

Remember the custom van craze back in the 1970s and 1980s? No domestic manufacturer embraced the trend more than Ford, with all sorts of wild-looking van packages becoming available. This even extended to the subcompact Pinto, which offered a Cruising Wagon option that was styled like the Econoline Cruising Van. From the Pinto’s last year of production, this 1980 edition looks to be one of those vehicles, but it’s in serious need of restoration. Were you to want to take on such a challenge, the wagon can be found in Magna, Utah, and is available here on cars.ksl for just $1,200. Thanks for the tip, Chuck Foster!

The Cruising Wagon was an interesting combination of colorful shag wagon, panel delivery, and economy car, all rolled into one package. Aimed at youthful buyers who wanted the custom van look at a budget price, the Cruising Wagon came with styled wheels, rear bubble windows, body striping, front spoiler, styled wheels, Sports Rallye equipment, and a carpeted rear section. It was first introduced in 1974 to help bolster Pinto sales which had been lagging behind others in the industry even after the OPEC energy crisis. The Cruising Wagon didn’t become a big seller and was discontinued after 1979.

This 1980 Pinto would give way to the Ford Escort the following year. If the Cruising Wagon bowed out in 1979 as sources say, this one might be a dealer conversion. The seller refers to this as a California Edition, but we couldn’t find out much about that. Perhaps it refers to the car being built for the California market with the emissions equipment required specifically for that state.

Under the hood should be a 2.3-liter I-4 engine that was rated at 88 hp back in the day. We’re told the car runs at 33,600 miles with both a new fuel pump and starter. However, the fuel system is going to need flushing because the car sat for a long time and the gas has soured. It has an automatic transmission, which means this Pinto won’t be a barn burner when back in top shape.

The body has evidence of rust in several places, including the doors and rear quarter panels. The paint and striping have long since given up the ghost, so some fancy new finishing is needed. The interior is in the worse shape, with everything being dirty, worn, or cracked, especially the dashboard. It’s going to take a lot of time and money to recreate that 1970s crazy van look again on a car not known for top resale value. There is some confusion about the title. On the one hand, the seller says it’s “clean,” but on the other says “an officer did a Certificate of inspection” and the seller applied for a new title that will be mailed within a month. That should be clarified before pulling the trigger.

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Comments

  1. JOEY V

    The Cruising Wagon was an interesting combination of colorful shag wagon, panel delivery, and economy car, all rolled into one package. Aimed at youthful buyers who wanted the custom van look at a budget price, the Cruising Wagon came with styled wheels, rear bubble windows, body striping, front spoiler, styled wheels, Sports Rallye equipment, and a carpeted rear section. It was first introduced in 1974 to help bolster Pinto sales which had been lagging behind others in the industry even after the OPEC energy crisis. The Cruising Wagon didn’t become a big seller and was discontinued after 1979.” ~ Get your facts correct: The Cruiser options came available in ’77 and ran thru ’80, and the striping was optional, not std.

    Like 4
    • Howard A Member

      Oh, settle down, the writers do a great job, and may make an occasional mistake. That, I feel, is the purpose of the “comments”, so know nothing know-it-alls, can tastefully correct them, not make them feel stupid. You can rip on the commentors all you want, but leave the writers alone, eh?

      Like 44
      • Bob N.

        I for one enjoy the extra info that many different readers bring. Even you.

        RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

  2. Steve Clinton

    Beware! It appears the rust monster is eating its way from the inside out. (Someone enlighten me, I have to wonder why anyone would pay $1,200 for this. What would you do with it?)

    Like 5
  3. KC John

    Everytime I see one of these my thoughts go to V8 swap. Couple guys in my hometown were pinto guys. 289s , too much cam, too much carb, too small rear. We did it all wrong but man, it was fun.

    Like 9
  4. Howard A Member

    Had a co-worker that had a wagon just like this. It was marketed in “let it all hang out” era, and not to be graphic, and in case you missed that time, the whole custom van thing was the result of the hippy/sexual revolution. Let’s call a spade a spade, people needed a place to “do it”, and the whole “shaggin’ wagon” thing was born. That’s right, you heard me, don’t look so shocked. This car was on the low end of that craze, but the back had plenty of room, and now you know the rest of the story.
    BTW, someone may correct me, but I think this( and Vega panel wagon) was the last rendition of the panel delivery truck. They have to be better than this, only a fool would sink a dime into this.

    Like 15
    • Steve Clinton

      So THAT’S why I saw Pinto Cruising Wagons at the drive-in with the hatch open and 2 pairs of feet sticking out!

      Like 13
  5. Jon.in.Chico

    33,600 miles … we had a ’76 – cam went flat at 36, 033 miles, just out of warranty … just sayin’ …

  6. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Wow! This happens all the time, I spend time writing something then I go to hit post and everything disappears. As I was saying the 2.3L engine is a very good engine. About 25 years ago I bought a 94 Ranger with this engine and 5 speed manual and a/c. I used it primarily as my work transportation vehicle. Driving 60 miles to work and the same home everyday I averaged 25 mpg in hot Texas weather. I put close to 200,000 miles on it without any serious trouble before trading it in on a new Ford pickup in 05.
    Now as for this Pinto all I can say is: cute.
    God bless America

    Like 6
  7. david R

    man Detroit made some crappy cars back then.

    Like 3
    • Cristiana

      True, but I think a lot of that crappiness was due to a) Washington DC’s increasingly tougher emissions standards, and b) trying to compete against the imports who had the advantage of far lower labor costs.

      Like 7
  8. Karl

    I can remember these nightmares from high school!

  9. Paul T Root

    I learned to drive on a ’74 wagon, a plain yellow one. I think that was a better color than that green one from yesterday. I did like that thing. It was a good car for its age. The cruising wagon, or I think they had a Courier decked out too back then. That’s what I would have wanted.

    My folks traded it in on a custom van in 1984. It had a sticking caliper, and was feeling pretty old. The dealership gave a trade in of like $4500 on paper. The must have been having trouble moving the vans. I seem to remember it was a Toyota dealer, that got in some conversion Chevys. So they were just playing fast and loose with the books. I remember an Avanti II on the lot as well, so they were all over the place.

  10. RH FACTOR

    we had one on the showroom floor at the Ford dealer I worked at in the 70’s. It had a roof rack and CB radio. It was marketed as the Ski CB Special. Not much special about a pinto then or now.

  11. Howie Mueler

    What a chick magnet!! NOT!!

  12. Frank

    Another Ford has a better idea!

  13. piper62j

    The Pintos weren’t the worst and weren’t the best. We had many come in the shop and most of the problems were with the engine. The valve seals would wear down and if not replaced, the cam shaft lobes would wear.. Never did find out why.. I was a Ford line mechanic and could pop these repairs out in record time.. (because there were so many of them).

    Like 1
  14. Troy

    It’s a pinto and years later Chevrolet tried this same look with the HHR both were junk from the factory just crush it it will help keep the cost of beer cans down

  15. Gary

    I bought one exactly like this, new. At a Ford dealer in Falls Church Va. Mine was a 4 speed.(’79 model) It actually was a pretty good vehicle. I was just a kid, it was, my first new car. I didn’t need a cosigner. I kept it for 3 years. Traded it in for a low mileage ’79 Thunderbird. Several of my Buds. Called it “a circus wagon”

  16. John Oliveri

    This car, should be turned into a useful thing,like the old railroad cars, get pushed into the water, for sea life,

  17. MTBorst

    Had to have the 2.3 because the 2 liter sucked ! Poor power worse fuel economy ! And the automatics were worse for fuel economy. We enjoyed having a pinto and so did some friends of mine, ask of us mechanics at the time but we really never needed to work on them.
    This one looks like 233,000 miles on the inside ! It would be a cool fixer upper. Anyway pinto was a much better mechanically fit car then the Chevy vega

  18. Wayne

    The 2.3 engines did have cam issues prior to the conversion to roller cams. (1983-1985 somewhere) After that the engines were bullet proof.
    Just say’n.

    • John Oliveri

      By 83, Ford was try to forget this car, and concentrate on the Fairmont

  19. 370zpp 370zpp Member

    Would never want one of these with an automatic, but my 71, 4 speed wagon was a good car, period. No regrets. And yes, it was a multi purpose vehicle for sure.

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