54k Original Miles: 1976 Ford Pinto

For all of his character flaws and inflated ego, Lee Iacocca had a history of convincing his employers to produce the right car at the right time. Following his acrimonious departure from Ford, he helped save Chrysler from drowning in a sea of red ink through radical product planning. However, it is his time with the Blue Oval which draws the most focus. Rightly or wrongly, many consider him the father of the Mustang. Less revered was the Pinto, although it represented Ford engineering and production at its boldest and most daring. The Pinto was Ford’s first attempt at producing a compact car for the North American market, and they did so in record time from a clean sheet of paper. Iacocca’s unwavering belief was the driving force behind this development record, but he had to overcome strong opposition to get the project off the ground. By the time production ended, more than three million people had parked a Pinto in their driveway. Our feature car is a beautifully preserved 1976 model with 54,000 miles on the clock. It presents exceptionally well and needs nothing but a new home. The seller listed it here on eBay in Sarasota, Florida, with a BIN of $14,499. There is the option to make an offer if the price is too rich for your blood.

Regular readers will know that I usually avoid a couple of terms like the plague when discussing classic cars. “Patina” is a word that seems guaranteed to cause some to grind their teeth, while “time capsule” is another. However, it is hard to assess the overall condition and originality of this Pinto without using that second term. However, I’ll try! Its level of presentation is well above what you might expect to find in a vehicle of this type and age. Its Code 47 Light Green paint shines nicely, with no significant flaws or defects. The panels are equally impressive. There are no dings or bruises, and the lack of corrosion across the vehicle suggests it is rust-free. The chrome and glass are flawless, while the deluxe wheel covers with their color-coded centers and the narrow whitewall tires add a classy finishing touch to the exterior.

By 1975, Ford found the Pinto’s performance struggling in the face of the AMC Gremlin and its optional six-cylinder engine. To address the loss of potential sales, they shoehorned the 2.8-liter “Cologne” V6 into its engine bay. The motor was hardly a powerhouse, but it offered buyers an increase in power and torque of roughly 10% over the base four-cylinder unit. This car features the V6, backed by a three-speed automatic transmission. The original owner added some touches of comfort by specifying power assistance for the steering and brakes. With 100hp on tap, the Pinto could cover the ¼ mile in 19.2 seconds, which the motoring press considered respectable for a vehicle of this type. The seller indicates this little Ford has 54,000 genuine miles on the clock, and while they don’t mention verifying evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have some. The original Build Sheet and Owner’s Manua are present, and the car recently underwent a complete service. They provide no information on how the Pinto runs and drives, but its overall presentation holds promise.

The theme of impressive presentation continues when we turn our attention to the Pinto’s interior. The original owner selected Green Plaid cloth and vinyl upholstery, which is in remarkable condition for its age. There is no wear or physical damage and no signs of stains. The carpet is excellent, and the dash has avoided the cracking that are a product of UV exposure. There is no wear on the wheel, and while it might be stretching things to describe the interior as showroom fresh, it would still receive favorable comments wherever it went. The Pinto represented basic transport in 1976, but this one features ice-cold air conditioning and a functioning AM radio.

The Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Corvair share several key characteristics. The development of both evolved from a blank sheet of paper, while they each represented a bold design and engineering approach by their respective manufacturers. When Ford released the Pinto, Lee Iacocca was front-and-center, chomping on his trademark cigar as he discussed the virtues of the company’s latest offering. He became far less visible as the negative press began to build, tarnishing his “baby’s” reputation. The reality is that while the early Pintos weren’t perfect, statistics prove they were no more dangerous than any similar small car produced during that period. The same was true of the First Generation Corvair because it was no more deadly than the Volkswagen Beetle, from which it drew its design and engineering inspiration. Running changes addressed the problems experienced with early Pintos, but the badge could never quite shake the fallout from the negative press coverage. That led many owners to drive their car to destruction before consigning it to the scrap heap. Our feature car is 1-of-290,132 produced during the 1976 model year. It is unknown how many survive, but few would present as superbly as this. The price is above the market average, but its condition and odometer reading would justify it. I doubt the seller will have a seething horde beating down their door, but I won’t be surprised if someone hands over their cash for this classic.

Comments

  1. Moparman Member

    Que the “exploding Pinto” myth here in 3,2,1….. This indeed presents very well and should make the next owner a happy camper. GLWTA! :-)

    Like 14
    • Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

      It’s not a myth! It happened to three kids in my senior class in 1982. The rear seat passenger died. The parents sued the hell of of Ford and won.

      Like 5
      • Moparman Member

        I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that it never happened; it’s just that even after Ford belatedly implemented a fix, every Pinto shared the firebomb title. In reality, there were a number of cars with rear tank fillers that depending upon the severity of the rear impact had the propensity to explode.

        Like 14
      • Big C

        Sort of like the Chevy truck sidesaddle tanks. You hit something hard enough in the gas tank? You have problems.

        Like 5
    • nlpnt

      And to be fair to Lido, he had the brand-new Granada (his most “four-cornered” hit in Hollywood parlance, a car his own generation could downsize from an LTD to without the neighbors thinking they’d gone down in the world, and one that leading-edge Boomers just turning 30 could feel like real grownups driving) to promote, why would he be posing with a 5-year-old carryover model?

      Like 1
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    These are nice looking cars. Makes you wonder how Ford managed to make the following Mustang II so ugly. Most of them were no frills, basic transportation that helped all of us get through the ’70s gas crisis. They even turned out to be great SCCA race cars.

    Like 8
  3. RoughDiamond Member

    Gosh I love these! This time capsule brings back some great memories. I owned a ’72 Pinto 3-door Runabout with the Red, White and Blue “Sprint Package” option in celebration of the ’72 Summer Olympics. I bought it from a local drag racer who ran a screaming Opel GT at the quarter mile track. I had the hood custom painted making it 1 of 1 by Marti Report standards today hahaha. He had installed a Weber carb and Hedman header along with the obligatory Thrush muffler performance upgrade lol and it sounded awesome. It had the smaller 2.3 liter 4 cylinder motor and 4-speed manual transmission and was a hoot to drive for a 17 year-old kid sacking groceries in paper bags (remember those) for money.

    Like 10
  4. alphasud Member

    The Pinto always represented a nothing car to me when I was in HS. I don’t mean nothing car in a bad way. They just weren’t exciting but your basic A to B transportation. I’m currently working on a Bobcat wagon for a customer and driving that home to the shop was actually fun. Not a bad car at all. Gearing was right for highway travel and the car had enough pep to keep the momentum on hills. Granted fully loaded you might have to use your flashers on the grade.
    Parts aren’t as plentiful as they once were and to replace and repair the radiator and condenser that cost the customer $1500 for the parts. Other items like gaskets and tune up items were still cheap and available at the local Napa. I am surprised there are more Pintos still around than what I would have thought.

    Like 7
  5. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    This is a very nice example. Someone took extra good care of it for…. decades. I like the colors, and the cool upholstery. The rear seat looks unused, like you might find in a luxury car purchased by a senior. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to think that is its history.

    It’s good to see nice Pintos show up now and then; I guess with so many sold, even though it was a basic throw-away car there are bound to be a few which survived and prospered.

    Like 13
  6. Greg B

    I checked into it a few weeks ago before it made it to EBay. The saleman (great guy) texted me pictures and if it was not for the paint I may have gotten it. The hood, fenders, etc., just don’t match in color. Would have paid was less too but again the paint was not for me being different shades. I do like the V6, AC, and upholstery though. Condition looks to be excellent as well.

    Like 3
  7. Dan

    My parents owned a ’76 wagon. Dark green exterior with this same color interior. They got a really good deal on it as it was a 4 cyl. 4-speed with AC which was a taboo option at the time with a 4 cyl. engine and it was languishing at the dealer. The AC really wasn’t a problem (although my dad would shut it off while climbing a steep hill). They traded it in for a ’82 Escort 4-door which I was thrilled about as dealing with a two-door during a pre-teen awkward growth spurt was problematic at best for me. Thanks for the trip down amnesia lane!

    Like 6
  8. Troy

    Think they might accept a $550 offer? Doubt it, i have sent hundreds of them to the scrap yard I don’t recall seeing one with a V6 in it from the factory, I did part out a wagon someone stuffed a 289 under the hood.

    Like 1
    • DON

      They did, but I’ve only seen a few. A buddy of mine had a yellow V6 Pinto coupe with aluminum rims and woodgrain on the sides ! Its the only one I’ve ever seen like that except in ads.

  9. Howie

    The seller has 43 vehicles listed, with a 2022 Vette with only 200 miles.

  10. John W Kriegshauser

    I wonder if it was Mr. Iacocca that decided to lower the cost of manufacturing by using the exact same tail lamps on the Pinto and the Maverick in the first few years of production? I always thought that was typical Ford. Just like the gas tank actually being the trunk floor in the first generation Mustangs, being covered up by a trunk mat!

    Like 1
    • DON

      The early Maverick based Mercury Comets used Montego taillights

  11. Rick

    Remove the fuel filler cap to see if the gas tank recall fix has been done, as the 1971 through 1976 sedan and hatchback models were affected.

    If the fuel filler neck is mounted to the quarter panel with three Torx fasteners, you’re in the clear.

    If there are four hex or Phillips fasteners, that car has yet to be updated.

    Like 2
    • Big C

      They quit exploding round about 1981. After the lawyers were done feasting on Fords millions. Haven’t heard about another since.

  12. Rw

    Pretty sure 72 you could get 1600 or 2000 ,not 2300 maybe I’m wrong .

  13. bone

    . All Gremlins came standard with six cylinders until 1977 ; so unless you meant the larger 258 as an option being larger than the standard 199 and later 232 the real option was the offering of the 304 V8 .

  14. unclemymy Member

    Arrrggh! It’s not the heat from the fireball risk that would keep me away – it’s the “ice-cold air conditioning”! Why avoid the explosion cliche – just throw it on in there with the A/C one.

  15. Connecticut mark

    Drivers door not sitting right? Bondo on bottom, check it out looks like it was painted

Leave A Comment

RULES: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks.

Become a member to add images to your comments.

*

Keep me in the conversation via email. Or subscribe without commenting.