78k Original Miles: 1978 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon

The very nature of the Ford Pinto means that it is becoming difficult to find good examples in today’s market. Conceived by the company as affordable and essentially disposable family transport, many served out their useful life reliably. When they’d reached their “use-by” date, few people shed a tear when most of them found their way to the scrapyard. Today, tidy examples have developed a dedicated following, especially when the vehicle in question is as unusual as a 1978 pinto Cruising Wagon. This one looks like a gem, and its color screams “1970s” at the top of its lungs. The owner has decided that it needs a new home, so he has listed it for sale here at Mecum Auctions. It is set to go under the hammer on October 15th, and I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Larry D for spotting this Pinto for us.

The Ford color palette for 1978 had some very subtle and restrained shades, and it had Tangerine. This is a color that stands out a mile away and owes nothing to the world of subtlety. Thankfully, the paint graces the panels of a Pinto that is in remarkable condition. Not only does it shine beautifully, but there is no evidence of any flaws or defects. The panels are laser straight, and there are no signs or mention of rust problems. Probably my greatest surprise with this Wagon is that while the original owner ordered it in a bold color, he then chose to delete the distinctive stripes and decals that were an integral part of the Cruising Wagon package. The trim and glass are in good condition, as are the original styled steel wheels. While the tape and stripes might be absent, this Pinto still sports the other defining characteristic of the Cruising Wagon. Ford replaced the regular side windows of the Pinto Station Wagon with steel panels and then incorporated bubble “porthole” windows in the rear panels in their place. As a styling touch, it doesn’t come much more “1970s” than that. For rear-seat passengers, it made for a claustrophobic motoring experience.

The Cruising Wagon was an appearance package only, which means that the company didn’t inject any additional excitement under the Pinto’s skin. In this case, the buyer will receive a car equipped with a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, a 3-speed automatic transmission, and power brakes. With a total weight of nearly 2,700lbs and a mere 88hp being churned out by that four, performance figures were all that you might expect. The journey down the ¼ mile would take a reasonably leisurely 19.6 seconds, while the car would be out of breath by the time the needle was hovering at 95mph. Those sorts of numbers are hardly going to get pulses racing, but outright performance wasn’t part of Lee Iacocca’s original design brief for the Pinto. He stipulated that this new model had to tick the “cheap” box next to the sale price and running costs. That means that if driven with a bit of care, this little wagon should easily be able to exceed 30 mpg. The engine bay presents well for a vehicle of this age, and it seems that this is a case where appearances aren’t deceptive. The owner has recently fitted new tires, shocks, belts, seals, and fluids. He also indicates that the Wagon has a genuine 78,000 miles on the clock. While he doesn’t specifically mention verifying evidence, the inclusion of documentation like the original Window Sticker, Build Sheet, Owner’s Manual, Warranty Book, and Marti Report make it possible that he might confirm odometer reading.

If this Pinto’s exterior is less than subtle, the interior continues that trend. The seats and other upholstered surfaces are trimmed in matching Tangerine vinyl, while the remaining surfaces wear Black. There’s really not a huge amount to fault inside this classic. The top of the dash has a crack that might be beyond repair, and the faux-chrome looks to be peeling from one spot on the driver’s door trim. Otherwise, it all looks surprisingly clean for a classic of this type and age. The rear cargo area is spotless, the upholstered surfaces are excellent, and there’s no significant wear or stains on the carpet. Luxury appointments include recently serviced and updated ice-cold air conditioning, a sports wheel, a remote driver’s mirror, a factory tachometer, and an AM radio.

This 1978 Pinto Cruising Wagon is a tidy survivor that needs little to lift it to the next level. It would be well-suited to a potential owner seeking an affordable classic. Given its overall condition and the recent market performance of the Cruising Wagon, there’s a chance that the hammer will drop below $10,000. However, if two or more people consider it a “must-have” item, that figure could go considerably higher. This is an auction that could be well worth watching…unless you intend bidding instead.


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  1. Bluetec320 Bluetec320 Member

    What an overdose of simply orange!

    Like 8
    • nlpnt

      Not as orange as it could be! If your Pinto had a red, blue, green or tan interior the dash and carpets matched, which was the norm at the time. They didn’t fully commit to orange, though.

      Like 4
      • JoeNYWF64

        At the Tesla store with 2 different boring 4 door only looks-like-everyone- else’s models on display, not only were the seats rock hard to sit on, but even on their most expensive model with the most options, you can only get the seats in white or black.
        & forget colored carpet on any new vehicle.

        Like 3
    • fordor

      You’d need sunglasses even at night !

      Like 3
  2. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Good job Adam. Looks terrific, in all its late 70’s splendor. I too wish it had the graphics package. Want some attention? Nothing like arriving at Cars and Coffee in a Tangerine over Tangerine Pinto Cruising Wagon. I think someone will drive the price into the five figures just to be able to do that.

    Like 17
  3. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member


    Like 7
  4. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    Talk about a Halloween car this is it. Wow! If that doesn’t get your attention you must be blind. I met a fellow back in the 70’s that traded his 55 Ford crown Victoria straight across for a black version of this. It was a anniversary year model. At least that was his story.
    God bless America

    Like 4
  5. Terrry

    Too bad this didn’t have the optional 2.8 V6 that was only offered in Pinto wagons. Gotta love the orange though!.

    Like 10
    • Dave

      I was going to order one in 77, but wanted a 4 speed with the v6. Wasn’t available

      Like 2
    • Gary Rhodes

      A friend in high school had a v6 pinto sedan. You could power brake it release the brakes hit the brakes and release the brakes and it would bounce the front tires off the ground. He also had a beautiful 66 Mustang fastback, butternut? yellow with black interior, 289 hi po he bought from his dad’s cousin. This was in 1981 and it had 23,000 miles, never driven in any bad weather

      Like 1
    • eric bigelow

      had a grey one with grey, red and i think black or dark grey on the rear panels. had the v-6. good tough engine in mine.

    • theGasHole

      That engine was also available in the Bobcat

  6. Steveo

    That’s quite a rear bumper.

    Like 2
    • ERIK

      Had to “counter” the previous issues of exploding gas tanks from rear collisions.

      Like 3
      • Rick

        Only the 1971 through 1976 Pinto sedans and hatchback were affected by the gas tank situation. There was a completely different tank design for the station wagon, the sedan delivery and the Cruising Wagon.

  7. Chris

    I love it. I would cruise that thing all day long

    Like 8
  8. Motorcityman Member

    My first NEW car…..a 80 Powder Blue Pinto wagon, at least it was a 4 speed stick!

    Like 1
  9. fran

    Not to take away from a nice car, but promoting Mecum? Really? That is a great way to destroy a hobby. Is that what is really going on here? We are being sold out by politicians, ford, GM, and whatever they call Chrysler these day, and the list keeps on growing.
    So what do you think these cars will be worth when gas is not sold anymore? If you do not think it is coming, then you are a sellout also.

    Like 4
    • TherealHash

      They’ll still hold value and will be electrified. Calm down already.

  10. Troy

    Didn’t Chevrolet try to mimic these cars with their HHR, ? So it will be fun to watch somebody over pay for it at Mecum

    Like 1
    • Motorcityman Member

      No Chevy mimicked the PT Cruiser with the HHR.
      In fact the same guy who designed the PT designed the HHR.

      Like 2
      • Fireman DK

        No, the HHR is a down-sized version of an early Chevy Suburban , and a hell of a lot better looking and much more practical than the PT cruiser …my neighbor had a PT cruiser, absolutely impractical ….our HHR , all the seats with the exception of the driver’s seat folded absolutely flat , it was a joy to pack stuff into if you had to …..

        Like 2
      • Motorcityman Member

        Do some research Fireman……the SAME guy who designed the PT designed the HHR.

        Like 2
  11. Howie Mueler

    Wow!! This is mighty clean!!

    Like 1
  12. Joe

    Will never hit 30 MPG with the automatic. I had a wagon and you were 22 to 24 mpg on the highway.

    Like 2
  13. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    The Official Ride of the Illinois Nazi Party.

    Like 9
  14. John spottswood

    I had a ’78 mustang coupe, 2.4 4spd. Tangerine with white GT stripes on the lower panels. I started dating my ex-wife she also had a tangerine mustang with the same stripes, hers was a fast back with a 2.3 and an automatic

  15. swolf Member

    Didn’t these come with a factory graphics package?

  16. RogerB

    Trailering my KTM behind this beauty would be awesome!

  17. Stevieg Member

    I am not one that gets excited about an automatic Pinto. I don’t dislike the Pinto, I wouldn’t mind having one, if it is the right one. Heck, I had a 1977 Pinto woodgrain wagon in this color back in the mid 1980’s. It had the orange & white plaid interior with the deluxe low back bucket seats seen here.
    All that said, I LOVE this car! If I HAD to have a Pinto, this would be it.!
    It is tacky, obnoxious, a bit ugly really. And in phenomenal shape! I wish I could go buy it.

  18. theGasHole

    I’ve just picked up my winter project, the sister of this car, the Mercury Bobcat wagon. 2.3L overhead cam, 4 speed manual, power steering and brakes, factory AC. Interesting to see these rides gaining a bit of traction in the classic car market.

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