Clean Survivor: 1980 Ford Pinto

Ford Pinto

As I’ve relayed a few times in other posts, I’ve begun the process of searching for a first home. The whole idea is appealing and off-putting at the same time: having a garage and our own space will be nice, but keeping up with a yard and investing in repairs will almost certainly siphon time and money away from my projects. That’s why this 1980 Ford Pinto listed here on eBay caught my eye for a few reasons: one, it looks very clean and fairly cheap, and two, the seller mentions having to move the car along to raise funds for a roof repair. Now, that could be a bit of hyperbole, but it still reminds me that while having a landlord can be a drag, not being forced to decide between a roof and a project car is OK with me! There’s only one bid on this preserved Pinto for $2,200, and there’s no reserve. It looks like a great entry to classic ownership to me, and one that deserves a leak-free roof to park under. Would you take home this econo car survivor?


  1. KaBoom

    These don’t get much respect, but they’re kinda cute – when they’re not exploding on impact, and as this is a later one with all the necessary (if heavy) reinforcements, you’ll survive the shame. Wheels actually suit this. Good candidate for a v8 swap.

  2. David Frank David Member

    Allow an opinion from an old guy perhaps, on home ownership. Simply put, because my mortgage stays the same and my neighbors living in apartment houses rent go up, the folks in their crummy little apartments pay more for rent than I pay for the mortgage on my house. And soon, I will have no mortgage payments! And about that roof, spread over 30 or 40 years, it’s only a couple of hundred bucks.

    The real trick is to not waste money on car payments on some fancy new car, but spend the money on cool classic cars instead. (If the wife will let you, so buy her a cool classic sports car!)

    • Jeff Staff

      David – I agree with you, provided we can stay in a certain price point. The real issue is that real estate prices are so inflated in the northeast that I am pushing for us to move south (like the Carolinas) so we can get more for our money.

      All it takes is being within driving distance of some snooty bakery and a beach with ice-cold ocean water for people in New England to overpay by gross margins for a house built in 1940 that needs a new kitchen.

      ;-) – yes, I’m only slightly bitter about still living here.

    • Tom

      You can always do what I did. Get married. Buy a house. Raise a family. Put the kids through school. Divorce the wife. Sell the house for a profit. Buy a bigger house. Build the shop of your dreams. Buy the cars of your dreams and date as many women as you would like.

  3. Dave at OldSchool

    David…………….your advice is excellent….. providing it is ALL followed …

  4. krash


    …well good for you….so that Mercedes is easy to get parts for and Uber reliable…

    ..not everyone can afford a house, and not everyone can own a classic old car because it would be impractical. Great advice, but the ball doesn’t bounce in everyone’s favor…

    my mom was a widow who struggled to raise 7 children. She knew nothing about cars, just needed reliable transportation…we lived in an apartment…

    sometimes just deciding you want a house doesn’t necessarily mean it is an option.

    my brothers and I remembered those lessons,..we run our own company that builds worldwide, and every one of those units is built to the highest standards, and perfectly maintained….not a “crummy little apartment” in the bunch. People need those units…and many ended up their as a result of the market going south in 2007. I’ve watched seemingly shrewd individuals who didn’t invest in new cars lose everything….because there are forces beyond your simplified home ownership equation…..

    and those crummy little apartments are now what these people call home.
    never mind the people who lose their homes to acts of God, or overwhelming issues connected to failed health of a family member. Your formula leaves something to be desired…

    Sorry but it’s just not that simple, or everyone would be your neighbor in Pleasantville.

  5. David Frank David Member

    I’m just responding to Jeff who seems to have an option and has a decision to make, whether to rent or but. Obviously not everyone has the opportunity to make the choice, but if you can, perhaps buying a house makes good sense. Our choice was whether to buy this run down house in a crummy neighborhood for 80K or rent a nice apartment in a nicer neighborhood. I was homeless a lot growing up and even in college I lived in my van some, so being able to afford even a crummy house meant the world to me and luckily the neighborhood and the house have really improved. The apartments are even more crummy, though, but the tennants are at least able to make payments on their $40,000 cars. Their choice.

    By the way, I have an old Voyager van I paid $1500 for a few years ago so I can afford to fix up my old $2500 Mercedes.

    • krash

      Sorry David….

      Just a little cranky today….

      Like 1
  6. blindmarc

    Now back to our feature…., this is a great little car for the money.

  7. Justin

    You buy that Pinto and you will never have to worry about a place to live. It is a death trap and you will and anyone in the car with you will have a permanent box to live in. Do your research on Pintos and the early Mustangs.

    • Karl

      No, do yours. The early PIntos (’71-73) were very vulnerable to rear collision due to the fact that the frame members ended at the rear spring shackle, and everything aft of that was sheetmetal (except for the wagons, which had a stouter rear structure). Beginning in 1974, the requirement for 5mph bumpers front and rear caused Ford to extend the frame members all the way to the rear of the car, as it should have in the first place, which made these cars much less vulnerable from the rear. Even the earlier cars were safer after the recall added a shroud to protect the filler neck in a rear crash.
      Statistically speaking, Pintos and early Mustangs were no more likely to burn in a rear crash than any other car on the road at the time. Anecdotally, I spent a good portion of that era in junkyards and tow storage yards, saw and worked on many, many early Pintos and early Mustangs, and the number I saw burned from rear crashes can be counted on the toes of my middle foot.

      Like 1
      • Blindmarc

        Agree 100% Karl.

      • Justin

        Karl, I am not doubting how many toes your middle foot has, you know it as good as your palm.

    • Jay Yother

      Justin, that was only the first year or two of Pintos when the tanks had a slim chance of blowing up on a rear end collision, but was subsequently fixed in later years. I owned several Pintos, dogged hell out of them, including off roading, had a couple wrecks,…. and no, I’m not a ghost typing this.

  8. jim s

    if buying a house make sure it already has a garage. do not buy a house that does not have one, and plan on building garage at a later date. it will not happen as life gets in the way. as for the car it sure looks good and has a bid already so someone can either live with the automatic or is planning on a manual conversion. great find.

  9. Michiganjoe

    I owned an pinto when I got released from active duty US Army I drove it every day and it never let me down good on gas and never killed me actually was a fun beater

  10. blindmarc

    Justin, have you seen the current airbag recall on the new cars? We take our chances no matter what we drive.

  11. JW

    Yes these later Pinto’s and Mustangs were safe due to Ralph Nader hounding Ford for our safety. Now my 70 Mach1 like the other early Mustangs the trunk floor is the top of the gas tank and with my fold down seat and trap door it was a explosion waiting to happen in a rearend collision. So during restoration I ordered and installed a Tank Armor from a company in Phoenix I think and it is a heavy duty steel cover for the tank so if rearended it deflects gas to the ground instead of interior. $150 well spent.

    • Karl

      That’s a damned good idea, JW. All of these old cars were designed before federal crash standards, so anything to reduce your exposure is a good idea. I did not mean to imply that such accidents didn’t happen–just that they didn’t happen very much.

  12. recar

    Wow. Such passion for some deeply- held beliefs. To digress to the subject, I think it presents well and could be a fair buy. My limited experience with this and its’ wagon brethren [sistern?] brings up recollections of vague steering and bad brakes. I’ m sure those issues could be dealt with simply these days .

  13. Justin

    Hey Karl, where did you find that Ford recalled and made the necessary changes to the Pinto to make them safer?

    Here is what I found…


    Although Ford had access to a new design which would decrease the possibility of the Ford Pinto from exploding, the company chose not to implement the design, which would have cost $11 per car, even though it had done an analysis showing that the new design would result in 180 less deaths. The company defended itself on the grounds that it used the accepted risk/benefit analysis to determine if the monetary costs of making the change were greater than the societal benefit. Based on the numbers Ford used, the cost would have been $137 million versus the $49.5 million price tag put on the deaths, injuries, and car damages, and thus Ford felt justified not implementing the design change. This risk/benefit analysis was created out of the development of product liability, culminating at Judge Learned Hand’s BPL formula, where if the expected harm exceeded the cost to take the precaution, then the company must take the precaution, whereas if the cost was liable, then it did not have to. However, the BPL formula focuses on a specific accident, while the risk/benefit analysis requires an examination of the costs, risks, and benefits through use of the product as a whole. Based on this analysis, Ford legally chose not to make the design changes which would have made the Pinto safer. However, just because it was legal doesn’t necessarily mean that it was ethical. It is difficult to understand how a price can be put on saving a human life.

    There are several reasons why such a strictly economic theory should not be used. First, it seems unethical to determine that people should be allowed to die or be seriously injured because it would cost too much to prevent it. Second, the analysis does not take into all the consequences, such as the negative publicity that Ford received and the judgments and settlements resulting from the lawsuits. Also, some things just can’t be measured in terms of dollars, and that includes human life. However, there are arguments in favor of the risk/benefit analysis. First, it is well developed through existing case law. Second, it encourages companies to take precautions against creating risks that result in large accident costs. Next, it can be argued that all things must have some common measure. Finally, it provides a bright line which companies can follow.

    You can read more here:

    Justin Case if you didn’t know.

  14. Paul

    I feel sorry for who ever bought this, I drove from NY to the state of Ohio cause the guy said it was a low milage pinto never had body work or painted. We boy was I disappointed this thing had more bondo than our local Napa store. What a wasted trip

  15. Dave at OldSchool

    @Paul… Same car ???? That’s not what the buyer said… he seems happy

    “Great car, great price, great experience. Exactly as described. -***r ( 1 ) During past month
    Ford : Other Pinto (#251976334351) US $3,050.00 View Item “

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