Compact Survivor: 1979 Ford Pinto

In the 1970s, with the ensuing gas crisis, Americans were moving more toward smaller Japanese and German imports to save on fuel. The Big Three recognized this, and each introduced their own entrants in the subcompact category. Chrysler had the Plymouth Valiant, Chevrolet had the Vega, and Ford came up with the Pinto. They famously had the fuel tanks mounted just in front of the rear bumper, resulting in some…interesting…consequences from an accidental rear-ending. An investigation into this reputation found that the Pinto was no more or less safe than other models at the time, but the explosive word stuck around. You can find this 1979 model here on eBay, where the current bid at time of writing is $2,000.

Ford offered an optional V-6 engine on the Pinto, but this has the base 2.3 liter LL23 inline four-cylinder, overhead cam, carbureted engine producing 88 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque, and drives the rear wheels through a manual gearbox. This same engine can be found in various guises in many other cars like the Merkur XR4Ti, turbocharged Thunderbird, and Mustang SVO. That is to say, this Pinto is a very interesting example of ‘70s-era economy cars and a far cry from those ‘80s sports cars.

The interior is in fantastic shape, with red vinyl upholstery and striped cloth seat inserts. The seats are free from rips and stains, but, interestingly, the foam on the side bolstering also seems to still be firm. After 42 years, that’s amazing. An aftermarket leather steering wheel fronts an 85 mile per hour speedometer and a fuel gauge. No tachometer. Eh, you don’t really need a tachometer anyway. Shifting should be done by feel rather than actual numbers.

The seller states that the only real problem with it is there’s a rust hole behind the rear wheel, and they provide a picture of it. It doesn’t really look like that big of a deal, especially if the frame is straight. They don’t provide pictures of the frame, but the rest of the car does look very well taken care of. And it hasn’t exploded yet, so just avoid getting rear-ended and you’ll be fine.


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  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    It’s located in Maybrook,New York.

  2. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    It’s good to see any Pinto in reasonably good shape. They were of course basic, throw-away cars, saddled with 70’s quality and prone to rust. Lots of people had them, including many of us Barn Finders. And from previous examples here, lots of people thought they were decent cars, fun in their own low-budget way, cars which got them around when they needed wheels.

    I’m glad that Ben has noted the reputation of the Pinto was shown to be not much (if any) worse than its peers. But the reputation, now trite, stuck. As I understand it, the ‘problem’ was with earlier-year models. So if I had this 1979 Pinto, and I had it at a car show, and a kid accidentally bumped into its back bumper, I don’t think I’d be particularly worried.

    Like 9
    • Mikefromthehammer

      My first car (right off the dealer’s lot) on June 28, 1977 was a Pinto. They fixed the exploding problem for the 77 model year. I guess it started to make sense for Ford to install a $10.00 shield rather than fight multiple million dollar lawsuits. I had it up to maybe 95 once on the (mostly empty) freeway. It was a good little car but not sporty enough for me. I special-ordered a 79 Mustang Cobra 5.0 from the same dealer in the fall of 78. I took possession on Feb 8, 1979. (I went from 89 bhp in the Pinto to 140 bhp in the Mustang).

      Like 4
  3. Riffraff

    I had a 1976. On the coldest day of winter (-28 F) in Wisconsin, it was the only car in the driveway that stated. I had to heat the key with a lighter to get the ignition to turn. I was rear ended by a van with my baby daughter and a friend in the back seat. No explosions, we drove away the van was towed.

    Like 13
    • Joe Potter

      My wife had a ’74 Pinto that drove like a tank during bad winters. She would’ve drove it a lot longer but it was totalled when someone tee-boned it in front of her town’s police station.

  4. Raymond

    Almost bought a yellow squire wagon one, woodgrain, luggage rack and all had v6 4 speed, was immaculate inside and out, but the stigma of owning a pinto was strong back then and kept me from buying it…wish I woulda bought that car…

    Like 2
    • JOEY V

      the V6 came with auto trans only, from the factory.

      Like 4
  5. Daniel Wright

    The carpet looks to be a replacement. The factory stuff on these always faded to brown.

  6. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Shame it doesn’t have the pop-out quarter windows. These can be little hot boxes without AC. I had a 1971 Runabout and I could lift the tailgate, pop the quarter windows out, and travel with 8′ to 10′ foot floor moldings for my summer job.

    Like 3
    • Gary

      I had a couple of Pinto’s, back in the day. Had a ’72 with a trunk and a sun roof. It was a good car. Bought a new’ 78 jade green with the Starsky and Hutch white stripe. It was also a good one. Traded for a ’79 white Cruising Wagon. That one was made on a Monday. The poor thing was a lemon, an awful car. Traded it in on a ’79 White Thunderbird. Wonderful car, my Mom bought it from me. She drove that car for over 20 years.

      Like 1
      • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

        I thought the old joke (at least for British-built cars, hee hee) was avoid the cars BUILT ON A FRIDAY because the assembly workers had already imbibed on a pint or were anticipating same. I’ve not heard the joke applied to cars built on a Monday. I would think techs on the line would be as energized as they could be. Anyway, great lineage you have with the Ford products. Cheers!

      • Miguel - Mexican Spec

        Little_Cars, you don’t buy cars built on Monday because the workers all have hangovers from the weekend.

        Anybody that worked at a dealership knew that old joke was 100% true.

  7. AZVanman

    All I can say is, YouTube the movie Top Secret, Pinto scene.

    Like 4
  8. Dave Suton

    Can’t be any worse than any deadly Honda with replacement Takata airbags. Or Toyotas with unintentional acceleration.

    Like 4
  9. Motorcityman Member

    Ive owned a few Pintos over the decades…..this one is pretty clean.
    Had a neighbor that had a wagon with the 302 5.0 in it, yes u could get that from the factory, hauled Azz!!

    • Jost

      You we’re able to get the Cologne built 2.8 V6 in the Pinto. Sorry but Ford never offered a V8. It was a popular swap so maybe that neighbor had it installed?

      Like 2
      • Motorcityman Member

        You’re right, my bad…..I remember now he did swap the motor, I think I got the Pinto and the Maverick confused.

        Like 1
      • Mikefromthehammer

        Jost you are correct about the 302. Since the Mustang II was essentially a Pinto under the skin and Ford put the 302 in the Mustang, it was an engine that could be (relatively easily) swapped into a Pinto.

  10. don harris

    had a 76 pinto wish drove to school every day 100 mile round trip. when it finally died it had over 200,000 miles and not a scratch on the body. sold it to a junkyard for the metal. it was a great little car. then went to a station wagon white escort. it went for over 150,000 miles before we moved up in the world and bought full size cars

    Like 1
    • Miguel - Mexican Spec

      If you would have replaced the engine, you could have driven it another 200K.

      I don’t understand not repairing mechanical problems on a car you know is a good car.

  11. John C.

    Good simple economy car to have with today’s gas prices, easy to work on, no check engine lights etc. somebody will grab it.

    Like 3
  12. Dan Bogert Sr.

    Mine was a1971 pinto w/ the 2000 cc engine w/ mechanical valve adjustment, an owners manual that was so comprehensive it displayed how to pack the front wheel bearings and alot more . I drove it around the country, got 28 mpg and was the best little car I ever owned. That was back when Ford cared about their production ; yes , the back bumper wasn’t much rear end protection ( about as much as an older MGB, before the government made them put on the “safety Bumpers ” ( Triumph tr6 ‘s too , ) but still no worse than a lot of these new compacts 8 ” from the rear tires and plastic bumpers . I’ll take the old cars any day !

    • Miguel - Mexican Spec

      My first parent bought car was a 1972 with the OHV 1600. You Couldn’t kill that car.

  13. t-bone BOB

    Item location:
    Maybrook, New York

  14. Howie Mueler

    Current bid $2,000? It has no bids.

    Like 1
    • Howie Mueler

      It has a bid now.

  15. Graham Line

    Five of us rented one of these for an early season autocross some time around ’74 or ’75. Nice handling and good gearbox. There were few studs left in the snow tires by the time we dropped it off.

    Like 1
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      You autocrossed in snow tires?

  16. Steve Clinton

    I think the term “survivor” has become overused. after all, isn’t any car that’s still around a “survivor”?

    Like 2
  17. Patrick Anderson

    One of Ford’s original design criteria was that the
    Pinto be mechanically simple and easy to be maint And repaired by the owner. Ensuing smog regs soon resulted in the engines being buried in smog equipment, making common repairs much more difficult.

    Like 1
    • TouringFordor

      Exactly! The early print ads had a Pinto sitting next to a Model A. I kept the ad, because I have a Model A, but not a Pinto.

      • Miguel - Mexican Spec

        Then Shay put a Pinto drive train in a Model A replica so I guess it came around full circle.

    • Miguel - Mexican Spec

      There was a tool that either came with the car or was gotten at the dealer which was a four sided screwdriver type thing. That could service a good part of the car.

  18. Will Owen Member

    We went up to Lancaster CA with a friend on several Saturday; one of her old school buddies was driving in the stock-car races on the dirt track up there. My favorites were always the Mini-Stocks. Track was usually pretty messy at the beginning, but pretty loose at best. It appeared that all the Pintos I used to see in SoCal had migrated to Lancaster, because that was over 90% of the field for one very good reason: driving a Pinto wd not guarantee a win, but NOT driving a Pinto meant you’d never win! Datsuns, Toyotas and a Vega or two would try hard, but seldom placed and never won. The Pintos’ combination of light-enough weight and good weight distribution and fine balance of torque and HP let them ride on top of the mud and track the corners in well-balanced drifts.

    That was a good 15 years ago, so I have no idea if those Saturday nights are even happening, but they certainly confirmed my respect for the lowly Pimento!

    • Will Owen Member

      Misspoke; it was not Lancaster but Victorville. Smaller and more fun.

  19. Miguel - Mexican Spec

    I still love Pintos. The simplicity is a welcome thing when you are low on money and have just the basic knowledge on how to fix a car.

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