Factory Air: 1973 Ford Pinto Station Wagon

When Lee Iacocca set the design parameters for what would become the Ford Pinto, he had some very specific characteristics in mind. He demanded that the car must weigh less than 2,000lbs and that its sticker price should be under $2,000. While he achieved the price objective, he missed the weight target by a mere few pounds. However, that didn’t prevent buyers from adding weight by ordering their new Pinto with factory extras. The original owner of this 1973 model did that by adding air conditioning to the order. That means that while it should be an economical little beast on the road, it would still be comfortable on those warmer days. I have to say a big thank you to Barn Finder Matt H for spotting this little wagon for us. It is located in Eatonville, Washington, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner has set the asking price at $6,000 OBO.

Many people are willing to take a pot-shot at the Pinto and will treat it with disdain. However, I subscribe to a slightly different school of thought when confronted with a survivor like this. It is now 48-years-old, and I believe that there can’t be much wrong with any vehicle that survives for that length of time while remaining as presentable as this little Ford. The company viewed the Pinto as an entry-level compact car or the perfect second vehicle in a two-car household. The view was that it was little more than a household appliance. Ford believed that their latest creation would serve its owner faithfully for a few years but that it would eventually find its way to the scrapyard when its race was run. I would be surprised if the illustrious Mr. Iacocca envisaged that tidy examples would still be plying the streets after nearly half a century. Admittedly, most of them suffered the fate that I described, but you would have to think that there wasn’t much wrong with the basic design and engineering when you see vehicles like this little wagon popping out of the woodwork. This one wears Medium Blue Metallic paint, and its overall presentation is pretty impressive. The paint has managed to retain a good shine, with no significant flaws or issues. The panels show no evidence of dings or dents, and there are no signs of the dreaded rust. The chrome shines nicely, the glass is flawless, and the alloy wheels provide a perfect finishing touch to the exterior. Overall, this Pinto makes a positive first impression.

If this Pinto’s exterior makes a positive first impression, its interior does nothing but reinforce it. If I’m going to pick faults, the plastic cover over the base of the parking brake is out of position, and there is the possibility that there might be a crack in the dash pad. However, I wouldn’t stake my life on that second issue because it could also be an imperfection in the supplied photo. The seats are upholstered in a combination of blue vinyl and cloth. I can’t see any flaws or wear, and the same appears true of the door trims and dash. The matching carpet is free from marks and stains, and even the damage-prone rear cargo area looks spotless. The owner has installed a radio/cassette player and has cut the rear trims to fit speakers, but beyond that and the wrap on the wheel, the interior appears to be unmolested. The original owner ordered their Pinto with factory air conditioning, and while this may impact performance on steep hills, it shouldn’t cause any problems on the open road or in the cut-and-thrust of city traffic.

The owner supplies no engine photos, but we know this Pinto was ordered with the entry-level drivetrain configuration. That means that the buyer will receive a station wagon that features a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and a four-speed manual transmission. It isn’t clear whether there are luxuries like power steering, but it does come equipped with front disc brakes. With a mere 83hp available under the right foot, I doubt that this Ford is likely to cause any muscle car owner to suffer from lost sleep. The trip down the ¼ mile would take 19.6 seconds, while that little four would be gasping for breath once the needle nudges 97mph. However, focusing on outright performance misses the point of what these cars were all about. The company wanted them to be cheap to buy and frugal on fuel. They succeeded in these aims, which is why the Pinto sold in impressive numbers through its earlier years of production. We receive no information on the car’s mechanical state, but since the owner uses the word “great” when describing the overall condition, that means that there is a good chance that it is a turn-key proposition for its next owner.

If a manufacturer builds a bland and boring car, it will blend into the scenery like an automotive chameleon. However, throw a perceived design flaw into the mix, and the press and buying public will become positively rabid. That is the unfortunate legacy of the Pinto, and Ford didn’t help its cause by the way they handled the fallout and negative PR that it generated. The simple fact that has been borne out in numerous studies is that the Pinto was no less safe than any other comparable car available to the American buying public at the time. Had the company handled the situation more competently, the Pinto would never have earned its largely undeserved reputation as a fire-trap. That cars like our feature wagon exist today is a testament to the sound engineering principles on which it was based. Maybe it isn’t the most exciting classic you will find in today’s market, but finding a turn-key proposition of this age that is as nicely preserved as this makes it a car worthy of a closer look.

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Comments

  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Very good write-up Adam. When a Pinto shows up on Barn Finds, many people had them so many people chime in based on their experiences. The comments are generally positive– not because it was fast or exciting or stylish, but because it successfully filled its role as simple, economical transportation. That describes my experience with my Pinto, back in the college days.

    As for this example, not much info based on the meager Craigslist ad (is there any other kind?). But it looks solid. Good colors. Four-speed. Air conditioning. Wagon provides practicality. Would be fun at Cars & Coffee.

    Like 17
    • Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

      A regular at our C&C in Newport brings their restored ultrabeige Pinto Squire. Gets a lot of smiling lookers!

      Like 7
    • Howard A Member

      Thanks, Bob, it’s tough to convince someone how important the Pinto was if they weren’t there. We were being swamped with economical alternatives from other countries. The Pinto, ( and Vega and Gremlin) was a shot in the arm for American moral. Whether they were as good as the foreign jobs can be disputed, but most bought them because it was USA made. Over 3 million Pintos were sold, most rusted to bits.
      It should be noted, if a/c equipped, it’s best to turn it off on a long uphill and they sorely needed a 5 speed. I had a hankerin’ for a Pinto wagon for a spell, I thought they were good cars. This is a great find.

      Like 13
      • Moparman Member

        A regular at our C&C shows up in an IMMACULATE, unrestored Pinto runabout that was a high school graduation present! :-)

        Like 1
  2. bill tebbutt

    A small bumper Pinto wagon in great shape with a stick, at a reasonable price. And those nifty period slots. Fantastic! Nice find

    cheers,
    BT

    Like 25
    • 370zpp 370zpp Member

      Bill, you summed it up perfectly. My own 71 never looked this good, but it still was a very nice car.

      Like 4
    • Terrry

      Being a ’73, the front bumper is big. Nice car though.

      • bill tebbutt

        Terry, are you sure about the large bumpers? Looks like the smaller ones to me, but the pics aren’t the best and I just had my pupils dilated at the eye dr. this AM!

        I certainly agree with your other comment. Cars of this vintage were actually fun to work on back in the day. Unlike today – we bought a 2013 Mini Cooper for my daughter to learn to drive on recently, and I changed the oil and filter on it myself (because, well, I AM that guy!). If anyone out there needs a refresher course on S&M, try changing the oil filter on that Mini!!!! The Pinto, on the other hand, well you could spin that sucker off in a second….

        cheers,
        BT

        Like 4
      • Lee

        It looks bigger since it has the 2 snubbers. I had a ’72 wagon in my college years too. Great car! Mine was black and I shaved all the badges off and repainted it. Had 60 series tires and deep dished slotted aluminum wheels. Added Koni shocks and a anti-roll bar to the real axle.

        My wife to be and I drove from Ohio to Colorado and back; and camped along the way. Had to stop in a small town in Wyoming to get the exhaust welded. And later had to change the timing belt because an oil leak deteriorated it. Other than that, it was pretty reliable.

        In time it started to rust out and I had to put it out to pasture. Would love to have one again.

        Like 2
  3. Ray

    The wagon has always been the best looking Pinto as far as I’m concerned. Can’t help but picture the 2.3 turbo swapped in. Gotta love a sleeper wagon!

  4. sir_mike

    Too much blue but a very nice Pinto.2.0 mtr.is a great mtr.And has opening 1/4 windows.Todays car makers need to build a small wagon like this.

    Like 4
    • joenywf64

      If they did, it would be all gray inside, the windshield pillars would be 4 times thicker, the racing mirrors would be replaced with big ugly plastic ones not mounted to the door skin, but up where the glass is supposed to be, there would be virtually no bumper protection front & back, the window frames on the outside would no longer be waxable body colored steel or optional stainless chrome – but rather cheap black plastic window frame covers. & it would NEVER EVER AGAIN be a 2 door! & it would have the small gangsta glass. & it would have either a stupid or angry looking “face” up front. & very few options & would be loaded with way too many gizmos & video screens to push it past $25k or more.

  5. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Yep, these are certainly one of the most loved/hated vehicles from the embargo days. They certainly did fill the slot and Ford probably sold as many Pintos as the others sold their Horizons and Vegas combined…though I haven’t checked so I might be full of poo on that. But there were still a ton of them out there.

    And if you didn’t want to be “that guy” in the cul de sac, you could have waited a year, gussied one up in Mustang clothing and parked that in your driveway instead lol.

    Like 2
    • Terrry

      If one had the choice between a Pinto or a Vega “in the day”, the Pinto would be a better choice, hands down. Not due to American ingenuity, but because many of the parts for the Pinto were European sourced, and in Europe Ford knew how to build cars. The Vega, on the other hand, was a perfect advertisement as to why Americans should buy Japanese cars.

      Like 1
  6. Fred W

    The Pinto was rust prone, but much less so than the Vega. The quarter mile and top speed numbers were “meh”, but much better than the same year VW bug. And, the wagon version wouldn’t necessarily turn into a fireball in a rear ender, due to the frame enclosing the tank.

    Like 6
  7. Bruce

    What so many miss is that the Pinto and Vega wagons were very much in the same vein as the much beloved Chevrolet NOMAD wagon. Two door wagons are, in almost any culture a rare duck. I got a chance to drive one in Dallas for a few weeks from a rent a wreck outfit. It was a blast to drive, could park it anywhere and for a guy that restores cars for fun almost a perfect combination of daily driver and parts getter.

    Fast no, great brakes not really but just comfortable drive, great milage yea. All of that and it was simple mechanically, nothing complex to break. I have talked to many others that have owned them and they said that they never really broke if treated well they just rusted away. I am too far away but I would purchase this in a heart beat.

    Oh by the way the big ford wagons of the day with the fake wood paneling on the sides were know as the Country Squires. The one I drove in Dallas had the similar wood paneling on the side and I was later told before the first one make it out of the factory they were called COUNTRY SQUIRTS. Kind a fits. LOL

    Like 6
    • Miminite

      True about parking it anywhere. I worked at a big San Diego shipyard (NAASCO) back in the 80s. Where we parked was very vandalism and theft rich area. One of my co workers had had 2 or more of his cars stolen or broke into, so he went and bought a used Pinto, and no more problems after that.

      They were pretty good basic cars. I never owned one, but was around lots of them from friends and such over the years. This one is pretty nice from the looks of it.

  8. Bob Bandfield

    We had 2 pintos. 71 and 74. Put over 250,000 miles total and only lost one timing chain. Great cars. Dad had 2 and brother had one. This is a beautiful wagon.

    Like 2
    • Lee

      My ’72 wagon had a reinforced rubber cog timing belt. They deteriorated when leaking oil got on the belt.

  9. Troy

    This is what I buy your 16 year old kid that just got their license because they actually have to focus on driving instead of all the technology crap in cars today

    Like 3
    • Dave Painter

      It is what I had as a 16 year old! Lol!
      2.0 was good in ’71. 100 hp.

      Like 2
  10. eastlex91

    I have always had a soft spot for Pintos – especially the wagons. And a small-bumper Ford-blue wagon with a 4-speed is Pinto perfection. If I lived in Washington State, I actually wouldn’t hesitate buying this on the spot.

    Like 6
  11. Terrry

    A large selling point of the Pinto, and it tells you how far we’ve come (or gone) since, was its ease of repair. On some of the early ads, they told you how simple the engine bay layout was, and what the owner could do to the car easily!

    Like 2
    • Psychofish2

      And light enough not to need power steering….

      Like 2
  12. Doug

    I am in Eatonville Washington . Never seen it around . if somebody wants me to look at it I could . I do like the car and if I had the money !!!

    Like 4
  13. Bunky

    2L ohc was the optional engine in ‘73. (and a good choice). 1.6L ohv was standard.
    I owned a ‘72 wagon that was a twin to this car except no AC. Only difference between ‘72 and ‘73 was the little “lift tab” on the rear cargo door.
    I thoroughly enjoyed mine. Fun to drive, lots of room to haul whatever. (It was a micro camper on my Honeymoon. 😉)
    Got mid to upper 30s for mpg with points and a carburetor. Literally survived a flood, and my aggressive driving. Very cool.

    Like 2
  14. Psychofish2

    ‘The simple fact that has been borne out in numerous studies is that the Pinto was no less safe than any other comparable car available to the American buying public at the time.’
    Thank you.
    Besides that problem was not inherent in the wagons IIRC.
    As well: this car proves that there are no “disposable” cars, only cars that are treated that way.

    Like 5
  15. Howie Mueler

    Looks very good, no engine photos.

    Like 1
  16. chrlsful

    wagon makes it a consideration, the condition/wheels leaves it out. These sellers R often over the top.
    Like the early model for the bumpers (no 5 mi-an-hourer’). Love the lima motor and weber 32/36 progressive on there. Want AOD or nother 4 speed+ auto. Keep the sedans (prts 4 waggy?). Same for so many others like Pacer, Vega, Caddy, ’60s Lincoln (Kennedymobile) wagon (well may B not THAT one they both look nice 2 me).

  17. Constantine Siversky

    Luv It had 2 Pinto’s the first brown 4 speed manual glass pack and wide ovals small bumpers was a hoot to drive and was pretty sporty. The second puke green with a matching interior 4 speed big bumpers hatch back not so sporty but a great little ski car. This one is sweet good luck with the sale.

    Like 1
  18. Sam Shive

    Put a 2,0 Eco In It. Nuff Said

    Like 2
    • bill tebbutt

      Easy enough to hot rod those 2 liter motors. One of my race cars is built to S2000 spec (so not a lot you can do to a stock motor other than friction reduction, lighten the flywheel, cam timing, port work, headers) and it dyno’s at an easy 130hp or so. But, dual Webers and a good cam would take that build well into 160-170hp without losing driveability, etc. Which, would move this wagon along pretty swiftly!

      cheers,
      BT

      Like 1
  19. Haynes

    400 hp restomod with flame paint job w/ flames from the rear going forward

  20. Kirk

    Did he say ‘beast’ lol I never owned or gave pintos a second thought but after reading and looking at the many here on BF I’m really starting think I’d.like to have one and this one in particular looks really good . The blue interior totally surprised me looks awesome better than 90 percent of cars youd look inside of now, extra blue but looks nice . I’d definitely like to own it but if I did I wouldn’t be to leave the performance as is so I don’t know if I’d be willing to shell out 6grand for a car I would end up pulling the motor out of and spending possibly a couple more grand on but might be worth it if it is solid and rust free.. hard to recoup your money and get 8000 dollars for a pinto wagon but if it was fun to drive investment is not everything and it’s ok that sometimes you just have to pay to play . People used to laugh at old pintos but I bet anyone watching this rolling down the street with maybe a little growl coming out the back would saying hey check that out… Nice ..! Especially in between a couple black chevdatoyundais
    Them pintos actually have some style that I didn’t see when they were everywhere but I can appreciate now against the backdrop of the last 20 years and more of modern cars mostly looking like the same model year after year with some but little exception like the
    Cookie cutter houses you see in subdivisions where every house is identical for miles with only the shutters front door and siding revolving through the color wheel. So boring.. I get sleepy just thinking about it.
    Good night. Hope there’s a nice pinto for sale close by on Bf tomorrow I can go have a look at : )

    Like 1

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