Ford’s Psychedelic Wagon: 1979 Pinto Cruiser

Garr LarsonBy Garr Larson

The saddest thing about the Pinto Cruising Wagon is this: I helped a friend modify a ’72 wagon to look “exactly” like the 1979 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon found here on craigslist thanks to reader Simon. It’s was a sad time in American car history, and certainly a sad time in my own life. Or was it?

I have nothing but great memories of taking a gold on gold ‘1972 Pinto Wagon from classic to cruiser. We went to the Boeing Surplus store (a playground for do-it-yourselfers in the Seattle area for decades) and got aluminum 747 sheeting that was carefully cut and glued (yes, glued) to cover windows. We then leaded the seams, sanded and suddenly (and surprisingly) we had a cruiser. We popped in nautical grade bulgy black Bayliner boat windows – et voila! Perhaps the first “tribute” Pinto Cruising Wagon was born.

Ford had a similar, but less committed, customer in mind when they created the completely cosmetic Cruising packages in 1977 – with twin versions of a standard Ford E-150 Van, and a Pinto Wagon available aimed at the lazy “hip” buyer who wanted the look of custom without the time commitment. Their 1980 ad touts “Forget the time, hassle, and hard work of doing it yourself! Ford did it for you!…From new with-it colors to soft-shag for comfort – to just about every “trick” in the book!”

So perhaps I rush to judge these iconic late seventies Ford offerings as sad. It seems like the seventies and eighties (my childhood to adult) are suddenly popularized as “good times” in our countries history. With everything from retro 80’s video games to vintage clothing garnering outrageous price tags – maybe $3k for this wagon is a reasonable way to rebuild a part of my teens. Oddly – I would be more proud to drive this Cruiser now – in my early fifties – than I was after the dust had settled on the replica Pinto cruiser project we took on in 1979!

 

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Comments

  1. Beatnik Bedouin

    $3K is a lot of money to spend on ferrous oxide, sadly…

    Garr, you might want to hang out for a less rusty example to relive your youth, especially if you could score a V6/four-speed version. Add a Merkur five-speed ‘box for those long road trips, searching for a Space Invader arcade game for your man cave.




    3
    • Edselbill

      They never offered the V6 with a stick. But, its a common retrofit using a later Tremec 5 speed. However, its not plug n play. Lots of mods needed.




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  2. Steve R

    Without up close pictures of rust prone areas and a thorough description this car is not worth considering. Taking a picture of yourself casting a piece sign in the shadow does not constitute a quality picture that is helpful in making a decision.

    As mentioned above, wait for a better example to turn up.

    Steve R




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    • Graeme

      *peace sign




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  3. Pat A

    I worked with an old guy that had one of these and thought it was something really something special. An old WWII vet that was a mean old devil. Not a nice individual at all. Would have made a damn fine Nazi. Like SS quality Nazi. But he had some cool stories. Like going back home on the Queen Mary. You’d get up in the morning and get in line for breakfast, they’d hand you a couple of sandwiches for your lunch, then you’d wait in line for everything-for the toilets, for the showers, for dinner, for everything, for 5 days.




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  4. CanuckCarGuy

    The wagon is equally as cool looking as the van in this configuration; I’ve not seen one in white before, making this an even better find.




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  5. Adam T45

    In Australia we received a similar model packaging within the Escort, Transit and the soon-to-be-replaced XC Falcon van ranges. Ford Australia Sales and marketing, which at the time was being run by Edsel Ford II, produced a limited edition called the Sundowner. The package was purely a cosmetic edition designed to get the aging Falcon out the door in preparation for the introduction of the more European styled XD Falcon range, which was introduced in 1979. The Transit was included in the Sundowner range in a bid to generate interest in the model as it was being heavily impacted by vans produced by Toyota and Datsun, and as with the XC Falcon, the Escort was included to clear stock as the model was scheduled for replacement.




    6
    • h60memo

      Is that or is that not the same type of Falcon from the first Mad Max movie? I’d Google it but…ResidentSleeper




      3
      • Adam T45

        You’re very close. It’s the same body type mate. The Mad Max cars were XB model, which only had some minor cosmetic differences (mainly the radiator grille is the obvious one).




        2
  6. Miguel

    I am glad this one is an automatic.

    I would hate to think the one I used to have ended up in this condition.

    Mine was a 4 cylinder stick.




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  7. Steverino

    That’s a great story. Opinions on cars changes over the years. Back in the mid seventies I test drove a Vega panel. It was a sporty nice looking little car back them, not to mention the above average fuel mileage. I almost did a straight trade with my 57 Chevy for a one year old Chevy Morning bra 2+2. Perceptions change with tone.




    1
    • Graeme

      Wth is a “chevy morning bra 2+2”?




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      • Steverino

        Heh heh autocorrect changed monza to morning bra.




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    • Whippeteer

      I wonder what the differences between the morning bra and the afternoon bra are? Talk about niche models…




      2
  8. John Leyshon

    Garr,

    The amount of work involved, interest in the job, and overall success is impressive, Excellent read and comments ! Love the advertisements submitted as well !

    Mrs & I could fit into those ’70 ‘s ads!




    1
  9. Miguel

    Jeff Dunham has both the Pinto Cruiser and the Van Cruiser just as shown in the ad. It will be neat to see him use them in his promotions for his shows.




    1
    • JW

      Jeff Dunham has quite a collection, here is one of my favorites.




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  10. Miguel

    His cars mirror a lot, and I mean a lot, of the cars I have had in my life. It is kind of eerie.




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  11. minicoopermk1

    Garr, we forgive you, but please don’t do that again.




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  12. Zapp

    I’ve seen a Cruising Wagon in much better shape than this one sell for about the same $$$ on eBay within the last year or two. Pass.




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  13. Mountainwoodie

    Bad taste on 4 wheels……(duck, incoming )




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  14. Paul

    I was embarrassed to drive mine when it was new….I needed a reliable new car and I got a Ford employee discount, so I bought one.

    Well It was not at all reliable…it’s a good thing the four way hazard lights worked because nothing else did and I got a lot of use out of the hazards flashers.

    How can a car that is so simple have have so many issues. Even the handcrank for the driver window broke.

    There are many great Ford cars Pinto’s are not one of them, or a car Ford is proud of.
    I would like to see all remaining Pinto’s go to the crusher, although I wouldn’t want to purchase anything made from there recycled rusty steel.

    No need for anybody chime in with how great they are because we all know there junk and you are fooling yourself or just plain forgetting.




    1

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