Gas Tank Hogwash: 1977 Ford Pinto

Jeff LaveryBy Jeff Lavery

The Ford Pinto name still has the effect of striking up conversations about exploding fuel tanks and some such, but the reality is that it seems many owners never came close to losing their car in a ball of flames. Even now, some automotive writers are trying to pin a few isolated electrical fires onto BMW as evidence of mass conspiracy, a rumor that likely has no basis in fact. This 1977 Ford Pinto here on craigslist is cherished by its current owner, who is moving it along due to his own physical limitations. 

Getting into and out of a car seems like the easiest of tasks, but anybody with parents who are getting along in their years will attest that it’s anything but. A low-slung car like the Pinto can make entry and exit a chore, and sometimes a painful one. Regardless, the seller seems to be quite proud of his periwinkle blue Pinto, which has one repaint in its life in its original color. Make your own assertions about the pink steering wheel; we’re more impressed by its rust-free condition.

Inside, the seller has added the aforementioned steering wheel cover and a new carpet kit. The headliner is also new, but everything else is largely original. With only 108,000 miles, this Pinto hasn’t seen the kind of mileage Ford may have anticipated for its miserly entry-level car, but that’s OK – there are fewer and fewer of these classic hatchbacks on the road. The dash appears to have a solitary crack and the funky seat upholstery looks stain-free. A manual transmission is an added bonus for its next owner.

Although the photos don’t tell us much, you have to love the seller’s sense of humor: check out that vanity license plate! The glass hatch area looks like it’s ripe for storing beach umbrellas and coolers, and overall condition seems to support the notion that is has been garaged all of its life, per the seller’s ad. The Pinto is located near Bath, Maine, and the asking price is $3,200, which seems more than fair for a Pinto in this kind of condition. Our request: that the license plate stay with the car.

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  1. Fred W.

    “the funky seat upholstery looks stain-free…”

    …Better get those glasses checked

    • grant

      Ya, perhaps he should have said “the funky seat stains appear upholstery free…”
      And with that said, the analogy to dubious faulty wiring claims with BMW is flawed. FoMoCo themselves, in that infamous memo acknowledged the the design flaw related to the gas tank. Their bean counters thought that the relatively few expected fires (and there were relatively few, compared to total production) would cost less in settlements than a recall/redesign. Huge error on the part of Ford. Statistically they werent any more unsafe than other small cars of the era. But to insinuate that the car’s reputation had little basis in fact is just ingnorant.
      And with THAT said, this is a neat little Pinto. It needs a major detailing (the driver’s seat is just gross) and “only” 108k? This is a 70’s car. At 108k it’s getting tired. I see about 2500, tops.

      • Big Al

        Ahh, c’mon you guys,,,it’s a shadow. I hope he didn’t burn the fellas with that coffee!

      • Mike H

        Grant, I love your insight into this and I agree with you completely. It isn’t that the Pinto was any more or less safe or unsafe than other cars marketed at the same time, it’s that Ford studied the problem and decided that it was more cost effective to pay out for lawsuits than it was to re-tool to fit the fuel tank above the rear axle. That their study became public (see Grimshaw vs. Ford Motor Company) is where the rubber met the road and the reputation became damaged.

        Lido mandated that the car would weigh less than 2,000 pounds and sell for less than $2,000. They determined that a plastic shield between the rear axle and fuel tank would nearly eliminate the fire danger but it added weight and cost, and this along with a handful of other measures were omitted in order to deliver the car on time and on budget. Poor thinking, obviously, but not inconsistent with pretty much all manufacturers (cars and otherwise) of the time.

        As for this one? It’s really pretty nice, and likely nicer than any of the (3) I’ve owned. This one has lower miles than any that I’ve owned also, and all of mine were owned in the 1990’s (20+ years ago).

      • That AMC guy

        If you think any 70s car with 108k is getting tired I guess you’ve never owned a Chrysler product with a slant-six, or a Volvo. Even a Pinto might still be in good shape at that mileage if it’s been well maintained.

    • Mike H

      I thought that the upholstery looked a little tainted too. Is that a poo stain on the driver’s seat?

  2. Gunner

    I owned a 80 when the kids were little years ago. We would fold down the back seat for them to play during our weekend excursions….yeah, no seatbelts. I know, I know. People say a lot of negative things about these cars, but we had a lot of fun in ours. I think 3200 is a great price for this spunky little car. Say what you will.

  3. Rx7turboII

    A few isolated electrical fires?? Lol

    Dozens of brand new and year old bimmers just randomly catch fire, and that’s isolated? Not!

    Mass conspiracy no, recall worthy yes!

    BMW fan or not, it’s an issue to be investigated…

    • rando

      BMW has a fault with the final drives in some of their K1200LT motorcycles and refuses to do anything about it. All the manufacturers are there to make money, nothing else. They don’t care, so long as they don’t get caught.

    • Mike H

      Just did some reading on that yesterday. (40) cars stretching back almost (20) years, many of them with over 200k miles on them. No one model, no one engine, no single vintage, bodystyle. . . No common cause or common circumstances to any of the ones that are available to investigate, so what, exactly, should they be recalled for? Please note that this was brought to light by the “investigative journalists” at ABC News.

      Also, let us not forget the fine “investigative journalists” at 60 Minutes (CBS) reported on Sudden Unintended Acceleration with the Audi 5000 in the 1980’s. It featured interviews with six people who had sued Audi after reporting unintended acceleration, including footage of an Audi 5000 ostensibly displaying a surge of acceleration while the brake pedal was depressed. Subsequent investigation revealed that 60 Minutes had not disclosed they had engineered the vehicle’s behavior – fitting a canister of compressed air on the passenger-side floor, to pump fluid via a hose to a hole drilled into the transmission – the arrangement executed by one of the experts who had testified on behalf of a plaintiff in a then-pending lawsuit against Audi’s parent company.

      Subsequently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded that the majority of unintended acceleration cases, including all the ones that prompted the 60 Minutes report, were caused mainly by factors such as confusion of pedals.

      My point? Don’t believe everything you see or hear on the “news”.

  4. Brian

    I had an 80 pinto that I put 249,000 miles on it before I sold it. One timing belt two clutches and was still running good when I sold. Besides the timing belt, tune ups and possibly a water pump the motor was never touched.

  5. dave

    I worked at the Fords Glass House in Dearborn MI in the legal dept on the Pinto lawsuit. The girl put gas into her car and forgot the gas cap. She turns around going like 10 mph on the road looking for the cap with the 4 ways going. A GMC 3/4 ton van crest a hill doing about 80 and the driver is impaired and slams into the Pinto. Gas comes rushing out from the gas filler and when it splashed on the tail lights with the 4 ways flashing, boom!!! The gas tank was not punctured from the 80 mph read end crash. We had the same thing happen with a 62 Chev Impala when a Cadillac rear-ended the car at 100 mph. That crash resulted with the gas tank exploding from coming into contact with the rear end. We went to examine that crash during the Pinto case since this was in the Detroit area.

    • RP

      I remember reading that the $14million settlement was reversed because of what you’ve stated.

      I owned three ’74 sedans, a ’78 wagon and a ’79 wagon, and never had any problems with any of them. I actually hit black ice one morning and wrapped one of my ’74s around a phone pole and walked away from it uninjured.

      Good little cars and fun to drive.

  6. Miguel

    These are still my favorite cars. Too bad there aren’t any in the country in which I now reside.

  7. Ric B

    i had 2 of the old Pinto’s a 1970 and a 1971 the 70 drank more oil than gas and smoked a lot so sold it and bought the 71 it was a great car too no clutch was needed to shift only used to get her going what a blast to drive too, in 1981 drove it from Florida to Texas and back, ended up selling it in 83, was a good car too

  8. Matt

    That tag is great!

  9. Stu

    I just wanted the pink wheel cover.

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      It still shows up on CL when I click the link.

  10. Don H

    When I see one it’s kind of like seeing an old Vw bug makes me smile ☺

  11. Don H

    And it has the very rare pink wheel cover 👾

  12. John

    Neat little car. The seat covers reflect what happens when you get in wearing a wet rain coat – it is from Maine folks. The little Pinto could be “hot rodded” in so many ways. I always wondered why the Pre-Honda Civic guys never worked their magic on these. Lotus-Ford 1600s are a bolt-in. But, having said all of that, it sure seems about a thousand dollars over priced. And I wonder what’s behind the red plate on the dash,

    • grant

      Behind the red plate is a little storage cubbyhole

  13. RoughDiamond

    Good memories of a once owned Spirit of America Pinto. That listing is 26 days old. I cannot imagine it not being sold.

  14. Marvin

    My Dad was hit in the back of his ’72 Pinto…she was fixing her face in the mirror and hit him at about 55 mph. Bent the car upwards through the rear wheel well. No boom, sorry not sorry.

  15. the one

    Do a flame job on the REAR, get it?

  16. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    A friend’s older sister had one like this. She was slammed from behind while pulled over in the highway break down lane. The car was totaled, she ended up in the hospital, and the gas tank did not blow up.

  17. the one

    There was a recall.. The fix was a small piece of bent metal to prevent puncture.
    My wife had a ’71 that was part of this.

  18. the one

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