One Family Owned: 1971 Ford Pinto

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It’s rare to find cars these days that have remained in the care of one family since new. This 1971 Ford Pinto is such a vehicle, and it’s spent the better part of the last 40 years stored in California garages. Found here on eBay, this Pinto has the desirable manual transmission and only 43K miles on the clock. Thanks to Barn Finds reader RD for the find!

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The inline-four engine will never win any drag races, but the Pinto was at least light. It weighed in at under 2,000 lbs., which was a requirement from top brass at Ford who knew how important it was to build a car that could compete with the Japanese. The engine here was sourced from Ford’s European operations, where it was used by the company’s Escort line. This Pinto’s engine is said to turn freely but will need a complete servicing prior to running.

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Though the Pinto is the butt of many jokes, I wonder if it’s justified. There were some safety issues that were later debunked by experts after years of courtroom battles, but the damage was already done to the Pinto’s reputation. What you have is an entry-level car that gave American automakers a shot at luring consumers looking for a cheap commuter away from the imports. Even today, that interior looks like an OK place to spend time while you slog away the highway miles.

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Here you can see the reason why the seller’s uncle parked it many years ago: a rear bumper tap. I can’t tell if it damaged the sheet metal behind it, so you’ll want to ask that question if you’re considering ponying up for this Pinto. The single-stage paint responds well to buffing, so I’ll bet this car will look fantastic with a wax and (hopefully) a quick bumper replacement. How would you use this cheap classic?

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Comments

  1. Karl

    This is actually a very interesting find. I believe that the engine is the 1.6-liter Kent OHV engine, which was available only for the first year or two of Pinto production. It had a good performance reputation in Europe, IIRC. With a four-speed and no A/C, this car might be actually be able to get out of its own way.
    The interior looks better than the ones in the Pintos my family owned in the 1970s. Was this car in a time capsule in Area 51 or something?
    As far as the back bumper damage, the uncle must have backed into a beer can (they were steel back then). You could almost pull it out with your bare hands. Give me a block of wood and a rubber hammer and I’ll have it straight for you in a couple of minutes.

  2. jimbosidecar

    I drove a 1971 Pinto (with the 2 liter motor) through part of my senior year in high school. It was OK but the rear suspension would hop all over the place on New England pot holed road. On the hiway it would actually move over half a lane. I understood this was fixes for the 1971 year. I would be more worried about that, than the gas tank location.

  3. 64 bonneville

    Starting bid is a really good buy in price. Most likely the carb will have to be rebuilt. Back bumper should be able to straighten, doesn’t appear to have any paint damage from the bump. Ford used Acrylic Enamel paint at that time and a buffer with some DuPont white polishing compound should bring the paint back, follow with 2 coats of wax. would make a great daily driver, and a fun car to throw through the ess’ on a track. One of my favorites.

  4. JW454

    I know some people hate these but I’ve had good luck with a few of them. You have to remember, when they were designed and sold no one ever expected them to last more than 10~15 years, much less 44.
    I’d get some neutralizer on that battery run off, rust proof it like crazy, do the best clean up I could, and this would be my daily driver.

  5. randy

    A friend of mine had one of these in 1975, I was working at a pizza parlor, it was the hangout at the north side of town. He was getting into his Pinto, and a guy in a big chevy, prob a ’64, backed into his car door as he was getting in the pinto, the door bent around my friends leg, and head, and latched shut! He was squealing like a pig, and the pressure on the door latch would not allow us to open the door. We did eventually get it opened, my friend was fine, just a scratch on his leg.

  6. Jason Houston

    This nice, original car has just a tad too many nickel-and-dime issues that are going to drive most people off. Add to that, California’s hell-bent mission to discourage anyone from buying anything older than five years, and you’ve got a car that might get one bid. But, hey, lucky for that one guy! This is both a sleeper and a keeper. Great color, original paint, 4-speed and even has its original 1971 plates!

    • Jim

      What do you mean: “California’s hell-bent mission to discourage anyone from buying anything older than five years” ?

  7. Keith

    Starting bid of over 3k? Wow, I don’t care what condition this car is in, pinto’s are nothing but junk cars! Back in the day we use to buy these for $100.00 in better condition than this one just to beat the crap out of for one afternoon’s entertainment, then throw it away.

    • Brian (Michigan)

      No you didn’t

  8. Mark S Member

    The 2.3l engine that these came with were a solid little cast iron power plant there only short coming was there choke controls were temperamental.They had solid drive lines, good suspension and steering. The bodies were well made much better than any of there Japanese counter parts. They got a respectable 35 to 40 mpg, there was only one thing that killed them and that was there incorrect reputation about there gas tanks. Not bad for there time, hardly what I’d call a junk car. I’ve said all this and I don’t even like fords. I believe that I paint a pretty accurate picture of the Pinto.

    • randy

      I wasn’t going to tell this story, but Mark is bragging on the engine, so I’ll tell of my experience racing a pinto wagon with my fast Plymouth Arrow Sport truck with a 2.6 Mitsubishi Mca Jet engine 5 speed trans. The Pinto outran me on the highway, I was depressed for a week. He did not blow my doors off, but he pulled away just the same

    • Leon

      The 2.3OHC was not offered in Pinto till 1974 and just the 74 2.3 OHC was crap Ford left crucial oiling holes for the wrist pins out of the connecting rods this was corrected for 75 and later 2.3s . !971 Pinto could only be bought with the Kent 1.6 cam in block 4 ,in 1972 mid year the 2.0 OHC was offered as a “Big Engine option” during 73 the 1.6 was dropped with just the 2.0 being available till the 2.3 was optioned in 76 and later only the 2.3 was offered. If you were lucky and had the bell housing used during the 1.6/2.0 option time that bellhousing had 2 different bolt patterns a 2.3 would bolt right up to the 1600 4 speed with that dual bolt pattern with the extension of a few wires for things like alternator you could build a pretty quick “Stock” Pinto! I played with Pinto’s a lot back in the mid 70s through the late 90s 1

      • Chris

        I own an original 1971 with the 2.0 EAO engine. Unfortunately these optional engines were only available with the automatic transmission at that time.

        Like 1
  9. z1rider

    Wasn’t the number 2000 about the price, not the weight? The Pinto debuted at less than $2000 for the stripper. That price was mandated by Lee Iaccoca. That is considered to be a factor in the later reputation the Pinto had for a tendency catch fire when rear ended.

  10. Duffy

    Junk then, Junk now, easy way to put it.

    • GOPAR

      Yeah Duffy, I’m with you!

  11. Brian

    Had a 1980, put 249,000 miles on it. One timing belt, two clutches and normal brake, belt and hose maintenance. I would not call that junk.

    Like 1
  12. Pintosopher

    This is a real Survivor, And worth every Penny in it’s current condition. I have a 72 Hatch that I autocross and Hillclimb ( when Funds and conditions permit) With a 2.0 L former IMSA RS motor it flat hauls and could be street legal even in Cal with the pre 76 Smog exemption. I took the car off the road in ’90 to avoid getting felony speeding citaions in the Napa Valley.
    It’s all about loving the car and doing your own thing :-)
    Pintosopher, yes that guy!

  13. Kenny Grant

    1979, My next door neighbor use to take me to high school in his. I’m still embarrassed.

  14. piper62j

    I question the mileage on this one.. The #3 digit is not aligned with the rest.. Usually indicates an odometer roll-back…

    Other than that, not bad..

  15. Chris A.

    My Mom’s run around grocery/commute car was a Pinto Hatchback a year later. It was a handy car that became even better with good radials and the 2.0 engine in front of the 4 spd. Yes, the rear end was light, but she always (and I had to if I drove it) kept the tank near full. Dad liked the engine, so he bought a Mercury Capri with the 2.0, good tires, a 4 spd and sunroof. The Capri was a better car all around so Mom moved into that. Dad traded in the Pinto on a V6 Capri 4 spd which was even more fun. They had several Capris for the next ten years before upstate NY salt ate them. Even with undercoating you couldn’t keep the rust worms out. Save this Pinto, at least one deserves survivor status. I inherited one of the Capris and was hit hard in the back end by a big Chevy sedan. As the gas tank was above the rear axle, it stayed intact but the whole rear end was gone. I don’t think the Pinto wold have made out so well as the Capri was initially hit under the bumper.

  16. Brendon

    My folks had a ’71 pinto like this, 4 speed, trunk and all. Theirs was blue with a blue interior. Took me home from the hospital in it, too. They had it for 7 years and put it through the abuse of upstate New York winters, and then traded it in for a 1978 Datsun F-10.

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