Seventies Time Capsule: 1973 Ford Pinto Wagon

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Love it or hate it, Ford’s subcompact Pinto loomed large over the decade of bell bottoms and disco.  Over three million of these somewhat safety challenged economy cars were sold to Americans who were looking to save on gas and buy American.  If a longing for the seventies has got you down, then you might want to plunk down the asking price of $9,750 for this minty 1973 Ford Pinto for sale on craigslist in Cedar City, Utah.  From its refrigerator tan interior to the combination vinyl and velour seats, this pint-sized Ford is a rolling time capsule demonstrating just what Dearborn had in mind for the economy car buyer of that decade.  Thanks to Tony P. for the groovy find!

The domestic automobile industry was under assault in the sixties and seventies.  Volkswagen’s Beetle was a runaway sales success and Japanese brands such as Toyota and Datsun were beginning to sell small cars at an exponential rate.  Henry Ford II publicly stated that he wasn’t scared of the inroads the Japanese manufacturers were making in the marketplace.  Those were words he would end up eating, but not without a fight.

The fighter he put into the ring was the Ford Pinto.  His contemporaries also fielded challengers such as the Chevrolet Vega and the AMC Gremlin.  While the Pinto was developed in a far more rapid fashion than the usual development cycle, it was still very much a Ford product with all of the good and bad that a Ford of that era embodied.  The Pinto was Ford’s first subcompact, and the name played off Ford’s other horse, the Mustang.  Powered by an inline four-cylinder engine and boasting sporty bucket seats, a fastback sedan with a closed trunk debuted on September 11, 1971.

While the Japanese competition was built in a way that made them seem light and sporty, the Pinto came across as a small American car.  American cars at the time were front engine, rear wheel drive, and evolutionary rather than revolutionary in design.  The Big Three and their little brother AMC traditionally focused on such niceties as a smooth ride and a long option list so you could tailor the car to your desires.  As time wore on, Ford added a hatchback version of the little sedan along with a small two door station wagon.  The cars sold well but concerns about safety have haunted the car to this day.  Among the most serious of these problems was a number of fire related deaths connected to where the fuel tank was located.  Ford wasn’t alone among the manufacturers in placing fuel tanks in the rear of the car.  The public’s perception of the problem was exacerbated by both a series of very public court cases and the release of a Ford internal memo where a cost-benefit analysis was done on remedying the problem and the company decided to save money at the potential cost of injuries and deaths.

The Pinto was undoubtedly a sales success, but you cannot help but wonder how many more would have been sold if safety issues hadn’t hampered sales.  Ford did sell more Pintos than the combined production of both the Vega and the Gremlin.  Slowing the sales of Japanese economy cars proved to be too big of a leap for even this little horse.  With fuel economy, excellent handling, and a focus on quality construction, Japanese automakers steadily increased their market share during this time.  American manufacturers would be forced to make cars differently if they expected to survive the changing market on their own shores.

As for the tan Pinto wagon we see in the craigslist ad, there are not many details about it available.  For some reason, a lot of folks who decide to sell their cars for free on craigslist write very short descriptions.  All we can get from this ad is that this 1973 Pinto wagon is all original and (obviously) very clean.  It has a 2,000 cc four-cylinder engine and a four-speed transmission.  It is described as a “serious time capsule car.”  The pictures reveal that it is, in fact, very well-cared for.  It looks to be stock except for the addition of a set of aesthetically pleasing aluminum wheels that make the car look faster than it likely is in one of the pictures.  Oddly, the first picture depicts the car with a stock set of hubcaps.

Overall, this is a neat old Ford and it looks to be nearly perfect.  Nostalgia makes people purchase cars they remember from their younger years, but that usually goes for cars they wanted to own back in the day but couldn’t purchase.  I am aware that there are a number of Pinto fans out there, but is the asking price on this one a reflection of the Pinto market?

At a $9,750 asking price, do you feel this Pinto is overpriced?  Did you ever own a Pinto?  If so, would you be open to purchasing another one?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. angliagt angliagtMember

    Looks better with the stock hubcaps.I think beige is
    the worst color for these,& then there’s that crazy ask-
    ing price again.

    Like 18
  2. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    I agree, it looks better with the stock wheel covers.

    The whole safety ‘thing’, while thoroughly covered by Jeff, never applied to wagons like this.

    Cost-benefit analysis: producers of all kinds of consumer items, which we use every day, make decisions related to risk of injury (or even death) compared to cost savings or affordability. For cars, if safety was the only and ultimate goal, we would all be forced to drive NASCAR stockers. Think how a circular saw might look and function if it had to have zero chance of injury.

    Nice Pinto wagon, even if it is tan.

    Like 22
  3. AJMember

    I bought my first Ford Pinto for $ 50.00 bucks. A 71 wagon with a automatic.
    A couple of years later bought a 73 Pinto 2 door for $400.00.
    Made money on both vehicles.
    The wagon was fun. Nice back and fun with the girls in the back.

    Like 8
  4. 370zpp 370zppMember

    Unusually nice condition.
    The shifter boot does not look stock.

    Like 5
  5. Tbone

    Didn’t Illinois Nazis drive a pinto wagon?

    Like 12
    • Rusty

      Jake hates Illinois Nazis.

      Like 10
    • Craig


      Like 0
    • PRA4SNW

      Gotta post the pic again since someone mentioned it.

      Like 4
  6. Terrry

    Well give the Pinto credit. It must have been a better car than the Vega( not saying much), because you see a lot more of them for sale now. This unit should have stock wheels and tires. The one on it look, well, stupid.

    Like 11
    • JustPassinThru

      The ONLY problem the original Pinto had, aside from the rear-axle/gas-tank issue in sedans, was…rust.

      The engine/transmission (2.0 Cologne engine) was bulletproof. I got 140k out of mine, with only a timing belt. BTW, that two-litre was a non-interference engine…I didn’t know about changing timing belts, until I popped one off. The only additional cost was a tow.

      The Lima 2.3, supposedly based on the 2.0…as it first came out, it was a dud. A friend had a 1974 Pinto. Much less power, and with 60k it burned a lot of oil. But for 1971-73, that was all in the future. Ford had the better idea here, for a change.

      Like 5
  7. Big C

    My ’73 Pinto wagon was this car’s doppelganger. Except mine cost me $150. Drove it to and from college for two years. 500 mile round trip. The only thing that ever broke was the timing belt.

    Like 7
  8. Bob S

    Very nice wagon! One thing I don’t understand is putting the Gremlin in the same class as the pinto/Vega. They are subcompact, the gremlin is a compact, same as the hornet. Lopping the butt end off does not make it a sub, just my opinion.

    Like 7
  9. Troy

    I know they fixed that problem but I still think it needs a flammable placard on the back

    Like 0
    • JustPassinThru

      I put one on mine.

      And a name: BLAZING SADDLES.

      Like 3
    • That AMC guy

      The Pinto wagons didn’t suffer from the gas tank problem.

      Like 14
      • Troy

        It should be turned into a truck like that jaguar also in this email

        Like 0
      • Rick

        Correct. It was the 1971 through 1976 sedans and hatchbacks that had the gas tank recall. The wagons, sedan deliveries and the Cruising Van had a different configuration and weren’t affected.

        Like 3
      • DON

        You’d think car guys on this site would know that by now , but every Pinto that pops up here gets the same comments

        Like 9
  10. JustPassinThru

    I’m another former Pinto jockey. Mine was a Squire; it lived outdoors in Houston before I bought it; and it had a horrific sunburn.

    But, once I squared the neglect of a succession of Buy-Here-Pay-Here short-term owners, it was a fine transport for a young kid in the 1980-83 recession.

    Paid $750 for it, and probably half of that was profit for the car lot.

    I wish I could get it back; and I like this one a lot…but not to that price.

    Like 7
  11. Arthur Brown

    As an engineer student at the time of the trial, we all looked at what happened It wasn’t tank placement or the axle. The runabouts, unlike the hatch back or wagon models, lacked a rear floor in the trunk. The top of gas tank was what you saw when you opened the trunk. Separating it from the cockpit was the back of the rear seat – a piece of cardboard. To make matters worse, the fuel filler neck that entered the tank from the gas cap on the fender was a straight shot into the top of the tank. When the car was struck from behind, the tank was dislodged and the fuel fuller tube was pulled from the tank allowing fuel to be thrown all over everything. This included the cockpit as the seat back was usually gone by this time in an accident. This didn’t happen with the wagon or runabout as both had full steel floors in the back covering the tank and filler necks that were routed around the floor, giving enough slack to make them stay with the tank if it was dislodged. The damning MEMO WAS THAT FORD KNEW ALL THIS FROM CRASH TESTS AND REJECTED THE ENGINEERING SUGGESTED FIX – TO USED THE WAGON/HATCHBACK FILLER NECK IN ALL CARS. The additional cost – less than 90 cents per car was deemed too high because the actuaries estimate was that no one would survive the burning injuries and survivors payouts were usually, much lower. When the teenage survivor, looking like a toasted marshmallow, entered the court that entirely valid line of reasoning went out the window, no matter how many widows, orphans or pension funds owned Ford stock. I had a Country Squirt just like this with the 2L&4spd. Great car for the time. Wouldn’t want one now. Good engineering. Sorry bean counters.

    Like 5
    • Big C

      You mean the coupe. The Runabouts were the hatchbacks. I had a ’74 coupe. Used to drive that baby with a full tank, on the highway, smoking a Marlboro, and no 90 cent piece of plastic to protect me. And I made it out alive!

      Like 2
  12. chrlsful

    thank Jeff. I’d back it upa a few yrs and mention the 1st – the falcon’s answ to the 50s bug desimating the merican auto industry. And differ w/the commentor – the Lima is a great platform + many are moddin w/it’s webber 32/26 (holley/weber 5200) a very nice progressive (from jeeps to sedan’n coupe). One step better is the Kent (cross flow) or swap Lima head w/the ranger’s D shaped ports (’89/92) to havea screamer for 1/2a step.

    As I often opine (not worth much) – here’s nother vehicle (platform) so much improved as a waggy (but I’m 1 they call “Wagonman” round here).

    Like 2
    • bone

      This must mean something somewhere, but I cant figure it out …

      Like 7
      • 370zpp 370zppMember

        Welcome to the chrlsful world.

        Like 4
  13. Steve

    Call me, nuts, but we owned a 1973 Pinto wagon in blue, and I MISS IT!

    Like 0
  14. Joe

    My very first new car was a 1973 Pinto wagon, but it was the Squire, with the fake woodgrain sides. Took it on my honeymoon in 1974. What I paid for it new was $2,500, payment was $73/month and I was still in graduate school then.

    Like 2
  15. Rick

    DON, you’re right, but notoriety lasts and lasts, and the public tends to paint all family members with the same brush.

    Like 2
  16. karl

    ” American cars at the time were front engine, rear wheel drive, and evolutionary rather than revolutionary ” This comment seems to pop up whenever a U.S. 1970s subcompact is posted here , but most Imports were also front engine, rear wheel drive . The Porsche and VWs had rear engines and rear drive, but for big sellers that was about it for “exotic” – Nearly all cars , domestic and imports were rear drive cars back then .

    Like 4
  17. Bob-O

    Is this really a 1973? IIRC, all 1973 Pinto’s had a black rubber rub strip on the edge of the front and rear bumpers and this car has none. 1972 and earlier Pintos had all chrome bumpers.

    Like 1
    • John D

      Yes look at the front bumper it sticks out farther than the 71-72 with a filler panel , they came with bumper guards but the black rubber strips were an option.
      I bought a 72 coupe from the original owner he ordered it with all the extra trim inside and out was dark green with a black vinyl top and interior for $200 drove the crap out of it in high school beat the tar out of it everyday then sold it for $750 after I graduated. This wagon is nice I would dump those wheels maybe get some of the factory aluminum slots that came years later, I don’t like tan anything. As nice as it is that price is Way too much for that car.

      Like 0
  18. 64 Bonneville

    I had 6 Pintos’ from about 1977 on. Had a note lot, and was getting the Pintos’ from several different dealers at $50-100.00 a pop. Change the timing belt, $11.36 @ Pep Boys, oil and filters, clean the plugs, check the gap and wipe out the inside of the distributor cap with an emery cloth, along with cleaning off the rotor. Do a detail in and out and sell them for $695.00. I sold one to a guy, and 20 years later I ran into him at a shoppiing mall. told me he was still driving the Pinto. both his daughters drove it in high school , with younger one driving it thru 4 years of college, and now he was back to driving it. I told him if he ever wanted to sell it let me know. He said all he had done was brakes and tires, other than routine maintenance.

    Like 5
  19. Don

    Had a ’73 Squire, dark green, 2.0 4 spd. modified carb to operate as a 2 bbl, adj cam timing & Hurst shifter. Fun car, ran a couple of gymkhanas with it.

    Like 2
  20. 64 Bonneville

    I would like to have it, but I would only go about $5000 to get it. No A/C won’t cut it in Oklahoma.

    Like 2
  21. blake

    the first car I bought for myself was a 1973 pinto runabout. This replaced the 54 chevy sedan given to me as a first car. Rusty frame killed the chevy. I was 17 and got the Pinto for $400 (paperboy savings). total stripper, rubber floors, butterscotch paint, and a 1600cc Kent motor, fun little car. Rust killed these. First thing I did after buying it was learning a self taught lesson in using bondo to fill in the rust holes behind the rear wheels. My Pinto got a fashionable at the time tu-tone lower paint job. Rattle can of course! Remember when we could get a can of rattlespray gloss black for .59 a can? Times have changed for sure, loved that little car. All subcompacts were deathtraps back then. All hail the Pinto LOL

    Like 0
  22. Raider Ric

    It always cracks me up that so many people rag the old Pinto as a POS, but so many of recall having one or driving in one as a kid! ha! Not so much a Pinto “fan” here, but I have to admit to owning ……. TWO! When I went away to college, my family and girlfriend convinced me I needed a more economical (and frankly, more dependable) car to get me to school and back home for weekends or visits (I still had my first car: 1965 Mustang Fastback 4bbl/4sp). I had enough wisdom to park the ‘Stang, but I bought a ’70 (or ’71 I forget) Pinto coupe! Aforementioned gf found it at a service station being sold by the mechanic there (you know, when they all mostly still had working garages and mechanics!). This was in 1979, so it was 8 or 9 years old, but it was in great shape! Paid $975 for it and drove the LIFE out of it over the next 4-5 years! Spun a bearing in that thing at one point and instead of having it towed off (by then it was USED!!) me and my dad replaced all the bearings and got it back on the road! (side note: I remember it was Super Bowl Sunday, in like maybe ’81 and my old man was pissed because I had to have the car back in time to drive it back to SF to school and we had to do it that day!!!). Anyway, at that particular time – and i still can’t believe this – my sister had a Green ’72 automatic and my mother had a ’76 Bright Orange Runabout! Three friggin Pintos in the same driveway for a couple of years!! Ha! And to make matters worse, I got married a couple of years later and I bought my mom’s Runabout from her for our “family car” !! Oh, it seemed to make so much sense back then!! To wrap it all up and come full circle: I succumbed to family pressure while i was away at school and let my other sister drive my Mustang while i was away and not using it. Within the first year she got in a wreck and it was parked for good! I got it back a few years later (had to friggin tow it!) but was just too cash strapped at the time to really get it back on the road. Don’t even ask how many times (per day!!!) I think about how I should have sucked it up and just kept that car!! I recently embarked on a mission to do a VIN search for it and attempt to get it back. Odds are low, but it gives me something to do and dream about!! Ha! -Sorry for the rambling post!

    Like 2

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