Project Pinto: 1974 Ford Pinto Squire Wagon

The Ford Pinto has been a much-maligned vehicle over the years, but it is easy to lose sight of what this car was all about. It was designed to be an affordable and light vehicle that was primarily developed to serve as the second car for American households. It was also designed to live its useful life largely in the suburbs and to ultimately find its way to the scrapyard when time and mileage had done their worst to it. The vast majority of Pintos fulfilled these stated roles admirably, but a reasonable number have managed to survive far longer than Ford had ever anticipated. This 1974 Pinto Squire Wagon is just such a vehicle, and while it will need some work to return it to its best, it would still seem to represent a pretty interesting project to tackle in a home workshop. It is located in Belmont, California, and has been listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner is asking $4,000 for the little Ford, and I really have to say thank you to Barn Finder Pat L for referring the Squire to us.

There is no arguing the fact that the Saddle Bronze Squire isn’t perfect. It wears a few dings and dents, and the driver’s side front fender has been replaced. The original fender does have a dent in it, but I get the impression from the listing that it could be repairable, and it will come with the Wagon. Some of the trim pieces have been removed from the car, but they are included in the sale. Rust doesn’t seem to be a huge issue, with some small spots in the bottom corners of the door appearing to be about it. The paint is generally looking tired, and a respray is going to be on the cards for the little Ford. Even more tired is the woodgrain that defines the Squire. This is hardly surprising after 46-years, and it will require replacement when the vehicle is repainted. Kits are getting hard to find, but good quality woodgrain is available by the yard from a number of suppliers. Of course, if the next owner finds the prospect of applying the vinyl to be overwhelming, then there are plenty of companies that specialize in applying vinyl wraps, and most of these should be able to supply and fit what is needed. The alloy wheels that are fitted to the Pinto aren’t original, but they do suit the vehicle quite well. For those who don’t like them, the original wheels and hubcaps will be included in the sale.

What we can see of the interior of the Pinto is starting to show the march of time, but it does remain quite serviceable. Some of the plastic trim pieces have experienced deterioration, especially some of the molding pieces around the edge of the headliner. There is some damage to the dash pad on the passenger side, but I think that this could be repaired. If this is being tackled as a budget restoration, then the buyer might choose to attempt the repair themselves using a product like Polyvance. It might be a fiddly process, but it could be a satisfying result if the finished product presents nicely. Beyond that, it is hard to see the true state of the rest of the interior trim, although the little that we see does look quite reasonable. There isn’t a load of luxury features inside the Pinto, with an AM radio being about it.

We don’t receive any engine photos, but we know that the Squire is equipped with the 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 4-speed manual transmission. This doesn’t make the vehicle a fireball, but for suburban or commuter use with the occasional trip onto the highway, its 82hp is more than adequate to push the Wagon along to 70mph successfully. The Pinto is in sound mechanical health, with the owner using it 3-4 times every week. It has recently had a full service, and it runs and drives well. The owner does say that the engine has a couple of minor oil leaks, but this is a pretty common occurrence. If it is only the occasional drip, then it probably doesn’t warrant attention. However, if the vehicle is consuming more oil than gas, it is probably worth investigating. The car does come with a significant collection of parts, including a spare driver’s door, along with a new timing belt, new fan-belt, a set of NGK spark plugs, as well as sundry other odds and ends.

The harsh reality is that Lee Iacocca envisaged the Pinto as a disposable vehicle. His vision was for Ford to market a small car that was inexpensive to buy and run, and that could be scrapped in a relatively short time without representing a significant financial loss. That was the fate of the vast majority of Pintos, although a reasonable number have managed to soldier on to the present day. It is easy to under-rate the Pinto, and the reality is that whilst they have developed their own little cult following, they are never going to be a big-dollar classic like a Mustang or a Camaro. However, this one looks like it could be restored in a home workshop for very little money, which could make it a great project for a parent to tackle with their child. It could allow strong bonds to develop as the parent and child work towards a common goal. Lee Iacocca was something of an automotive visionary, but I’ll bet that even he wouldn’t have seen that idea coming.


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  1. Steve R

    It’s nice, but not nice enough for the asking price. This car has lots of small things wrong with it that will nickel and dime anyone who wants to make it really nice. I’d hold out for a better one to hit the market.

    Steve R

    Like 10
    • PatrickM

      Absolutely. One big difference I saw was the different looking interior from BF ad and C/L ad. RUN.

  2. BQS4

    Does the owner have the two other alloy wheels? They’re American Racing Libre which are hard to find in decent shape.

    Like 3
    • Little_Cars

      I used to do this to cars to see how the vehicle would look with certain wheels I had in my stash. It seems absolutely lazy and/or unthinkable that the seller shows the wheel covers on the drivers side and those great Libre on the passenger side. Put ’em all on the car, or tell us what you’re selling, dude! I’d rather see four steel wheels on the car and throw in two Libre as a “what if” bonus. Love the look of Libre on my MGs.

      Like 2
      • Steve R

        More than one picture in the ad show Libra’s on the drivers side as well. It’s pretty clear the car comes with both sets.

        Steve R

        Like 1
      • Paul T Root

        I learned to drive on a 74 Pinto wagon. So a bit of sentimental memories here.

        I wanted Libres for my MGB but they weren’t around 15 years ago either. Ended up with Cosmics and later found 2 spare.

        Like 1
      • Little_Cars

        @Steve R. After reading the ad (I should do that first always) it does mention four original steel wheels and a set of Libres for summer use. Seasonal wheels/tires for autocrossing their Pinto wagon?

        Like 2
  3. Mark

    Car is a mess for $4K..

    Like 5
  4. Gaspumpchas

    pinto- PUT IN NEW TRANSMISSION OFTEN. These were notorious for blowing the rear main seal and the oil would get onto the clutch disc. Replaced many. I agree about the disposible think process. Anyhoo–good luck to anyone who wants to take it on, I think that 4 large is probably twice what it cost new, Stay safe.

    Like 2

    I got asked out once by a girl who owned one just like this. Same color and all the body panels matched. Any time I see one I still think of the nerd girl.

    Nothing said I am looking for a man and to hook up and create a family then a young girl driving a Pinto wagon.

  6. TailgateJeff

    I had one that got me through 3 years of high school and almost 2 years of college. It was without a doubt, the worst vehicle that I ever owned.

    • Paul T Root

      Like I said before, I learned to drive in this car. It replaced one of 2 Fury’s that my parents had. So it isn’t the worst cars my parents ever had. Those Fury’s needed major work every weekend. Mid-70s they were falling apart. One was a ’69, the other a ’72. Toward the end, the Pinto had drops, but it was 10 years old. The Fury’s were 3 and 6 years old.

      The seller could probably get $1000 for the Libre wheels by themselves.

      Like 1
      • Little_Cars

        That’s about right. Four lug Libre wheels were commonplace through the late 60s and into the 70s. Of course, there are reproductions made that sell for $$$ each. I would be curious to know if they’ve suffered any curb rash like the rest of the car. Or if they are even a matched set for bead-to-bead width. I believe old Libres may actually be made from magnesium which will crack if you abuse them, having them installed on a daily driver can be an experience to get them balanced right.

  7. art

    This car has been for sale FOREVER..close to two years now. Something’s amiss

    Like 1
    • Little_Cars

      I contacted the seller. Cryptically he mentions the front fender and door both suffer from a “tow bar incident” hence the spare door being offered with the old fender. I also confirmed 4 Libre style wheels have new tires, are balanced, and come with center caps. Why this car hasn’t been repainted and those wheels permanently installed is beyond me. Oh, forgot the mention, the wood siding is a mess above the belt line, but in great shape below where the body side molding was removed. Maybe with a little ingenuity the new owner could just replace the faux wood above that line and save some restoration cost. Still overpriced for what we get.

      Like 1
  8. djkenny

    I had a 74 Pinto sedan I bought for $1250 in 2002. Saddle Brone was the color. Old lady owned since new, just driven to the grocery store and church on Sundays and had 15k original miles. Her daughter sold it to me after her mom passed away a year prior. She Put 10k on it that year. Yes. It had 5000 miles on it when she Received it in 2000.
    Still had factory tape on rear leaf springs. Time Capsule. Not a Hint of rust. Original bill of sale, manual, Recall slips, etc.
    Took me a year to sell it. Failed attempts on eBay. Only asking $2000 for it in 2005. Kept getting $1000-1250 offers. Finally sold it to a kid for $1750 with 26k on it, got 1 crack on dash during ownership.
    It was a miserable car to drive. The emissions mandates of the 74 models sucked the life out of the motor. Combined with boat anchor bumpers… just miserable. Even as a manual.
    This Pinto? If you want a project, its $800 to me. It needs A LOT.

    Like 2
  9. Maverick

    V8 anyone.

    • chrlsful

      course not too heavy, the head w/D shaped ports,
      3 yr later ign (DSII), headers (may B turbo, I kinda like the Lima as is) and 4 Keihins!

  10. Little_Cars

    Additional words from the seller. “I would … recommend trailering it due to oil leaks. Though they are not extreme oil leaks they are leaks and the fluids …need constant checks. It is most comfortable at about 55-62mph. It will do that speed all day long. Don’t know that I would put it on….the interstate… at 70-80mph as it is 46 years old.

    I am only selling because my daughter graduates high school today and will be attending college in the fall so the money will go straight to her educational goals.

    It looks to me as though the oil pan gasket, front main seal seeps as does the rear main seal, and trans tail shaft housing seal are the major areas of concern on a long distance trip. The rear dif was just serviced, trans was filled, filters changed oil, air, fuel.”

  11. Joe L

    I will give you $1000 cash as is.
    I can tell It needs a lot of work.

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