If WALL-E Were A Car: 1976 Ford Pinto Wagon Update

Fellow Barn Finds writer Scotty did a fantastic write up on this poor little Pinto wagon earlier in June.  Since then, the car was removed from craigslist. It has again popped up here on craigslist, with both the engine information that Scotty asked for and a lowered price of $2,500.  Part of the reason is that the owner is moving, and can’t take this little gem with him.  Since I am a sucker for down on their luck dogs and cars, I thought I might give this car one last chance on Barn Finds by giving it another write up with the update.

I know most have seen the Pixar movie Cars, but did you ever take the kids to see WALL-E?  If not, the premise of the movie is that humans have polluted the Earth so much that they have retreated to huge space stations, where their every whim is catered to. In their absence, little trash compacting robots are methodically cleaning the place up.  This goes on for so long that the space station inhabitants never really consider going back, and all of the robots wear out and stop working.  Except for one.  His name was WALL-E, and he was cool because of his dirty exterior, boxy design, and quirky charm. This little Pinto wagon, pointed out to us by the amazing Pat L., lives in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Pintos catch a lot of flak.  People make fun of their looks, their build quality, and, of course, the whole exploding if it gets tapped in the rear thing.  The truth of the matter is that they were pretty good cars in comparison to their domestic competition.  When was the last time you saw a Chevrolet Vega roaming the streets?  With proper maintenance, these cars will last for a long time.  If I were one of the designers of the Pinto (well, one that didn’t work on the fuel tank location and design…), I’d be pretty proud to see that my work still soldiers on.  Another aspect of the Pinto thing is the racing aspect.  These cars were easy to hot rod and make handle pretty well.  In the days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, these were the cars of choice for the mini stock division at circle tracks nationwide.  You’d have twenty or so amateur racers battling each other in little Pinto hatchbacks without mufflers, looking and sounding like a pack of bees that just had their hives kicked over.  Talk about some fun racing to watch!

Since the last post on Barn Finds, the owner has changed the advertisement to note that it is, in fact, a four cylinder powering this car and he even gave us a few pictures to boot.  The 2.3 liter Ford OHC inline four cylinder is found under the hoods of most of the Pintos built, and was probably one of the most durable engines Ford ever built.  This great motor lived on in the Ranger pickup until 2001, and it had been upgraded to 2.5 liters by then.  It was also produced with a turbocharger in the Mustang SVO, the Merkur XR4Ti, and the Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.  When you combine this engine with Ford’s durable transmissions and rear ends, you see how a Pinto like the one featured could live on for years.

As you can see from this interior picture, this car is in fair, but useable shape.  The owner lives in Los Angeles, which presents a few challenges.  From the looks of the razor wire topping the wall next to what appears to be the owner’s nicely landscaped home, it appears theft may be a problem in the area.  Surely you can’t believe that to be a problem in Los Angeles, but let’s go on that theory.  Having a pea soup green 1976 Pinto wagon with an AM radio as your daily driver would certainly make chances good that the car would be sitting in the driveway unmolested and ready to go every morning.  Add to that the manual transmission, which literally locks up the already overworked brains of today’s thieves, and its better than having the boys from Brinks guarding your car!

As you can see, other than a few dents and scrapes, the body of the car is solid.  The interior will need some cleaning, and some upholstery work is in order.  However, the  whole old, plain, Pinto motif works for what I have in mind for the car.  If it were mine, I’d be scouting the junkyards looking for a wrecked Mustang SVO or Thunderbird Turbo Coupe for a complete drivetrain transplant.  Given that those are rare, the second option would be to replace the 2.3 liter engine in this car, which was rebuilt two years ago according to the owner, with a 2.5 liter version from a late model Ford Ranger.  If research tells us that they would bolt right in, back that up with a 5 speed manual from a Ranger and slap in an 8.8 Ford rear end from one of the straight axle Explorers, Sport Tracs, or the last of the Ford Rangers.  These rear ends can be found with limited slip differential and disc brakes, or you can add the parts if they are not there with some work.  You may have to get someone to do some narrowing of the axle, but I think the conversion could be made to work.  With that drivetrain, you’d have a really healthy, long legged runner with a stealthy look to it.

In all, this is not a car to make women faint at the sight of it.  However, it would be a cool little parts runner or a cheap car to get a teenager interested in wrenching.  Kids today dig older cars, but nearly all of them have nobody to help them make that next step into ownership and upgrading.  This could be a good father-son or mother-daughter or whatever the terminology is today car.  With all these gender and role things going on nowadays, I am completely lost.  My point is that the cost of entry is low, the car is easy to modify, and parts are cheap and plentiful.  After all of its faithful service, the car needs and deserves a good forever home.

Is there anybody out there with room in their heart and driveway for this Pinto?

Fast Finds


  1. Travis

    3.8L v-6 with a 5 speed and fuel injection would be really cool!

  2. Miguel

    I don’t think this car should be compared to Wall-E. This car is not as boring as Wall-E was.

    • Charlie

      The few minutes of Wall-E that I watched were indeed horribly boring. I also don’t like cockroaches, and stopped watching when one was introduced as a central character.

  3. Chris in WNC

    If I needed inexpensive wheels, this would be it! LA location would be a manageable hurdle. A one-way flight does not add much to the cost!

  4. Howard A Member

    I’d love for a car like this to be my next car,,,,but not a stick. I hated the ratios on these 4 speeds, 1st was real low, then a big hole in between 1st and 2nd, 3rd, not much different than 2nd, and 4th, again, big hole in between 3rd and 4th. While the automatic sucked what little power these put out( in stock form) I felt it was better than that awful 4 speed,,plus, I’m sick of shifting. On the plus side, it’s probably rust free, but I’d bet it’s shot everywhere else. I suppose, to have one of these, I’ll have to carry a spare timing belt, even though, I said, I’ll never have a car with a timing belt again, this looks pretty easy to change, if one had to. No Pinto wagons in the midwest, so it’s going to have to be a road trip far away to find a decent one like this.
    Oh, one more thing, WALL-E was, for me, one of the coolest movies. I too, don’t see the correlation between the 2, but it was a wonderful movie, and should open our eyes as to what could happen to our world. Classic “Lady and the Tramp” Disney kind of story. I loved it, and watched it many times.

  5. Mark

    Didn’t the nazi’s in Blues Brothers drive a car like this?

  6. Chuck Cobb

    I wish the “exploding gas tank” comments would stop. That issue was for the early coupe cars, not for ALL Pinto’s. This issue seems to come up on all Pinto posts. The present series of Ford Escape had 17 recalls in its first year. Enough is enough.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Chuck, I’ve grown tired of that, as well. Just like all Corvairs are death traps. Since the Pinto was new on the scene, automotive wise, and a chilling forecast of our future, I figured it was the crybaby’s with big cars that refused to accept the Pinto was the way of the future, and did their darnest to thwart it,( almost ALL gas tanks were in the back at that time) to no avail. Ford sold millions. I liked the Pinto the best of the “Big 3” ( Pinto, Vega, Gremlin)

      • AMXSTEVE

        Sorry you are so wrong on so many levels. The Gremlin was and is a superior car compared to the Pinto and Vega. I am not just saying this as I have owned all 3, several of each, and the Gremlin is the most reliable and best built machine with a reliable drive train.

      • Howard A Member

        Right back at ya’ buddy, I am not wrong. I liked the Gremlin too, but it was nothing more than a hacked up Hornet. The Pinto and Vega were totally new and were much more in line to fight the Asian cars that were just coming on the scene, than the Gremlin. The Pinto and Vega dictated where we were going in cars, and the Gremlin faded away.

    • Toolbox

      Or how about the defective cruise control switch that was on most FLM products sold over at least a decade. You know, the one where the recall asked you not to park it in an attached garage until the fix was made so it would not burn your house down.


    I had an orange one and it was the crappiest car I ever owned. By the end of my ownership I had to tie the doors shut with a rope. What a POS.

  8. Paul

    Chuck is right…..Pinto’s had many other quality issues besides the gas tank. I know I pick on Pinto’s and Mustang ll’s on this sight and I need to stop I just can’t help myself. Way too many bad experiences with those two automobiles.

  9. Steve

    I have an idea…

    • Superdessucke

      Beat me to it. The Poison Pinto. I had one of these when I was a kid. You have the base car and color all set here. I would totally do this, complete with Redline tires, blown 302 V- 8 and the rake.

  10. Steve

    I’m not the only one…

    • Miguel

      Too bad that is a ’79/’80.

  11. Jay S.

    No exploding gas tanks on station wagons. Note the position of the filler. The tank was located within the frame.

  12. Bruce Best

    In some ways this station wagon is much like the much loved Chev NOMAD being that it is a two door station wagon just like the Nomad. I hate the color but then I did not like the colors available on most of the cars of the day.

    I have driven both the 4 and 6 cylinder versions of this car with both automatic and manual transmissions in the day and my favorite was the V6 with a manual transmission. That was actually fun to drive along with being very useful.

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