This Well-Kept Pinto Is The Bomb!

Some of our more seasoned readers may remember highways filled with all manner of Ford’s Pinto subcompacts, and fewer still may recall the angry swarm of bees sound a field full of them made when they were the kings of the mini stock class at your local short track. You may also be reminded of the Pinto’s tendency to burst into flames if hit in the rear end, a scandal that resulted in over 1.5 million of the astounding 3 million produced being recalled and modified to lessen the danger. Success and scandal go hand in hand with the Pinto. This pristine example, priced at just $5,500, hails from Louisville, Tennessee and can be found on craigslist.

The front tag on this nifty 1980 Ford Pinto signals to the world that the owner is in on the running joke that any Pinto will explode upon rear impact in a style reminiscent of a thermonuclear weapon. While this is an exaggeration (MOAB style maybe…), there was fire to go with the smoke. Many people lost their lives in fires that resulted from rear collisions. To be fair, many subcompact cars of that era were designed in the same manner and were obviously not as safe as larger cars. The Pinto was singled out by the media and safety advocates, and ended up being the catalyst for massive changes in federal regulations. For better or worse, the Pinto represent a historic milestone on how government mandates effect how cars are produced.

The blaze orange 1980 model with the “cruising package,” one of only 385 that year according to the provided Marti report, appears to be one of the best and most sorted examples still around. Claimed to be driven daily, this little horsey is rocketed down the road by the ubiquitous 2.3 liter OHC 4 cylinder and a four-speed manual transmission. Amazingly, this motor was used from 1970-2001 in everything from trucks to race cars, and is still sold by Ford Power Products as the LRG-425. Ford Performance Parts can still help you turn money into speed if you want to turn this 2100 lb. cruiser into the ultimate sleeper.

Condition wise, the car is like a time capsule. The engine compartment and interior are amazingly clean except for some minor unraveling on the driver’s seat. Originally a radio-delete car, a modern radio has been fitted along with a stouter alternator for reliability. Perhaps the biggest plus is that it was produced in the last model year of the Pinto. Therefore, this one has the safety modifications that earlier models lacked. Lift the hatchback and throw in a fire extinguisher, just in case, and head to the nearest cruise in. It will certainly fire up some conversation!


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  1. Gunner

    Yeah, I dig it….safety or not. Love the color scheme inside and out. I also owned an 80 at one time, and had loads of fun in it. Say what you want about the Pinto, but they were fun cars with a pretty reliable engine, providing it was taken care of. 5500 is pretty high, but considering the rarity and condition I think that it is worth it. Nice find.

  2. Jeffro

    The 2.3 is a tough motor. A guy down home had a Pinto with a home built turbo set up. Looked a tad bit redneck but car was incredibly quick. He unfortunately had too many buttweisers one nite and altered the body with a rather large Pine tree. He survived unscathed. The Pinto…not so well. You can fix a car. No cure for stupid.

    Like 1
  3. KevinR

    I killed the motor in a ’79 (I think…).

    Bummed a ride back to college with a girl I knew who owned the Pinto. Having partied all weekend, she tossed me the keys and proceeded to take a nap. We were cresting a hill at about 70mph when I heard a loud noise and the dash lit up like a Christmas tree. We coasted to a stop and I popped the hood to take a look. No water in the radiator; no oil showing on the dipstick. When I pointed those problems out to owner, she asked “if we fill those up, will it run again?”

    Other than that, I remember the car as a pretty good driver that I had previously discounted due to bad press.

    Like 1
  4. Gene Parmesan

    I’m nearby and have seen this car running around town quite a few times! It’s super clean. Of course I would gladly go inspect it in person if anyone is interested.

  5. David J David J

    Alright! Excellent find. I drove a 1973(?) around for a couple of college semesters. I did not have much cash at the time, so the seller took my Winchester saddle gun in trade for the car.

    It was sun bleached yellow with a sun baked interior and a large hole in the driver side floor over the exhaust. The “Golden Stallion” looked like hell, but ran flawlessly.

    I’ll never forget the evening I sold it. A man showed up with his young son, looking to buy the young man his first car. The kid’s eyes lit up like stars and he had a huge smile on his face. That was it. Dad handed me $500 in twenties, and off they drove into the Tucson sunset. I still smile to this day thinking of that moment.

  6. Dave Montanbeau SR

    At a shop that I dropped a car off.

  7. fish56

    I owned a 79 Pinto, bright orange with cloth insert Navaho pattern seats, large glass rear hatch, pop up sunroof. Great car up to 94K miles when the timing belt snapped.
    Rust In Peace

    Like 1
  8. stillrunners lawrence Member

    The funnest story is of a set of twins- Bill and Bob – both gone sadly – they were big 6ft of old football pounding type boys I went through school with….that’s what they got – to share – in high school about 1974 was the little Pinto hatchback….funny – when they both climbed out – but don’t you dare let them see you laugh !

    Like 1
  9. Mountainwoodie

    A tuna can with wheels………..shudder………………. and I owned a ’73 wagon with shelf paper on the sides,

  10. Chuck Cobb

    The exploding gas tank issue involved the early Pintos, not the later ones, so not fair to relate it to all of them. They were what they were for the day and time. Latest series of Ford Escape had over 17 recalls, but you see them all over the place. What will be said about them in twenty years?

    • Mountainwoodie

      Admitting that I dont know what the recalls on the Escape were for, if they start catching fire when rear ended……………….over and over…..

    • CCFisher

      I think what made the Pinto fuel tank issues particularly egregious was that Ford knew about the problems, weighed the cost of a fix ($11/car) against the cost of injury and death settlements, and decided against addressing the problems. In today’s regulatory environment, top executives would likely be prosecuted for arriving at such a decision.

      • Mountainwoodie

        Well put.

      • scottymac

        So why weren’t GM executives prosecuted for the key ring issue turning off engines, and killing people? What was the problem there, a 50 cent spring? Oh, that’s right, after we bailed them out with taxpayer money, they argued that was the OLD GM, and they couldn’t be held liable!

      • CCFisher

        There was actually an internal Ford memo that spelled out the costs of fixing the issue vs. cost of injury and death lawsuits, clear evidence that the higher-ups knew what they were doing. I’ve heard of no such smoking gun in the GM ignition switch case.

      • scottymac

        Here’s the timeline from NPR. First identified in 2001.

        Here’s another, more personal story – control f, and type “documents” to get to the meat of the story.

    • Dave Montanbeau SR

      I was one of the assistant attorneys that worked this case. The lady just filled her car with gas, she forgets to install the gas cap and turns around with the 4 ways on doing about 5 MPH looking for the cap. She is cresting a hill when a GMC 3/4 ton van with a higher than normal bumper with the driver high on drugs slams into the car at 90 MPH. Out comes the gas from the filler and hits the lights that arch from the impact. Case closed. Mustangs with trunk floor that has a gas tank and the GM pickups with the side tanks were more dangerous.

      Like 1
  11. David

    We had a ’74 for 10 years, got slammed in the rear and lucky enough not to explode. We took in for the recall and had the correct bolts installed. Traded it in on a Celebrity wagon because the children were getting to big for the back seat. Fun little car. Paid $2400.

  12. Greg Mason

    I had a 78 wagon with the v6 automatic blue with fake wood. I loved that damb car except when it was damp or rained overnight it wouldn’t start. Just turned over but no start. I changed everything I could but still no start. Took it to Ford dealer and they couldn’t find anything. I finally gave up and sold it to a guy that said he would find the problem. Saw him a couple months later and he said he gave up also and sold it to another guy. I don’t know what happened to it after that but still wonder if it ever got fixed.

  13. David

    We got 10 years out of our ’74 3 door hatchback. Got slammed in the rear but lucky enough not to explode. Replaced the heater core, timing belt and fuel filters. I did a repaint in bright yellow. Traded it in on a Celebrity wagon. Children were getting to big for the back seat.

  14. RoselandPete

    I’m still amazed that Ford got off.

    • David montanbeau

      Why is that?

    • bog

      RoselandPete, you should read the real story, not the “hear-say” and horrible jokes made about the Pintos exploding. In the very recent past that man that wrote “Unsafe at Any Speed” was interviewed and finally admitted he fabricated some info he “blabbed to the world” as often as possible about the “safety faults” of the Corvair and Pinto. His stated goal was overall safer cars and regulations to “protect us all”, however, he also was considering a career in high government office. So, Mr. Nader pulled a great prank on everyone he could. Too bad he didn’t actually have a firm like Takata to go after.

      • RoselandPete

        Real story? What is the real story? I know Nader was trying to make a name for himself by bashing the Corvair. I have not heard of anybody trying to make a name for himself by bashing the Pinto. Even Ford knew that there were problems with the Pinto but felt that it would cost them less in court than it would to fix the problem. This is just one link about the Pinto and there are loads more. So unless everybody is lying, that’s what I know to be the real story.

      • David montanbeau

        Did you read my article about me working the case? It was a freak accident.

      • bog

        Yep. I am actually from Chicago and the Tribune has been “my newspaper” for decades. Yep, I’m also old and a car guy, and mostly a Ford guy in my youth. I also have a veritable “boat-load” of friends that make their living as Attorneys. There’s a rule that applies here: “don’t believe everything that you read”. Whether it be newspapers, or especially NOW on the internet. Real research would show you that although the Pinto “may” have been made better (and that’s true of the newest Mercedes), it was not the veritable “BOMB” it has been made out to be. Crawl under the back of almost any small car of that vintage and you’ll see similar gas tank arraignments. Remember those horror stories that nearly destroyed Audi and Buick due to “sudden acceleration” lawsuits ? Each and every one down to driver error or weird footwear choices. Many folks believe the initial story, not the actual outcome. Additionally, and unfortunately, many folks a trigger-quick to sue even when it’s THEIR fault….

  15. Leon

    My 79 Pinto color combo was Burnt Orange with the charcoal color grille !!!!!!! Lol

  16. Melvin Burwell

    Had a 74 in high school. Great car. But thats too much $$ for a pinto hatchback.

  17. Andy

    The last thing I drove that had the 2.3 was a huge floor scrubber. I called it the concrete Zamboni. It ran on LP.

  18. Howard A Member

    The auto world will always have it’s stereotypes. Corvair=rollover, Pinto=KABOOM, Any Rambler= HAW HAW. Pinto’s were good, simple cars. We could use a new car like this today. I get a kick out of by 1980, the “Go Package” was reduced to stripes and wheels. Sharp looking Pinto,,,if that’s possible.

    Like 1
  19. jwinters

    I Had a 1980 pinto for a while. I remember driving down the road and the entire exhaust pipe, cat, and muffler fell off and it got really loud. then it blew a head gasket so I sold it to a junkyard for $50.00.

  20. Reuben Adkins

    WAY too much money!
    That is a $1500 – $2000 car all day long….on a good day. No matter how you look at it, it’s still a cheap little Ford Pinto.

    • David J David J

      It’s a sturdy, yet graceful, golden stallion of times gone. It’s made of resilient steel and memories never to be forgotten.

      Like 1
  21. KevinW La.

    Owned 3 of them over the years. I always liked them. Reliable and easy to work on when they did have problems, but not very often.

    Like 1
  22. z28th1s

    Surprised to see that it has 2.73 rear gears with the 4 cylinder, 4 speed manual combo.

    Nice looking car!

  23. Paul

    Pinto’s were never considered reliable even within ford…..the ford pinto plant was the lowest quality automotive assembly plant in the US of all time.
    They made money for Ford and our stock holders at the time. Until the scandle anyway. I would never consider buying one at any price. Ford had first hand knowledge that people were dying in them and tried to hide it.

    • David montanbeau

      They all do. Not just Ford.

      Like 1
    • Jay

      Gee wiz Paul. You’re really upset about something that is relevant to.. nothing actually. But you’re right. Just refuse to buy one regardless of price and the world will follow. Yeeeeeah. I realize this is an old article but I just researched the current value of these cool little cars and I was surprised how much money they bring.

  24. Wayne

    The problem was 3 fold. On a rear end collision the filler neck would pop out of the tank (1) The tank was “supposedly” “too exposed to rear and collision damage. (2) If hit hard enough and square enough. The body could flex/bend enough to render the doors un-openable. (not a real word) Which is a real problem if you have just caught on fire!
    I worked at a Ford dealership in the mid 80s and early 90s. We still had a couple of recall kits on the shelf. (longer filler neck, thick plastic fuel tank shield and some shield/gusset/brackets that were to be attached to the shocks and a couple of other exposed bolts. I have worked for several muti-line dealers in the past. So I have seen some of the seamy side of most of the manufacturers. And I always considered Ford one of the worst when it came to honest dealings with it’s dealers and it’s customers. (AMC was #2)
    That said, I have 2 Mustangs, 2 Rangers and an Escort. (not to mention 6 other vehicles)

    Like 1
  25. gaspumpchas

    Had a friend who fixed up a pinto for his daughter to drive to school. She had 9 kids in it one day they were coming home from school. got rear ended… Did not catch fire.Had it towed home and the gas tank split the next day siting in the yard. Divine Intervention I’d say….

    PINTO= Put In New Transmission Often…


  26. Joe Howell

    I like it. It’s worth what someone will pay. Loved my 72 wagon. Great little cars for the money. Mine gave twenty years of service and 150,000 miles for only $2500 new. It only let me down twice, once with a broken timing belt and once busting thru deep snow drifts. Snow packed the engine compartment solid and melting snow grounded out the coil wire :( Went back the next day and it started :)

  27. Jim Bryant

    I had a white 1980 with a trunk loud stereo and 14 inch tires rims 60’s on rear of course wasn’t super fast but I could fry the tires thru first and second gear . I miss driving it was a lot of fun.

  28. RoselandPete

    Bog, Here’s a Trib article that blames the engine mounts for GM’s sudden acceleration problems but I seem to remember the problem later in the 70’s.

    • bog

      RoselandPete – I wasn’t talking about the ones from 1971, so thanks for your research. The ones I was referring to were within the past seven or eight years. Perhaps more recently. There was NO recall, as the cars weren’t at fault. GM did, however, (probably on the advice of their corporate legal staff) alter the size and position of both accelerator and brake pedals. They did NOT recall the vehicles to my knowledge. Keep in mind the average age of Buick owners….they didn’t want to lose those buyers. Audi, in my opinion, didn’t take into account Americans driving with any kind of footwear they saw fit, including “flip-flops”…or none at all. Having lived and driven in Germany, my experience was that folks either wore “sensible” shoes to drive, or kept a pair in the car just for driving. I use to drive my friends Lotus Europa and I’ve got size 13 feet. I NEVER wore regular shoes of any kind in that car. Form fitting racing/driving shoes, as the accelerator was the width and length of my index finger. Had I “tried” wearing regular shoes I can assure you my big feet would have gotten stuck under or between the pedals and all kinds of bad things would have occurred !

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