Home » It’s Long Past Time To Stop Making Fun Of The Ford Pinto

It’s Long Past Time To Stop Making Fun Of The Ford Pinto

Pinto Top
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Cars, like people, have reputations. Often these reputations are earned, but this isn’t always the case. A reputation can really stick with you, to the point where it becomes so associated with you that the circumstances of its origins, whether valid or not, cease to become relevant. You’re just stuck with whatever stupid crap you got saddled with. In the automotive world, it’s hard to think of a car more laden with a terrible reputation than the Ford Pinto. Even people who don’t give a brace of BMs about cars have heard about how if you tap a Pinto on the rear, it’ll explode into a fireball the size of a small sun, and almost as hot. The truth, though, is not so simple. The Pinto really wasn’t any more dangerous than any other small ’70s-era shitbox, and so many of the other surrounding myths just don’t hold up to scrutiny. Plus, it had a fantastic engine that went on to power a lot of other interesting cars. So let’s just take a moment and offer the much-maligned Pinto some redemption.

Pintopress1

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

In case you’re skeptical about the remarkable ubiquity of the Pinto’s deathtrap reputation, here’s a fun example: Back in 1984, the Pinto was such a well-known joke that a tap-the-Pinto-on-the-rear-and-it’ll-explode joke was included in the 1984 Val Kilmer movie Top Secret:

If something is well-known enough to be in a mass-market screwball Val Kilmer-helmed comedy, I think it’s safe to say it’s pretty well-known. Note how they even linger on the “Pinto” badging there, so everybody gets it. Oh, and since we’re talking about Top Secret I need to show you my favorite gag from the movie, just because:

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Ah, that’s a great gag! He has the forgot-about-the-class-in-high-school anxiety dream and is relieved to just being tortured by Nazis when he wakes up! Gold!

But let’s get back to the Pinto. The original goal was for Ford to have an inexpensive, fuel-efficient car to compete with imported cars like the Volkswagen Beetle. Pinto development started in 1967, and was approved in 1969; the Beetle’s biggest sales year in America was 1968, with over 400,000 sold, so it’s pretty easy to understand why Ford saw the small, inexpensive car market as something worth pursuing. Lee Iacocca, who was president of Ford at the time, famously wanted the car to be both under 2,000 pounds in weight and cost under $2,000 (those were 1971 dollars, so that’d be about $15,000 today).

Pintosails

The Pinto had a very rapid development, and was really quite a conventional car, just scaled down a bit. It used a four-cylinder inline engine, laid out longitudinally and driving the rear wheels. Design was clean and attractive, with a fastback that could be either a trunk or an actual hatchback. A wagon was available later as well. Really, for the early 1970s, it was fine, and compared pretty well with its domestic competition, cars like the Chevy Vega and AMC Gremlin.

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Thethree

Pintos initially used the 75 horsepower 1.6-liter Kent engine borrowed from Ford UK, and then an engine just for the Pinto, complete with an overhead cam, was developed, at 2- and then 2.3-liter sizes. We’ll get to this engine more in a bit.

The main point I want to make here is that in terms of fundamental design, there was really nothing wrong with the Pinto. It was very conventional, and, when compared with cars like the Vega or Gremlin, I think you could easily argue that it was the best of the bunch of American subcompacts. Remember, the Vega was a disaster that would rust if you looked at it while thinking of the ocean, and the Gremlin was just a cut-down AMC Hornet, a desperate attempt by AMC to get a small car to market while spending the least amount of money possible. Maybe it was a bit of a shitbox, but at this time in the early ’70s, that was pretty much what the state-of-the-art was. Shitboxes.

The Whole Safety Thing

Of course, the biggest Pinto issue is the notion that its poor fuel tank design, located aft of the rear axle, made it a deathtrap. According to conventional wisdom, Ford cheaped out, and instead of using a saddle-type tank over the rear axle (which would have impacted luggage capacity, something that is important for a car like this, and, really, most cars) or adding plastic baffles or steel protection plates (which could have made the setup safer), Ford calculated that it would just be cheaper and easier to accept the possibility of deaths, and built the car with the less expensive setup.

Pintomadness

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This mode of thinking was revealed to the public, with a great deal of drama, in a Pulitzer-winning article in Mother Jones called Pinto Madness This article made a lot of claims about the dangers of the Pinto’s fuel tank design, noting the highly-publicized deaths that definitely did happen as a result of a wreck that caused a fire, but also noting a much higher number of deaths from Pinto fuel tank fires:

“By conservative estimates Pinto crashes have caused 500 burn deaths to people who would not have been seriously injured if the car had not burst into flames. The figure could be as high as 900.”

Here’s the problem, though. If we look at actual numbers of fatalities per million vehicles (from all kinds of wrecks and incidents) as recorded by NHTSA from 1975-1976, we see that the numbers of fatalities for the Pinto are not anywhere near those numbers, and, in fact, the Pinto is right in the middle of the pack when it comes to small cars sold in America:

Fatalitychart1

I’m getting these figures via Dr. Mark Rossow’s paper Ethics: An Alternative Account of the Ford Pinto Case which makes a number of excellent arguments that confront the usual narrative around the Pinto and especially the Mother Jones article. In the numbers above, the Pinto is hardly a standout deathtrap; I mean, by modern standards, sure, everything on that list is a horrible deathtrap, but the Pinto was safer than the Toyota Corolla or the Beetle or the Datsun 210, and none of those cars are as burdened with the oppressive fiery deathtrap narrative as the Pinto is. In fact, the Pinto’s overall deaths per million vehicles is better than the average!

The paper notes in more detail the actual reported figures and the numbers given in the Mother Jones article:

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The data do not support the characterization of the Pinto as a firetrap, a death-trap, or a lethal car. Critics of Pinto safety usually refer to fatalities caused by fires in rear-end collisions, rather than fatalities from all causes. A frequently cited finding is that for the time period 1971-1977, NHTSA identified thirty-eight rear-end collisions for Pintos that resulted in tank leakage or fire [23]. These collisions led to twenty-seven deaths (the same number of deaths allegedly caused by a Pinto transmission problem—for which no recall was issued [24]). Arguments exist for saying that the figure of twenty-seven is somewhat uncertain, [1, p. 1030] but what is certain is that the figure is nowhere near the 500 burn deaths claimed in the Mother Jones article.

None of this is to say that the Pinto was perfect; it was flawed in many ways, like all cars are, especially of that era. And yes, if you whack one in the rear hard enough, you can get fuel to spill, and that fuel can catch fire. Like a lot of cars. The publicity around the Pinto encouraged more crash testing, but even the circumstances of those tests feels like there was a specific dramatically bad outcome that, for some reason, people wanted to see.

Consider the circumstances of the NHTSA rear-impact tests, again from Rossow’s paper:

Rather than a flat moving barrier, a large and especially rigid car (a 1971 Chevrolet Impala) was selected to crash into the (stationary) test-car’s rear end. To ensure good contact with the gas tank, the nose of the Impala was loaded with weights so that it would slide under the test car. To provide an ignition source for a fire, the headlights of the impacting car and brake lights of the stationary car were left on, and the engines of both the moving and stationary vehicles were warmed up and running; tanks in both the moving and test cars were filled with gasoline rather than the nonflammable mineral spirits usually used in crash tests [3; 6, p. 88].

As you can imagine, the visuals from these tests were quite dramatic, with all of that extra nose weight and factors designed to make ignition more likely:

I mean, damn, that’s terrifying! If you set up a Gremlin in these exact same circumstances, though, what do you think would happen? I’d speculate that you could get results that looked almost just like these.

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And that famous “Pinto Memo,” that was supposed to be this damning indictment of Ford placing a monetary value on human life, doing the math, and deciding that making the car safer wasn’t worth it – really wasn’t that. You can read the whole memo here, and if you do, you’ll notice a few things: first, it never mentions the Pinto at all, second, it’s talking about rollover wrecks, not the rear-impact collisions at the heart of the Pinto controversy, and last, what is really going on in the memo is a cost-benefit analysis. They’re not putting a price on a human life, they’re doing what any company that makes a product has to do, evaluate desired factors with relation to cost.

Pintored

If cost were no object, we could build every car with all the safety features of an F1 car. But we can’t do that, because then all cars would cost millions of dollars and, let’s be honest, nobody wants to strap into a five-point harness or wear a HANS device to go get tacos. Every automaker has to decide which safety features to include and which to leave out, and the decision could have implications on human lives.

My point here is that while by modern standards, the Pinto isn’t a safe car, for its time and class, it was really about average, and the people at Ford weren’t some unusually horrific ghouls who sold out human lives for profits – they were exactly the same sort of horrific ghouls who craved profit just like everyone else in the auto industry.

The Engine

2 3engineHere’s another big reason why it’s time to stop looking down on the Pinto: The engine created for it proved to be excellent, and found a whole other life powering all sorts of other cars, even genuinely exciting cars, long after the Pinto was gone. The overhead cam 2.3-liter inline-four engine that came to be known as the Pinto engine was at the heart of cars as varied as the Ford Aerostar van, pickup trucks like the Ford Courier and Ranger, Ford-built Brazilian Jeep CJ-5s, the midsize Ford Fairmont, LTD, Mercury Marquis, and, in turbo form, legendary performance cars like the Merkur XR4Ti, the Thunderbird Turbo, and the Mustang SVO.

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That’s all pretty incredible for an engine designed for a small economy car! The robust 2.3 engine proved surprisingly flexible and able to put out significant power, culminating, in intercooled form in the Mustang SVO, with 205 hp back in 1985. That’s no joke! [Ed Note: Pinto engine swaps into Willys Jeeps are common! -DT]. 

This Cut-Out Pinto Brochure And Those Kits

Pinto Cutout

Another fun Pinto thing? These early cut-out Pinto model brochures. Look how you could option it out with a vinyl top or other wheels or “rallye” grilles and back panels – it’s like an online car configurator of today, but physical! Also, they had an admirable DIY focus for maintenance, with a number of “do-it-yourself parts kits” (see lower left column) where you’d buy like a “taillight kit” that had all the bulbs you’d need or an “electrical tune up kit” or a “windshield wiper kit” that all had the necessary parts required to do a job. Honestly, it’s a good idea that could make a comeback.

The Point

I’m by no means the first to point this out or say it or feel it, but I am happy to reiterate this idea: the Ford Pinto was not nearly as bad or deadly as its shockingly persistent reputation would make you think. It just wasn’t. There’s plenty of shitty cars out there in the world, but I’m not even sure I’d put the Pinto on such a list: it looked pretty good, it was affordable, it had a great engine, and, overall, it did the job it was designed to do.

Things got very much off the rails in the Pinto’s decade-long lifespan, but even with all of that looming mess, over three million were sold. It’s just not the horrorshow that so many people still make it out to be, and I’m just sick of hearing it. The Pinto is fine! It’s no worse than so many other cars of its era, and in fact is better than many that manage to slide under the radar of public disdain.

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It’s time to stop making the same tired jokes about the Pinto. The car has earned some peace in its afterlife, and I intend to defend it.

Even at the risk of being, um, flamed.

 

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FloridaMatt
FloridaMatt
3 months ago

I had a used pinto at one time. It was an ok car, although I cursed when I had to replace a heater hose because the heater core clamps were on the inside of the firewall instead of in the engine bay.

Not a great car, but far better than the new Chevette I bought which ate a valve at 79 miles on the odometer while I was backing out of a parking space

Argentine Utop
Argentine Utop
3 months ago

I come late, only to disagree on the Pinto engine. It was crap. Heavy, inefficient, unrefined.
It burdened the Sierra (at least in Argentina) making it uncompetitive by the late ’80s, in a market where other (European) brands had vastly better engines.
It was stout, though.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
3 months ago

Since my first car was a 71 Vega I can sympathize with the unfair rep the Pinto gets. My Vega ran and rusted reliably for 15 years!

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
3 months ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

My late neighbor and good buddy made a few sheckles buying Vegas w/ blown head gaskets. He’d take a belt sander to the top of the block to flatten it out, slap on a new gasket and bolt the head down. Put Bars Leak in the coil and and sell it on. That worked until all the available Vegas were rusty crap cans (in California) so he gave it up and bought a cheap Pinto to commute in for a minute.

Jeremy Aber
Jeremy Aber
3 months ago

My friend in high school had a trashed Pinto in yellow like the headline photo as his first car (and the first car in our friend group). He paid $75 for it. It had maybe one and a half functional brakes between the four wheels, and the acceleration was so bad that at four-way stops people would start honking, thinking we were being jerks on purpose. Thankfully he traded up to a black ’73 Ford LTD with a non-functional 8-track player after a month or so.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
3 months ago

Thanks for this! As someone who’s owned a Corvair (No, Unsafe at Any Speed DIDN’T KILL IT) and a Bronco (OJ rode in a Bronco one time. And it didn’t even look like mine). There were two Pintos for sale near me recently – in pretty good condition and at a really good price. It’s surprising you can still find good examples, especially since their subframes were popular among cannibalizing hot-rodders.

Douglas Lain
Douglas Lain
3 months ago

Oh man! I love those car cutouts! I have lots and lots of them saved somewhere on a google drive. Papercrafting is FUN!

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
3 months ago

There’s just something about burning to death that’s really, truly, extra unpleasant. Getting smashed to a pulp sure isn’t a grand time either, but I think there was something extra gruesome about those deaths that made it easy to sensationalize. It’s one thing for the public to think that their car was a bit flimsy to cut costs, but the vibe that no one cared that you might be set ablaze wasn’t likely to sit well with most.

That being said, I’m pro-Pinto. And obviously, the stats were twisted or in some cases entirely fabricated. And cases like this have shaped American’s views of small, inexpensive cars for decades. Unfortunately a lot of damage done, undeservingly for the most part.

SurvivedAPintoCrash
SurvivedAPintoCrash
3 months ago

I agree with this message!

Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago

Thank you, Torch. I’ve been arguing this for what feels like a decade, using much the same reasoning and sources you have.

People don’t care, they just got jokes.

Logan King
Logan King
3 months ago

I understand on a conceptual level what this post is talking about vis a vis the Pinto being a scapegoat for the general public to go after with regards to car safety in general. Yes, the Pinto was likely no worse than most other cars at the time. Yes, it was designed against a shifting regulatory environment. However, I’m really not seeing how/why (other than perhaps the added weights) NHTSA’s postscript testing is being framed as looking for a “specific dramatically bad outcome.” This wasn’t NBC crashing cars into Chevrolet pickups with gas tanks filled with explosives. It in fact sounds an awful lot like how the Pinto would have performed in an actual accident; and NHTSA is a public agency that responds to public pressure to investigate the circumstances behind tragic events just like any other regulatory body. That’s how crash tests evolve. If Pintos were deathtraps it doesn’t really matter if other things were also deathtraps because that doesn’t make Pintos any less of a deathtrap; especially when the recall Ford performed to rectify the issue amounted to relatively minor changes to the design (which I suspect only hurt Ford’s image even more).

Ford was caught in the crosshairs and made an example of for this specific instance, but manufacturers didn’t design cars for offset crash testing either two decades later when GM was put on blast across television for the crash test failures of the Venture, Seville and Astro; or when Mercedes/Audi were five years later for the high profile accidents of the A-Class/TT.

Last edited 3 months ago by Logan King
Mr. Asa
Mr. Asa
3 months ago
Reply to  Logan King

It in fact sounds an awful lot like how the Pinto would have performed in an actual accident

And yet, there were literally millions of them on the road, and only 27 fire-related deaths. Obviously something is wrong with the methodology.

Logan King
Logan King
3 months ago
Reply to  Mr. Asa

Statistics sure are fun!

Andreas Jüngling
Andreas Jüngling
3 months ago

Hot pickles!!!

I really only just noticed, that the Ford Pinto was powered by the Lima engine. Pinto and Lima are both popular kinds of beans. The whole thing is a conspiracy led by the 1970’s bean industry. Wake up, people! Tis but a car, tis a bean.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
3 months ago

Hot. Pickles.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago

I do want to object to this:

“The original goal was for Ford to have an inexpensive, fuel-efficient car to compete with imported cars like the Volkswagen Beetle.”

Really that’s what the Falcon was, and the Pinto was a four cylinder and probably worse Falcon replacement. Which is still to have an inexpensive fuel efficient car to compete with Beetles, it’s just that Ford had that market segment going already.

I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment that the Pinto is hated on incorrectly and unnecessarily. Now for the Corvair, Bronco II, Suzuki Samurai……. There are many examples of media deliberately destroying the reputation of one particular model, and depriving the car buying public of a cool machine. And actually if the whole brand of Suzuki.

Marty Densch
Marty Densch
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

What’s your objection? Ford may have had imported cars in mind when developing the Falcon but it was more in response to domestic compacts like the Rambler American and Studebaker Lark. The Falcon was a compact like the Rambler, the Corvair, and the Valiant. The Pinto and the imports is was aimed at were subcompacts. Even if we allow that the Falcon was in response to the Beetle, ten years later the Beetle was more popular than ever and Ford still felt it had to have a product to compete against it. That was, in fact “the original goal” in developing the Pinto.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Marty Densch

My objection was that it’s not for Ford to have a car at all to compete against the Beetle, because they already had a car that did.

How is a subcompact a better competitor to the (compact) Beetle than a compact?

Marty Densch
Marty Densch
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The Beetle was a compact?? It was a full 20 inches shorter than the Falcon in 1960. It may have been called a compact because the term subcompact hadn’t been coined yet but it was much smaller than any American compact. By the time the Pinto came out the Falcon was not only on its way out the name had been applied to a stripped down version of the Fairlane/Torino so it wasn’t even a compact any more.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

The Falcon was a compact, the Pinto was a subcompact, it was Ford stretching further down market for a more direct Beetle rival, since, as well as the Falcon sold, it hadn’t done a thing to dent VW’s rising sales and market share all through the ’60s, being significantly larger at a comparable price wasn’t enough, they needed something in the same size class (and also had to have something to rival GM, AMC, and Chrysler who all had their own subcompacts on the schedule for the early ’70s).

The Maverick was the replacement for the Falcon in North America, the Pinto was a range extension with no prior equivalent.

Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
3 months ago

I can’t believe you didn’t mention the most craptastic use of the 2.3L: the Mustang II.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan Pritts

I’d say the 2.3-equipped Foxbodys, significantly larger and heavier, were a much more craptastic use.

Dan Pritts
Dan Pritts
3 months ago
Reply to  Rust Buckets

Hmm. You certainly have a point that that is a wars application of the engine.

But the Mustang two was so spectacularly crappy. Not so much really standing on its own; I owned one, and it was not that terrible compared to cars of similar vintage. But calling it a mustang?

Fordlover1983
Fordlover1983
3 months ago
Reply to  Dan Pritts

It kept the Mustang name alive! Continuous production since 65 (or 64 1/2!). There were similar arguments when the New Charger (Magnum sedan) came out. But, at the end of the day, the customers don’t get to assign the nameplates, that’s for the manufacturers to decide!

And, then there’s a whole new can of worms with the Mustang Mach-E!

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
3 months ago

I would buy a Pinto Cruising Wagon with a 2.3 and a 4-speed tomorrow, if I could find a nice one.

Hondaimpbmw 12
Hondaimpbmw 12
3 months ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

I’ve told this story before; a graphic artist I worked with for a minute in the 70s claimed he developed the idea for the cruiser Pinto w/ the bubble windows and showed it to managers at the Ford San Jose Assembly plant. They liked it and Ford started producing it.

I have no idea how true the story is, but that’s the way I heard it. 😉

MARK FISHER
MARK FISHER
3 months ago

My first car…..with leaky valve guides (=billowing smoke), a crapped out clutch that was more of an on-off switch (did learn to drive a clutch well, though), incredible body rot, and completely ruined brakes, calipers and wheel bearings. Definitely the worst car I’ve ever driven and my family had a ’76 Chevette.

Brunsworks
Brunsworks
3 months ago

I get that it’s not as unsafe as it’s made out to be. But every example I’ve ever ridden in seemed to channel the noise of that underrated engine right into the cabin. Honestly, modern carmakers would probably envy it, except that the Pinto’s stock four-banger just…droned.

Flyingstitch
Flyingstitch
3 months ago
Reply to  Brunsworks

There was a senior citizen in our neighborhood who drove one, and you always heard her coming; it was unmistakable. We never knew her name. She was just “the lady in the white Pinto.”

Chronometric
Chronometric
3 months ago
Reply to  Brunsworks

The 2.3 is indestructible. And so harsh that at some point you wish it weren’t.

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
3 months ago

In the mid-80s I took a Pinto in on a trade for a very nice 1961 Mercury I was selling. It was a white mini Country Squire wagon with the 2.3 and manual trans. The rear main seal was toast and the clutch was weak. I allowed them $200 on the trade. I kept it for over 3 years after repairing it as a parts chaser and sold it for $1,500.

CivoLee
CivoLee
3 months ago

As the corporate memos from the early years of my last (and so far, longest-lasting, which is not to say there was anything but entropy keeping me there) job, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

It doesn’t exactly help that possibly one of the more publicized Pinto crashes involved the deaths of three young women, two of whom were instantly immolated and the third succumbing to severe burns hours later.

The (sad, when all things are considered) truth is that the kind of Americans that insist on buying domestic when there are better imported alternatives just don’t like small cars. They represent compromise and frugality, things that stand in direct opposition to what being an American means to them. They’d rather buy a larger, “better” used car or (nowdays) stretch out the payments over nearly a decade to buy one new. Plus, domestic manufacturers prefer it that way so they don’t need to try to squeeze tiny margins out of vehicles that that part of the market wants to be sold at a cost that’s close to what it is to make them (so now they don’t even bother).

The above case, along with the “Pinto Memo” (it’s not hard to make the jump from reading that Ford execs seemingly didn’t care about people being decapitated to thinking they didn’t care about people being burned alive either) made the Pinto the perfect whipping boy.

Last edited 3 months ago by CivoLee
Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
3 months ago
Reply to  CivoLee

The Pinto Memo was actually written to NHTSA regarding proposed changes to rear fuel system integrity regulations and their costs to the entire industry, not just Ford, and used the NHTSA’s own figures that the agency used themselves in evaluating cost/benefit for new safety regulations.

At the time Ford started development work on the Pinto, there was no regulation for rear impact fuel system integrity, that had been considered, but left out of the first version of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, which became effective in 1968, although rules for integrity in front impacts were in there. However, everyone knew NHTSA was going to add a regulation in that area at some point, and it was most likely going to be one of three options, a 20mph moving barrier test standard, a tougher 20mph fixed barrier test, or a 30mph moving barrier. Ford decided the 20mph moving barrier was the most likely one that would be picked, and decided to design the Pinto to the 20mph moving barrier proposal, and announced that all their cars would voluntarily comply with that standard by 1973, regardless of whether NHTSA implemented anything or not.

However, the very same month Pinto production started in 1970, NHTSA announced their preference for the 20mph fixed barrier standard and moved forward with rulemaking, while allowing industry commentary. Ford submitted that memo as part of that, they had already designed the car around the 20mph moving barrier standard, it had only just gone into production, and they were already working on redesigning all their other vehicles to meet it, and were actually ahead of the rest of the industry on improving fuel system integrity in rear impacts.

Ford estimated it would cost the entire US auto industry $137 million ($952 million today), and the benefit to society, using the dollar value NHTSA created themselves for deaths and injuries, would be $49.5 million ($343.8 million today). The agency routinely used that dollar value themselves internally when deciding to implement or not implement different regulations, so Ford was trying to use their own lingo, as it were.

Reporting on the memo was distorted to make it seem as though Ford was only referring to themselves, not the whole US auto industry, and only to the Pinto, not to all cars and light trucks sold in the US every year, and also made it seem like Ford had calculated the “value” of deaths and injuries themselves, when NHTSA actually had, and that Ford had created the practice of using costs of deaths vs costs of regulations and weighing them, when that was actually something NHTSA had been doing all along

Last edited 3 months ago by Ranwhenparked
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
3 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

How dare you undermine our righteous outrage!

After having certain articles of faith/common knowledge ‘facts’ turn out to not be years ago, I often check* stuff, but this was landscape-level as I was growing up and I never thought to. So, thank you.

*’Anything which confirms one’s biases needs to be carefully checked—then checked again!’

Robert Stanley McLaughlin
Robert Stanley McLaughlin
3 months ago

I owed two Pintos at the same time. A 1980 Baby blue automatic with every feature, and a 1978 Red stick as barebones as imaginable. Made payments on the 1980, got the 1978 for $75. I spent a lot of time under the hood and chassis of the red car. I liked how solid and understandable it was mechanically. It felt simple compared to the Beetle. But the ride was a horror. Every single crack jolted the Pinto.

Jeff Grimmett
Jeff Grimmett
3 months ago

Was it a rubbish car? It was a rubbish car. But the hate it received was in no related to that.

Had two, blew one up and the other was extra rubbish since some bozo had swapped out engines with a v8 at some point and totally traumatized the drive chain (and the shifter hump). Were they great? No. Were they rubbish? Yes. Were they better than an AMC Gremlin? Also yes. Was it better than a Chevette? Also yes. Was it better than a Vega? The debate is still raging.

We did what we had to to get from Point A to Point B and sometimes that involved rubbish cars. We’re not proud but we really wish everyone would move the eff along and concentrate on whether Corvairs actually premeditated murder or were just, you know, cars.

Diana Slyter
Diana Slyter
3 months ago

The Postal Service had much better experience with the Pinto, it was reputed to have the lowest repair costs of any vehicle in their fleet. Pintos were so popular that a couple of the workers at the Vehicle Maintenance Facility I worked out of bought used ones and were still driving them in the mid ’90s. For all I know they may still be running, my Pinto driving co-workers retired before their Pintos!

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
3 months ago

Why is there a mannequin in the passenger seat? Is that so she can drive in the HOV lane? Crash test dummy?

Beached Wail
Beached Wail
3 months ago

When the Pinto was introduced, my hometown Ford dealer thought it would be a good idea to put a new VW Beetle in the showroom next to the Pinto. The difference in material quality, build quality, and seat comfort probably sold a few Beetles that week.

The sales guy did give me one of the Pinto key souvenirs (top-left of the “Cut-Out Pinto Brochure” illustration) which was pretty cool. Probably the last auto souvenir made that included a plug-gap feeler gauge. Car maintenance was a bit more hands-on in the ’70s.

Mpphoto
Mpphoto
3 months ago
Reply to  Beached Wail

I actually have one of those keys. I was photographing the house of a friend’s neighbor who had passed away. I had heard many stories about him, but never met him. Each room was amazingly decorated with a theme, and his sister wanted photographs of the rooms as a memory of how he had decorated them. There was a Japanese room, a room with trains and cars, etc. After the memorial celebration and I was done with the photos, she said to let her know if I wanted any of the items in the house. I showed her this Ford Pinto key I found on a peg board in the basement. This fellow was a mechanic. I told the story of how my parents had a Pinto when I was a baby, and when they replaced it with a Chevy Citation, I’d cry when they would try to put me in the Citation. Baby me knew the Citation would be a bad car. So I have this Pinto key to remind me of my childhood and the fellow who passed away.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
3 months ago

My dad had a very clean ’72 with the 1.6 and a 4 speed manual, and the small bumpers. It was a perfectly fine car. and liked the looks, bu it had one of the highest cowls I’ve ever experienced. My mom had to sit on two cushions to see over the dash. Very little rear room too.

FlyingMonstera
FlyingMonstera
3 months ago

That’s my main Pinto memory – sitting in the back of one being taken to see Star Wars for a 7th birthday party and having a feeling of claustrophobia not repeated until the Toyota CHR over 40 years later.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
3 months ago

My first car was a Mercury Bobcat. I didn’t choose it, Dad did.
I never let Dad choose again.

Last edited 3 months ago by Michael Beranek
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