Home » What A Drag It Is Getting Old: 1979 Ford Pinto vs 1970 Plymouth Duster

What A Drag It Is Getting Old: 1979 Ford Pinto vs 1970 Plymouth Duster

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Good morning! On today’s Shitbox Showdown, we’re living life a quarter-mile at a time and looking at a couple of drag racers. One is ready to go, but its owner can’t get in and out of it anymore, and the other needs a powerplant before it can go anywhere.

But first, let’s check in on yesterday’s funny-looking entries. The voting was close, and the general consensus was that either one is an interesting project. It’s not that the 200SX was not worthy; it’s just – you know.

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Personally, I could more or less flip a coin and choose between the two. Yeah, that’s kind of a cop-out answer, but I’ve had a long day and I’m tired. All right fine – I’ll choose. I’ll take the Pacer.

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I’m writing this from the surprisingly nice Little America Hotel & Resort in Cheyenne, Wyoming. My wife and I are on Phase 2 of our big cross-country move, and it was a long day in the car. At one point we both definitely had a “Murtaugh moment.” Sometimes, you just have to admit that you’re getting too old for this shit. The seller of one of today’s cars comes out and says as much, and the other one strongly implies it. Are you too old for these shitboxes? Let’s take a look and see.

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1979 Ford Pinto – $5,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 350 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Phoenix, AZ

Odometer reading: unknown

Operational status: Runs and drives great, but not street legal

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The tradition of turning small economy cars into quarter-mile missiles goes way back to the beginnings of drag racing. Fiat Topolinos and Ford Anglias got chopped up by the dozens and had humongous engines shoved into them, all in the name of dragstrip glory. It stands to reason, then, that a ’70s rear-wheel-drive economy car would excel in that capacity as well.

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This little Ford Pinto has had its four-cylinder engine removed and replaced by a Chevrolet small-block and a Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic, a time-honored drag racing combination. The seller didn’t build this car, it doesn’t sound like, and so doesn’t have a whole lot of information about the engine. They do say it runs great, and “WANTS TO GOGOGO.”

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Inside, it’s gutted, of course, with nothing but a steering wheel, a bank of toggle switches, and a B&M ratchet-type shifter to occupy the driver’s attention. It also has a full roll cage, and therein lies the seller’s problem – they have a bad back, and can’t wriggle in and out of the car around the side bars. The car needs a more limber driver.

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Obviously, it’s a one-trick pony, so to speak – it’s not street-legal, so you’ll need a trailer. With some work, you could probably put it back on the road, but if you did that you’d have to procure a title for it, which isn’t necessary for a race-only car.

1970 Plymouth Duster funny car – $5,000

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Engine/drivetrain: Nothing but a rear axle

Location: Tucson, AZ

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Odometer reading: Don’t think it has one

Operational status: Strictly lawn art

I have to confess: I love funny cars. Especially the ’70s ones like this. The exaggerated proportions, the bright paint jobs, the decals on the front that look like a grille and headlights, the big slicks in back – it’s like all my favorite Hot Wheels and model kits from when I was a kid, only bigger.

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Just so we’re clear: there is no 1970 Plymouth Duster in this car. It is a custom tube chassis, wrapped in a fiberglass body. Unlike the later “flip-top” funny cars, this car’s body doesn’t lift up as one piece. It has a driver’s door, and I believe a flip-forward nose. There’s nothing under that hood at the moment; this car used to run a 440 V8 and probably a built Torqueflite automatic, but right now it’s powerless.

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It sure looks the part, with its Centerline wheels and that impossibly long front end. Look hard enough at this picture and you can almost hear that big-block crackling at idle, shaking the ground as the car lines up for a run. That is, if you look past the weeds and the broken pavers strewn about it.

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It would take just the right sort of buyer to see the potential in this car and want to return it to its dragstrip days. I know I’m not that sort of buyer; however, if I had unlimited funds and a place to put it, I’d be tempted to buy it just so I could say “I own a funny car.” Because let’s be honest – that would be cool as hell.

One of the items on my car bucket list is to take a pass down a dragstrip. I don’t even really care in what; I just want to try it. One of these is ready to try it right away, but it doesn’t quite look the part. The other one looks amazing, but it’s a long way from the starting line. Which one would you choose?

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Image credits: Craigslist sellers

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Timothy Swanson
Timothy Swanson
30 days ago

Double nope.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
30 days ago

I’ll be funny and choose to funny car…it looks better and is not a Pinto.
I just like it better even though it’s not actually a Duster. I’ll put a 440 V8 in it as mentioned and have a lot of fun at the track

Alan Christensen
Alan Christensen
30 days ago

Has the Pinto’s fuel tank been moved to a safer location?

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
30 days ago

If it’s fast enough, that’s a non-issue.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
30 days ago

I wonder, is that Duster’s wheelbase long enough to fit a Cybertruck skateboard under it?

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
30 days ago

I love little America. Don’t forget to stock up on penguin souvenirs!

S13 Sedan
S13 Sedan
30 days ago

The Duster is extremely cool but it would still be nothing but lawn art if I got it. It’s way above my skill level and budget to get it running and driving again and I’m just not into drag racing enough to want to make that project worthwhile for me.

The Pinto it is. It’s already running and driving and since Michigan has no inspections at all, I can almost certainly get plates for it and street drive it anyway.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
30 days ago
Reply to  S13 Sedan

It might make a cool pedal car…

TheDrunkenWrench
TheDrunkenWrench
30 days ago

If I’m looking at building a dedicated strip car, then I’ll take the one with almost all the fab work done for me. I’m sure even at this vintage, the funny car cage will cert for beyond what I’m willing to pilot through the beams at 1320.

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