By on September 5, 2017

1977 Ford Pinto in Colorado wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Ford sold more than three million Pintos during the 1971-1980 period, though most of those were 1974 and earlier models. By 1977, Corollas and Civics and Rabbits had taken a big bite out of Pinto sales, so these later cars are even more uncommon in junkyards than their older brethren. Not that Pintos are easy to find in your local U-Wrench-It yard; most of these cars were crushed long before the end of the 1990s.

Here’s a ’77 I spotted a few days ago in a Denver self-service yard.

1977 Ford Pinto in Colorado wrecking yard, hatchback emblem - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Before today’s Junkyard Find, we’d seen this ’72 Pinto wagon and this ’74 hatchback, and that’s it. Pinto-based Mustang IIs are easier to find these days, in fact.

1977 Ford Pinto in Colorado wrecking yard, interior - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
This one was reasonably well-optioned, with Whorehouse Red vinyl interior and automatic transmission.

1977 Ford Pinto in Colorado wrecking yard, automatic gearshift - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Speaking of Pintos with automatics, my ’68 Mercury Cyclone had a Pinto floor shifter just like this one (retrofitted after the column shifter mechanism failed and couldn’t be fixed with easy-to-find junkyard parts).

1977 Ford Pinto in Colorado wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Power came from an 89-horsepower 2.3-liter engine. In 2.5-liter form, this engine was used in Ford Rangers into our current century.

1977 Ford Pinto in Colorado wrecking yard, hatchback emblem - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The Mother Jones story Pinto Madness made the car the butt of a million “exploding rear-ended Pinto” jokes. The story was in the September 1977 issue, just in time for the new owner of today’s Junkyard Find to witness the start of the car’s even-more-rapid-than-expected value depreciation.


The ’77 Pinto was able to beat the Corolla and B210 in a hillclimb test. Which isn’t surprising, as those cars were even more miserably underpowered than the little Ford.

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30 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1977 Ford Pinto...”


  • avatar
    threeer

    Gee, Charlie Brown, I never thought it was such a bad little car…all it needed was a little love.

  • avatar
    Znueni

    I had a late 70’s factory spec “sports Pinto” model – manual trans, silver with lots of stripes and blacked out trim, reminded one of a racoon somehow. It was a great conversation starter though when people saw it – “your car doesn’t look fast – why does it have such a big spoiler in the back?” Thanks for triggering the memory!

  • avatar
    Joss

    1977 same year Voyager 1 & 2 were launched and they’re still operational!

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m exploding with excitement!

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    In high school I had a friend whose older brother had a Pinto. We gave him non-stop crap about it exploding from the slightest touch.

    My own older brother had a lime green-ish Ford Mustang II. Now that was a piece of junk that eventually got replaced by my parent’s (hand me down) ’81 Caprice (with the Chevy 3.8?).

  • avatar

    Worst car I ever drove…malaise era, detroit’s Small Cars are Cheap Cars era….and I once owned a Yugo.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I’ll give it this- up front they actually managed to integrate the 5 mph bumper and keep it reasonably decent looking.

    out back, though… well, at least you’d have a place to sit.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    I guess I’ve grown accustomed to seeing big center consoles because that automatic just sitting there looks so unfinished.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Needed a cheap runabout for a while in the late 70’s. Bought an off lease ‘fully equipped’ (A/C, auto, 8-track) Pinto wagon from a relative. Very low mileage but minimal upkeep/service. Don’t believe that it had ever been washed or had the interior cleaned out.

    It was a willing runner and took a lot of abuse. However it was the proverbial ‘million loosely packed pieces moving in approximate vicinity’. Could turn the steering wheel about 1/3 turn each way with nothing happening. Rattled like a half full jar of coins.

    Compared to the Type IV VW wagon/shooting brake that preceded it, it the Pinto felt cheap and under engineered.

    But it did stand up better to abuse than the VW.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    My primary memory of the Pinto my folks had when I was a kid is getting burned by the seat belt buckle one summer. The vinyl was almost as bad.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My first car was a 71 1.6L with a stick ($125 in 1980, with a broken axle tube). I kept it a year.

    After a 74 Fiat, I returned to Ford in a 76 Pinto sedan (2.3L, stick), which I ran for 4 years. The car in this story is cleaner than mine ever was. It was rather durable.

    Then I got an 80 Bobcat hatch (2.3L auto) which was terrible in every way. I had thought it would be romantic for my wife and I to have similar cars at the same time, but it just meant we experienced duplicate car problems.

    The Mother Jones story has long been debunked, but the myth persists to this day. As for exploding gas tanks, GM saddle tanks in its pickups were responsible for more deaths than the Pinto mess, but people only remember the Pinto.

    However, *every* company calculates the cost of failure of its products, whether anyone wants to accept that fact or not. If that cost was infinite, we wouldn’t have airplanes, medical devices, tools, or food producers.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    IIRC,
    The Ford calculation was to not replace the metal breather on top of the differential with a plastic one as a recall. The metal breather would tear the gas tank open if the Pinto was hit from the rear hard enough. The plastic breather would just shear off and not rip the gas tank open.
    So instead of recalling all Pintos and replacing the $1 part, Ford decided to just settle the claims one at a time because their calculation sad that was this was the cheaper way to go.

  • avatar
    bonehealing

    I am very surprised that this thing is reasonably rust-free. Where the hell was it stored?!

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Too bad for the exploding gas tanks, these things were pretty sweet at the time they came out.

  • avatar
    healthy skeptic

    >> Pinto-based Mustang IIs….

    *shudder*

    That sounds like a Malaise-era Frankenstein.

  • avatar
    mncarguy

    My wife had an early 70’s Pinto. We were living in SW Wisconsin, which has lots of hills. With 4 people in the car and the A/C on, it barely made it up the hills. Other than that, it wasn’t a bad car. Of course, this was before we knew about the unprotected gas tanks.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Cool to see a old version of the Lima there, same basic unit as what’s in my ’97 Ranger. Not the most powerful or most thrilling thing to drive, but dead nuts reliable and rather “industrial” overall, in fact my brother has worked on a few boom lifts with Lima motors!

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    In the mid-1970’s I carpooled to work with a co-worker who lived in my neighborhood. One week we went in my car, a 1969 LeMans and the next week in his 1974 Pinto. If Pinto made a brougham edition, this was it. It was loaded with a deluxe interior consisting of upgraded bucket seats and thick carpeting. It had AC, an AM/FM radio with 8 track and even a factory sun roof.

    Still it was just a Pinto, and rode like one. I was always fearful of rear-end collisions when riding. We would sometimes have to slow down suddenly in freeway traffic. I kept my hand on the door handle and looked over my shoulder at those times.

  • avatar
    gkhize

    The belief that the Mustang II was Pinto based is way overblown. The Pinto based platform was used as a measuring stick of sorts for shrinking the car down, but beyond that the only actual Pinto part in the II was a piece of the subframe. Switchgear and other such bolt-ons were of course shared with all Fords of the time.

    I do know from first-hand experience though that the II had plenty of issues regardless of its pedigree. I had a ’76 Mach 1 with a 4 cylinder and a 4 speed. (I kid you not!) Looked nice standing still be couldn’t get out of its own way. Beyond rusting quarters and rocker panels, my II ate the 4-speed synchronizers and for an encore spit a rod out the side of the 4 banger. Following a 289/C4 transplant the thing actually ran pretty well.

    In spite of all of the trouble I had, I still wish I could find a decent one around somewhere. In the end I think the biggest flaw of the Pinto and the II was simply being born in the ’70s when everything built had more than its fair share of issues.

  • avatar

    The original 1964 1/2 Mustang had much more in common with the Falcon than the Mustang II did with the Pinto. I think there was one piece of the floor pan that was carried over.

    By the way, I ran into Howard “Buck” Mook at a car show recently where he was showing his immaculate Avanti. He did the exterior styling on the Mustang II and he’s still not ashamed of it.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/john-clor-buck-mook-and-howard-payne-are-not-at-all-ashamed-of-the-mustang-ii/

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    My wife says she married me for my money. And I say I married her so I could get rid of her Pinto.(The money and the Pinto are now long gone). A 4-speed with no centering spring in the mechanism between 1-2 and 3-4. Burnt oil by the gallon. Had to do a number of MacGyver fixes to get it through Maryland’s safety checklist. It was missing dash lights because the base for the lights was crumbling and the turn signals wouldn’t auto cancel.

  • avatar
    tbp0701

    The first car I had with a manual transmission was a Pinto, bought for what some people spend now on a couple fill ups of an SUV. For all its faults it was great to learn manual, as no one dared tailgate it. A couple times I would catch a glimpse of a horrified face in the rearview mirror if I rolled a little backwards after stopping on a hill. This scene from Top Secret probably helped: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9GGDOUDLhc

  • avatar
    flyf2d

    Fun fact. The deepest part of the oil pan on the Pinto is at the opposite end to the Cortina 2.0L OHC but they are the same block.
    It meant you could make a Ford Escort MKI or II RS 2000 replica without having to drop the cross member when getting the engine out.
    As the Pinto was never sold new in NZ in those pre internet days you had to get someone travelling to the US to visit a junkyard and bring one back.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Ronnie–It was not only that the Mustang II was related to a Pinto but that it was typical Malaise Era junk. The styling was not as bad as the car itself which was horrid. Nothing to do with Mr. Mook but with Ford itself. The 77 Accord my wife had for over 17 years was light years ahead of the Pinto and Vega even though it had points instead of an electronic ignition and a manual choke–at least they worked flawlessly. Fit, finish, and handling of those early Accords was fantastic for that time.

    The body on this Pinto does not look that bad but the interior is well worn. Some people collect these old Pintos as well as Gremlins. Not a real good era for cars.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Ronnie–It was not only that the Mustang II was related to a Pinto but that it was typical Malaise Era junk. The styling was not as bad as the car itself which was horrid. Nothing to do with Mr. Mook but with Ford itself. The 77 Accord my wife had for over 17 years was light years ahead of the Pinto and Vega even though it had points instead of an electronic ignition and a manual choke–at least they worked flawlessly. Fit, finish, and handling of those early Accords was fantastic for that time.

    the body on this Pinto does not look that bad but the interior is well worn. Some people collect these old Pintos as well as Gremlins. Not a real good era for cars.

  • avatar
    Baskingshark

    Saw this on the U-Pull-&-Pay website last night. Someone snagged that left fender because in their pic it’s still there. They have a 1977 Granada at the moment too. Last time I was there, there was a ’71 Thunderbird with no engine. I have the beak-face grille on my wall right now.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    I learned to drive stick in a ’71 with a 1.6L Kent. It was the sweetest handling car I ever drove, and bone reliable.

    A friend had a ’76 with the 2.8L Cologne, a hand crank moonroof, and Craigers. We would all pile in and take the girls to the Dairy Dell for fancy ice cream cones. It was fun.


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