Junkyard Find: 1974 Ford Pinto

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1974 ford pinto

There was a time, let’s say in the late 1980s, when the quantity of Pintos in junkyards went from “glut” to “famine,” as if a switch was flipped and all the Pintos just disappeared. The same thing happened with the early Hyundai Excel, too, only they lived, died, and got scrapped within a five-year period versus the 10-to-15-year period for the Pinto. Still, every so often I find a lone Pinto that hung on an extra couple of decades before getting junked. For example, this tan ’74 that showed up in a Denver self-service yard last month.

This car has all the hallmarks of long-term outdoor storage in Colorado, including completely obliterated upholstery and much-faded paint.

It appears to have been damaged and then Bondo’d in its early career.

This engine family had an exceptionally long run, making it into the 21st century.

In spite of all the legends about “exploding Pintos,” these cars really didn’t suffer from fuel tank fires much more often than other rear-drive vehicles with the gas tank between the rear axle and the bumper (i.e., just about every single vehicle sold by Detroit at the time). The problem was the infamous “ Ford Pinto Memo,” which resulted in Ford taking a couple of big public-relations black eyes by appearing not to care about Pinto passengers getting burned to a crisp. Next thing you know, everybody knows someone who knows someone who died in a Pinto explosion.

I spent a lot of my teen years riding in Pintos, this being one of the most popular hand-me-down cars given to my peers by cheapskate parents in the early 1980s, and at least I can say it was better than the wretched Chevy Vega.







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  • Bumpy ii Bumpy ii on Mar 10, 2012

    Ah, yet another domestic tragedy that informed my youth. My dad had a forest green Pinto for a few years in the '80s. My memories of it revolve around how much of a torture chamber the interior was in the warmer months. The vinyl seats were awful, the whole car was an oven in sunlight, and I burned my hand on the seat belt buckle one summer day. A pregnant deer sacrificed itself one morning to send that car to hell.

    • Moparman426W Moparman426W on Mar 10, 2012

      And your point is? Any car with vinyl seats and no a/c is going to be one hot ride. No?

  • Danwat1234 Danwat1234 on Mar 12, 2012

    Did that Pinto happen to have an overengineered XR2200 muffler bracket?

  • MelanieRichardson GOOD
  • El scotto @jwee; Sir, a great many of us believe that Musk is somewhere (pretty high) on the spectrum and move on.I work on the fringes of IT. Most of my presentations get picked over extensively and intensely at meetings. I'm smart enough to know I'm not that smart and willingly take advice from the IT crew. I bring them Duck Doughnuts too. We also keep a box of Crayolas in the meeting room.At one meeting an IT guy got way into the details of my presentation, the meeting went long as we discussed my target audience. Same IT guy insisted it was a disaster and would fail miserable and that I was stupid. Yeah, F-boms get dropped at our meetings. I finally had enough and asked if he was such an expert, did he want to stand up in front of 30 senior executives and give the presentation? His response was a flat "NO". He got the box of Crayolas. For you non-military types that means shut up and color. Musk is the same as that IT guy, lots of gyrations but not much on follow-through. Someone just needs to hand him a box of Crayolas.
  • FreedMike The FJ Cruiser would be a better comeback candidate. The gang back at Toyota HQ must be looking at all those Broncos flying off Ford lots and kicking themselves.
  • Tassos 2015 was only 7 years ago. $58k is still a whole lot of $ to pay for a vehicle. FOrtunately one can buy a flagship vehicle with great active and passive safety for half this amount, if one does the SMART thing and buys a pre-owned luxury flagship vehicle. they have historically been SCREAMING BARGAINS. A breadvan on stilts SUV, wether the more compact Macan or the more bloated Cayenne will never pass as a Flagship Vehicle. No matter how well it drives or how reliable it suprisingly is. It still is a breadvan on stilts.
  • Sean Ohsee Bring back the 100 series and its I6 diesel.
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