The Ford Pinto was Ford Motor Company's first domestic North American subcompact automobile marketed beginning on September 11, 1970. It competed with the AMC Gremlin and Chevrolet Vega, along with imports from makes such as Volkwagen, Datsun and Toyota. The Pinto was popular in sales, with 100,000 units delivered by January 1971, and was also offered as wagon and Runabout hatchback. Its reputation suffered over time, especially from a controversy surrounding the safety of its gas tank.
Its 10-year production run outlasted the Vega through the 1980 model year, when 68,179 were built. It and the smaller Ford Fiesta were replaced by the front wheel drive Ford Escort. The rebadged Lincoln-Mercury version, the Mercury Bobcat debuted in Canada in 1974, and subsequently in the U.S. in 1975.
US automakers had first countered imports such as the Volkwagen with compact cars such as the Falcon, Corvair and Dart. These cars had six cylinder engines, but actually defined a larger class of vehicles. As the popularity of smaller imports such as the Volkswagen and Japanese makes such as Toyota and Datsun increased throughout the 1960s, Ford first responded by the Ford Cortina from its British line as a captive import. But US automakers soon developed their own new class of "subcompacts", though many of them would be classified as "compact" today.
The AMC Gremlin was the first to arrive on the market on April 1, 1970, six months before the Pinto. The Chevrolet Vega was introduced the day before the Pinto, September 10, 1970. Both the Pinto and the Vega were new, but the Pinto used powertrains proven in Europe, while the Vega's innovative aluminum engine would prove troublesome. The Gremlin was designed around a six-cylinder engine, and was derived largely by truncating the rear body from the compact-class AMC Hornet to achieve its short length.
A team of stylists at Ford was assigned to design the Pinto's exterior and interior. However, Robert Eidschun's design of th...