Ford Pinto is First Produced
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 the exterior was eventually chosen, in its entirety. This was unusual, as most cars consist of several elements, each designed by a different stylist. The clay models of the Pinto were finalized in December 1968, which is when Eidschun left Ford to join Chrysler, where he went on to design elements of the successful Dodge Charger and Plymouth Duster.
While the previously introduced Ford Maverick offered either straight-6 or V8 engine and twin bench seats, the Pinto offered an inline-4 engine, and bucket seats – more in keeping with small imports such as the Volkswagen Beetle and Toyota Corolla. Entry level Pintos were priced on launch at around $1850, which made the Pinto the cheapest Ford since the "Six" of 1958, undercutting GM's Chevrolet Vega and directly targeting imported models. Pintos were manufactured in St. Thomas, Ontario; Edison, New Jersey; and in Richmond, California.
Compared with imports, seating was very low to the floor. Styling somewhat resembled the larger Ford Maverick in grille and tail light themes, but had a smooth fastback profile. Body styles included a two-door coupé with a conventional trunk, a three-door hatchback called the Runabout, a two-door station wagon, and the Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon, produced from 1977 to 1980 and styled to resemble a small conversion van (very much the trend in the late 1970s) complete with a round "bubble window" in the side panels. There was even a top-of-the-line Pinto Squire, which had faux wood sides like the flagship Ford Country Squire. There were appearance packages, but never a factory performance package similar to the Cosworth Vega or the 304 V8 Gremlin X.
The car's mechanical design was conventional, with unibody construction, a longitudinally-mounted engine in front driving the rear wheels through either a manual or automatic transmission and live axle rear end. Suspension was by unequal length control arms with coil springs at the front and the live axle rear was suspended on leaf springs. The rack and pinion steering had optional power assist, as did the brakes.
Road & Track faulted the suspension and standard drum brakes, calling the latter a "serious deficiency," but they praised the proven 1.6 L Kent engine, adapted from European Fords. The larger 2300 inline- found in the Chevrolet Vega was an innovative, brand new design using an aluminum alloy block and iron head, the engine needed more development work as initially released. Consumer Reports rated the 1971 Pinto below the Vega but above the Gremlin.
The Pinto would be later complemented by the German built, smaller front-wheel-drive Ford Fiesta, and formally replaced by the Escort for the 1981 model year.
The Ford Pinto was a compact car manufactured by the Ford Motor Company. The car's design began in 1968 under the direction of Ford executive Lee Iacocca. It was first introduced in 1971, and was built through the 1980 model year. Like many Ford cars, it had a "twin": in the Pinto's case, the Mercury Bobcat.
Body styles included a 2-door sedan, a three-door hatchback, a two-door station wagon, and the Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon, produced 1977-1980 and styled to resemble a tiny van conversion (very much the trend in the late 1970s) complete with a round "bubble window" in the sheet-metal side panels.
The car's design was conventional, with unibody construction, a longitudinally-mounted engine in front driving the rear wheels through either a manual or automatic transmission and live axle rear end. Suspension was by unequal length A-arms with coil springs at the front and the live axle rear was suspended on leaf springs. The rack and pinion steering had optional power assist, as did the brakes.
Road & Track faulted the suspension and standard drum brakes, calling the latter a "serious deficiency". But they praised the 1.6 L Kent engine, especially compared to the much-larger 2300 found in archrival Chevrolet's Vega.
Original engines included a British-built 1.6 L pushrod straight-4 and a German-built 2.0 L SOHC straight-4. In 1974, the 1.6 L powerplant was dropped and a new 2.3 L engine became available; a 2.8 L V6 was available from 1975.