Sunday, April 7, 2013

5k: Shooting Brake Horsey; 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon

Ford's little '70s horse-themed compact has gotten more than its fair share of flak over the years, some deserved, some exaggerated. While a few rear-end collisions resulted in fiery wrecks, apparently the numbers were far less than popularly believed. A report called The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case might make us realize that although the Pinto may have been a crappy econo-box it wasn't drastically less safe than anything coming out of GM, Chrysler or AMC at the time. With that in mind, since we're all about budget-minded rides here at DT...we ask you to consider this two-door wagon as an American alternative to the Volvo 1800ES. Sure it may not have the Volvo's legendary solidity or durability, but the basic specs are all comparable and the price is drastically less than what a decent ES goes for. Find this 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon for $3499, deep in the heart of Silicon Vally, listed here on craigslist in Palo Alto, CA. Thanks to Kaibeezy for the tip!

We know, we know...blasphemy! How could we compare the lowly, should-have-never-been-born Pinto to that great quirky Swedish icon of style and substance, the Volvo 1800ES? Firstly, let's just be clear that we do not place these cars in the same league. If you want something that will only appreciate in value, looks unique but great from any angle, will run forever and will be about as reliable as a 15 year old used an 1800ES. If you don't have the $7k to $15k for one of those but still want a unique little two-door wagon...a Pinto might fit the bill nicely.

For literally half the price of the cheapest decent driver-quality 1800ES we've seen recently, this little white pony seems like it might be a bargain if it runs as good as it looks. This is a rear wheel drive, 5-speed manual transmission, 4-cylinder, 2-door wagon with disc brakes and a solid rear axle, and it was made in the early '70s. Just like the Volvo! It has a 2.0L engine as well, but will be down on power at only about 100 bhp. This one's been upgraded with electronic ignition so expect easier starting, smoother idling and less maintenance than the original points system could provide.

This car has a cool hot roddy nose-down stance, and more modern Fox body Mustang alloy wheels. Surprisingly this white wagon wears them well, so well that they almost look like they could have been a factory option. Plus, being a '72 this is an earlier pre-facelift Pinto so it actually looks pretty decent in the styling's no looker, but the proportions are good and it is far from the hideous post-'74 mess that it became with the giant bumpers, square headlights and Chevette-style sloping nose.

The seller only gives us two interior shots, but from what we can see the blue and fake wood materials look very well kept...almost new...eerily nice for a Pinto! The little gaily-prancing horsey might bring the upmarket "Pony interior" in early Mustangs to mind, and maybe that was the point. In any case, this is far less hideous than what typically comes to mind when someone mentions a '70s economy car interior with pleated vinyl and faux burl.

The back seat looks livable, and not unlike the Volvo 1800ES as well; it's got two bucketed areas and is meant for two passengers only. We're not sure if this folds flat to extend the cargo compartment forward like in the ES, but that would be nice. A little compact wagon or hatchback can be a surprisingly utilitarian vehicle for someone who needs to haul stuff but still wants that small-car driving experience. But the leaf-spring rear suspension isn't as well controlled as a nice 4-link / coil sprung design like Volvo designed so it may be a bit more trucky in the ride & handling department. If this were ours we'd look into rear suspension options and upgrade to a later 2.3L OHC turbo Lima engine, as found in the SVO Mustang and Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.

So what say you, DT this Pinto just a wannabe shooting brake and not worthy of even being mentioned in the same paragraph as an 1800ES? Or is it close enough to warrant a closer look at $3499? You tell us!

Find a cheaper alternative beach wagon? Email us here:


  1. I like the look. Also agree with the turbo 2.3 upgrade as a nifty swap, as well. My biggest gripe with the pinto, other than the fact that they rust out easily and the whole blazing inferno thing, is the ride. They really do have a shopping-cart-like suspension that makes my '87 Chevy Sprint seem like a Lexus LS400.

  2. A comparison to the Volvo ES is interesting from a marketing standpoint. Ford sold 800,000 Pintos in various forms in the first 2 years of production. Volvo produced 8,000 ES wagons in 2 years. 3.1 Million Pintos were sold during the total production run. I have owned several in the early seventies. They were all awful with terrible fit /finish and drivability issues. Known for years later as the 4 seater barbecue.

  3. The comparison is paining me, gents. Always on the lookout for my next 1800, DT is a several-times-a-day vice of mine since y'all always bring the shizzle. And opening the page this morning was momentarily surprising, then amusing, then dimismissive. The pinto will probably never have the same quirky, almost chic appeal of the ES but it's fun to hold my iPad up in front of me with the DT pinto pic juxtaposed next to the car in my driveway.

    1. ~ i think by 'paining me' you have understated the outright ridiculousness of the comparison. i don't hate the Pinto and i recognize some similarity but i wouldn't put a can of Alpo up against Son-of-Seabiscuit, if you get my meaning.

    2. ~ hell, if you're looking for an engine swap the B23FT w/ an M47 brings the Ford closer to parity with it's former Swedish in-law. and it will outlast the Pinto motor by a few hundred thousand miles.

  4. A '72 Pinto 2 door wagon is actually one of the cars I want to own (and modify), however, I want the Cal Cruiser option (sedan delivery with the bubble window in the rear side). In my mind's eye, it would ride on slotted mags (furthering the lost in time image), but with a turbo'd EFI 2.3, and as such would fly very much under the radar, and as has been proven by a Corona, CA HS shop teacher who ran low 10's in the 1/4, it is a VERY solid motor option(I don't want it as a drag car, just capable); mine would be set up to run the twisties as well (essentially a Mustang II front suspension).
    My wife has threatened to disown me if I follow through with my plan, but....

  5. You guys have got to be kidding me.........Didnt you read any George Santyana? I dated a girl who had a yellow '72 with contact paper wood grained paneling. These were junk and are junk. Pay me to drive it away

    1. Hi. I have a 1978 Pinto Wagon. Note: the first thing I did was "pull in" in the rear bumper, no more "swim-step"!
      Next, I lowered the car all the way around, blocks in the rear, '72 springs up front. Works great! Bonneville full moon discs all the way around, 15" rear, 14" front. All new Dunlop tires. Then came the 1987 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe! Engine with 5-speed C-5 and backed up with new 3:70 Tru Trac 9" Ford rearend! I had the C-5 rebuilt. New aftermarket Computer/ECU! ($1800 for box) All new wiring! Professionally installed. New seatcovers, door panels and new headliner! Original paint, original Phoenix car, 58,000 original miles, one owner til me.
      Front disc. Ready to complete A/C. New R134 compressor! All serpintine. Runs strong, scary fast:) Built to pull my hot rod, all set for towing. Hot rod weighs approx 2200, Pinto doesn't know it's there! Dyno'd 300# Tq, 200 hp.
      Asking $6000.00 (more than that in electrical)
      Anybody interested??? I have pictures.

  6. I had a "77 Pinto wagon with a V6 and other than occasional valve adjustments, it was a decent car. It survived my abuse and I was 18 at the time!

  7. It's kind of funny...I am the one who bought this station wagon! Love it! Doesn't have to be smogged. Runs great!

    1. Hey there Mr Anonymous Pinto Owner, welcome to the Daily Turismo.
      Please send us a note to with some details of the purchase and maybe a new pic of the car. We'll post up a note about if you don't mind. Makes for a nice followup on the original post.

      DT Editor-in-Chief.

    2. We purchased the car last May. I love this station wagon. Right now we are in the process of getting it repainted and new carpet. I will try to post some before and after when I get a chance!


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