The Pinto was Ford's answer to the growing popularity of the Japanese imports. CEO of Ford Lee Iacocca wanted a 1971 model that weighed less than 2,000 pounds cost less than $2,000. A team of stylists at Ford was assigned to design the new compact - rather than use the European Ford Escort.
Robert Eidschun's design of the exterior theme was eventually chosen in its entirety. The clay models of the Pinto were finalized in December 1968
after which Eidschun left Ford to join Chrysler, as a studio Design Manager. Ford North America's decision to create an all-new vehicle instead of integrating a design from international corporate resources paralleled GM North America's approach when creating the Chevrolet Vega - opting not to use the established Vauxhall Viva/Opel Kadett marketed at the time at GM dealerships in Canada, and USA Buick dealerships from 1967
Designers working on products intended for North America had more freedom with exterior dimensions and engine sizes in relation to Japanese counterparts, where those criteria were dictated by Japanese government regulations. Typically, Detroit manufacturers created products that emulated import aspects with market-driven improvements.
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, available since 1949, the Toyota Corolla, introduced to North America March 1968, and the newly introduced Datsun 1200 which appeared in 1970
. Compared with imports, seating was low to the floor. Styling somewhat resembled the larger Ford Maverick in grille and tail light themes, but with a fastback profile.
The Pinto V6 Wagon
In its day, the Pinto wagon was hot property. Regardless of how the car is judged today, back in the early 1970s the Pinto’s compact exterior dimensions combined with generous cargo space, stylish good looks, plus a long option list made it popular in the Ford showrooms, the public obviously liking the ability to tailor it to their individual requirements.
But if the Pinto wagon had one major failing, it was it's lack of power. Especially with automatic transmission, the overhead-cam 4-cylinder engine didn’t have enough reserve horsepower to cope with the wagon's heavier body (200 lb more than the sedan and runabout) or its 900-lb load-carrying potential. This was addressed in 1975
, Ford remedying this one weak link in an otherwise strong design by making the 2.8-liter V6 an option. It was previously available only in the Capri
and Mustang II. Initially, the V6 was offered only in the wagon and only with automatic transmission. At the time Ford cited a lack of V6 engines as the reason why the 4-speed wasn't being offered and why the sedan and runabout did not get the larger engine straight up.
Ford had planned for this eventuality by designing the structural changes needed by the V6 wagon into all 1975 Pintos. Necessary modifications included pulling back and re-contouring the inner wheel-well panels for side clearance and bowing the radiator yoke forward for additional space at the front of the engine compartment. In addition, upper control arms and spindles were redesigned for strength as well as improved ride considerations and the frame rails were reshaped slightly. The V6 package weighed about 150 lb more than a 1974
Pinto wagon with 4-cylinder and automatic, the engine accounting for 107 lb of this increase and the chassis modifications, larger axle (8-in. vs 63/4 in.) and wider tires (BR78-13 vs A78-13) contributing the rest.
To compensate for this added weight, the entire chassis was rebalanced with stiffer springs front and rear and re-valved shocks. Radial tires were standard not only on the V6 wagon but all 1975
Pintos. One of the major complaints about the Pinto was the excessive braking effort required - 75 lb for a 1/2-g stop - and the slowness of the rack-and-pinion steering. Ford corrected both deficiencies in 1975
: power-assisted steering and brakes were optional for the first time in Pintos. Few could make a case to leave them off the sedan, but on the V6 wagon they should have been mandatory. The cost of both options was around US$150 – and probably not a bad investment at trade in time too.
was also the second year in a row that the Pinto chassis was upgraded. In 1974
it was because of the Mustang II, and in 1975
because of the V6. Motoring journalists were unanimous in their claims that the Pinto was a much better car for the changes. The ride and handling over anything but smooth roads still wasn't very sophisticated but now the car had a solid feel missing in previous models. The 6-cylinder engine was something of a mixed blessing. The V6 wagon was quicker but it lacked the improvement most expected. That was probably thanks to the power-robbing automatic transmission and the additional weight (the 4 speed manual was not available at the cars release).
Ford claimed that the V6’s fuel consumption was 3-4 mpg higher, but if you frequently loaded the wagon close to maximum capacity, fuel economy of the V6 would quickly better that of the 4-cylinder, simply because you didn't have to drive the V-6 as hard. If fuel consumption was your priority – you really needed to determine what you were using the car for. If automatic transmission was a must then the V6 was the only way to go. The 4-cyl with automatic was gutless.