Stories Told

The Pintomobile

What has been your favorite car, and why?

In the summer of 1986 my Aunt Betty offered me a job driving (and writing a payroll application) for the courier service she owned. I told her I’d love to take the job but her office wasn’t on a bus line so I couldn’t get to work. She said, “I have an old Ford Pinto here that you can keep for the summer. I was going to have you drive it for deliveries most of the time anyway.” And so I got what I consider to be my first car.

Me on my 1975 Ford Pinto, 1986

I drove that car from LaPorte west to Goshen, and from Plymouth north to Sturgis, Michigan, all summer running papers and small boxes to manufacturers. It was a great summer job, even though an old Pinto was neither a stylish nor, in this case, particularly reliable means of delivering anything.

In the driver\'s seat The car’s color masked the considerable side-panel rust, but body color couldn’t help that much of the frame and undercarriage had rusted too. Two of the three bolts securing the front passenger’s seat had rusted out, but my girlfriend was kind not to complain about how her seat bobbed considerably over every bump. One day I stopped to change a tire. As I cranked the jack into place against the car’s frame, the metal crumbled away. I was glad somebody who drove the car before me had left a bumper jack in the trunk.

Headlight The car had manual brakes, making stopping an adventure. I ran many just-turned-red lights rather than come to a stop somewhere mid-intersection. I also couldn’t back the car up, its reverse gear having been stripped somewhere along the way. You’d think I would have learned to always park so I could drive forward to get out, but I ended up pushing that car out of a parking spot about once a week. One client on a hill offered parking against its building. Twice, meaning I did not learn the first time, I pulled into a space only to have to push my car out later – and then chase it down the hill. Have you ever caught a 3,000-pound car by an open door and tried to climb in?

Late that summer the car’s cooling system crapped out. After every trip of more than about ten miles, the radiator spat its contents out the overflow hose and onto the ground. I carried water everywhere with me until Betty finally put her in the shop for repair.

Still, I really enjoyed that car and count it as my favorite. I have never had a job where I had such freedom, and my little brown 1975 Pinto represented that freedom. It was my buddy as I explored different routes to clients, stopped at the 7-11 for Big Gulps, listened to top-40 music on WLS, soaked up the sunshine all day, and got paid five bucks an hour for the privilege.

Maybe someday I’ll find an old Pinto in decent shape and have it restored.

Pinto butt

ReadMore I also wrote about the hassles of my first new car.

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20 thoughts on “The Pintomobile

  1. Heh! Maybe one day. I’d like to have one from before 1977, ideally a ’71 or ’72 with the thin blade bumpers because those looked best. I’d prefer a Runabout, since the trunk in my ’75 was about useless. And with a Runabout, I could fold down the rear seat and take my two dogs along on road trips.

  2. RoadDog says:

    My first new car as well, only a green 1973. Drove it a lot and loved the gas mileage, but mechanical difficulties got me to sell it by 1975.

    Never forget the brakes going out going down a mountain in Tennessee. That was fun.

    Cost $2200, a princely sum for me back then.

  3. My parents owned one of these back in the early eighties Jim, and me and some friends drove it on spring break to Florida my senior year in High School, and I actually brought it back home in one piece !! ;)

    Thanks for jarring some old great memories !! :)

  4. Bernie, RoadDog, thanks for your memories! I run into a lot of people who had a Pinto pass through their lives. They used to be as common as pennies.

  5. LP, the most famous of those cases happened not far from where I grew up. Three young women died. The county sued the Ford Motor Company over it.

  6. It is, however, a good looking car. Very iconic of the 70s. It’s just a shame Ford wouldn’t spend the money to make it safer until its rep was ruined. I’ve seen studies where car companies figure out what fixing a problem will cost against the likely amount of financial damages resulting from projected deaths and injuries… and if letting people die or be maimed is cheaper, that’s the way they go. :(

  7. I can remember reading on the train to work, about 15 years ago, a used copy of On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors by John DeLorean. He was running Pontiac at the time the Chevy Corvair was taking its justly-deserved criticisms, and he talked about the awful things GM did to Ralph Nader. I have to say, it was a disheartening eye-opener. But not for Ford, I guess.

  8. Alex says:

    Interesting comments on the Pinto.
    Mine is still driven every summer and gets much attention at car shows. Amazing how many families had a Pinto
    ot 2 or more. You can find my car online at fordpinto.com (search for username mintopinto71) or on Facebook group “Bring Back the Ford Pinto”.
    If you go to http://www.carcrazycentral.com and search pinto, you can read the most amazing story of my all original
    car. It gave me nearly 30 mpg (IMP) last year which really helped with long road trips to various shows.

  9. Fun to read about your ‘old car’ experiences. I have a Saturday series on cars I’ve owned, starting about three weeks ago.

  10. Brian says:

    “Maybe someday I’ll find an old Pinto in decent shape and have it restored.”

    See, sometimes you just have to let your inner crazy show through, don’t you?

    :)

    BKP

    • I’ll never forget what you said the first time I rolled up in front of your place in that car. “Um, I thought you said you got a car!”

  11. Angie says:

    I didn’t have a Pinto but in my senior year of high school, I had a Mustang II Fastback. In other words, I had a Pinto.

    I used to say it was a Pinto with delusions of grandeur, calling itself a Mustang like that.

    When I sold it, the master cylinder was going and it, too, had a habit of spewing its radiator contents onto the ground (a common occurrence, as I lived in Las Vegas and it was obviously hot most of the time). I managed to sell it to a friend for $800, even after her dad told her I was ripping her off. To be fair, I wasn’t doing it on purpose – my own dad had instructed me to list it at that price so I could bargain my way down. She just wanted a car and didn’t care about haggling.

    That was a fun car, anyway. Even with its various mechanical issues, it just kept on going.

  12. As i remember it now, I can look back and smile, but that peticular day i was not to happy-I was traveling souhtbound on 99near bakersfield ca. ( in the summer) when i had a flat tire,had 2 kids with me and our pet rat! The sad part was a “trucker man” pulled over and offered to help, thier was a small “one station town” about a mile down. There was about 15 feet of dirt on the side of the highway, so i pulled out a blanket and that’s where my kids and i waited,and waited,and waited;)after about 2 hours i realized he wasn’t coming back. I eventually got help and got it fixed we were tired, but did the best to bide our time with hangman and paper games. We had survived and were all fine—Except for, our pet rat named,hippie. You see, he was traveling in his glass cage, on the front floorboard of our pinto and it was summer near bakersfield. Whenwe were finally on our drive home, he began to jump up and down feverishly, after a few minutes he calmed down and we arrived home. Within 2 days he had a bump, the size of a boulder (and i’m referring to the large size marble, not a rock) on his underside, and died 2 days later. It wasn’t a good day,But I look back on it now and smile , it was the beginning of a new life for me and my kids, we were in the process of making arangments to move to new town.We have relived that trip many times now that the kids are grown. Your post of your pinto brought back a host of memories–jennifer

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