(first posted 2/27/2011) Since the other Pinto CC is a first year 1971 model hatchback, and so epitomizes the Pinto’s beginnings, it seems appropriate to bookend the Pinto’s long run with a late-model wagon or two, especially since that wonderful late-seventies era was so colorful. These two bright little wagons are still adding cheer to our foggy days here, but sadly I haven’t yet found a retina-busting Pinto Squire or Cruising Wagon. We’ll just have to dig some out of the web, because no survey of Pinto wagons would be complete without them, but put on some shades first.
The Pinto wagon cruised into our lives one year after the coupe and hatch, in 1972. It featured a remarkable tail extension, which made the little wagon reasonably roomy in the luggage compartment. I haven’t looked it up, but I suspect that extra length made the wagons’ gas tank much less vulnerable from smacks to its hind quarters. Maybe that’s why there’s still so many on the road.
More likely, it’s because it was just a lot more practical. The Pinto coupe’s rear luggage compartment was mighty snug, given the high floor because of the live rear axle (RWD) and the fuel tank behind it. But the wagon didn’t really address the Pinto’s key packaging shortcoming, one that it shared with the Vega: both of them were designed to look more like a mini-me Mustang or Camaro, rather than a proper small car. God forbid Dearborn would have used the format of the English Ford Cortina wagon,(above) which was very like the boxy four-door wagons that Datsun and Toyota was busily filling up transport ships with.
So while the actual cargo area was reasonably roomy, the rest of the Pinto’s interior accommodations sucked. The front seating position was fine, if you wanted a to sit flat on the floor and pretend you were racing the Pinto in the SCCA B Class. The back seat was truly miserable; sorry; I should have but couldn’t bring myself to take a shot of that torture chamber. The high drive shaft tunnel actually bulged up into the seat cushion, making the center position totally unusable. There is a very good reason small cars have gotten taller and taller.
But unlike the Vega, which supernova-ed its way to a rapid demise, the Pinto soldiered along for a full decade. The gas tank problem was kept out of the public eye by Ford’s lawyers as much as possible, and other than that the Pinto didn’t suffer any serious maladies, one of the advantages to Ford’s use of tried and proven technology.
The old Kent 1.6 was never used in the wagons, and the German-built SOHC 2.0 was an adequate plant, especially so if teamed with the slick four-speed stick. Ford’s automatics were notoriously inefficient, and the 2.0 really suffered under its ability to suck up a shockingly large percentage of its power; the Leach-O-Matic.
In 1974, the Lima-built 2.3 SOHC four appeared, an engine that would be built seemingly for eternity. Looking very much like a development of the Cologne 2.0, the 2.3 would also develop a rep for Toyota-like longevity.
But as smog controls continued to sap power from the fours and the Pinto got heavier as they sprouted mega-bumpers and were more often now ordered with A/C, power steering and other luxuries of life, more help was needed from the engine room (the 2.3 was rated at 83 hp in 1975). Ford again looked to Cologne, and beginning with 1975, the 2.8 L V6 was now optional. Its horsepower vacillated as much as the hips on the disco dance floors at the time: anywhere from a whopping 103 in 1976 to a low of 90 in 1978. Hard to believe, but Ford had developed some remarkable power-sucking secret technology in the seventies.
We’ll save the two most colorful variations for last. The Pinto Squire wagon was inevitable, given how Ford was so invested in that theme. This one in red makes for a particularly harmonizing effect, no?
And the ultimate Pinto wagon is of course the illustrious Pinto Cruising Wagon. Let’s just say you had to be there, because there’s no other way to explain late seventies phenomena such as this. Sorry; can you do any better?