Myth Buster

Ford Pinto

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - THIS WEEK - FORD PINTO

1 IT WAS A FIRETRAP

The Pinto be­came no­to­ri­ous for its sup­posed abil­ity to burst into flames when rear-ended, due to the fuel tank hit­ting the rear axle. In re­al­ity, it was no worse than com­pa­ra­ble ve­hi­cles and bet­ter than Ja­panese ri­vals such as the Dat­sun 1200/210 and Toy­ota Corolla. US safety cam­paigner Ralph Nader also made claims that 500-900 peo­ple were killed in Pinto fires.

2 IT WAS THE USA’s FIRST SUB-COM­PACT

The Pinto was one of the first Amer­i­can cars la­belled as a ‘sub­com­pact’, but the AMC Grem­lin beat the Pinto to the sub-com­pact crown by five months (April 1970 ver­sus Septem­ber 1970). At least Ford man­aged to trump Chevro­let – the sim­i­larly-sized Chevy Vega de­buted the day af­ter the Pinto. And there had been pre­vi­ous com­pa­ra­bly small Amer­i­can cars, such as the 1940s Crosley – but no-one had in­vented the term ‘sub-com­pact’ back then!

3 IT WAS NAMED AF­TER ITS EN­GINE

Which came first – the car or the en­gine? Ac­tu­ally, the Pinto en­gine ap­peared first, but was never of­fi­cially known as such; Ford called it var­i­ously, EAO, OHC, T88se­ries, Taunus In-Line or Lima In­Line. It was cre­ated for Euro­pean Fords, but was ex­ported over the At­lantic and into the Pinto car, thus ac­quir­ing its com­mon nick­name be­cause of that. The Ford Pinto model aped the Mus­tang by be­ing named af­ter a type of horse.

4 IT WAS THE FIRST US CAR WITH RACKAND-PINION STEER­ING

Un­be­liev­ably, this is ac­tu­ally true. What had be­come com­mon­place in Europe since the 1930s didn’t ac­tu­ally ap­pear on an Amer­i­can car un­til it was fea­tured on the 1974 Pinto. Richard Gunn It ap­pears that the Pinto’s du­bi­ous rep­u­ta­tion isn’t en­tirely de­served.

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