Thursday, April 30, 2020

Danville Street Sighting - 1974 Ford Pinto Squire Wagon

I seem to have a 1970s theme going on with my last couple of posts, so why not carry it on with another earth-toned disco era beastie? This one's the fifth Ford Pinto to appear on California Streets, but it's the first Squire station wagon that wasn't found in a junkyard.

In the interest of full disclosure, you'll see a road closed sign in the photos. There was a car show just up the street that day. But this car was sitting on open public roadway. The white Datsun parked behind it will get a post of its own one of these days. I've been wanting to feature a Pinto Squire ever since I shot that first orange wagon in San Francisco 7 or 8 years ago.

The Pinto Squire was regarded as the most luxurious trim level of Ford's cheapest station wagon offering. It received its own special Luxury Decor Group interior trimmings and cargo lamp, Squire badging and the trademark "rich woodgrain vinyl paneling" on the sides and rear hatch. Like all Squires made after 1953, there is no actual wood trim. You got molded fiberglass outlines (or as the actual owner of this car helpfully added, on this car they are aluminum with their own wood-finish applique) and a swath of printed woodgrain. The rest of the vehicle was the same Pinto Wagon economy car that held 60 cubic feet of whatever you cared to put in it, plus whatever you cared to strap onto the optional roof rack. This was the best sales year for the Pinto, with an astounding 544,000 cars sold in 1974. I know it's apples to oranges, but that kind of number today would have made it the #4 best selling passenger vehicle in the U.S behind the Big Three fullsize pickups. Yes, it was a cheap car and that probably has something to do with its popularity. I'm sure the 1973 OPEC oil embargo was a major factor. A 1974 Pinto Squire cost $2,771 new according to NADA Guides, equivalent to $14,507 in 2020. That price is about where a 2020 Nissan Versa begins. Both models were marketed for their value, compact size and useful interior space. Versa sold about 66,000 units last year in the U.S. I think I'd rather have a Pinto.

This Pinto looks like a survivor for the most part. The body and paint are still in good shape barring that one primered replacement fender and a gouge in the driver's door from a past accident. I'm not sure if the color is Medium Brown Metallic or Tan Glow. The woodgrain is shot. The beauty of it is, when the vinyl applique dries out and fades and cracks like this one, you can just buy a new reproduction roll of the stuff. Unscrew the aluminum "wood" borders, peel or scrape the old vinyl off and stick the new one on. As long as the border trims are still good. I was unable to find anything about reproduction parts for that.

This car has the optional 2.3 liter 4-cylinder engine with a four-speed manual transmission. Interior is likely vinyl since the upholstery looks almost perfect for being 45-plus years old. The rearview mirror was sitting loose in a dashboard cubby and the dash pad was in good shape aside from a small hole. It still has the factory Philco AM radio. I like the vintage bumper sticker for the Montgomery Ward Auto Club, offering emergency roadside assistance and whose "H.O.T. Car" program ("Hands Off This Car") was supposed to act as a theft deterrent. Montgomery Ward was a department store chain that went defunct in 2001, but in the mid-1980s their Auto Club was one of the largest in the nation with some 1.5 million members. (Incidentally, Wards exists today as an online mail-order business.) I'm about 95% certain the Reagan-Bush '84 bumper sticker is a modern addition since replicas are widely available online.

I still really like the Pinto Squire wagon as a classic in-town runabout. If that's what you mainly use it for, and not so much doing battle with soccer moms in full-size SUVs on the interstate, I'm sure it's a perfect little car. And being a '74, it has the giant federal crash bumpers so you don't have to worry about parking. This one is still plenty solid and deserves a reconditioning.

Photographed August 2019

3 comments:

  1. I currently own this vehicle. Purchased just after these were taken. The trim pieces are all aluminum not fiberglass as mentioned but the article is wonderful and appreciated!

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    1. Thanks for the heads up! I don't know how I missed that those are aluminum. You can even see it in the photos that they are metal. I always just assumed they were fiberglass.

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  2. I have just bought it and had it shipped to New Zealand, haven't seen it yet but it arrived at the port this morning....

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