Friday, May 4, 2018

Danville Street Sighting - 1978 Ford Pinto Runabout

I have a completely irrational love for the Ford Pinto. At best it's a perfectly ordinary compact car that's become cool in an ironic way. At worst it's regarded by others as a rolling punchline or a rolling bomb waiting to go off. Or if you're slightly crazy, it can be a starting point for a mad little autocross car, dirt track racer or drag car.

Ford's Pinto was basic transportation for millions across North America in the 1970s, and used ones carried hundreds of thousands into the '80s and beyond. Early models gained a certain reputation for post-accident fires that tarnished the model's legacy long after the fuel tank design flaws were addressed. Later Pintos underwent a series of facelifts to keep the design fresh, with a new front end for 1977 that carried over into '78. The Pinto would receive one more facelift for '79-80 before it would be replaced by the all new '81 Escort. These later Pintos could be had with either a 2.3 liter four-cylinder or a 2.8 liter V6 (the latter of which was only available 1975-79 and often found in station wagons). At this stage buyers could select a two-door sedan with a small trunk; a Runabout hatchback as seen here; a two-door wagon (with or without "Squire" faux woodgrain side trim); or a disco-themed "Cruising Wagon" with porthole windows and colorful tape stripe body graphics.

This Pinto is firmly a product of the so-called Malaise era. Massive steel 5 mph crash bumpers adorned with black rubber strips and over-riders jut out from both ends. It's dressed up with the Jimmy Carter years' idea of American personal luxury, including wire wheel hubcaps, a partial vinyl top, contrasting vinyl rub strip inserts and matching blue vinyl upholstery. This one also features white pinstriping, bright wheel arch trim and dual body color sport mirrors. As shown in the windshield photo, it's nearly identical to the car pictured on the 1978 brochure page for the 3-door Runabout (although that car had blue pinstripes).

The URL on the rear window seems to be dead, but The Pinto Barn shop in Costa Mesa has an old Twitter account and an Instagram that referred to this little car as "Ol' Blue". It seems to have resided down in Southern California and experienced a number of adventures and shows while in the care of The Pinto Barn. Lots of pictures of this car and some videos are available on the Twitter and Instagram feed. According to their Twitter, Ol' Blue received a new or rebuilt engine and transmission in 2012 and was put up for sale a couple of times in 2013. I don't know if it ever sold or how it ended up in the Bay Area. At that time the Pinto Barn had about eight Pintos in their stable in various conditions. I'm not sure what happened to them since their social sites all stopped updating in 2014. Still, it's cool to see someone who was so passionate about keeping these often maligned cars on the road.

Photographed July 2016

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