Vipers on Track
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Volume 20 • Number 7
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The Pinto Was the
he Ford Pinro has bee n put down and These qua lities add up ro a car that handily
mocked (sometim es deserved ly so) outclassed and outso ld its dom estic com peti
plenry of ri mes. Mocked and vilified tion and conrrib uted ro some of Ford's best
Blue Oval's Under in its da y, the lowly Pinro broke new ground
at Ford and proved ro be a better ca r than mosr
sales years. I n addition, its low weight and
easi ly modified engine provided surprising
remember. If yo u're expecting explosion jokes, abi liti es on the track.
rated Challenger in this Story wi ll disappoinr you. Now ir's time ro
ralk about the many good poinrs of Ford's first Ford's Import Fighter
answe r ro VW, Toyota, Honda and Datsun. The order For the ca r that became the Pimo
the Conlpact Banles Yes, the Pimo has good points, and quite a
few of them: a bulletprooF overhead-cam engine,
came first from Lee lacocca. When ir came to
small cars, lacocca saw the handwriring on the
optional disc brakes, nin1ble rack-and -pin ion steer wall ea rl y. Between 1962 and 1968, th e sales
of the Earlv 1910s ing and srrong, light construction For starte rs. of imported cars in the U. S. doubled, Fueled
his sma ll er ,
photo _ __ _ _ _ _ _ record time
about two 1
and COSt $ [ '
initi ally ava
The 1. 6 wa.
the famou s
BRA E goo d for ab
t h a nks to i'
LU ICATION ca tb . Reliabi
There are two basic disc brake pad had been an
designs, non-shimmed and shimmed been worke.
pads. Each pad type requires a dif
Th at's pr
ferent chemical application to with the Ge
reduce noises, ensure pl'Oper per This four- b,
formance and minimize the risk of Ford Capri.
comebacks. engi ne for rI
Non-Shimmed pads require the omycar.Ac
use of traditional Di c Brake cross Aow he
Quiet1'M (DBQ). available from Re intake and I
in polymer compound and aerosol ing. As For,
form. Simply apply the DBQ to the mainly by the engine) it "
back of the pads, let dry for 5-10 Vol kswagen Beetle and steadily po rts were r
Many people associate Lee lacocca (left) growing numbets ofToyotas and Datsuns. bolt-on desi
minutes and install pads.
with the Ford Mustang, but the Pinto laco cca insisted chat Ford wou ld need co ea rly OHC
Shimmed pads require the use of expand its ptesence in the sma ll- car marker. and a cast c
was also his baby. He saw Ford's need
e Re's Synthetic Caliper Grease He proposed an all- new subcompact, smallet 2.0-liter Pin
for an inexpensive, fuel-efficient car to
(SCG). Apply SCG to all contact hold off the imports. than the M averick a nd priced ro co mpeee w ieh freeway mar
points on the back of the pads, all Toyoea, Datsun and VW. A Weber
caliper metal-to-metal contact I n add ieion to offe ring a domestic aleerna eq uipm ent.
points and mounting hardware.
RC's SCG is a high-temp synthet
~~The ti ve CO the im pores, the new car w ould help
Fo rd meet the gover nm en t fuel- eco nomy
liter SOH C
rpm and t:
stan datd s looming on the ho rizon . A ll thi s which was
ic grea -e that does not contain
petroleum or silicone bases. It will
the car that h a rdly sounds lik e the genesis of a decent
SpOrts car, but bear with us .
Consi d er rI
h eavier Iv! (
not damage plastic or rubb T com
ponents, burn up or washout, like became the In reerospec t, ehe plan co produce a smal l and
more affordable car so unds like a no-braine r, but
silicone-based greases can. if Henry Ford II had gocren his way, the Pinto
Drum brak es also r quire lubrica Pinto came never wou ld h ave ha ppened. Mr. Ford simp ly
tion on all shoe landings, metal-to wasn' t intereseed in small ca rs and saw no reason Two trat
metal contact points and hardware. first from Lee fo r his compa ny co sell them. Case in point:
While the sales of smal l, fu el-efficient imports
m anual was
Again, CRe's Synthetic Caliper
Grease is ideal in this application
because of its high temperature
lacocca. When ba llooned co more than a m illion by 1969, the
once-sve lee Museang had eurned into a big,
heavy boulevard cruise r. Th e res t of the Ford Ameri can <;
and long lasting properties.
CRC' SCG should be used with
it came to small lineup grew similarly. Obviou sly, fuel econo m y
was th e last thing on the corporate mind.
and mod est
every di c and drum brake job
performed. Additionally eRC's
cars, lacocca lacocca persisted , though, and in the end his
scubbo rn reso lve won ou t. The Pinto received
stick was ar
Brakleen®, Disc Brake Quiet and
Synthetic Caliper Grease gener
saw the hand th e go -ah ead, wi th some c hallenging objectives.
The new car had to be a true subcompact in Rack-a
size and weight, yet wieh a mo re comforta ble The Pin
ate add-on sales with all brake
parts sold. writing on the interior and ride th an the spa rtan comp eei tion.
It had co be inexpens ive co buy, own and dri ve,
A nimble I
wall early." so fuel economy and re lia bility were paramount.
lacocca wanted a car chat weighed less tha n 2000
eeste rs fou o
pounds and would cose less than $2000. Consid although ic
e ring the cars co ming out of Dearborn in 1970, qu alities of
ie seemed like an impossible dream. Buile to
T ypicall y, in a car's journey from d rawing Pimo was
bo ard to sn eet, everyth ing goes a ll wro ng. considerec
eRe Industries, Inc. Goals are co mpro mised, obj ecrives are ch anged suspen sion
to mee t financial demands, and ultim a tely a unequal-leT
885 Louis Dr.
no ble project is all but ruined by th e bean to the low
Warm..inster, FA 18974 co unte rs and n aysayers. O ut bad
www.crcindustries.com This d idn't happen with the Pinto. In fac t, mencw;tS II
800.272.8963 thanks to ex te nsive use of pa rts -b in compo and no ami·
n e nts from ehe U.S. and Euro pe, Iacocca got seeel wheels
Grassroots Motorsports 102
his smaller, smarrer, berter subcompact in
record time, with development only taking
about two years. The Pinto went on sale in Torsen D@ren~ials, 6
September of 1970. It weighed 1949 pounds Speed Transnzissions, Big Brake
and cost $1919. Amazing. Kiu
Two Engines Available
PHDTE6E: A ll years including
Pro~ege5. 1.5, 1.8, 2.0 engines and
Two different four-cylinder engines were
5 lug conversions~
initially available, either I.G or 2.0 liters in
Su..pension and Body par~s.
displacement, with both sourced from Europe.
The I.G was based on the British Anglia and Since 1980
Large selec~ion ofMillenia Engine,
Cortina powerplants. Although it saw duty in Larges~ selec~ion, rnos~ knoUlledg
Transnzission and Body Par~s.
the famous Lorus-Conina, the I.G was on ly able -<raffand ~he absolu~e leader
in ~he Mazda used paru field.
good for about 75 horsepower in Pinto trim
thanks to its aging design and single-barre l 4917 Nezu
carbo Reliability wasn't a problem, as the e ngi ne Peachrree Road
had been around since 19GG and the kinks had
been worked our. Power, on th e other hand,
was seriously lacking.
That's probably w h)' most Pinros were so ld
with the German-built overhead-cam 2.0 liter.
This four-banger also saw use in the German
Ford Capri. It was a surprisin gly sop histi ca ted
engine for rh e rim e, especially for a lowly econ
omy car. A cast-iron block was mated ro an iron
cross Aow head featuring big valves ( I. G5-inch
intake and lA 2- inch exhaust) for good breath
ing. As Ford's first production overhead-cam
engine, it was built for durability. Cam sup
pons were parr of th e head cas ting, unlike the
bolt-on design used by General Morors for its
ea rl y OHC engines. The engine used steel rods
and a cas t crank wi th five main bearings. The
2.0-liter PintO also had a shon stroke for better
A Weber 285 cfm carburetor was standard
equipment. With 9.0: I compression, the 2.0
liter SOHC put out 100 horsepower at 5GOO
rpm and 120 Ib.-fr. of torque at 3GOO rpm,
which was plenty for the diminutive Pinto.
Consider this comparison: The 220-pound
heavier MGB GT made do with five fewer
horsepower (at best). Road & Track recorded
an I lA-second zeto-tO-GO run in a 2.0-equipped
PintO while noting that the 1.G had trouble
reaching 80 mph.
Two transmissions were offered, both also
taken from Ford's pans bins. The four-speed
manual was anorher German unit, designed for
VG -equipped cars ovcrs('as, while the optional
C4 three-speed autOmatic was one used on larger
American cars. Both transmissions were more
than capable ofhandling the Pinto's light weight
and modest horsepower demands, although the
stick was arg uably more fun. A 3.55: I rear end
was standard equipment.
The Pinto suspens ion also held surprises.
A nimble rack-and -pinion stcering unit was
borrowed from the Capri, making it the only
U.S .-built car so equipped at the time . Road
testers found the Pinto to be a dece nt handler,
al though it lacked some of the "fun to drive"
qualities of the imports.
Built to mainsrream American tastes, the
Pinto was a bit tOO soft in stock trim to be
considered a seriou s spores car. The front
suspension was independ ent and consisted of
unequal-length arms. The springs were mounted
to the lower arms.
Out back, a conventional leaf spri ng arrange
ment was used , with a live axle, staggered shocks
and no anti-roll b3.!s. The Pinto rode on 13x4-inch
steel wheels, while slightly wider five-inch wheels
Grassroots Motorsports 103
harchback called me Runabou r added 38 cubic feer
of cargo space and joined rhe lineup midyear.
The New Model T
Shordy afrer its 1970 imrodu crion, Henry
Ford II was quored as saying rhe Pinto was rhe
"new Model T' rhanks to irs simple construcrion
and reli ability, which may have been overstating
rhe case jus r a li[[1e bir. Bur ir is rrue rhar the
Pimo was a good deal simpler than rhe common
car ar rhe ti me, having about 1700 parts as com
pared to rhe average of more rh an 2000.
Fres h ou t of th e box, rhe Pin to proved very
popular, wirh Ford selling its firsr 100,000 copi es
in a lirde more rhan 100 days. Even an early recall
for engine fires (caused by a badly design ed air
cleaner, which cou ld collecr gas vapors) didn 'r
dem rhi s popul arity.
Jr's nor hard ro see why rhe Pimo racked up
sales reco rds at rhe starr. Ir compered wirh rhe VW o
T ng can I
Beede, Chevroler Vega, AMC Gremlin , Darsun a V8hicle s
Whether dressed up 1200, T oyora CoroJla and Opel Kaden. Aga insr lubricalion ~
this grou p, the Pimo was mu ch more civilized sho~e n a '.1
in sporty mags or slra nded. 11
plain hubcaps, the chan mosr of me imports, and was eve n consid ered
developed 1 0
Pinto had some cool overhealing
features, including heat re lated
a sizable interior,
choice of available
engines (the 2.0
liter four is shown) Call I
and independent for a To
The Pinto engines
became wildly pop
ular in motorsports,
while the front
suspension can be
found grafted to
many hotrods and
were available as an oprion. Also oprional were from disc brake"
whose 9.3-inch rorors made a world ofdifference over rh e nine
inch drums rhar were sCJndard. Road eft" Track reporred "neurral" plusher rh an the Vega, which was more expensive and imended ships I
handling and praised rh e disc brakes, which made rhe Pimo to compete wirh the larger Mave ri ck anyway. Comparisons ro yours
considerably more drivable. the Vega also showed thar rhe Pinro's SOHC engine was qui
ro rd's smallest producr ro date came wrapped in an all-new erer rhan Chevy's aluminum-block engine, plus less expensive
unibody. Th e Pinro was a long-nosed, fastback coupe with a and more rei iable. The base-model 1600 gor good marks for
1970s space-pod look that managed ro be cute wirhout being besting the Vega's fuel economy and reli abiliry.
as awl0"vard or outre as simil ar atrempts from AMC. The Pinto boos red Ford's sales to rh eir highesr level
The Pinto was longer, lower and wide r rhan rh e Corolla since [h e Musrang's second year. Tn \ 97 L Pinto produc
an d Beede, but its 94-inch wheelb ase and \63-in ch overall rion ropp ed 352,000; ir wou ld conrinu e ro rise for rh e
len!,;rh were hardly rh e sruff of the average Yank Tank. To nexr roree years .
keep rh e weighr down, rhe Pimo fearured a one- piece "halo" A handsom e f\vo-door wagon was added to the lineup in
roof cons rru ction wi rh srrong supporrs around rhe sides and 1972. Ten inches longer th an rh e coupes, rhis Pimo wago n
a thinner rop panel. It improved headroom, roo. could swallow 60.5 cubi c feer of sruff and had a 900-pound
Simplicity was emphasizcd. Publicity comesrs showed how ca rgo ca pacity. The 2.0-lirer engine and disc brakes were
e l.lY ir was to perform romine mainrenance, as well as di:;assemble srand ard on rh e wagons, and they quickly became famili ar
and reassemble Pinro components. Road & Track cal led rhe Pimo sighrs in rhe suburbs. A woodie Squire model also joined
"rord's besr design since rhe 1961 Cominemal-bom handsome Ford 's larger wagons in rhe showroom. (Coll ectors will nore
and rational." Plus, ir looked cool with the oprional roof rack. A (har there were a few woodie co upes as well. ) Run about and
Grassroots Motorsports 104
Potent Pinto wagon models outsold h
the Pinto 's life cycle. t e Coupes for the rest of
Longrime GRM readets may have seen Brian Walsh's 1971 Pinto beFore , as ir has
been around rhe block- and rrack-a Few rimes. This car has been a racer since day one,
participating in the IMSA Baby Grand Series From 1971 ro '73 with Brian 's dad, Jerry
Smog EDters the Picture
fn 1973 ncw cr,\·1 d'
b " " . ,S I test an emissions standard,
Walsh , at the wheel. In 1973 the car was sold to Lee Wiese, who ran it until 1990, when e"an ro take rhel[ roll on the US ' d .
Brian broughr ir back intO the Family. and I'k I .. auto In ustr}'
Brian has been running it at SCCA Regional and SVRA vintage events ever since, and the '1, PI e Ot ler .small cars ' the I'l'ntosu fir d might '
I}. OWer ratlllgs For the 2.0-liter SOHC .
Walsh PintO is still pretty much as it was when it was swapping paint wirh Gremlins and dropped from 10() h . " engllle
h orsepower to 86 in 1973
Vegas back in the early 1970s. AFre r running a 2.3-lirer engine for a while and compering tanks to lowered c o m ' ,
in rhe GT3 class ar SCCA events until rubeFrame cars outclassed ir, the Pinto now has a 2.0 sions r c ' pression ro meet emis
· gu/atlOns. The unpopular I 6 , .
back under the hood, making ir legal For F Producrion. d Isappeared in 1'}73'b . engllle
Going to less displacement doesn't mean less perFormance. The 2.0 has an Isky 505b hav~ b b . ,POSSI Iy because it would
, cen a our as p • fi I I
camshaFt, Ferrea oversized valves and Aatrop Wiseco pisrons with Total Seal rings. Crower the tim' F d . ower u as a awnrnower by
· c or gor It smogged.
Sporrsman rods are srock length, and the crank is also srock. There's a Kenr Cams adjustable In /[s place a d ' II
cam sprocket, along with a Four-inch crank pulley From Racer Walsh. The head has been liter SO ~ ,' . omestlca y rnanuf.1Crured 2.3
I HCenglllC]olned the2.0in 1974 It .'
ported and polish ed by Paul Bond.
Fuel is mixed by a pait of 45 DCOE side-draft Webers and a TWM intake maniFold. Down
. . waf'
r.eS5 powerful tha n rhe 2.0 ' and fiue/ economy su
ere.' too. Automaric-equipped Pinros . kl
below, a seven-quart oil pan From C-Line improves cooling, as does the Griffin radiaror. Walsh acqUirFed a. reputation For nor being ab/(~~c y
has updated rhe electronics as well, with MSD plug wires, coil and an MSD 6AL ignirion. our 0 rhelr own way. get
Even though the Pinro has been a racer all oFirs liFe, the chassis contains a surprising number To further muddy the waters, a 2.8-/iter V
of srock Ford partS. The eight-inch rear is a direcr bolt-in From a Mustang rr. Brian says that option was offered in 1975 Th 97 h . 6
both eighr-inch and nine-inch Ford rears can be swapped in, with a variety of inrerchangeable . . h . . e , - orsepower
SIX, WI[ ItS two-barrel carb and add" I
ratios available. The Pinro's original 6 3/4-inch rear en d is not as adaptable. weight, was launched righr into the r~~~~na .
Brian 's car uses ea rly Pinro disc brakes and calipers in the Front, and thanks ro its relarively a fuel cmlS, and available only in the stario~~
light weighr, he has no rrouble wirh Fading. Pinro wagon drums have been ins railed in rhe rear wagon ~v/[h an automatic. Pcrforrnan '
because they're wider than the coupe's drums and are finned For bener cooling. ImpreSSive. The V6 'd ce wasn t
. provt. almOSt as unpopular
The chrome-moly roll cage stiFFens the car enough that Few suspension modifications are as rh e anemic 1.6 had bcen .
necessary. Brian doesn't run a rear anti-roll bar. A one-inch Front bar and urethane bushings . ~ornpounding the pOWn r bl
are rhe only modificarions above srock. The PintO has 700 Ibs.lin. coils in the Front and srock nSlng weight Th P' P 0 ern was
leaves in rhe rear. With 13x7-inch wheels, the Pinro is serio usly over-tired For irs one-ron fi . e IntO grew sh elf-like
ve-mph bumpas in 1974 d' .
weight, so grip is never a problem. b a II oone d by 345 pound ' F ,an . Its weight
· s. ord tne d to draw
A 22-gal lon Fuel cell is original 1970s-vintage race equipment. The hardesr part abour Jt:e~tlon away from the lirrle car's declining
running rhe PintO is finding body parts , Brian says , so he has a co llec tion of donor cars perrOI mance by pun ·1 .
in rhe garage. b II h c ling up rhe optiom
~J[ a . I' C comfort and luxury items dro~~
Brian compares the handling ro thar of an AlFa GTV. Both cars handle "like overgrown go t e weight even higher By 1974 h 'P' ,
kam-rhey go where yo u point 'e m," he says. The Pinto's indestructible engine and "rocker '. F' . ' )t e In to ~
box" transmission serve it well on rhe vintage circuit, where it can outlast the comperirion
~1::I~enln"~d ~rd s lIlexpensive, lighr and simple
e rorgorten .
that it can't ourrun.
E~d of theliDe
p' rhe eXl)losion d e b· Ie t h at created rhe
, t ac
h 1Il~0 S ~lfortunare legacy was rhe firsr and
ar esr. ow of the one-two-three unch
rhat ultimately rook th" P'
111[0 out 0
gal11.e permancn rly.
P' Simply pur, crashing inro rhe rear of
10[0 prodllced ~pecracu/ar and often deadl ~
results. ThiS was due to the COIIIb' . f}
. lOatlon 0 a
rear- mo ulltc.d fud tank, a badly located fill
n~ck and a differential who e boil'S could r~r
t .eI rank Wide open in a crash C,0111 b'Ined P
Wit 1 a passe.nger comparrmenr whose Aoo
~ou/d spllrIn a rear impact, rlw Pinto was
our wheels on the way t 0 a d'Isaster.
" nex~/lCably, Ford stubbo rnly dra ed
/[s feet 10 a~know/edging rhat there g\~as
a senous safety probl em Th. ,
II d . e company s
\ eg~. reluctance to spend money ro fix
~ r Into placed a big red t<lrget on the
car s back, even though dI e J>illto cou e
and Runabout weren't the only p
h . cars ar
~ ~. ~I~ e whose gas tanks were mounted
e 110 [he rcar axle and rhus vu/nerabJe
to rear· Impa'rs. C onsuiller safery advo
cates lumped into the fray . d
ex I d' p' ,an Soon
A po Ing .ntos wne narional news.
1977 Nfother jone,. arricle by Mark
DOWie rook Ford harshly to r ·k
.. h " as , sug
f!;e~[Ing I' at r~e borrol11 line ruled, and
Illh a:nmable ,:lI1tOS kept rolling our of
t e .actoncs.
\Vherher Dowie was righr .
o I '. 01 nor.
P pu ar OpllllOn leaned in the .
d' " same
IrCUlon , and Ford's sales skidded
$CoH r. 'eat photos a
not lusr For the Pinto , bLlr ,cross t he'
p/1<)lo (Durtesy for!!
Toward the end of
the model run, the
Pinto had put on
some weight as 5. FOI
the options were
piled on to distract
buyers from its
the cars can be
found circling the BIG PI(
track in both his
toric and modem 1i
board. After a drastic 21-percem sales drop , Ford quietly inrroduced an
inexpens ive plastic baffle ro pro tect th~ Pimo's gas tank in 1977, followed
lefs Go Racing Contaci
by a recall of Pimo gas tanks in 1978. But it was far too li[[ie, far roo
N ot many pe op le seem ro remember that th e Pin[Q actual ly 1135 R
enjoyed a moderately successful racing career. Although not par F
late. Public-interest grou ps were now howling for Iacocca ro do tim e for
tic ularly sp orty cars [Q begin wi th, their reliability a nd simplicity Pall
"co nsum er homicide."
se rved them we ll on th e trac k.
T he second blow ro the Pinro's surv ival came in the form of improved
Because th e Pinto entered the market at the same time as Chevro let's
co mpeti tion, not only from other manu fac turers bur from with in as
spOrty Vega, the old Ford-Chevy rivalry naturally pitted the two small
well-the Pin to's position as Ford's economical, ye t sporry, little car was
cars aga inst one another. Borh competed in IMSA 's Baby Grand series
taken over by th e Mustang II in J 974, and the imported Fiesta's arrival
for low- bu dget racers and in other small-bore racing classes.
in 1977 further diluted the Pinro's appeal.
Meanwhile, the newly imroduced Chevroler C heverre was providing much
sriffer competirion than [he Vega had offered, and the imporrs from Japan had
Pintos cropped up in rop-l 0 and rop-20 fin ishes in the SCCA Trans
Am's under-two-liter class throughour the early 7 0s. IMSA had its share of Dr
Ford's lirrle ponies as wel l, wirh class-winning Pintos mal<ing appearances.
gorren betrer as well, wirh Honda joining rhe fray. A face-lift in 1977 gave the
Pinro a softer, shapel ier nose and there was now a cool all-glass hatchback on
the Runabour, but neither cosmetic did anyrhing ro im prove sales. Nor did a
new insrrument panel or a rev ised fro nt suspension ro improve handli ng.
The year 1977 was also the first year for Co rporate Average Fuel Econ
omy (CAFE) srandards, which was the Pinto's deathbl ow-although after
the gas-rank debacle, it could beseen as mo reof a mercy killing. Ford had
a new subcompact in the wurb- · the Escort- which had been designed
ro help th e company meet CAFE standard s, so as th e Esco rt's 1981
int roduction date approached , the Pinto received onl y detail changes. A
second sheet m eta.l redesign in 1979 gave the Pinro a square, ugly face,
and the unloved V6 was dropped. Sales enjoyed a slighr upward twirch,
bur ir was n' t nearly enough ro keep the model going.
By the time rhe Pi mo disap peared in 1980, ir had strayed far from
its original mi ss ion. Even rhe most stripped-down Pinro coupe weighed
abo ur 2400 pounds by then, an d th e price had swo llen to $3781, a far
cry from Iacocca's 2000-po und , $2000 vision .
F urth ermore, rh e Pinro had received no su b
stantia l mecha nical changes during its 10-yea r
run , so by J 980 it was ho pelessly o utdated. The
explosio n debacle pur rhe name Pinro on ly a
slot above Edsel on the li st of nameplates li kely
ro be revived by Ford. Top execut ives brea thed
a sigh of reli ef whe n the Escort "world car"
made irs deb ur in J 9R l.
It's easy ro forget the good things abour rhe
Pinto, in light of rhe rear-impacr da nge r and rhe
porky, sl uggish latc cars. Bur the simple and reli
able coupes were in rac t good cars, so long as they Undc
weren ' r trying to be luxury auromo biles. Besides,
a Pimo is srrong, cheap, eminen tly modifiable
and easy ro work on. How could you ask for a Dr
more perfeC startin g poi nt for a race car)
T rQZ rosintoski photo CAUCIOB4
Grassroots Motorsports 108
Thanks to a light
weight shell and
rear-drive layout, the
Pinto became a pop
ular starting point
for many hotrod
Trevarthen bolted a
1952 flat-head Mer
cury V8 into a 1979
Pinto wagon. His
wife, Bobbie, runs
Bayside II, special
izing in used parts
for older cars.
Race reportS from Lime Rock and Watkins Glen light weignt made it popular for ministock racing,
show Pintos coming nome ahead ofAlfa GTAs and wnich means thac a lot of Pintos nad cheir front
Datsun 51 Os, A Pimo fini sned 38th at the 1975 12 ends chopped off and their bodies gutted to
Hours of Sebring in the under-rwo-liter class, become super-modified stockers, Divide that by
Pintos proved even more popular with drag the number of cars tnat have rusted into oblivion
racers and in regional ministock oval-track classes, and it adds up to OEM body pans for PintOs
I'ttVIIlfIl 81 where their lignt weight and robust construction being pretty scarce, However, many body bits are
8portE.gi••• gave tnem an advantage over contemporary available from tne growing cadre of Pinto racers,
impom, A legion ofcnopped-up, dirt-track Pintos wno quickly learn tnat it's a good idea to keep a
2200 HiFio ST Sport ..... .. .... ..( 155 HP) ...... ... $ ~495 carried che racing flag cnroughout the 1980s, Far parts car or tnree around.
24(l(11 Hf"l o ST Sport... . ... ...( 170 HP) ........... $4995 outnumbering tnose seen in road racing, The good news is tnat mecnanical pieces are
6 Cylinder Now tnar tney' re eligible for vi ntage racing, a considerably more durable and generally not at all
3500 HiFio ST Sport ............. .. 1260 HP) ... ........$4995 few road-racing Pintos are resurfacing, If prop nard to find, Engine components for tne 2.3 are claimed 110 H
"00 HiFlo ST SpOIL.... .. .. .. ..(170 HP)..... ..... .55995
39()() l /il- 0 ST Spon .. .(28i HP)..... .. .. . $x495 erly cared for, they' re jusr as competitive as they cnorough.ly common, as Ford's Fairmont, Ranger, Pangra was am
Baby Six were when new, able to keep up witn contempo Must ang/Capr i (including Muscang SVO), that offered StJJ
2900 HiFlo ST Eoa . J2J i E<orly ..( 190 liP) .... ..... $499 5
rary Alfa Romeos and orner small sedans. Tnunderbird Turbo Coupe and tne hoc German fixture in VW,
2900 l-liFlo ST 125i. 3 231 Laoc ..(105 HP) ........ .'14995
M erkut all used versions of the engine, openi ng the founding £uhe
2400 HiFlo ST......... ...... .......... (210 HPJ ...... .... $5995
Buving One Todav door for 200-norsepower Pintos wirn little invest to Pinto peefol
2500 HiHo 5T.. .. ....... (2 35 HPI ........ ..57495 Tnanks to tneir economy-car status, many ment. Conversions to later engines wicn fuel injec Companie
M5&M6 (if not mosr) Pintos were more or less driven tion and even the turbocnarged powerplants are California's I
37()() HiFioST... . . ....... 0 10111') ........ .. lI4 95 to deatn. More seem to nave survived tnan did almosr bolr-in swaps, Suspension components are making Pintr
J 900 HiFio ST... .. .. D'\O lfPJ . .. .....5 10995
contemporalY Vegas, Corollas or Cnevettes, but similarly plentiful. Racers will nore that 1971-'73 Esslinger will
a cherty Pinto is a rare animal indeed, Pinros use smaller spindJes, calipers and conrrol liter engine 0 1
In addition, tne Pinto's arms than rhe larer cars. Want mol'<
In 1974, the Pinto began 302,351 or c
sharing more robusr it inro a drag
c"a.~i6l1 ~"i'i""~ ". . estreetsbetwecn 1972 andl ?75,
components witn rne
A number ofspeCIal edlt10ns h~~ (h ka' es and did not offer addluonal
, Tnose wno rnink Snowcase at
. \ .. peanddecal pac g d of rne Pinto only Tn e weigh t •
These were simp y t.1. f' terest to collectors to ay, . Pinto a diffici
erformance, although they are 0 m S finc stripe package was avall
as a four-wneeled
p In 1972, tne red, white and blue , P, k ' The later Stallion was
incendiary device will Tne Pinto'
nd Mavenc s, . department \\
able un PintOS, IM ustangs ,a d Mu ·tang with a more aggreSSiVe be surprised to lear n
'h h ' Mavenck an s , rhar go-faster parts ening lip for
. shared Wit t e, ' b ld specla I g ', raphl'cs , abound for Ford 's and ncavy an
black and silver pamt)~ al was an attempt to cash tn on
U lljro Ul~ 1
1. 2.4 Sp lluil " .
1fJ little pony. Tnanks Ford offere
The 1977-' 80 Cru1S1ngdWbalgokn d-uut rear panels with groovy
VltimalC 241. ~ Sp '77 " .. .,....
d feature an e to rhe ubiquicy of as a dealer-ins
Ultima", 245, 5 5 1' 'SU - 'H2 .. che van craze, an 'Id e stripes, absorbers, a fr,
Ultilnalc 140. 5 Sp 'S3 on ..
MM S""" OlD 5 Sp 'HO Oil
shaped windows as well as W,I ~ap d rhe European SportS Sedan tne Ford 2,0- and
n the Pinto's final years, It s ad
reG da The ESS featured 2.3 -engines, cne and leaves ror (
'y linder UI.l imale Transmissions I F' n t an rana, kepc the open
Ultima •• 262, 0\ Sp - "1 9... . ...... 5 1295 moniker wich the <llrmo ' I ortS interior with exrra gauges Pinto is as em i
UIL 26S. 5 ' p'SO -'R2. 'RS, ~11 .. . ........ ........ \ 1995 blacked-out trim and ~ specla ~p
nenrly modiftable as both tires sr:
UI. 260, 5 Sp '83 - ' ~4.. .. .. . ... .. .. .................. .$ 1K?) sion unloaded.
and a chree-spoke steenng whee ,
as any Civi c. Even
~:: ~,~~ S;~~~ R,;; ,~
f . . li rg; tn e lowl y 1,6-licer suspension in
MM Sport 100.\ Sp 'xu on ,~ M:\... . .. . ... ...$2695
the Pinto's atti
engine can be tuned
photo courtesy ford
to Lotus-Cortina resulring in COl
specs, if one is so Mulholland 0
inclined, Tnese day:
Hotrodded made for tne
Pin cos were category as to.
common in the
'70s, and the tricks APinto 1
rney used are still Wh.ile the
applicable tOday, popular cars i
CAR Corpora are now beco
rion offered a of performan
turbocnarger kir lng racing p(
fo r the 2,O-lirer $1919 when
engine caJled che be co nsider<
Boss Pinto tnat American au
Grossroots Motorspor/s 110
Refreshes old dry tires
The ford PInto
www.peocities.com/MmorCItyI Extends tire life
Pinto information For slicks and DOT tires
The Ford Pinto Showcase
Keeps ti res sticky until
Race Engineering ___~the rubber is gone
performance parts <\llv4CI'Il <\UTc)"'c)TlV~NC.
Racer Walsh Co 3712 Hillview St.
www.racerwolsh .com McKeesport, PA 15132
Ford performance (412) 754-4444
claimed 110 horsepower at the wheels. Mini Car's Pegasus: 800-688-6946
Pangra was anorher turbocharged, body-kirred Pinto Ikke Sa Hurtig: 913-827-5143
that offered srarr.ling performance. Before becoming a Jeg's: 800-345-4545
fixture in VWand Honda tuning circles, Neuspeed's Racer Parts Wholesale: 800-397-7815
founding father, Bil! Neuman, also was no manger Tri County Buggy: 866-800-6002
to Pinto perfurmance some 30 years ago. American Power Sports: 440-564-8100
Companies like Racer Walsh in Florida and JC Specialty: 570-837-0042
California 's Esslinger Engineering have been So uthern Auto: 336-373-1151
making Pinws go faster since the 1970s. Dan
Esslinger wi ll even build you a brand-new 2.3
liter engine out of aluminum, if you'd like.
Want more than that? It's possible ro dwp a
302,351 or eve n a 460 V8 into a Pinw w rurn
it into a drag-s trip cruise missile. Mowr mount
conversion kits can be found through li nks on
Pinto performance Web sites like the Ford Pinto
Showcase at www.bob2000.com/pinro2.htm.
Tne weignt of tne V8 teportedly makes tne
Pinw a d ifficulr sneet driver, nowever.
Tne Pinto 's biggest weakness in tne hand ling
department was a sq uasny suspension, but tight
ening up for track duty is easy. Stiffer sp rings
and neavy anti-roll bats definitely help.
Ford offered a heavy-duty suspension package Extinguishing Systems
as a dealer-installed option that added new shock for all types of raCing
absorbers, a front anti-roil bar and additional coils • DOTfTe apprOYed cyInders • Rre protedion systems can be either B
and leaves for the suspension. The improved traction •Pull. push ()( pnamalic actuation removable type of extilguishef or an
• Halon or F500 ex1ilgulshing agent installed svstem thai can protect all
kept the open differential happy during cornering, •LigI1t weight carbon Tiber cylnders available vital areas of !he car. Installed systems
as botn tires stayed on the ground wnen the suspen •3, 5, 10 and 20 pound systems have the ac1uation method mounted
directly on the seat
sion unloaded. Car andDriver tested the heavy-duty
suspension in J 974 and teponed that jt improved
the Pinto's attitude but made the car a bit rail-happy,
resulting in controllable driErs. Spearco and Interpart
Mulholland offered aftermarket pam.
These days, most Pinto suspension parts are
made for tne later cars, and fall under the same
category as Mustang II modifications.
APinto for Youil Hand Held
• SFI Approved
•Available in many
While tne Pinro was once one of the most Extinguishers •Styles for all
popular cars in the country, nice, clean examples ITlOklrSpot1s
'1.25 & 2.5 pound Halon •Custom
are now becoming a little rare. It's a car witn lots extinsuiShers with aJurnirom
of performance potential, plus it has an interes r or stainless steel cylinders
•Bile! heads and brackets available
ing racing pedigree. And at 1949 pounds and
$1919 wnen introduced in 1970, it can also
be considered a milesro ne for the
American automotive industry.
I www.safecraft.com ..4!riWl.hI:I.I.lt.I.ti..te1l
Grassroots Motorsporls III
The Pinto's legacy: Its Engine
The Ford Pinto may not be a common sight th ese days, but the engine that moved the car is
still prevalent in motorsportS. Ir ca n be found powering everything from SCCA road racers to
oval-track stock ca rs ro dune buggies.
While the original 197 1 Pinto was powered by the I GOOcc British-built Kent engine- rhe bas is
for a wide range of Locus-tuned powerplants as well as the sta ndard requiremen t for Formula Ford
racing-ir was eventually replaced by 2.0- and 2.3-lirer offerings.
Available in th e Pinto from 197 1 rhrough '74, the German-built, X-code 2.0-liter engine was
joined by the 2.3- lirer for the 1974 model year. The 2.0-liter engine was also co mmonly called
rhe "OHC" or "P into" engine; thanks to a 9.0:1 compression rario, the 1971 version produced
100 horsepower in facrory trim. An S.2: I com p[(.:~s ion ratio eventually became standard, however,
knocking horsepower down ro SG . The 2.0-liter Pinro engine is still required for SCCA Formula
Continental and SportS 2000 cars, althougbt partS are getting harder ro find these days. Pegasus
Racing is reproducing heads and other sroc k pieces using the original Fo rd casrings.
Eventually, U.S . emissions laws caugh r up with the 2.0, and something a litde bigger was needed
ro cope: hence, the U.S.-built 2300cc engine. 'While the engines are si milar in design, nothing
interdla nges between them. Thanks ro more displacement and large r production numbers, the
2.3-liter engine remains popular in many mororsportS circles. If racing rules don't require the
2.0-liter engine, then go with th e 2.3.
Since its original showing in the 1974 Pinto, the 2300 has appea red in millions ofFord vehicles,
including the Mustang II, 1979-'93 Mustang and Fairmont. Ford also used wrbocharged versions
of the 2300 in the Thunderbird, Merkur XR4 Ti, 1979-'S2 Mustang and Mercury Ca pri. T he
high-wate r mark for the factory-tuned engine was the turbocharged, intercooled Mustang SVO.
The 2.0 and 2300 engines look si milar ro th e casual viewer, making sa lvage-yard shopping a
bit tricky. "The 2.0-liter just looks smaller," says Pinro racer Brian Walsh. However, Walsh says
that pulling the va lve cover and counting the cam towers is a good way to tell the engi nes apart:
the 2.0 has rhree cam towers, while the 2300 has four.
The Ford Tempo and Mercury Topaz were also powered by a 2.3-liter Ford engine, but the
design is rotally different, removing them from the donor list. Their pushrod-equipped "HSC"
(high-swirl combustion chamber) engines have little, if any, perfotmance potential.
A healthy aftermarker allows today's enthusiasts to
build the 2300 ro nearly any scate, \\~th [he engines
particularly common in minisrock oval-track racing.
Different formL~as are required depending on the series
n~es, and prices can range accordingly. Ford perfor
mance house Racer Walsh offers the 2.3-li rer engi ne in
different levels of rune, with several shorrblocks retail
ing from $1250 to a lirtle more tban $2000.
An honest I GO- ro 190-horsepower 2300 race
engine---ou pan ro valve cover-can r'Un abour $3400,
whiJe a good 140-horsepower srreet engine builr with
The only ignition sy tern to provide name-brand pans wiU run close ro $2000.
Esslinger Engineering also builds rhe 2.3-lirer
apowerful econd park Ford for mororsportS use, usi ng modifi ed origi
throughout the entire RPM range! For more than 30 years, the Pinto has
donated engines for nearly everything
nal-equipment pieces as well as rheir own cus rom
aluminum blocks and heads. "If rhey weren't
from hot street cars to open-wheel racers. resrricred by rh e rules, I'd slap on an aluminum
head," advises rhe com pany's Cary Maruyama ,
explai ning how rhar's an easy way ro add 35 to 50 horsepower. Esslinger Eng ineering offers several
different CNC-machined aluminum heads available wirh borh Rar rapper or roller rockers; figure
abour $2000 for the Rar tapp er head or around $2500 for rhe roller model.
\Xiirhou r resorting ro tu rbochargers, Esslinger has produced more rhan 400 horsepower from tne
2.3-lirer Ford engine, wirh turbocharged versions surpassing rhe 1000-horsepower mark.
\Vhile pro-builr powerplanes are priced accordingly- budger abour $15,000 for a 270-horsepower
2.3-lirer Esslinger engine suirable for the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series-low-buck options
definirely exisr. Used engines can eas ily be found in rhe $100 price range, alrhough somerimes ir's jusr
easier and cheaper to buy the entire donor caL (Finding a 19S0s-vintage four-cylinder Musrang for less
rhan $500 isn'r rhat hard, whi le the rurbocharged Merkur XR4Ti can also be a great project donoL)
If the srock Ford head needs ro be run , rnen Matuyama recommends the oval-port mod els
used in rhe pre-'SO 2.3-liter PintOs. For modified applications, he'd go wirh a D-porr cylinder
head found on 19S0 and larer Ford producrs. The Ford Ranger came wirh a 2.5-lirer version of
this engine, and Maruyama says that running rhe tru ck's stroker crankshafr ca n be a low-buck
way ro build more rorque.-David S. \X/allens
Grassroots Motorsports 112
gbrdon I. jolley photo