Pinto Car Images
Initial planning for the Pinto began in the summer of 1967; was recommended by Ford’s Product Planning Committee in December 1968; and approved by Ford’s Board of Directors in January 1969. Ford President Lee Iacocca wanted a 1971 model that weighed less than 2,000 pounds and that would be priced at less than $2,000. The Pinto product development, from conception through delivery, was completed in 25 months, when the automotive industry average was 43 months; the Pinto project was the shortest production planning schedule in automotive history up to that time. Some development processes usually conducted sequentially were conducted in parallel. Machine tooling overlapped with product development, which froze the basic design. Decisions which threatened the schedule were discouraged. The attitude of Ford management was to develop the Pinto as quickly as possible. Iacocca ordered a rush project to build the car, and the Pinto became known internally as “Lee’s car.” The Pinto’s bodywork was styled by Robert Eidschun.
Pinto Car Images
The Pinto was introduced on September 11, 1970. The AMC Gremlin was the first to arrive on the market six months before the Pinto, and the Chevrolet Vega was introduced the day before the Pinto. Both the Pinto and the Vega were completely new, with the Pinto utilizing power trains already in use across Europe in the European market spec European Ford Escort, while Chevrolet introduced an innovative aluminum engine for the Vega in its base trim. The Gremlin, AMC’s competitor in the segment stood out as it was designed around large six and eight-cylinder engines, and was created by a shortened chassis derived from the compact-class AMC Hornet’s underpinnings. Ford chairman Henry Ford II himself had a 1971 Runabout (hatchback) model as one of his personal cars.
Pinto Car Images
The prototypes of the Mizar were made by sawing up a Cessna Skymaster and a Ford Pinto and fitting them together. The Skymaster’s cabin and front engine were removed and the rest of the plane attached to the Pinto, with the wings sitting over the roof and the pusher engine snuggling up against the hatchback. The Pinto was backed into the airframe and four high-strength, self-locking pins were used to hook everything together. The driver’s controls were adapted so that in flight the driver/pilot could control the airframe’s ailerons by turning the steering wheel right or left, and the elevator by pushing and pulling the wheel. Pedals to control the rudder were also installed, and all the flight controls inside the car were attached to the airframe via connections that ran underneath the driver’s side of the car. The Pinto’s dashboard was outfitted with flight instruments like air speed and rate of climb gauges, an altimeter, a directional gyro, fuel pressure gauges, a throttle, and radio navigational equipment.
Pinto Car Images
Schwartz studied the fatality rates of the Pinto and several other small cars of the time period. He noted that fires, and rear-end fires in particular, are very small portion of overall auto fatalities. At the time only 1% of automobile crashes would result in fire and only 4% of fatal accidents involved fire, and only 15% of fatal fire crashes are the result of rear-end collisions. When considering the overall safety of the Pinto, Schwartz notes that subcompact cars as a class have generally higher fatality risk. Pintos represented 1.9% of all cars on the road in the 1975–76 period. During that time the car represented 1.9% of all “fatal accidents accompanied by some fire.” Implying the car was average for all cars and slightly above average for its class. When all types of fatalities are considered the Pinto was approximately even with the AMC Gremlin, Chevrolet Vega, and Datsun 510. It was significantly better than the Datsun 1200/210, Toyota Corolla and VW Beetle. The safety record of the car in terms of fire was average or slightly below average for compacts and all cars respectively. This was considered respectable for a subcompact car. Only when considering the narrow subset of rear-impact, fire fatalities is the car somewhat worse than the average for subcompact cars. While acknowledging this is an important legal point, Schwartz rejects the portrayal of the car as a firetrap.
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Lee and Ermann noted that NHTSA used a worst case test to justify the recall of the Pinto, rather than the regular 1977 rear impact crash test. A large “bullet car” was used instead of a standard moving barrier. Weights were placed in the nose of the car to help it slide under the Pinto and maximize gas tank contact. The vehicle headlights were turned on to provide a possible ignition source. The fuel tank was completely filled with gasoline rather than partially filled with non-flammable Stoddard fluid as was the normal test procedure. In a later interview the NHTSA engineer was asked why the NHTSA forced a Pinto recall for failing a 35 mph test given that most small cars of the time would not have passed. “Just because your friends get away with shoplifting, doesn’t mean you should get away with it too.”
Pinto Car Images
In 2004, Forbes included the Pinto among its fourteen Worst Cars of All Time, saying “When people talk about how bad American small cars created an opportunity for the Japanese to come in and clean house in the 1970s and ’80s, they are referring to vehicles like this.” In 2008, Time magazine included the Pinto in The Fifty Worst Cars of All Time, citing the Pinto’s “rather volatile nature. The car tended to erupt in flame in rear-end collisions.”
The design of the Pinto fuel system was complicated by the uncertain regulatory environment during the development period. The first federal standard for automotive fuel system safety, passed in 1967, known as Section 301 in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, initially only considered front impacts. In January 1969, 18 months into the Pinto’s development cycle, the NHTSA proposed expanding the standard to cover rear-end collisions. The proposed standard was based on a 20 mph moving-barrier rear impact test. Ford publicly announced it supported the standard. In August 1970, the month the Pinto went into production, the NHTSA changed the proposal to a more stringent 20 mph fixed-barrier standard which car companies were to meet in 18 months. The fixed-barrier standard was seen by the auto industry as a significant increase in test severity. At the same time the NHTSA announced a long-term goal of setting a 30-mph fixed-barrier standard. Due to the confusion related to the various proposed standards and an expectation that the NHTSA would not select the more stringent 30 mph fixed-barrier standard, Ford elected to voluntarily meet the 20 mph moving-barrier standard for all cars by 1973. Ford and other automobile manufacturers objected to the more stringent fuel system safety standard and filed objections during the required comment periods of the proposed regulations.
The Ford Pinto developed a controversial safety record with notable issues related to fuel-tank fires associated with rear-end collisions. In 1977, the Pinto was subject to the largest recall up to that time. As NHTSA found that the fuel system was defective, modification of 1.5 million vehicles was required to reduce fire risk — and several lawsuits were filed against Ford Motor Company. A subsequent study concluded that the fire risks of the Ford Pinto were no greater than its contemporaries. The safety controversy of the vehicle is cited in case studies of business ethics.
The Ford Pinto went on sale on September 11, 1970 in one bodystyle, a fastback sedan with trunk and metal trunklid. A hatchback became available on February 20, 1971, debuting at the Chicago Auto Show In 1971, the Pinto brochure came with a paper cutout Pinto that one could fold to make a 3D model. Marketed as the Runabout, the hatchback went on sale five days later, priced at $2,062. The hatch itself featured exposed chrome hinges for the liftgate and five decorative chrome strips, pneumatic struts to assist in opening the hatch, a rear window approximately as large as the sedan’s, and a fold down seat — a feature which became simultaneously an option on the sedan. The hatchback model matched the sedan in all other dimensions and offered 38.1 cubic feet (1.08 m3) of cargo space with its seat folded. By 1972, Ford redesigned the hatch itself, with the glass portion of the hatch enlarged to almost the entire size of the hatch itself, ultimately to be replaced with a rear hatch that was entirely glass.
On February 24, 1972, the Pinto station wagon debuted with an overall length of 172.7 in (4,390 mm) and 60.5 cubic feet (1.71 m3) of cargo volume. The first 2-door Ford station wagon since 1961, the Pinto wagon was equipped with flip-open rear quarter windows. Along with front disc brakes, the 2.0L engine was standard equipment. A Pinto Squire wagon featured faux wood side paneling similar to the full-size Country Squire.
For the 1977 model year, Pinto wagons received a new option package. Dubbed the Pinto Cruising Wagon, it was the sedan delivery version of the Pinto styled to resemble a small conversion van, complete with round side panel “bubble windows”.
For the 1979 model year, the Pinto saw its first significant styling update. Taking on square headlights, the Pinto shed its styling borrowed from the Maverick. Wearing larger taillights, the Pinto now wore a square, sloping grille.