The Ford Pinto Rides Again – Wall Street Journal

Norm Bagi, 46, a property maintenance director from Oakland, N.J., with one of the Bagi family’s Ford Pintos, in Jersey City. From left: Mr. Bagi, his son Joseph, wife Louise (also a Pinto driver), and son Michael.

Mr. Bagi bought his 1977 Pinto coupe (left) in 2007, for $4,500. Ms. Bagi’s 1976 Pinto hatchback (right) came soon after, for $5,000. ‘As far as collector cars go, you could buy a Pinto for every day of the week for the money you’d spend on a mint-condition Mustang,’ says Mr. Bagi.<br>

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Mr. Bagi bought his 1977 Pinto coupe (left) in 2007, for $4,500. Ms. Bagi’s 1976 Pinto hatchback (right) came soon after, for $5,000. ‘As far as collector cars go, you could buy a Pinto for every day of the week for the money you’d spend on a mint-condition Mustang,’ says Mr. Bagi.

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Allison Scott/The Wall Street Journal

‘Both my parents drove Pintos when I was young, so I practically grew up in the back of one, like millions of other kids,’ says Mr. Bagi. Ford produced nearly 3.2 million Pintos between model year 1971 and 1980.

The Pinto is remembered today for gas tank fires, occurring when the car was rear-ended. How much it deserves its deadly reputation remains a subject of debate. ‘I have climbed through hundreds of these cars in junkyards all over the place, looking for parts,’ says Mr. Bagi. ‘And I have yet to discover any burn marks on any of them.’

Mr. Bagi modified his Pinto with 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 parts, so it’s like nothing else on the road. Here he has emblems of the two models cleverly displayed on the automobile.

Mr. Bagi’s interior is not original. The top parts of these leather seats are from a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, while the bottom parts are original to a Pinto (but not this one).

A peak at Mr. Bagi’s 302-cubic inch motor. ‘It’s fast,” he says of the car, ‘but it’s all 70s technology.’

Mr. Bagi’s Pinto from behind, with a 1970 Mustang spoiler mounted on its lower back. The skyscraper behind is Manhattan’s One World Trade Center, the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

Louise Bagi in her own Pinto, a 1976 hatchback.

Another view of the 1976 Pinto. Because it was not as heavily modified, this Pinto is more reminiscent of the 1970s. The year it rolled off the assembly line, the Bee Gees topped the Billboard charts with ‘You Should Be Dancing.’

Ms. Bagi’s Pinto sports stars-and-stripes fuzzy dice.

Mr. Bagi had a handbag (pictured here) made for his wife, to match the pattern on her plaid Pinto seats.

The original Pinto logo. Like the Mustang, the car is usually attributed to the marketing mind of Lee Iacocca, who was named president of Ford Motor Company in 1970, right around the time the Pinto first appeared.

Another view of Ms. Bagi’s Pinto. Homely or gorgeous? You be the judge.

‘On June 1, our group will kick off another Pinto Stampede, celebrating the car’s 45th anniversary,’ says Mr. Bagi. ‘These cars spark so many memories. And we’re keeping those memories rolling.’

Norm Bagi, 46, a property maintenance director from Oakland, N.J., on his Ford Pintos, as told to A.J. Baime.

In 2006, I was hunting on eBay for a Ford Mustang when I came across a 1977 Pinto with shag carpets and orange/brown plaid seats. Both my parents drove Pintos when I was young, so I practically grew up in the back of one, like millions of other kids. I showed the car to my wife and she said, “That’s the ugliest car I’ve ever seen!” I said, “Nah, it’s beautiful.” I ended up buying one a year later for $4,500.

In 2011, I organized a drive for Pinto owners I called the Pinto Stampede. It went from Denver to the Ford Nationals—the largest all-Ford car show in the world—in Carlisle, Pa. The drive celebrated the Pinto’s 40th anniversary. I was amazed at how many owners showed up. There were 70 cars, the owners from California, Minnesota, Texas, even Canada.


When you’re driving a Pinto, there’s no road rage. No one cuts you off or yells at you, the way people do where I live. People want to tell you their stories. Ford made nearly 3.2 million of these cars from model year 1971 to 1980.


As most people know, the Pinto had some bad times, regarding exploding gas tanks. People will say what they want. But I can say this: I have climbed through hundreds of these cars in junkyards all over the place, looking for parts. And I have yet to discover any burn marks on any of them.

I still own my 1977 Pinto, and I modified it with 1970 Mustang Boss 302 parts. I also bought my wife a 1976 Pinto, for $5,000. She loves it, and I had a hand bag made for her to match her plaid seats. My car is heavily modified, and hers had the factory recall work done, so the gas tank thing is a nonissue. As far as collector cars go, you could buy a Pinto for every day of the week for the money you’d spend on a mint-condition Mustang.

On June 1, our group will kick off another Pinto Stampede, celebrating the car’s 45th anniversary. These cars spark so many memories. And we’re keeping those memories rolling.

Contact A.J. Baime at facebook.com/ajbaime.

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