1972 Ford Pinto

On February 24, 1972, the third member of the 1972 Ford Pinto family was unveiled with the addition of the station wagon. The basic body platform was shared with the existing sedan and Runabout, but the rear-quarter panels stretched this car to 172.7 inches, or nearly 10 inches longer than the other Pintos.

1972 Ford Pinto
The 1972 Ford Pinto ascended into the Sprint family
that also included Mustang and Maverick.

Ford claimed a total of 60.5 cubic feet of storage space accessible through a one-piece liftgate similar in engineering to the Runabout's rear hatch. An extra-cost item for Pinto wagons were the flip-open rear-seat windows, the only source of fresh air for those stuck in the back. Underhood, the 2.0-liter engine was standard, backed up with the four-speed manual transmission. Also standard on all Pinto wagons were front disc brakes.

While it was an attractive little two-door wagon in its base form, dress-up packages were available, including a decor group similar to those offered for sedans and Runabouts. Though not considered a separate model, the Squire version was very popular with the wagon set.

Borrowing a name that had been part of the Ford family for more than 20 years, the option applied a woodlike finish accomplished through the use of fiberglass framing around a rich, dark walnut appliqué, giving the compact wagon an air of snobbery. Interior fittings included plush padded bucket seats; embossed door panels; woodgrain appliqués on the dash, shifter console, and steering-wheel center; and more.

One major change to hit the industry this year was in the method used to measure horsepower. Using a net figure based on engine power received at the rear wheels rather than the gross number generated untethered on a test stand, the 75-bhp rating of Pinto's 1.6-liter engine dropped to 54 for 1972, while the bigger 2.0-liter four went from 100 horsepower in 1971 to 86 in '72.

Ever since the Thirties, Ford had sought to invigorate slow springtime showroom traffic by offering something special for the season. For 1972, Pinto was bestowed the honor of being a member of a trio of Ford Sprint vehicles along with the Mustang and Maverick.

Pinto Sprint sedans and Runabouts were finished in white with blue hoods and lower body panels, wheels came with hubcaps and bright trim rings, and red pinstripe accents ran the length of the car. Stars-and-stripes shields were applied to the front fenders, giving these cars a very patriotic appeal. Interiors were done in white vinyl accented with blue and red.

Pinto prices saw moderate increases in 1972. Base sedans now started at $1960, while the Runabout was nudged up to $2,078. The first Pinto station wagons hit showrooms with a base price of $2,265 -- $20 less than the tab for the Chevrolet Vega Kammback wagon.

Production continued to climb. With a full model year at its disposal, the Runabout became the sales leader among Pinto buyers. A total of 197,920 hatchbacks were assembled, followed closely by 181,002 sedans. Being introduced late in the model year didn't stop the wagon from a good showing, with 101,483 examples produced.

After just two model years, almost 833,000 Pintos were on the road. American carmakers' entry into the subcompact field was starting to have an effect on the Japanese imports, as their market share dropped from a high of 15.2 percent in 1971 to 14.8 percent in 1972. This would prove to be just a temporary ebb in the tide, though.

For Pinto's upcoming third season, there would be some notable changes, mostly reflecting new safety mandates and the changing tastes of customers. The most obvious updates were energy-absorbing aluminum front bumpers to bring the Pinto up to a five-mph damage-resistance standard required by new federal laws. The new bumpers stretched lengths to 164.1 inches for sedans and 173.9 for wagons.

Pinto's exterior-color palette included five new colors. Forged alloy wheels and a handling package were options-list additions.

Prices continued to creep upward; the starting price for a two-door sedan finally inched past $2,000. Now it was the wagon's turn to take advantage of a full production year. Though it was the priciest member of the Pinto family, the wagon would prove to be the most-popular body style, establishing a pecking order that would last for several years in which demand for the wagon would be followed by the Runabout and then the sedan.

Across the nation, Ford dealers were having a field day selling the little Pinto. Several special and regional editions were created by local agencies, but probably none were as potent or as expensive as the Pangra, produced by Huntington Ford in Arcadia, California. It provided plenty of muscle for the subcompact set, and might be considered the grandfather of today's sport-compact "tuner" cars.

With a full head of steam, Pinto went into the 1974 model year sitting on top of the world. Before long, though, the market was in turmoil.

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