The 1976 Ford Pinto had the first major changes to the car's physical appearance and its marketing strategy. For the first time since its debut, there was a really noticeable change to the front-end appearance. A new grille featured a fine grid in place of the previous vertical slats. Rectangular parking/turn-signal lights floated near the outer edges of the grille.
The 1976 Ford Pinto was the first to break
from the look established in 1971.
From the marketing standpoint, there were a few more alternatives for buyers of Ford's subcompact. Dealers started to promote the Pinto as an "import fighter."
For those looking to really drive on the cheap, there was a new Pony MPG sedan. By shaving $130 off the standard four-cylinder sedan's $3,025 base price, the Pony buyer received about as bare-bones of a car as the government would allow to be sold. Inexpensive cloth seats, black rubber floor mats, and a more economical 3.00:1 axle came standard. (The 3.18 axle was now standard on all other four-cylinder Pintos, all of which were known as MPGs).
Going in the other direction, a special Stallion edition of the Pinto also appeared this year. As with the 1972 Sprint, this rather attractive package resembled similarly trimmed Mustangs and Mavericks. Features included silver paint with blacked-out grille, window frames, and headlight surrounds. A matte-black finish was also applied to the hood and cowl.
The Stallion was topped off with a pair of black sport mirrors; special logo decals on the fenders; forged aluminum wheels shod with A73313 raised-white-letter, wide-oval tires; plus a special handling suspension. This package added $283 to the base hatchback's $3,200 base price.
There were a couple of other minor variations that were new for the year. The V-6 was now available in the two-door sedan, and a Squire version of the Runabout was added. It included a wide band of imitation-wood trim on the bodysides, plus bright side-window and drip-rail trim.
Pinto sported some very interesting color combinations, especially in its interiors, with a Ford-exclusive vinyl-weave fabric available in one of four colors, or several choices of a nylon-based plaid pattern. An interesting innovation was the use of a vinyl half top that covered only the area ahead of the rear roof pillar.
No major mechanical innovations were announced for '76, except that the base four was boosted to 92 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and the optional V-6 to 103 horsepower at 4,400 revolutions.
Within a generally improved automobile market in 1976, Pinto production perked up. A total of 290,132 -- an increase of nearly 30 percent -- were run off for the model year.
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