1977 Ford Pinto

Even though Henry Ford II had promised no annual changes just for the sake of change, the 1977 Ford Pinto did receive an attractive facelift. Up front, a narrower chrome-plated plastic grille composed of six rows of rectangles sat between vertically bisected parking and turn-signal lamps. The grille ensemble was canted back toward the top between similarly angled body-color headlight buckets that looked almost like the "frenched" lights on customized cars of the Fifties.

Sedan and Runabout taillights were redone for the first time, enlarged with a sectioned red plastic lens, plus a white inset lens for the back-up lights.

1977 Ford Pinto
The 1977 Ford Pinto may have looked better
after a facelift, but it also cost more.

An improved electronic ignition system called DuraSpark now brought Pinto engines to life. Power, however, was down slightly in both; the four now made 89 horsepower at 4,800 rpm, and the six generated 93 horsepower at 4,200 rpm.

Horsepower may have been going up and down from year to year, but one thing was rising steadily: prices. The car that Ford exec Lee Iacocca had initially wanted to sell for no more than $2,000 now cost at least $3,000, even for a stripped-down Pony sedan ($3,099). At the high end, a four-cylinder station wagon now started at $3,548, and Squire equipment added $343 to the bill.

Another option open to wagon buyers was the Cruising Wagon, a $416 package that attempted to turn the Pinto hauler into a miniature version of the custom vans that had become quite the rage in the Seventies. The package started with a filler panel for all rear-side windows. A portholelike "bubble" window was added toward the rear on each side.

Remaining exterior touches included a choice of several colorful bodyside tape­stripe selections, color-keyed dual racing mirrors, front spoiler, and polished aluminum wheels. Inside, a carpeted cargo area extended to the sidewalls in the rear compartment.

Even with escalating prices, Pinto buyers were still in the market for a few extras for their motoring pleasure. In addition to several sound systems including AM/FM with eight-track players and air conditioning, Ford offered a whole treasure trove of accessories.

New this year for the sedan and Runabout was a pop-up glass sunroof that could be removed altogether. Runabouts could be given an even airier look via a solid-glass rear hatch that cost just $13. (One extra that failed to come back to the Runabout this year was the Squire trim option.)

Interiors were rather snazzy with plaid cloth and striking color combinations in vinyl, featuring plush Ruffino leather-like graining, or special stitching patterns. Available on both the sedan and Runabout were bold accent-stripe decor groups, one of which even resembled the look of the red and white Ford Torino seen weekly on the Starsky and Hutch television series.

Television also played an important role in promoting the Pinto, not only through commercials, but by appearing in a number of series. Few regular viewers of the original Charlie's Angels can forget Kate Jackson's orange and white Runabout.

Despite the improved looks and celebrity rub-off, Pinto sales were starting to fall victim to the growing reports of explosive rear-end collisions. Ford touted improved cushioning of all fuel tanks and the massive recall efforts it was launching, but this failed to build consumer confidence.

Resale value of used Pintos was affected as well, falling far below the established curve for other cars in its class. Just 202,549 of the Ford subcompacts rolled off the assembly line this year, the fewest yet for any season.

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