Ford Pinto

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The Ford Pinto debuted as a compact car by the Ford Motor Company on September 11, 1970, deriving its name from the Pinto horse and competing in the nascent United States small car market from 1971-1980.

Initially offered as a two-door coupe,[2] Ford ultimately offered the Pinto in coupe, wagon, and hatchback models to compete with the AMC Gremlin and Chevrolet Vega, along with imported models from Volkswagen, Datsun, Toyota and other manufacturers. By January 1971, the Pinto had sold over 100,000 units.[3] In its last model year, Ford built 68,179 units.[4]

A rebadged variant, the Bobcat, debuted in 1974 in Canada and in March 1975 in the US.[5] The Pinto and the smaller Ford Fiesta were ultimately replaced by the front-wheel-drive Ford Escort.

The Pinto's legacy was affected by controversy surrounding the safety of its gas tank design, Ford's 1978 recall of the car, and a later study concluding the Pinto was as safe or safer than other cars in its class.[6]



U.S. automakers had first countered imports such as the Volkswagen with compact cars including the Falcon, Corvair and Dart. These cars had six cylinder engines, but actually comprised a larger class of vehicles. As the popularity of smaller Japanese imports from Toyota and Datsun increased throughout the 1960s, Ford North America responded by introducing the Ford Cortina from Ford of Europe as a captive import. But U.S. automakers soon developed their own new class of "subcompacts", though many of them would be classified as "compact" today.

The AMC Gremlin was the first to arrive on the market on April 1, 1970, six months before the Pinto. The Chevrolet Vega was introduced the day before the Pinto, September 10, 1970. Both the Pinto and the Vega were new, but the Pinto used powertrains proven in Europe from the European Ford Escort, while the Vega's innovative aluminum engine would prove troublesome. The Gremlin was designed around a six-cylinder engine, and was derived largely by truncating the rear body from the compact-class AMC Hornet to achieve its short length.

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