The Beginning 8-inch
I really like Pintos. There, I said it. The Pinto has had its critics over the years, but now that Pintos have been gone since 1980, they are becoming classics. I compare the Pinto to the Nash Metro of the late 50's. Back in the late 50's and early 60's, the poor little Nash was the target of much criticism. During the old-car craze of the 1980's, however, the little English/American hybrid found its audience, and became quite collectable. Now, it is time for some limelight for the Pinto, many of which are over 25 years old, the standard age for becoming classic.
How it all started.
My good friend from high school, Bill, had a green 72 Pinto his father handed down to him in 1977. In typical high schooler fashion, Bill really drove the heck out of that little car, and it never let him down. He added a tubular exhaust header to the 2000cc engine, put some mag wheels on it, installed a custom interior, and put a sunroof in it. We used his little Pinto to tow a small trailer all around Northern California for our post high school trip, even driving it and the trailer down Lombard Street in San Francisco. The gas crunch of 1979 had arrived, and even though my father owned a service station, it was time to get something more economical. I found a blue 72 Pinto in San Jose, and paid $800 for it. The car had the 2000cc engine, 4-speed transmission, and a hatchback. It was a virtual copy of Bill's car, except for the color. The car had 79,000 well-cared for miles on it. In October of 1979, I had the father of another friend paint the car using DuPont Imron paint. This is the very same paint job that is on the car this day, many years and miles later.
My little Pinto has the German made 2000cc overhead cam engine. It is a large bore, short stroke engine, which lets it live a long time on the Autobahn. It's a good thing the engine revs so easily, because this little car comes with 3.55:1 rearend gears and has short 215/60R13 tires. It sings about 3500 rpm at 70 mph. The original engine lasted 215,000 miles, many of which were at full throttle at the dragstrip and getting onto freeways. At those kinds of rpms, 215,000 miles is really extraordinary. Modern cars with their overdrive transmissions and highway gears would probably have to last 500,000 miles to equal the number of total revolutions that this little Pinto engine made during its lifetime. The only reason my car's original engine quit was a broken piston. It started coughing after I made a mad dash home to Salinas in 110 degree weather when Pop was dying. Later, when I pulled the head, I found there was a piece of aluminum missing out of the #4 piston edge above the ring where it had overheated under the stress of my driving. The coughing was the aluminum chunk holding the intake valve open. Had I treated it better, or even just replaced that one piston, it would still be going.
Deal of the year!
My friend Rocky had a 74 Pinto with a modified 2000cc engine. The body was beat and Rocky was ready for something nicer, so he sold me the car for $300. I removed the engine, transmission, and new radiator, then sold the car for $100 to a guy who was making, of all things, a Pro-Street Nash Metropolitan! Talk about coincidences! This current engine was built by our former co-worker, Steve. It is a .030 overbore with forged TRW pistons, and the block has been cut down to zero deck height. Coupled with the shaved and ported head, the big cam (.440 lift, 280 duration), and exhaust and intake mods, this motor is a little screamer. This new motor has never seen the track, but the old motor logged a few hot laps. I have raced this little car at strips all over the southwest: Phoenix International Dragway, Carlsbad Raceway, and Las Vegas.
The best times were in the low 17's at about 80 mph. The new motor should do much better, but since we don't live close to a dragstrip now, it'll probably be a while before the car ever hits the track again. In this particular photo taken at Phoenix, I am ahead of a 327 powered Chevelle at half-track. It was about 100 degrees outside that day, and I'm sure everyone's cars were running slower than their potential.
A true utility vehicle!
Pintos are really useful little cars, especially the hatchback models. In this photo, there is a complete, disassembled 427 Ford Hi-Riser big-block engine in the hatchback. I even put the headers in after this photo was taken. As of May 1998, this Pinto has 235,000 miles! The front suspension has never been rebuilt, nor has the rear, and it's all in good shape. Modifications beyond stock are the IECO front springs, gas shocks, traction bars, 205/60R13 front tires, 215/60R13 rear tires, Enkei wheels, new seat upholstery, recovered dash, and new carpet. This just goes to show you what good maintenance can do for any kind of car. My theory behind the cause of so many of these little cars not being on the road is that they were always thought of as cheap cars. People don't spend lots of money maintaining cheap cars. Consequently, they don't last very long. Properly cared for, even cheap cars can last a long time. This car is proof!
More Engine Pics
This is what the current engine looked like right after installation. I can't remember why, but I put the Offenhauser intake manifold back on. Since this photo, the Spearco intake has been reinstalled.
The Ford script radiator cap in these photos really turned out to be a piece of junk. The center of the cap corroded and fell off one day. It seems that whoever sells these things uses a very cheap cap, and installs the machined aluminum cover over them. So, it is possible to put the good decoration on a high quality cap...I just need to find a round one.
I like the stance of the car in this photo:
The door edge protectors have since been removed.
6-3/4 to 8 inch Rearend Swap
I was planning to perform a 2.3 Turbo TBird engine swap, but lost interest due other projects. The rearend got swapped out for a better one, though! The change from 3.55 to 3.40 has sure made the engine quieter at highway speeds, and has affected the acceleration very little, if at all. Here are photos taken during the swap.
Both cars right next to each other to make swapping of parts easier. The donor car is a 75 V6 Runabout model, which I parted out later.
Here you can see how much more massive and stronger the 8 inch is compared to the stock 4 cylinder unit, which uses a 6-3/4 diameter ring gear. The brake lines match up, but the spring perches are oblong on the 75 and round on the 72. This makes it so that the spring perch on the 72 does not work for the 75 rearend. The spring perches do not interchange, because the 72 has 4 leaves and the 75 has 5 leaves, making the spring perches different depths. In order to make the swap, the helper leaves from the 75 had to be moved over to main leaves of the 72. From what I understand, the main leaves on the newer cars are different than those of the early cars, and do not interchange, due to their different lengths. Depending upon the year of your car, you may or may not have to swap this stuff over, but be aware of these differences before you discard the donor car's parts or leave the wrecking yard without all the attachments!
Another difference between the two rearends is the size of the brake shoes and brake drums. The different rears have the same diameter brake drums, but the 75's are a bit wider than the 72. The wheel cylinders are different diameters, probably due to the different size of the brake shoes. This is a problem because it upsets the brake bias of the car. My car now locks up its rear brakes way too soon, and will require an aftermarket adjustable brake bias valve. I decided not to try using the 75's brake bias valve because the front brakes on the 75 are different than the 72, and it probably would not have worked. Aftermarket brake bias valves are not very expensive, luckily.
Well, I hated to part with the car, but the time had come, as other interests needed the space. It will always be the best car I've ever owned, and likely the longest length of ownership, 27 years. Here is what it looked like when I sold it.
Check out the Pinto Showcase of other people's Pintos, fast ones, stock ones, Pinto fans, parts for sale, aftermarket manufacturer info.
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