Given the lawsuits and safety concerns about their fuel tanks; its often forgotten these days that the Ford Pinto was a rousing success for Ford in the Early 70’s. Upon introduction the frolicsome combination of sprite, plucky nature and a reasonable entry price made the Ford Pinto seemingly like the answer to the onslaught of Subcompact imports flooding the American Automotive Market.
Ford upped the versatility quotient to match Chevrolet’s Vega with first a Hatchback, then the Station wagon model for 1972. The Squire option brought enough charm for housewives and handymen a plenty to consider the smallest by a large margin of Ford Haulers. In a way, its the ultimate expression of the virtues early Pintos contained.
Although the Pinto received plenty of kudos upon introduction, one of the sore points was interior volume of the original 2 door sedan. Granted, none of the domestic bred Subcompacts were known for their passenger accomodations.
Even the next option up in the Ford stable, the Maverick, sacrificed usable interior space (a calling card of its Falcon roots) for swoopy, Pony-Car adherent styling. The Pinto kept with the equine vibe, and wasn’t as roomy as a Toyota Corolla, or even the captive import Ford Cortina Ford had sold before the Pinto and Maverick took its place in the Ford of America line up.
However, the theme of cheerful minimalism held the Pinto together. The Pinto was engineered with a combination of simplied smarts from a number of sources. Though the basic chassis design came in from Detroit, the powertrains sourced already proven technology from Ford of England and Ford of Germany.
Where the Sedan models offered both the Kent and Cologne Four Cylinder Engines, the Pinto Wagon initially only offered the larger, more powerful Cologne Four when it debuted in the middle of the 1972 model year. The larger 4 also smartly required front disc brakes.
By 1972, it was rated at 86 Net Horsepower. Yet performance didn’t suffer, and the revvy Cologne 4 still made the Pinto a fun fling on normal errands. The Wagon models were about 10 inches longer, and offered nearly double the cargo volume the Sedan and Hatchback models offered.
Like the other models, they could be highly accessorized, and one favorite way of doing so was to dress it up in the Di-Noc snobbery of the “Squire” brand Ford had given to the Public since the early 50’s. Ford had long been able to peddle relatively inexpensive wagons with ultimate snob appeal by adding fake wood, and the Pinto would prove no different.
The appeal wasn’t only skin deep however. Once inside, little luxuries like better padded seating, “wood” trim on the dash, shifter and steering wheel and better door panels greeted those who splurged on the littlest snob scenester in Ford Showrooms.
Being able to access such exclusivity at such a low low price (the Squire stickered around $2,500 when introduced in 1972) proved just the ticket to keep this particular Pony Express trotting successfully for many model years. Over 100,000 1972 Pinto Wagons found homes despite their late start. In the next season they would go on to trump the sales of the other two models, proving that people appreciated the maximum versatility of the extra size plus the liftgate. More often than not, people plunked down extra cash for the more posh Squire version as well.
It went a long way in proving the case the 1960 Corvair Monza opened up in regards to American Compact cars. Buyers want comfort, conviencience and flair no matter what size of car they chose. The Pinto Squire made it seem less ridiculous for Ford to consider moving the Mustang brand itself to the Pinto Chassis. Weird that a wagon would influence a Sports Personal car? Had it not been for the Pinto Squire, the Mustang may have not survived the 1970’s. How about that?