5k: Shooting Brake Horsey; 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon

Ford’s little ’70s horse-themed compact has gotten more than its fair share of flak over the years, some deserved, some exaggerated. While a few rear-end collisions resulted in fiery wrecks, apparently the numbers were far less than popularly believed. A report called The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case might make us realize that although the Pinto may have been a crappy econo-box it wasn’t drastically less safe than anything coming out of GM, Chrysler or AMC at the time. With that in mind, since we’re all about budget-minded rides here at DT…we ask you to consider this two-door wagon as an American alternative to the Volvo 1800ES. Sure it may not have the Volvo’s legendary solidity or durability, but the basic specs are all comparable and the price is drastically less than what a decent ES goes for. Find this 1972 Ford Pinto Wagon for $3499, deep in the heart of Silicon Vally, listed here on craigslist in Palo Alto, CA. Thanks to Kaibeezy for the tip!

We know, we know…blasphemy! How could we compare the lowly, should-have-never-been-born Pinto to that great quirky Swedish icon of style and substance, the Volvo 1800ES? Firstly, let’s just be clear that we do not place these cars in the same league. If you want something that will only appreciate in value, looks unique but great from any angle, will run forever and will be about as reliable as a 15 year old used Honda…buy an 1800ES. If you don’t have the $7k to $15k for one of those but still want a unique little two-door wagon…a Pinto might fit the bill nicely.

For literally half the price of the cheapest decent driver-quality 1800ES we’ve seen recently, this little white pony seems like it might be a bargain if it runs as good as it looks. This is a rear wheel drive, 5-speed manual transmission, 4-cylinder, 2-door wagon with disc brakes and a solid rear axle, and it was made in the early ’70s. Just like the Volvo! It has a 2.0L engine as well, but will be down on power at only about 100 bhp. This one’s been upgraded with electronic ignition so expect easier starting, smoother idling and less maintenance than the original points system could provide.

This car has a cool hot roddy nose-down stance, and more modern Fox body Mustang alloy wheels. Surprisingly this white wagon wears them well, so well that they almost look like they could have been a factory option. Plus, being a ’72 this is an earlier pre-facelift Pinto so it actually looks pretty decent in the styling department…it’s no looker, but the proportions are good and it is far from the hideous post-’74 mess that it became with the giant bumpers, square headlights and Chevette-style sloping nose.

The seller only gives us two interior shots, but from what we can see the blue and fake wood materials look very well kept…almost new…eerily nice for a Pinto! The little gaily-prancing horsey might bring the upmarket “Pony interior” in early Mustangs to mind, and maybe that was the point. In any case, this is far less hideous than what typically comes to mind when someone mentions a ’70s economy car interior with pleated vinyl and faux burl.

The back seat looks livable, and not unlike the Volvo 1800ES as well; it’s got two bucketed areas and is meant for two passengers only. We’re not sure if this folds flat to extend the cargo compartment forward like in the ES, but that would be nice. A little compact wagon or hatchback can be a surprisingly utilitarian vehicle for someone who needs to haul stuff but still wants that small-car driving experience. But the leaf-spring rear suspension isn’t as well controlled as a nice 4-link / coil sprung design like Volvo designed so it may be a bit more trucky in the ride & handling department. If this were ours we’d look into rear suspension options and upgrade to a later 2.3L OHC turbo Lima engine, as found in the SVO Mustang and Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.

So what say you, DT readers…is this Pinto just a wannabe shooting brake and not worthy of even being mentioned in the same paragraph as an 1800ES? Or is it close enough to warrant a closer look at $3499? You tell us!

Find a cheaper alternative beach wagon? Email us here: tips@dailyturismo.com