Archive for Monday, May 23, 2011

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Pinto Stampede: For car’s 40th anniversary, proud owners will travel I-70, visit Speedway

Kenny Eaton, Topeka, stands with his 1975 Ford Pinto, which he purchased three years ago. Eaton plans to participate in the Pinto Stampede, a cross-country rally that will be in northeastern Kansas May 29-30.

Kenny Eaton, Topeka, stands with his 1975 Ford Pinto, which he purchased three years ago. Eaton plans to participate in the Pinto Stampede, a cross-country rally that will be in northeastern Kansas May 29-30.

May 23, 2011

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Kenny Eaton, Topeka, stands with his 1975 Ford Pinto, which he purchased three years ago. Eaton plans to participate in the Pinto Stampede, a cross-country rally that will be in northeastern Kansas May 29-30.

Kenny Eaton, Topeka, stands with his 1975 Ford Pinto, which he purchased three years ago. Eaton plans to participate in the Pinto Stampede, a cross-country rally that will be in northeastern Kansas May 29-30.

The Pinto logo on Kenny Eaton's car.

The Pinto logo on Kenny Eaton's car.

Kenny Eaton remembers the day the truck arrived at his house towing his new prized possession, a 1975 Ford Pinto he bought for a few hundred bucks.

His wife wasn’t pleased.

“She came out waving her arms, saying, ‘No, no, no. Get it out of here,’” the Topeka resident recalls. “It was four different colors. The windshield was cracked. She didn’t see the beauty.”

Three years later, the Pinto is only one color (metallic blue), has a new windshield and tires, and is getting an upgraded engine. Its vanity tag reads “X PLOD,” reference to the Pinto’s undeserved reputation for catching fire when it is hit from behind.

“‘KABOOM’ was taken,” Eaton explains. “You’ve got to have kind of a warped sense of humor to drive a Ford Pinto.”

No doubt that sense of humor will be out in full force for the Pinto Stampede, a cross-country rally of the maligned vehicles that kicks off Saturday and will be in northeast Kansas Sunday and Monday. The trip concludes June 2 in Carlisle, Pa., where the cars will lead the parade at the Carlisle Ford Nationals.

The Stampede is a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors Project, which provides assistance to veterans injured while serving.

The Pinto celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The Pinto, which Ford produced from 1971 to 1980, was known as an economical option with decent fuel economy during the energy crisis of the 1970s. However, the gas tank controversy — which a later study said was exaggerated by national media — marred the Pinto’s legacy, and many took a one-way trip to the junkyard. Today, an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 of the 3 million Pintos produced remain.

The Stampede was organized by Pinto enthusiast Norm Bagi, who got the idea after watching a television that featured Ford Mustangs on a cross-country trip. The route starts in Denver, and the cars are scheduled to spend Sunday night in Salina.

The Pinto owners will tour Fort Riley Monday morning before heading for lunch at Specks Bar and Grill in Topeka. From there, the Pintos will hit I-70 and go to the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., where they’ll get to take a lap.

In all, about 35 Pintos will take part in the event, though some are only driving part of the route. Two trucks will pull trailers behind, just in case some of the cars don’t make it.

“There’s going to be some rusted-out junkers on the road, and some pristine ones that have been kept nicely through the years,” Bagi says.

He says the Pinto offers an option for car-lovers to tinker with a classic vehicle without spending a fortune.

“The Pinto crowd is not the Mustang crowd or the Cougar crowd or the Porsche crowd,” Bagi says. “They max out at about $5,000 unless you have a lot of investment in it. A lot of these people are not Fortune 500 types. They’re the peanut butter and jelly crowd.”

Bagi expects a positive reception on the road to Pennsylvania.

“It’s an oddball,” he says of the Pinto. “When you drive it around, the strangest thing happens. Nobody cuts you off or flips you off. They wave, beep and give you a thumbs-up.

“At the gas station, everybody talks to you about the Pinto. I’ve heard stories about people losing their virginity in them, or it was their first car in college, or it was the cheapest piece of crap they ever had.”

Eaton, a Topeka police detective, plans to meet up with the Stampede group while the tour is in the area. He has never seen another Pinto in Topeka, so he’s looking forward to chatting with other owners.

He says he recently saw a Pinto for sale online and suggested to some friends they should buy it.

“I need someone to buy one so I can call a meeting of the Pinto Club in town,” he says. “Instead of just talking to myself.”

Comments

kernal 4 years ago

Back in the '70s, a Pinto with Firestone tires was called a Firebomb.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

Something that is often forgotten is that beginning with the 1978 model year, the Ford Pinto and the Mercury Bobcat had a separate gas tank underneath, just like any other car. (I was the proud owner of a 1978 Bobcat.)

Later, an apparently very valid claim was made that statistically, the Pinto was as safe or safer than other cars in its class.

But in the automotive world, just like in regular life, it is very difficult to overcome a bad reputation.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

I had the Mercury version of the Pinto, which was called the Bobcat. Mine was blue with a 4 speed manual transmission, the four cylinder engine, and an AM radio. A 6 cylinder engine was an option, you could also get an automatic transmssion, air conditioning, an FM radio, and power steering. And, I believe that an upscale interior was also available.

It differed only in some of the trim, and the shape of the hood. I was always convinced that it had a higher build quality than the Pinto, and it was certainly a wonderful car. I had almost no problems with it the whole time I owned it. I got rid of it far to soon! I saw it for years afterwards, it was being used by a low cost car rental agency that was called 'Rent a Wreck' here in Lawrence. Once I asked a man driving it if I could look at it again, and I was surprised that it had 97,000 miles on it at that time!

I sure wish I had that car today, there is no telling how much it would be worth!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

I bought my Bobcat from Saunders Lincoln-Mercury on 9th St. They were located right across the street from the laundromat. And, the car lot was just east of the laundromat.

I used to call them the only honest car dealer in town. Of course, that was only my opinion at the time. I was certainly happy with the only two cars I ever bought from them, that's for sure!

Later, I had the honor of purchasing the very last car that Saunders Lincoln-Mercury ever sold, which was a 1978 Ford Fiesta. I bought it in 1982, and it had only a bit over 12,000 miles on it at the time. It had every single option except for the sunroof, and was a Ghia trim model. Very upscale at the time!

There's a long story behind my Ford Fiesta, and it was certainly very unique. The synopsis is that it was sold new at the Ford dealer here in Lawrence to a woman who worked in foreign service. So, it was then shipped to Denmark and refitted to European standards, except for the speedometer and the odometer remained in miles, not kilometers. The rear turn signals had to be amber, headlights were different and wired differently, and the smaller gas filler had to be replaced with the larger European one. The ones sold here in the USA were smaller in order to accomodate leaded gas. Turned out, the entire gas tank had to be replaced to effect that change!

Well, she didn't drive very much in Denmark! And then, a few years later, it was shipped back to the USA, and shipped cross country back to Lawrence. So, it was built in Germany, and its tavel history was that it was then shipped to Lawrence, Kansas, then shipped to Denmark, and then shipped back to Lawrence, Kansas.

And so, since the car had only 12,000 miles on it, that car had been shipped more miles than it had ever been driven in 4 years!

I certainly got a very good deal on a car that had only 12,000 miles! Again, that's another car that I traded in far to soon.

A day or two later, I was so surprised when I read in the Journal World that Laird Noller Ford bought Saunders Lincoln-Mercury the day after I had taken delivery of my Ford Fiesta!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

Whoops! Correction: "The ones sold here in the USA were smaller in order to accomodate leaded gas."

"leaded" should be replaced with "unleaded". The gas filler was smaller in order to prevent cars with a catalytic converter from being filled with leaded gas, because using leaded gasoline destroyed the effectiveness of the catalytic converter.

Anyone that was buying gas in the late 1970s will remember the conversion from leaded to unleaded gasoline!

tomatogrower 4 years ago

Will they have to go uphill? I used to own one in the '70's. Timing could never be set by the book. A friend used to set it by ear, and had to do it at least once a month or I couldn't go uphill. Also you couldn't buy window cranks or door knobs fast enough. Pieces of junk!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

You should have gotten a Bobcat instead, there were no problems like that at all!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

In fact, you know what? I drove my Bobcat somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000 miles, and I never had a single tuneup at all. And never, ever did it lack for power, even when crossing the Rocky Mountains to southern California and back.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

Oh yes! To many to list, plus there is that killjoy, the TOS!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

I've thought about your issues with your car for a while, and maybe you have a point. It would depend upon the care the car had received by previous owners, the miles on it, and the options package, just like any other car.

When I traded in my Bobcat in 1980, it was a 12 year old car and had only about 60,000 miles on it. It had the exact same drive train as the Pinto, with the 4 cylinder engine, a 4 speed manual, an AM radio, and no other options. There had been very few problems with the car. That is, I needed a new battery once, the clutch cable housing slipped through the firewall ($70 to have fixed), new tires once, and the brake pads wore out. That is every single problem I ever had with that car, except for one minor accident. In fact, if it had not been in that minor accident I am quite sure I would have kept my Bobcat longer. I really loved that car!

So, my experience was with a car that had the ideal power train and very few miles, and I took very good care of it. Except for those trips across the Rocky Mountains, when it was loaded to the hilt.

Before buying the one I did, I looked at a Bobcat that had all the options. That is, it had an automatic transmission, air conditioning, and power steering. And it still had the 4 cylinder engine.

I did wonder how in the world a 4 cylinder engine could power all those options, and still get the car to move. So, I didn't buy that one!

I sure hope that the Pinto collectors ensure that parts for the Pinto remain available, because my dream car is the Glassic. I believe they were sold in the '70s through Ford dealers, and there weren't very many of them made. They show up for sale from time to time, usually in Hemmings Motor News.

The Glassic is a replica of a 1928 Ford Model A roadster, the body was built of fiberglass, and it has a Pinto drivetrain and brakes. They all have a 4 cylinder engine and a 4 speed transmission, just like the original Model A did.

It would be so wonderful to drive around in a Model A without all the problems that they had when new. One time, I drove a 1929 Model A pickup that was entirely original, and silly me, I thought that when you stepped on the mechanical steel rods (not hydraulic), the brakes would actually stop the car.

Wrong! I almost crashed into the ditch!

And, you do NOT want to have an accident in a vintage car because they are not crashworthy at all!

RoeDapple 4 years ago

I'm fairly certain Ron liked his Bobcat . . . 'sayin'

;-)

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

No, no, and no! I did not "like" my Bobcat, I loved it!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

Plus, your adventures in a car,,, you know what I mean!

deec 4 years ago

Those doors hurt when slammed on a hand...but I can't talk about it.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

That was terrible!

And there's all those other adventures we had in my Bobcat that we called Bobbie. That car had a personality all its own. Or maybe, we gave it a personality with all the adventures we had in it.

We sure can't talk about the best ones in here!

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

There is another thing, and that is when the Pinto first came out my father got it in his head that I should have a brand new first model year Pinto (1971) to drive around in while I was attending my freshman year in college. No place to go really, but just to drive around in instead of studying.

But, I didn't want one, and I told him so!

Duh! A free brand new car, and I said no?

I wanted a VW squareback or maybe our 1969 Pontiac Bonneville. Well, I did like our 1967 Cadillac too. But, earlier I had decided I wanted a Citroen, but I sure didn't know what a nightmare that would be to own. Breaking down all the time, and no one could work on it.

Or maybe, the 1950 Plymouth that I already owned. My Grandfather had given it to me.

Or a Nash!

Don't ever get me started on Nash cars, I got it in my head that they were the most incredible cars ever built, even though you could count on this: An old Nash would hardly ever run.

Especially, I loved the 1939 model. You could look at it anytime and that was good enough for me.

I didn't realize that I had it made. I was going away to college and my dad was going to pay for every dime, and buy me a new car too. And I got all upset because I didn't like the new car he was going to buy for me!

RoeDapple 4 years ago

You had a '50 Plymouth?! Me too, my first car! $50 bucks and pure fun to drive! Mine was like this only gray http://users.frii.com/gbooth/Cars/51plym_1a.jpg Built my own floor shift in Metal Fab class with Fred Shultz grinnin' the whole time telling me it wouldn't work! Worked great but had kind of a slow-S/checkmark shift pattern.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years ago

Wow, RoeDapple! Next time I see you, I'll have to tell you about mine!

Sigmund 4 years ago

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