Pinto 2000 Coupe

Super Stock Magazine, December 1970

Any way you look at it, the Ford Pinto is an interesting car. If you care to see it only as an inexpensive yet classy way to get to work and back, that's one thing. If you see a potential there for modifications as a semi-stock race car, that's quite another. Ford Motor Company has flatly declared that they do not want the Pinto thought of as any kind of a performance car, but then drag racers and performance buffs have never been known to ignore a good combination when it happens.

We were exposed to our first production Pinto recently through the good offices of the Washington, D.C., Ford p.r. people, who came up with a gold-hued, automatic-transmissioned, big-engined Pinto for us to try on for a short while. It the three-speed transmission, and the German-made 2000cc (122 cubic inch) SOHC 4-cylinder engine, optional interior group in butterscotch vinyl, optional A78-13 tires, optional wheel covers which did nothing but cover the wheels (not a very aesthetic design), and an AM radio. And that was it. Simplicity itself.

We must tell you that we were amazed. We didn't think at the outset that a 122 CID engine had enough oats to spin a converter, but this one did. It's rated at 95 hp and something over 100 ft. lb. torque, but it runs more like a heavily insulated electric motor. It just doesn't make any underhood noise, and only a very small exhaust noise can be heard. So, we thought, it must be a real load when it comes to acceleration. Wrong.

In point of fact, the engine could be made to spin the tires rather easily, and would pull quite strongly through the automatic transmission because of the 3.55 gears in the rear, which are a bunch less noisy in operation than the standard 4.11 VW gears. Now, understand that the Pinto with the big engine won't give you whiplash or put your stomach in your throat, but it will move out smartly and quietly. Let us note here too that we would have perferred that the 2000 cc engine with a 4-speed, and that the combination will be available very soon, but wasn't at the time of our test.

The overall finish of the Pinto, inside and out, must be rated superior. The rugs fit, the seats were well upholstered, there were no rattles of any kind in any part of the car, and the paint job was topnotch. For these reasons alone, it might be a nice car to switch over to, since workmanship of this caliber was supposed to be gone forever and now we find it is not. Of course, our test car was slightly duded up from the standard, with imitation hand-tooled seats and panelling, but we've seen the standard interior on prototype cars and it isn't bad to look at, as well as being all there and tight-fitting.

Inside the car, one gets a feeling of immense comfort and the impression of roominess, mainly because the car is comfortable and roomy. The seats are high, wide, and thick enough to support a variety of bodies, and the rear seat is just unbelievable, with as much or more actual legroom than most of the Mustang-class cars.

Instrumentation and controls in the dash are minimal, with one bulb for engine temperature and oil pressure, one for brake system condition, one for alternator charging, and a gage for fuel level as part of the two-pod group of instruments. Wipers and lights are at the left, with international symbols on the knobs, and heater controls are centered over the radio, with a fresh air vent at either end of the dash that would blow you right out of your bucket seat at anything over 60 mph. the engineers who designed that one should be commended, because it really cools off the car's interior. About the only zero in the instrumentation and dash area is the lack of a rheostat for the dash lights. They're either on or off, with no provision for brightening the intensity, and they're not the brightest to start with. In a car that's so well done otherwise, this one omission is hard to forgive. Another bad point in that area is lack of adjustment for the passenger bucket, which isn't uncommon in American cars, but less forgiveable in a smaller car.

The engine is an all-new design by Ford of Germany and features a 2bbl. Weber carburetor, water-heated intake manifold, IMCO Ford emissions system, belt-driven overhead cam, crossflow head with intake system and valves on one side and exhaust system on the other, evaporative emissions control system, mechanical valve train, 8.6:1 compression, and a lot of class for a little guy. The Automatic transmission behind the 2000 engine is exactly the same SelectShift Cruis-O-Matic that's in small V8 Ford cars, so we all know it will stand the gaff of running behind the overpowering torque of the Four!

Under the unit body of the Pinto is a curious mix of ideas from here and abroad. The "here" part is the rear suspension, with 46.5" three-leaf springs and vertical-mount shocks supporting a light rear axle assembly with a 6.5" ring gear center section. From abroad comes the idea of rack and pinion steering up front with a 22:1 overall ratio and a great feeling of control. The steering mates with conventional independent front suspension using coil spring mounted to the lower control arms and ball joints for an altogether nice ride, good stability for a light car on bumpy roads, and a nice clean engine compartment that, unlike those in other Ford cars, does not have shock towers intruding into it. All of the front suspension and steering components are seperated by sheet metal from the engine room.

We tried in our brief with the car to make it make mistakes. We pushed the automatic transmission and the engine to ridiculous limits and neither whimpered, as hot as it was during our test. We stomped the brakes from as high as 85 mph and the little 9-inchers refuse to fade or falter. The steering is, you should pardon the expression, right on, and the noise level at high speeds is more than acceptable.

We would not ruin the car's reputation by giving you quarter-mile times. It's just not fair. So, what we did instead was to hook up our ARE Electronics "Digitimer" timing equipment in the car and go for one-block rides at full throttle, using manual and automatic control for the transmission. After more than several of these rides, we determined that the big-engined Pinto will cover an average city block in about 9.5 seconds. That tells you absolutely nothing, right? We then went out with a '69 VW and drag raced a few times, and the Pinto's advantage at the top of the VW's first gear was more than two car lengths. At the top of the VW's second gear, the gap was ridiculous, and the VW had the advantage of the four-speed trans and a Hurst-shifter. So, we can put the two things together and tell you that the 95 hp automatic Pinto will cover a helluva lot more ground in the same time than a VW will, without excessive engine noise and without shifting. And it will pull 24 mpg any time, day or night if you treat it sanely.

Then there's the Pinto as raw material. We took one entire morning to make pertinent measurements on the Pinto, and we found out some very interesting things. First, a smallblock (289-302-351) Ford V8 will fit under the hood if the radiator is pushed forward and the firewall is altered. With plenty of room on the sides and plenty of room at the top of the manifold for exotic carburetion. There is plenty of room in either front or rear wheel wells for larger size tires. The existing transmission and driveshaft tunnel will accommodate a variety of four-speed transmission other than the standard one, as well as any beefed version of the C-4 or C-6 automatic. The front suspension presents no problems in converting to a larger engine, because it is completely hidden away outside and beneath the engine compartment, probably far enough forward to clear pan and balancer if the V8 in question is set back slightly. Of course, the rules for NHRA in 1971 set the wheelbase minimum at 100", negating the use in higher Gas and Altered classes with larger engines. For street use, one of Ford Motor Company's lightweight, thinwall-cast V8's of the past few years will be the most attractive prospect for conversions.

For those who can't handle the time and money side of a V8 conversion for the Pinto, the stock 4-cylinder engine, or the 2000 cc optional overhead cam Four can all be modified by a competent mechanic and/or machinist a lot more cheaply an easily than the popular VW can. The 1600 cc engine is a seasoned veteran of many years of rallying in this country and overseas, and there are speed parts by the ton manufactured across the pond for this little gem, Buying the 1600 and the 4-speed is the cheapest way to get a Pinto, and could lead to outstanding performance with a couple of hundred dollars' outlay for some good parts.

And then, if you are amoung the legions who have spent enough money on race cars, and need only a stylish way to get around town without breaking the bank, the Pinto is a likely candidate for that job, too.

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