Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Ford Pinto: A Scapegoat?

I am now looking at various cars from the 1970s, just to get a broad sense of the auto history decade. For the most part, writing on 1970s automobiles in America centers on the "worst " cars or crap cars, with only a few few articles on "cool"cars from that decade. Invariably at the top of the crap cars list is the Ford Pinto.

We had a 1973 Ford Pinto, purchased in 1974 at Canal Ford in New Orleans. It was dark green exterior and light green interior, with the small Kent 4 cylinder engine that was made in Great Britain. As it turned out, we kept it for 11 years and it was a fine car, with minimal repairs. It never let me down, got good gas mileage, was more than a bit slow, and had absolutely no panache!

So I started to rethink the Pinto story, given my own experience. More significantly, automobile history is proliferated with myths and mistruths that are repeated time and time again.

I found an article on the Pinto safety cases that is definitely worth reading:  Gary T. Schwartz, "The Myth of the Ford Pinto Case," Rutgers Law Review, (1990-1991), p1013 ff.  There is plenty here to consider.
Included in the footnotes is a table compelled by Schwartz from NHTSA Vehicle Fatality Data.
p. 1029

Car                                          1975                                   1976
AMC Gremlin                        274                                     315
Chevrolet Vega                       288                                     310
Datsun 1200/210                    392                                      418
Datsun 510                             294                                      340
Ford Pinto                              298                                      322
Toyota Corolla                       333                                      293
VW Beetle                             378                                      370

A thirteen-year-old boy suffered severe burns when the 1972 Pinto in which he was a passenger burst into flames in a rear-end collision‚ This was the accident litigated in the celebrated Grimshaw Case in CA.

1 comment:

  1. I have liked Pintos, not because they were louse cars (which they were) but because a cousin (who was always like a big brother to me) traded a 71 Boss 351 Mustang for a Pinto when he got married.