The picture of a 1974 Ford Pinto automobile from a Dearborn, Michigan article
1974 Ford Pinto automobile | Bettmann via Getty Images

The Ford Pinto was a subcompact car model produced and sold by the Ford Motor Company. In the history of the automotive industry, the Pinto is widely regarded as one of the worst cars of all time, sharing the limelight with the AMC Gremlin, the Chevy Corvair, the Dodge Caliber, and the Pontiac Aztek, among other notable failures.

The poor reception of the Ford Pinto was partially due to its poor ride quality, resulting in a very rigid, harsh, and uncomfortable driving experience on highways and country roads.

However, what made the Ford Pinto infamous were allegations that the car could catch fire after rear-end collisions, similar to present claims directed at Tesla models. Then, a memo from the Ford Motor Company was found, detailing that they knew about the defect, but calculated that paying off lawsuits from customers and families who were injured or killed by the Pinto was cheaper than reengineering and re-releasing the car. If not for that smoking gun and its fallout, the Ford Pinto would instead be remembered as just a mediocre entry in the Ford vehicle catalog.

About Ford

  • 1980 Ford Pinto (Starting MSRP $4,605)
  • Pros: The Ford Pinto was reasonably fuel-efficient for its time and made for an affordable model that handles well and is very maneuverable for city commutes and traffic.
  • Cons: The quality of materials used on the Pinto was reportedly poor, making for an uncomfortable and bumpy ride whenever reaching high speeds. Additionally, it had frequent reliability and maintenance issues.
  • See Also: Fiesta and Focus

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