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The Ford Pinto is one of the most discussed vehicles of all time. The automaker intended it to compete with some of the best small cars at the time. However, this only lasted for a moment in history before the Ford Pinto became one of the most dangerous cars. Its ultimate demise came as the result of one major flaw and how the automaker decided to handle it.

Here’s a look into the tragedy of the Ford Pinto.

The Ford Pinto could have been one of the best small cars

The Ford Pinto debuted for the 1971 model year and quickly became a big seller. This was Ford’s first subcompact, and the automaker intended it to compete with options such as the Toyota Corolla and the Volkswagen Beetle. The car caught on because not only was it affordable, but it was also reliable.

A Ford Pinto
Ford Pinto | Bettmann via Getty Images

The first Ford Pinto uses a 2.0-liter engine that delivers a decent amount of power. No, this affordable subcompact couldn’t win very many races, but it more than got the job done. Quite a few people loved the Pinto and considered it among the best small cars to buy at the beginning of its run.

According to Hagerty, the Pinto sold over 3.5 million units during its 10 years in production. The 1974 model became the most successful. However, this isn’t a vehicle you see very often on the road, and perhaps for good reason.

The massive recall 

Unfortunately, the Ford Pinto recall wasn’t over minor issues. Due to a manufacturing flaw, the Ford Pinto gas tanks could explode in the event of rear-end collisions. Making matters worse, many of these car accidents were low-speed. Ford first learned about this issue in 1970 while it was testing the car. However, Ford decided to continue production.

Reports began to surface in 1972 that there were explosions related to the gas tank. Initially, the automaker found it cheaper to continue settling out of court with victims and their families instead of fixing the issue.

Notably, 27 people died between 1970 and 1977 as a result of the malfunction. However, that number has been contested over the years. There were several lawsuits against Ford at the time, but the most famous was Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company. In the end, Ford recalled 1.5 million cars.

Ford’s reputation suffered quite a bit because of the Pinto. This happened not only because of the mechanical issue but also because of how the automaker handled it. Ultimately, Ford came out okay and replaced the Pinto with the Escort. Nowadays, the Pinto is pretty rare and fetches a decently high price.

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