VIDEO: How Japan’s best-selling compacts stacked up against the Ford Pinto

Here is a 1977 Ford commercial that is great on several accounts. First, it pits a Pinto against the best-selling Japanese compacts, which include an E30 Toyota Corolla, first-gen Honda Civic, and Datsun B210 (Honey Bee!). Second, it has none other than three-time Formula 1 champion Jackie Stewart shilling for the Pinto.

The spot has some excellent footage of the cars moving at speed, and in the tests shown (passing a truck and acceleration) the Pinto naturally beats the imports handily at the hands of Ford test drivers. Time has shown that the there were some further test where the imports would have fared better — namely, not exploding — but it’s entertaining nonetheless.

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10 Responses to VIDEO: How Japan’s best-selling compacts stacked up against the Ford Pinto

  1. Nigel said:

    Or the Pinto having anything in the trunk fall to ground thru the floor after a year (of rust).

  2. Alan McLucas said:

    Perhaps the commentary might have been different if Niki Lauda was speaking. What is worse being worried about being engulfed by a fireball in the event of a crash or taking an extra half second to pass a truck?

  3. Bob said:

    In 1980, I bought a 76 Pinto hatch not running.
    A conversion kit manufactured by Hooker, including headers and motor mounts and I installed a 302 that fit nicely.
    I sold it still not running. Hey, I was kid who’s girlfriend meant more. And that was stupid. No idea what happened to that car.

  4. John Moran said:

    The first car I remember our family buying new was a white Ford Pinto with blue sport stripe. Actually, what ended up catching on fire was our legs when sitting on the blue vinyl in the summer. Not sure how many people are still rockin’ Larry Bird short shorts, but some JNCers can probably still relate. We eventually replaced it with the 1983 Motor Trend Car of the Year.

  5. Bob said:

    They don’t specify the motor in it, but the Pinto would have had a larger motor than any of the other cars- either a 2.3 I4 or the 2.8 V6. I drove a ’75 Pinto wagon with the 2.3 auto a year or two ago, something a friend stumbled into in a garage and got running again, and astoundingly it was *way* quicker than I’d have expected. No trouble keeping up with traffic, was cruising on the freeway at 85 without struggle. Same friend had 2 ’72 Pinto wagons with the 2.0 and a 4-speed manual, and *both* of them were about naturally aspirated Diesel VW slow… like 60 was scary in them. It’s possible they might have had lower compression from softer valve seats, so it might not have been a fair comparison- the 2.3s have hardened valve seats, the 2.0s do not.

    Anyhow, how big were the engines in the rest of them? The B210 is a 1.4, the corolla is a 1.6 2TC (Wiki says we got the 3KC as well, I’ve never seen one and I can’t find anything to back that up but I’ve not worked on any Corollas this gen so I’m no expert), and the Honda is a, what, 1.4, 1.5? So the Ford is more powerful, but it’s also bigger, heavier, more americanized/ill handling in stock form.

    I like ’em all. :shrug: But a bunch of acceleration tests obviously don’t paint a full picture.

    • nlpnt said:

      A Corolla with that front is a 3KC-powered 1200. I think the Civic is probably a (non-CVCC) 1200 as well. And did the Honey Bee have less power/a taller rear end than the standard B210 for max MPG?

  6. Motor City said:

    I can’t help but laugh at the fact that the author
    dug up specs on a car that’s ten year production run
    ended 40yrs ago.
    In terms of performance, not one of the cars in the category would run the 1/4 mile in much of anything under 20 seconds, so is this a question of least slow?

  7. speedie said:

    I remember when these ads were aired. The american cars could not compete on gas mileage (all that torque has its drawbacks) so GM, Ford and Chrysler all played up how powerful the domestic makes were compared to the imports. The truck passing and on-ramp ramp tests were a biggie back then. One never wanted to be run over by a big American truck.

  8. Long Beach Mike said:

    Pinto: The fastest burning small car made in America.

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