Video of the Day: 1974 Pinto v. Vega showdown

Bud Lindemann’s team puts the Detroit compacts through their paces

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1974 Ford Pinto runs the slalom course
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The Video of the Day on August 27 featured Bud Lindemann’s test of the then-new 1969 AMC AMX. But the pioneer in automotive television didn’t just do muscle and sports cars, as you’ll see in this  Video of the Day.

In this video, Lindemann and his crew do a comparison run at Grattan Raceway in western Michigan between a 1974 Ford Pinto and a 1974 Chevrolet Vega.

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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Both are economy car era disasters, but at least the Vega had some styling looks. The Pinto was just a squat little toad of a car.

    • You obviously weren’t watching the video as the Pinto kicked bootay on the handling. Even larger cars with more horsepower had trouble keeping up with me on the winding narrow backroads back in my highschool days. Got to say my 73 pony car was not only fun to drive but easier handling than any thing out there in an american economy. Simple balance and no sloppy weight shifting, Wish I still had it today.

    • Take the time to find the facts. Considering Pinto outsold the Vega and the Gremlin . Over 3 Million. Most every car suffered the same problem and the Pinto had a lower percentage than any other small RWD car with the Datsun 510 much worse.

  2. Oh, Mr. Sears, tsk.You are correct about the styling, but suspect you have no real experience with either of these.
    I graduated high school in 1978, just to give a time reference. While a jr high kid, Mom got a ’72 Vega GT, black over tan, 2300cc and the ubiquitous PowerGlide.
    Spiffy, but apparently made of compressed rust.
    Couple years later, while active duty military I had a Pinto “Cruisin’ Wagon”, with a 2.3 SOHC and 4spd manual. Unlike the 2dr wagon, the “Cruisin'” version had a panel truck look, with bubble portholes near the back. Dunno why, but girls just loved this thing, which led to my keeping it for almost six years. Put an Offenhauser intake/Holley 4bbl & header on it, single 2.5″ pipe with a Cherry Bomb and DTM style twin upkick tip.
    Found that at a drive-in, did one park near the back, and park rear first, the screen would be perfectly reflected in the open rear hatch window, allowing one to lie on one’s back and watch the movie… if that’s what was on the *ahem* agenda. As a wagon, it was neither squat nor a toad; as I said, girls loved this thing and mine saw more “action” than a Ron Jeremy film. Your experience may differ, sux 2B U.
    Years later, owned a ’74 Vega converted to a 350sb V8 & Muncie 4spd. Squirrelly, nose heavy, evil handling, but as much fun in a different way as the Pinto wagon. Broke three rear axles, but they were cheaper to replace than narrowing a stouter 10 or 12 bolt, so there you go. Hour and a half to swap out, and due to the rust thing, easy to get.
    Due to the girl thing, I think I miss the Pinto wagon the most, but I’d have another V8 Vega, too.

    • Great story!
      Pintos figured prominently into my teenage comeuppance in PA in the early 70s. I loved them after I saw a guy lower one and create an auto-crosser out of one. Squatted down, with minilights and racing tires, it looked great! Later, my Dad bought one for 1999.00 in Greensburg Pa, that we would drive it from Philly to Pittsburgh every weekend to visit my family, who had not yet relocated to PHI. He let me drive parts of the 6 hour trip at 14, when he got tired. Later, going into my teenage deviant years, many Boones Farm soaked, technicolor teenager adventures at the Jersey Shore in them. Everyone had one! I have good memories of them, but no 3rd degree burn scars, thankfully.

  3. A sunroof in a Pinto? That’s one I haven’t seen before! Nearly $4000 had to be rather pricey for these two 70’s era economy cars. I wouldn’t know as 1974 was 2 years before I was even born.
    I’d love to have a Pinto today, preferably a Cruisin’ Wagon complete with all the disco-era striping one can handle! LOL And the 2.3 motor in this Pinto was a very durable engine; I had one in a Ford Ranger when I was in high school that took a LOT of abuse with my teenage driving antics. I don’t think I need to expound on that one.

  4. The pinto was 10 times the car, that a vega was
    In fact I still own a pinto to this day
    Pinto’s 2300 would run forever provided you kept oil in it
    Vegas’s aluminum block would start smoking within the first 1000 miles
    Pinto’s rack and pinion steering would out handle most cars of the day, put a 4 speed manual behind it and you had a pretty peppy little puddle jumper
    Ford also offered a V6 in the pinto, never drove one of those , but imagine it’d be even quicker

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