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Undeservingly maligned cars

I still respectfully disagree. The Pinto tanks were of no different of a design than anything else on the market at the time. The problem was a fatality lawsuit which drew attention to it.

The numbers are fuzzy but I seem to remember that Ford manufactured well over 3 million Pintos and there were something like 25 deaths attributed to fires in Pintos. However, that number of deaths were not all due to rear end collisions. They involved frontal and side impacts and so on.

Odds are if the fatalites/injuries due to fires caused by rear end collisions were figured on a per 100k cars basis one would find that the Pinto was no more unsafe than any other car on the road.
The lawsuit and the “Pinto Memo” just tarnished things way more than was deserved.

When I worked for Nissan an older 280 ZX was towed in once with moderate fire damage in the rear after being rear ended. Does that mean the Z cars are dangerous? Not in my opinion, but what would have happened if 3 people had been killed in that car and a lawsuit filed in the same manner as the Pinto suit? There would have been memos circulating around Nissan/Datsun corporate headquarters also about how to skate around things.

I still respectfully disagree. The Pinto tanks were of no different of a design than anything else on the market at the time. The problem was a fatality lawsuit which drew attention to it.

They might have been the same…but Ford did know that there was a problem…and their internal memo’s outlining the problem - and their statement saying that it would cost more to correct the problem then it would be to pay out for deaths and injuries is what sank Ford.

@ok4450 I appreciate that respectful way of disagreeing. Maybe we can be in agreement if I say that other cars that had similar configurations with the filler tubes and fuel tanks were about as likely to catch fire or explode, but the Pinto happened to get singled out by bad press. I actually had a '72 Pinto that I didn’t mind having, and I think that was after the news about the fires.

My '81 Omni maybe didn’t get enough bad press that might have been good for it to get, but I’m not sure. I seem to recall that they were known for catching fire under the hood. My brother had a Horizon (Pymouth Horizon = sister to Dodge Omni, I guess) that did just that and got totaled. I noticed on mine that fuel apparently leaked down from the carburetor onto the exhaust manifold, apparent as dried fuel residue tracks.

I had a Gremlin.

Even accepting that the Pinto was no more dangerous then any other cars, manufacturers in general were playing unacceptable numbers of deaths vs profits on a scale that buyers found objectionable for the times. Especially so considering how simple it was to make a fix. SUVs today are accepted as being relatively less safe, Pintos and Corvairs of their time, we’re not. The Pinto and Corvair exemplified the arrogance of car manufacturers of profit at any price, including disregard for life. If you anyone wants to tout theoretically they were no worse than any other cars of the time, fine, but their exposure had a lot to do with the much safer cars of today.

Even accepting that the Pinto was no more dangerous then any other cars, manufacturers in general were playing unacceptable numbers of deaths vs profits on a scale that buyers found objectionable for the times. Especially so considering how simple it was to make a fix.

According to Ford…the fix was $11 per vehicle.

Ok4450, I think the only thing we’re disagreeing on is the use of the term “alleged”. Its bad design was common in those days. And, as I pointed out before, there were even worse.

However, using the word “alleged” means, in my neck of the woods, that it was never proven to be a bad design. IMHO it WAS proven to be a bad design, even though it was a very common design for that period. The tanks were placed almost totally unprotected in a spot that was right in the line of impact of a rear end collision.

Perhaps we’re only differing in that since it was considered standard design in those days it wasn’t “bad” design, just normal design? I can accept that. Perhaps it’s unfair to judge it by what we now know.

By the way, my Spyder has a tire pressure sticker under the front trunk lid, right above the jack, PLUS a tire pressure sticker on the inside of the glove box door.

The Pinto did have a problem in that it being a smaller car, the clearance between the bumper supports and the gas tank was only a fraction of an inch compared to a couple of inches for other vehicles. as a result, the gas tank would rupture at a lower speed impact that some of the other cars, but I don’t think it was any worse than any other car that had the filler tube right behind the license plate.

It was the memo that did the damage. It put a dollar value on human life and that is something that is not acceptable today. It is the same with the breast implants, a memo from an unqualified “engineer” cost Dow Corning $5 Billion. Once there is a “memo” proof is no longer needed. It is considered the smoking gun.

Masterskrain, what pressures are listed on the stickers? Just curious.

My girlfriend had a Gremlin, it got us to FL and back, flawlessly and timed its demise only 12 miles from home! As I recall we got to florida and back on money from my change savings, rolls of pennies nickels dimes and quarters for gas.

Well the early Mustangs had poorly designed gas tanks,the Chevy C series pickups had dangerous gas tanks(gas is dangerous stuff{probaly under anylsis worse then Hydrogen,for different reasons}Heard F Lee Bailey got GM off the hook on the truck gas tanks, anyway ironically as the Pinto was first designed it would of have been one of the safest cars on the road in its day,but the bean counters prevailed so we ended up with the Pinto as it was-Kevin

I still have my 79 C10 chevy pickup with those ‘‘dangerous’’ gas tanks mounted outside the frame rails.
I’m still here.

@Ken,proves some of its overblown,eh?-Kevin

I’ve always though the Corvair had nice lines. Do you ever see movies or tv shows from the early 60’s? Cars of that era were more stylish than today. Didn’t the Cleaver family on “Leave it to Beaver” have a Corvair? After the manufacturers dropped the big fins in the late 50’s they came up with some very nice looking cars in the early 60’s, Corvairs were one of them. Corvettes were much more stylish then than now in my opinion too. Didn’t those guys on the tv show Route 66 drive a Corvette? That was one great looking car.

I read that book @db4690 mentioned a while ago – Engines of Change – and as I recall what it said about the Corvair was that, if it did have a stability problem (which not everyone agrees apparently) that the rear engine design itself wasn’t the problem that caused it to be unstable in certain situations, but it was the combination of the rear engine, the length of the car, and the weight distribution with too much weight at the very back that made it a little more unstable than the other rear engine car at the time, VW Beetle. Am I remembering that correctly DB?


I’m looking at the book right now

You’re remembering most of it

Here’s a quote . . .

“The car magazines . . . suggested . . .a anti-roll bar under the car’s front end . . . As it happened, Volkswagen had just installed one on the Beetle. GM had used an anti-roll bar on prototype Corvairs, but deemed it unnecessary when the car went into production.”

Here’s another quote . . .

“The Corvair . . . had packed on an extra 105 pounds of rear-end weight. And the car’s weight distribution, originally intended to be 40 percent in the front and 60 percent in the rear, actually came in at 38-62. The difference seemed small at the time, but it wasn’t.”

George, one of the early primary problems was the swing axle rear end. As the body swayed and/or went up & down over the road, the rear track would continuously vary, making the rear end unstable. Even with the same weight distribution, the later models with upper and lower control arms greatly improved the Corvair’s stability. It should be recognized that the Porsche and the Beetle started their histories with the dame basic swingaxle design. It was common in rear engine arrangements.

Re: the Pinto, it might be remembered that in the '50s some cars had their gas tank filler tubes in the worst place possible, under rear trim. I seem to recall that Ford had one under its license plate, and Chevy had one under a rear trim piece above a tail light. I might be mistaken on the makes, as I’m relying solely on my aging memory, but I remember the placements.

It’s easy to look back on a lot of older cars and feel that a design was faulty after being conditioned to improvements on modern era cars. For instance, sway bars are taken for granted now whereas back then they were often an option. Many people back in the day had no desire for a 6 dollar sway bar option…

My point about the location of the Pinto gas tank is that many, or even most, of the cars of that era used the same design. Rear bumper, sheet metal, fuel tank…
Pinto - Subaru wagon - six of one, half dozen of the other.

As to memos, all car makers are guilty of this. If someone is shredding documents or whatever to cover a problem up then they should be sued.

Until the class fizzled out, one of the more popular classes at the dirt race track here was called Mini-Stock and which was limited to small cars with 4 cylinders. Glass out, muffler off, roll cage in, and time to race.
The most popular car for this class was the Ford Pinto and it was not uncommon to see 8 Pintos in a 10 car field. Due to attrition caused by fender banging, ramming, and rollovers, most met their end but not a fire in the lot.

A little off the subject, but why does it seem to me that Fords are known for catching fire? The Pinto, the ignition switch problem, the cruise control issue…

A relative of mine had a Maverick which caught fire

But it was an engine bay fire . . . the wiring harness, I believe

This is all second hand knowledge, though, as I didn’t see it happen

Not to leave out the other brands . . .

When I was at the Benz dealer, a customer’s car came in on the hook, because of a massive fire

A hydraulic hose, which was above the bellhousing area, sprung a leak

The customer made it out of the car, no problem, no injuries

But the fire was so hot, that the dashboard melted

Not long after that, Benz came out with a recall for those hoses . . .