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1978 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon Is Our Bring a Trailer Auction Pick of the Day

  • This rare Ford Pinto is one of the oddest vehicles of the Seventies.
  • Side panels and porthole windows replaced the standard side glass, and a choice of graphics was offered.
  • This example also sports a mad-plaid interior and an eye-searing ’70s color scheme.

Car and Driver

Many, many questionable decisions were made in the 1970s, but one easily understandable craze was the mania for heavily customized vans. Just scroll through the #vanlife hashtag on Instagram, and you’ll see plenty of people dedicated to turning boxy utility vehicles into a lifestyle accessory—although maybe not with shag carpeting and airbrushed unicorns these days. But, in 1978, what if you were a would-be vanner on a budget? Ford had you covered with the frugal and fun Pinto Cruising Wagon.

1978 ford pinto cruising wagon 4 speed rear

Bring a Trailer

This 1978 example, up for sale on Bring a Trailer—which, like Car and Driver, is part of Hearst Autos—is a tangerine-hued fever dream and features porthole windows, an interior that looks like an industrial accident at the Creamsicle factory, and far-out exterior graphics. It is 10 pounds of Bee Gees in a five-pound bag.

1978 ford pinto cruising wagon 4 speed interior

Bring a Trailer

Introduced in 1970 after a breakneck-paced development championed by Lee Iacocca, the Pinto was meant to be Ford’s riposte to the Volkswagen Beetle. Much was made of the early Pinto’s reputation for catching fire in collisions—and it did—but in retrospect, plenty of other 1970s subcompact cars were also relatively unsafe. By the late 1970s, Ford had a recall solution for the fuel tank issue and was still selling nearly 200,000 Pintos a year.

1978 ford pinto cruising wagon 4 speed engine

Bring a Trailer

However, the platform was aging, and the rise of cheap and cheerful Japanese subcompacts had changed the market forever. Looking to inject a little fun into the Pinto, Ford’s marketing department cast about for anything the kids were into these days. Rock music? Vans? Smoking the Devil’s Lettuce? Bell-bottom jeans and platform shoes? Well, maybe let’s do the van thing.

1978 ford pinto cruising wagon 4 speed rear interior

Bring a Trailer

Based on a humble Pinto station wagon, the Cruising Wagon featured metal panels in the back with the requisite bubble window. This 1978 example shows 59,000 miles on the odometer and is powered by a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 88 horsepower. A four-speed transmission wakes things up a little, and Pintos are pretty light cars, so it should be able to keep up with modern traffic.

And anyway, this is a machine for cruising, man. Hardly any of these oddball van-wagons are left, what with the semi-disposable nature of the Pinto. A survivor like this is a time capsule of the SoCal Seventies vibe, all sun-soaked days and long evenings at the beach. This one has a cassette stereo rather than an eight-track, so it should be easy to put together a suitably 1970s soundtrack for your summer cruising.

But you’d better move fast. This no-reserve auction ends on August 2.


Contributing Editor

Brendan McAleer is a freelance writer and photographer based in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He grew up splitting his knuckles on British automobiles, came of age in the golden era of Japanese sport-compact performance, and began writing about cars and people in 2008. His particular interest is the intersection between humanity and machinery, whether it is the racing career of Walter Cronkite or Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He has taught both of his young daughters how to shift a manual transmission and is grateful for the excuse they provide to be perpetually buying Hot Wheels.

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