Auction Pick of the Week: 1978 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon


The Pinto you see here probably wasn’t exactly what Lee Iacocca had in mind when he initially pushed for Ford to create an affordable compact car, but the 1970s had a funny way of transforming all sorts of Detroit iron into colorful, bestickered lifestyle expressions. We’re still benefitting from that today, and this 1978 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon is proof.

1978 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon Four-Speed

Born quickly—just 25 months between conception and production—the Pinto debuted in 1971 as Ford’s answer to the Beetle and the growing compact car segment. Initial offerings began humbly with the Pinto sedan, and the Runabout hatchback followed soon after. The Pinto wagon rolled onto America’s streets in 1972, though at the time the most personality the little longroof could muster was the faux wood-sided Squire trim package.

In response to domestic competition, Ford steadily increased the displacement and power under the little Pinto’s hood, but like most cars of the era, even the most powerful options weren’t going to do more than help the car get out of its own way. By 1974, Ford’s overhead cam 2.3-liter four cylinder became optional, and its 2.8-liter Cologne V-6 arrived the following year as the top available engine.

1978 Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon Four-Speed engine bay

As the decade progressed, Ford steadily added colors, stickers, and style to its little economy car. The Sprint Decor Group and subsequent Sprint and Luxury Packages kicked things off, with 1976 bringing the Stallion’s sporty blackout package. Likely 1977 through 1980 may go down in history as peak theme and sticker, as least as far as American cars are concerned. Headlined by the flaming chicken on Pontiac’s Trans Am but spread across pickups, large coupes, and economy cars from just about every American manufacturer, nothing was immune from wild, character-imbuing packages. Enter the Pinto Cruising Wagon.


Making hay out of the nationwide van craze, Ford started with the Pinto wagon and replaced the rear windows with panels and distinctive bubble windows. They added slotted wheels, a stand-out sticker package, and some truly outrageous color offerings, including the Tangerine you see here. The interior positively screams style, with orange, plaid, and stripes everywhere you look.

For as many as Ford made, there aren’t a whole lot of Pintos left in good condition, much less these time-capsule Cruising Wagons. This example, available on Hagerty Marketplace, shows 58,919 miles and presents very well. Aside from its outgoing personality, this Pinto also features the venerable 2.3-liter four-pot backed by a four-speed transmission, air conditioning, a wealth of optional equipment, recent service, and fresh tires. Sold on Bring a Trailer earlier this summer, it does take a certain type to proudly parade around in this Pinto. Hop in, stick your favorite Styx cassette in the stereo, and relive one of the brightest moments in the Pinto’s history.




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    If you want to participate in Rad Wood this is the car. It was seen as odd even in the 70’s.

    The van Craze really took hold and Ford offered these and some Customer full size vans. I even remember the Coke Denim Machines that were given away.

    I’m really more shocked more custom vans did not survive and more are not around. The pain jobs were often more than the cost of the vans.

    My father in law had one and the next owner did not care for it and it rusted away. It had a Dallas Roby paint. He was well know nationally.

    Greg of Akron also was a top painter and was the biggest in the area. He not only did vans but also bikes, cars and even a number of Race Cars like Arlen Vanke’s Pro Stock cars and Ken Venney’s Corvette Alcohol funny cars. The last one was all done in gold leaf and the sponsor decals were air brushed on.

    He even pained a mural on my moms Cousins wall.

    To be honest I would love to find a clean Vega Cam back in the original body. It was a good looking car but they rusted out.

    Greg passes away a while ago and Dallas was lost in a crash back in the 80’s.

    This isn’t a good Radwood car, because its from the 70s and it clearly looks like it. I am not sure how many 1970s cars can work in the 80-90s heavy Radwood scene, maybe a Porsche 911 or 928.

    I owned a 1972 Orange Pinto Wagon, in the late ’80s. Terrific car to drive & work on. Always started, no troubles. After a few years, I sold her to a friend, who drive it for another decade.

    I have a 73 wagon I am working on and got the panels with portholes to install as soon as I figure out how to make them stick. I can’t wait to cruise San Diego!

    We didn’t get these here in Australia but I reckon this would have fitted in well with the Panel Van (Shaggin’ Wagon !!) craze in the 70’s. Assuming the back seats fold flat of course

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