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Why the Ford Pinto is the Worst Car Ever

Light blue Ford Pinto

The Pinto also known as “Little Carefree Car” is a 1971 subcompact car designed by Ford Motor Company. Although over 3 million Pintos were sold over a 10 year period making it the biggest selling subcompact in America, this car had its fair share of controversies. Many of these controversies were brought about by its design and safety.

Some of the key reasons why Ford Pinto is regarded as the worst car ever include:


Although the Pinto was generally a good and cheap car (it was being sold for only $1,850), there always came a time when all hell broke loose. Almost every time this car got in a rear end collision, it would end up exploding. As a result, at least 500 burn deaths were reported. Investigative reports showed that had these cars not burst into flames, none of these individuals would have sustained any serious injuries.


Generally, Ford Pinto adopted a quite mediocre design/style. On top of the list was the fuel filler neck that would snap off whenever it was involved in a rear end collision. Therefore, the fuel tank would get punctured by the filler neck resulting in a fuel spill.

At the time, fuel tanks were being positioned between the rear bumper and rear axle. Thus, aside from having the filler neck tear away from the tank during collisions causing spillage of fuel, the protruding differential bolts would also puncture the tank.


How was it possible for a highly reputable company to produce a car that was so dangerous? Reports showed that the whole fuel-tank problem had been discovered by Ford engineers during pre-production testing. However, Ford dismissed the issue as getting the problem fixed ($11 per car) was deemed too expensive. Instead, they assumed that it would be a lot cheaper to pay off possible lawsuits ($50 million) than to recall and reinforce rear ends ($121 million).

Also, Ford went ahead to shamelessly lobby against a key government safety standard that required it to adopt a fire-prone gas tank for the Pinto. As a result, Ford ended up spending millions of dollars lobbying against these safety standards as well as settling damage suits.

Fortunately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) succeeded in getting Ford to recall all Pintos off the road and, have them installed with plastic protective shields (between the differential bolts and fuel tanks). Though all of these changes have since been adopted, the car’s bad reputation is here to stay.


Essentially, the Ford Pinto wasn’t manufactured out of the need to introduce a new, unique and quality car to the public. Instead, Ford’s decision to introduce Pinto was out of their greed to compete with Volkswagen in the compact car market. In fact, the entire process of designing, manufacturing and launching this car was done in an unusually short period of time.

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