1971 Ford Pinto sedan

Cars We Remember: A Q&A Two-Fer On Pintos and Flathead Sixes

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This week, Greg gets a question on two pretty disparate eras in automotive history: Chevrolet’s six-cylinder engines from the 1920s on forward, and the infamous Ford Pinto.

Q: Hi Greg I have two questions: Did Chevy ever have a flathead six cylinder engine  for  their cars or trucks and second did the Ford Pinto ever have a model with an opening trunk instead of a hatchback or station wagon?
By the way, I’m here in prison and we get to see your columns in Auto Roundup Magazine as we get it here every two weeks and pass it around.  Your column really brings back good memories for me as I was really involved with old cars and trucks with my family and grandsons. Thanks very much if you can answer my questions and you touch a lot of people around here with your great work. Bobby Gilliland #198511, D-6-1-B, Hamilton A&I, Hamilton, AL., 35570.
1971 Ford Pinto sedan
A: Bobby, it is a pleasure to answer your questions and thanks for passing Auto Roundup around to the other prisoners.  And thanks, too, for the very kind words. I left your address in in case other car people or car publications want to contact you.
As for the Chevy overhead valve “Blue Flame” or “Stovebolt” inline six cylinder engines, they were all overhead valve from day one in 1929. Chevy’s initial  overhead valve design  lasted right on through the 1990 year as a solid, well proven, durable engine. My dad had a 1961 Chevy Belair two door with one, although by then the cubic inches had grown from 194 cu. In. in 1929 to 235 inches in 1961. Along the way, the initial Corvette in 1953 used a mechanical lifter 235 inch Blue Flame engine with multiple carbs. So, to get to your answer, there never was a flathead six cylinder Chevy engine as they were way ahead of the flathead curve.
As for that Pinto, the answer is yes, the first Pinto did have an opening trunk. Known as the Pinto Pony, it debuted at Ford  dealers  in September of 1970 as a 1971 model. The two-door coupe was the only Pinto available until a hatchback, called the Runabout, debuted in February of 1971. From 1972 on, and right to the final year of production, Pintos came either in hatchback or station wagon design and sold very well with near 3,174,000 Pintos delivered during a history that ended in 1980.
The only Pinto Achilles heel was a rear fuel tank concern, where many rear crashes resulted in fires.  Critics said Pinto’s fuel tank filler could be pushed forward in a rear collision and punctured by the protruding bolts of the rear end housing. Some 27 deaths were attributed to rear end Pinto fire crashes, but the NHTSA never issued a recall on the Pinto. To this day, there are some that insist Ford was not responsible for the “fuel tank deaths” and subsequent lawsuits; although on the other side of the coin sits a different view.
Thanks for your letter, Bobby, and best of luck in the future.
(Greg Zyla writes regularly GateHouse Media, More Content Now and BestRide.com. He welcomes questions at 116 Main St., Towanda, Pa. 18840 or email at greg@gregzyla.com)
Greg Zyla

Greg Zyla

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