Interviewer: Today we are talking about one of the cars, that were owned by your family from the day they left the dealership, right?
Mr. Frank: Right, so it’s 1973 Ford Pinto which my dad bought brand-new.
Interviewer: So it’s a yellow color?
Mr. Frank: Yes.
Interviewer: Was it for your dad or for your mom?
Mr. Frank: It was for my dad, yeah.
Interviewer: That’s like a nice, catchy color.
Mr. Frank: Yeah, yellow outside, black on the inside.
Interviewer: How long did your dad drive this car?
Mr. Frank: My dad drove it from ’73 to ’85, me and him went to the mountains in it a couple of times. That was his primary car.
Interviewer: So did you keep it in storage all these years, or it was just sitting outside?
Mr. Frank: Unless you count sitting under a tree storage. (laughs)
No, once he stopped driving, he parked it in the driveway, and it just sat and sat and sat, until of course about ’03 when my dad died, I decided to restore it, but it had been outside all its life, so it was in kind of bad shape. But not terrible, or horrible. I had to redo all the inside, repaint it, a lot of mechanical repairs because it had just sat for gosh, 17 years, it just sat in one spot outside, you know, that’s a long time.
Interviewer: So you took the engine out, right?
Mr. Frank: That’s right…
Interviewer: Are you going to replace it with whole new engine, or are you gonna take the old one and take it apart and fix it?
Mr. Frank: Right, so the old motor and transmission will be rebuilt before we put it in.
Interviewer: Uh-huh, okay. Are you going to do it yourself?
Mr. Frank: Yeah, with the help of a friend. Yeah, I mean it’s a small little motor so it’s not that hard.
Interviewer: So I know that there are a lot of stories connected with this car. Can we start with the gunshot?
Mr. Frank: So, my dad carried a gun with him most of the time because he had various stores in certain neighborhoods that were questionable and especially in the early days he had a lot of coin laundry, so when he was carrying money or coin in his car, he always had a gun. But being very proactive and safe, every time he’d come home, he’d always take the clip out, and make sure there wasn’t a bullet in the chamber. So he would always cock, pull the trigger just to make sure there was nothing in the chamber. And he would always do this in the car, before he got out of the car to go inside.
One time, somehow, I don’t know, there was an actual bullet in the chamber and when he actually tested it, and fired the gun inside the car, well, in the floorboard of the passenger side. It was alright, it was just him in the car. So I wasn’t there when it happened but my mom told me about it, and I just kind of wondered if that was really true or not. So when I actually started restoring the car back in ’03, I was taking the carpet out and and I found the bullet hole. So it’s a true story, and it’s still there. (laughs)
Interviewer: That’s a nice intriguing story, what was the one was about burning something?
Mr. Frank: Well me and my dumb ass as a kid, saw the car was outside on a hot summer evening, and it was running, and they left it running for whatever reason to go in and get something, I don’t know and I was just a little kid. Just out of curiosity I grabbed the tailpipe, and of course it was hot as could be, so it burned my hand and of course that’s when I first realized that toothpaste was a first-aid, home remedy for burns and whatnot, and of course ice. But it wasn’t a bad burn, no peeled skin or anything, it just got all red and sore. Yeah, I guess that’s when I first learned that cars could be hot. (laughs)
Interviewer: And not to grab things.
Mr. Frank: That’s right, don’t just touch anything.
Interviewer: Yeah. What about the flat tire during hot summer mountain trip?
Mr. Frank: Well actually it wasn’t a mountain trip, it was just across the way, it’s a medical park on Randolph Rd. And me, my mom, my sister, and our dog at the time were in the car, I don’t know where we had gone, but we were coming back and we had a flat tire. So we pulled in that parking lot, this was on like a Saturday. Of course, there were no phones, not even a payphone there. So, basically what we had to do was walk from there to the house to be able to call my dad to come change the tire, because my mom wasn’t gonna do it, or didn’t know how to do it, we’re kids, and the dog isn’t gonna do it.
So we started walking up Randolph Rd, well of course, very quickly because it’s so hot outside, the dog decided he didn’t wanna walk anymore, so we had to carry the dog. So we kept rotating who’s gonna carry this dog. (laughs). Finally, we got home, and of course we got in the other car, and went back down, my dad changed the tire and then we drove it back home.
Interviewer: So the dog was the smartest of all, he was like, “Nope, I’m not gonna do this.” (laughs)
Mr. Frank: Yup, cause it was too hot, too long, “Carry me.”
Interviewer: I know you will keep to this car, definitely won’t sell it, but have you checked the market value?
Mr. Frank: I haven’t. And it probably is not that high. Everybody knows a Pinto, everybody likes to see a Pinto, but nobody wants to buy a Pinto. It’s the strangest thing. Like back when they were new, everybody had one, but everybody hated them. But there just wasn’t that many car options out there at the time for what was considered decent mileage. So it was an economy car. But GM had one or two, Ford had one, and Chrysler had something, but there was like three that you could choose from. So, if you were looking for economy, other than an import, the Pinto was it. And I mean it was designed basically in mind for the consumer, that wanted something that used less gas.
Interviewer: Yeah, so it was a good one for economy driver. But what options does this has, was it well packaged for an economy model? Was there AC or other features?
Mr. Frank: No air conditioning, no power steering, no power brakes, no radio. Just speedometer, windshield wipers and heat. (laughs) That’s it.
But I mean, air conditioning was an option, I mean you could get a radio, air conditioning, all this stuff if you wanted it, but my dad basically got the most economical model they had. I think he paid about $700 for the car brand-new, something like that.
Interviewer: What’s the approximate price if it’s 700 then, compared to today it would be around…
Mr. Frank: I can see real quick.That’s interesting. $4,060. So realistically the cost, for even just like a basic automobile today, it’s like three or four times that just for an economical car, and even your economy cars come with all kinds of features, I mean everything has air conditioning, everything has power this, power that, you know so they don’t even make cars that have just basics.
Interviewer: Basically in those times you could fix anything, almost anything, using bubblegum or tape.
Mr. Frank: Yeah, that or a couple wrenches or a pair of pliers. But the Pinto actually did advertise that it was a car that you could work on yourself, and it actually came with a little toolkit. It’s true and it wasn’t true, but you still have to know what you’re doing.