--> Vintage Pinto Info - Pangra

The Pinto Pangra

Pinto Pangra

Anyone who says the little nag can't move out in style
should take this one on.

By Kalton C. Lahue

While some Pinto owners may disagree, there's little doubt that Maverick's baby brother comes closest to being America's answer to the venerable Volkswagen. Each is an economy car par excellence and both are about as mundane little creatures as you'll find anywhere. But this isn't necessarily all bad at least there's room for improvement, and that's exactly where the Pangra comes in. So, you ask, just what's a Pangra? Well, as you'll see, it's more than just another Pinto with a pretty facelift. Pangra is probably the most exciting thing that could happen to any lowly Pinto.

From the side, Pangra doesn't look much different from the Pinto from whence it came; non-Pinto lovers might not even know the difference.

Pangra's Birth

Jack Stratton of Huntington Ford in Arcadia, Calif., is the man responsible for Pangra. While most other dealers groaned when the stubby Pinto was first unveiled as Ford's do-it-yourself car, Jack chuckled in sheer delight; here was exactly what he'd been looking for. Placing a sheet of tracing paper over a photo of the Pinto profile, Stratton quickly traced out a few changes and contacted Gene Winfield to see about getting his idea of a new body line translated into a structurally sound alteration. But time weighed heavily upon Winfield's shoulders and so Bob Crowe of Freight Container Corp. was brought into the picture. Crowe, whose long experience in 'glass work runs the gamut from boat hulls to camper tops, suggested several changes and as a result, Pangra was redesigned while still on the drawing board. In the meantime, the Opel GT and Datsun 240-Z made their appearance and the fantastic market reception for these two personalized autos convinced Jack that he indeed had a viable idea; so much so that $70,000 was finally committed to the project.

But here's where the difference is-a completely restyled front end that combines a European flair for the unusual with solid American practicality in styling design.

At road level, Pangra is really impressive as it approaches. There's a massive appearance similar to current GM styling.


Pangra became more than just a stylish Pinto as Jack worked closely with Koni to redesign the suspension. Actually, the deeper he became involved with the concept of the car, the more it took on the appearance of an obsession. Full Can Am suspension was provided with reworked stabilizer bars, and custom Koni shocks were added to shorter front springs, with increased rate. Lowering blocks were added at the rear. The end result a car that pulls .874 G-force on a 200 ft. skid pad before breaking traction. If you're not to familiar with G-forces, skid pads, etc., one should know that Pangra is considerably better in this respect than most highly respected (and expensive) foreign sports cars, which can be depended upon to pull .740 under the same circumstances. The modified Pangra suspension also reduces side-roll, which in turn increases side-loading and cornering capability.

Front suspension changes include shorter front springs with Koni adjustable shocks and a revised stabilizer bar.

Koni shocks and reworked stabilizer bar combine with lowering block at the rear. Can Am suspension gives Pangra a tremendous advantage on the street or strip and puts a lot of fun back into driving.

Wheels and tires are important to any suspension, and to make certain that Pangra would deliver the maximum from the changes made to this point, Jack investigated rim widths from 4.5 to 7 inchs for tendencies of over/under steer. Settling on a 7-in. Mag wheel (it produces neutral characteristics on the Pangra), he then turned his attention to the tires. The top brands of radials were tested and just when the choice had been narrowed to two tires, Stratton discovered that in addition to holding its in all other ways, the Continental had superior wet weather characteristics. To put the icing on the cake, each Pangra sold by Huntington Ford is now dialed-in individually, as caster, camber and toe settings are completely reset.

Pangra is equipped with 7-inch wheels and Continental radials to make the most of the revised suspension. When you're traveling 140 mph you want the very best under you, and the unusual tread design of this radial provides superb wet-weather gripping characteristics.

Next he went under the hood and took a cold, hard look at the puny 122-cu-in. powerplant. Clearly, something had to be done there in order to give the Pangra guts enough to live up to Jack's expectations, which had risen considerably beyond the original sketch pad scribblings as the obsession took hold. While different engines, modifications of the present one and even fuel injection were all considered, he looked ahead to the stricter emission controls coming down the pike in California and opted instead for a turbocharger with water injection. Why turbocharging? Well, it evens out cylinder and bearing loading (creating less engine wear) while cleaning up emissions (combustion is hotter and more complete). It thus seemed the only practical way to go. As a result, AiResearch, who probably has had more experience than anyone else, was brought into the Pangra fold and a 20-lb. Unit was developed which creates 2 horsepower per cubic inch. Figure that one out and you've got a good idea of Pangra's tigerish qualities on the open road, while it returns over 23 mpg from the gas tank.

You can certainly tell the difference under the hood: turbocharged 122-cubic-incher is Ak Miller design and it'll leave corvettes stand still if you don't tip your hand.

Finishing touches came with the interior. After all, if you're going to ask someone to part with $4990 for a modified Pinto, there has to be something visible besides the restyled front end. No matter how well the car preforms, the owner wants something that the next guy doesn't have. As Pinto seats just didn't fit the new ride from a functional standpoint, custom Recaro seats were selected. Handmade in Germany from a design provided by orthopedic surgeons, the Recaro seats contain an additional 6-in. Seat cushion and provide full lateral support while offering the complete reclining feature that's become quite popular of late.

Form-fitting Recaro seats are designed for comfort over long hauls and are shown here in partially reclined position, a good feature for rest stops on lengthy trips.

Stratton shuddered when he looked at the stock Pinto dash and it's instrumentation. So he designed a new console that fits between the seats, extends over the parking brake and shift levers, and attaches to the stock Pinto unit so neatly that even confirmed owners would swear the entire interior was completely different. Full instrumentation is provided and precisely angled toward the driver's seat for convenience in quick reading shades of the Jensen Interceptor III! Also included is an extremely sensitive digital tachometer that gives instant readout. The tach contains a unique memory feature that can recall peak rpm turned by the driver simply pushing a button.

Custom interior includes center instrument console that extends into the stock Pinto dash, giving an entirely new look inside. Idiot lights are retained even though full instrumentation is provided.

If you know your Pintos, you'll recognize a leaver here that isn't found on the stock car. This operates the mechanical linkage to open and close the flip-up headlamps.

Stop and consider for a moment the changes made to the basic Pinto and you'll see that while Pangra springs from the Pinto, it's virtually a completely different car, 10 inches longer and 2 inches lower. Horsepower has been increased in the neighborhood of 300%, aerodynamics is improved by about 27%, and the suspension/handling characteristics are 30% better. But it didn't all come about without its own unique problems. There were several sticky moments, for example, in getting the mechanically actuated pop-up headlights structurally sound. Once this was finally achieved, it turned out they popped up all by themselves at 90 mph, so back to the drawing board. The original front-end components were tabbed for easy and accurate assembly, but it was discovered that getting them out of the molds was a real problem. Solving this one required reworking both design and molds to retain the tab feature, which is important to the structural soundness of the stylish front, Tabbing prevents lateral movement from road vibration.

As time went by, Stratton had several opportunities to market the Pangra but each time he resisted the temptation, knowing that the car wasn't quite right. More than a year-and-a-half of development work went into the project, as Jack insisted that that every component should be as good as craftsmen could make it. The first prototype was ready for action at Bonneville Salt Flats in August 1972, and there it was tested for speed, aerodynamic stability and safety at speeds approaching 200 mph. The knowledge gained at Bonneville was brought back to the shop and evaluated before moving Pangra into a production stage.

As it became clear that Project Pangra was reaching reality, Stratton hopped across the country lining up a national distribution system of auto dealers and supply houses-well in excess of 100-all of whom would stock Pangra modification kits. That's right-the docile Pinto of yours can be turned into a raging Pangra right in your own backyard! It's a three-stage (three-kit) modification procedure that let's you improve styling, suspension and engine performance on a budget basis.

Pangra Kits

Sold as Kit No. 1, the Pangra front-end assembly contains fenders, hood, headlight mechanism, bumper brackets and front cowl, and sells presently for $595. Adding another $951 brings Kit No. 2 in which you'll find the Can Am suspension, including four Koni adjustable shocks, front and rear stabilizer bars, front coil springs, and rear lowering goodies. But should you wish to go all the way, lay out $1691 and ask for Kit No. 3-you'll receive all the items in Kits No. 1 and No. 2, plus the Ak Miller turbo unit, water injection, mount plates, brackets, clips, exhaust manifold, crossover intake and header pipe. If that isn't enough to turn your Pinto into a roaring stallion overnight, nothing will. And just to show you that Jack hasn't forgotten anyone, kits are also available for the Runabout and Pinto wagon models.

Here's how Pinto looks once you've completed the 18-step dis-assembly sequence. Engine and suspension modifications have already been completed on this one.

If you're wondering just how complicated the modification procedure is, this is one do-it-yourself project with which you won't feel cheated. While a Pangra front end has been installed by first-timers in as little as 10 hours, those who have done so are old hands at working with modification kits. For the novice who has never done such before, it's well to plan on a solid weekend of work. A 10-page instruction booklet accompanies the front-end kit and details 18 dis-assembly steps to prepare for for installation, followed by 110 assembly operations. But it's all very precise and well written. You'll have no difficulty at all in following the step-by-step procedure.

Kit preparation is highly personalized. Here a headlamp unit is drilled to allow refitting of the stock Pinto lamp assembly.

George Davis (r.) prepares the one-piece gravel pan for inspection by attaching the headlamp actuating bar.

Once the gravel pan is fitted to the front bulkhead, C-clamps and a wooden straight-edge are used to position the pan until flush with the engine compartment line.

Stock Pinto headlamp units are installed in the fiberglass fenders. Stock fender side lights are also used.

Edge of 'glass fender is reinforced and tabbed. This makes assembly easy, fast and certain, and provides much structural strength.

Fenders go on next. All 'glass parts must be sanded lightly with 220 paper to remove the shiny glazed surface or paint won't adhere properly.

Now, if you really want to go the whole route, you'd save money over the long haul by going out to Arcadia and take delivery of a completed Pangra for a vacation drive back home. Installing Kit no. 3 on a new stock Pinto brings the combined cost within a few hundred dollars of the Pangra, and you'd still need mag wheels, radials and the new interior to complete the transformation. No interior has been planned as yet, simply because it's somewhat of a bear to install and requires a certain amount of rewiring to connect the console instruments. Add to this the factor of Kit No. 3 installation time (about 3 weekends) and you can easily see that the $4990 base price of the completed pangra is really a bargain.

What kind of reaction can you expect with a Pangra? Lots of long, admiring stares, of course, but to the Pinto owner with a passion for his car, the mere sound of it's exhaust will tip him off that your Pangra is different. I discovered as Jack and I left the park in Arcadia after a picture-taking session. All during our photography, a middle-aged fellow sat nearby in a Pinto with Wyoming plates, watching us intently, As we wrapped things up and prepared to leave, he stepped over to our silver Pangra and commented on its styling.

Learning that his guess about it's Pinto origin was correct, he leaned closer to the window, and leering at Jack, casually offered to race his beat-up Pinto against our hot-shot clothes horse with its fancy nose. Stratton simply smiled and matter-of-factly mentioned the turbocharger, whereupon our would-be challenger gracefully stepped back and broke into a lame grin- No sir, I got a V-8 under my hood but I'm not about to take you on!

Guess you'd have to call that respect. Pangra commands a good deal of that wherever it goes.

With headlamps up in operating position, Pangra takes on a sort of bug-eye look that'll turn heads wherever you go