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values -
M achines
450+ MUSCLE CARS: their
Issue #19
April, 2005
Low-production, turbocharged Ford from the early Seventies ... with a secret
Words and photography by Jeff Koch
It was a dream sports car
specification in the early, smog-choked
Seventies. Picture : a so lid 175hp out of
two overhead-cammed, Weber-carburet­
ed, turbocharged, water-injected liters;
engin eering involvement by legendary
land-speed racer Ak Miller; a curb weigh t
of just 2,300 pounds due in part to an
intimate 94.2-inch wheelbase; suspen­
sion that compel led a sports-car-l ike .80g
or so thanks, in part, to rack -and-pinion
steering and low-profile, 65-series tires; a
needle-nose profile hovering aggressively
above the road. Better still , it was built
entirely in America, from styling to engi­
neering to Blue Ova l power, though
European machinery was clearly an influ­
ence . It was a far cry from th e sheer brute
torque of the trad itiona l V-8, but it helped
introduce the onset of more balanced
perfo rmance, able to measure perform­
ance around turns as we ll as in straight
Never heard of Pangra? We're not sur­
prised. It was a limi ted-run 2+2 whose
brief li fe at the start of the emissions era
proved that just because odious smog
controls were coming on board, the fun
behind the w heel didn't need to end.
On ly a handful were built-somewhere
between 20 and 200, according to those
who keep up w ith such thi ngs, though
exact records are lost to the mists of
time-and today, just five of these rare
beasts are known to survive intact. All
things cons idered, it was pretty afford­
ab le: about $4,600 in 1973 dollars,
which put Pangra in a pos ition to spank a
Porsche 9145 for about a grand less, and
flat embarrass a Datsun 240Z outright.
Brad Fagan of San Diego, Ca li fornia,
owns two Pangras: This one, wh ich may
well have been the press car used for
magazine tests cond ucted by Road &
Track, Motor Trend and Road Test, and
another, which is receiving a full hi-tech
refurbishment as we speak. Brad was
kind enough to let us go for a spin
behind the wheel of his rare sportster to
garner so me impressions.
Before we did, though, he tuned us in
to a couple of changes he made from
Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES I April 2005
Pangra's Pinto lineage is obvious, despite taut, lowered stance and radical front fender curvature
stock Pangra spec. The water-injection
unit for the turbo is impossib le to find,
and so is absent, while compression has
been bumped a full point, from 7.0:1 to
8.0:1 , because he couldn't find anyone
who made 7.0:1 pistons. The wheels and
tires aren 't strictly correct either: The 5.5
x 13 slot mags wrapped in Continental
radials have been replaced with 15 x 7
Weld wheels and modern rubber', which
doesn' t reall y detract from the Seventies
style-though the taller rear tire effective­
ly makes a higher (numericall y lower)
rear-gear ratio, which could hurt all-out
acceleration. Otherwise, it's all correct
and 19 73-spec. Brad also warned us that,
despite how it looks in pictures, it's far
from perfect: it's never been completely
apart, though he's got 250+ hours in the
reinstallation and refurbishment.
With those caveats, we enter. The
doors, relative to the length of the car,
are enormous-they're not heavy, and
swing with ease, but they seem to take
up half the profile. SI ip inside and take
stock. Man, it's dark in here. The cockpit
is intimate ... maybe a little too intimate:
Your tall-torsoed test driver is bumping
his head on the head liner, and the tops of
the gauges are blocked by the top arc of
the steering wheel. (This is slightly imma­
terial , insofar as the speedo isn ' t working
today anyway). Such is the price of a
low-production specia l such as this.
The rake of the windshield isn' t so
steep as to be a mai I-slot (though the
rearview mirror, mounted in the dead
center of the windshield, is a little dis­
tracting), and your proximity to the re st of
the glass makes for fine visibility in most
directions. The rest of it is just dark, with
precious little to distract you from the
task at hand. No body-colored metal, no
wood veneer (real or fake), no brightwork
accentuating anything. All the better to
see the full complement of Stewart-Warn­
er gauges, including a digital tach (no t
operational fo r our little jaunt, alas)-hot
stuff for 1973. The console lends a sport­
ing touch , and the black cloth Recaros
bolster you in all the right places without
threatening to pinch you like a corset or
stab you in the shoulder blades. At your
left hand is a manual handle for raising
the headlamps. It is, in all respects, a
proper 1970s supercar.
Swivel-up head lamps are reminiscent of the Pantera ... or maybe, a Porsche 914 instead
Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES I April 2005
Press in the clutch and twist the
key. The little 2.0-liter SOHC four
turns over immediately, and settles
in at a wicked 1AOO-rpm idle,
breathing deep through its Weber
5200 carbo We call it a little four;
with 175 turbocharged horsepow­
er on hand, and onl y 2,5 00
pounds to push around (driver
included), it had the potential to
act li ke something far larger. Blip
the throttle at idle and there's
something distinctly snotty going
on: It's high-pitched but not buzzy
like the hordes of tuner-beasts that
prowl the modern highway.
On this day, our Pangra accel­
erated like a modern subcompact
would; in a time when a new Honda
Accord will out-accelerate the recent
Mercury Marauder, that's far from an
insult. A shorter tire would have helped
in our drive, but performance-oriented
13-inch rubber is rare these days. Back­
in-the-day reports mentioned prodigious
turbo lag, but we experienced none of
this: just a linear power curve that gave
the impression that it was naturall y aspi­
rated and of slightly larger displacement.
As mentioned earlier, the water injection
was missing, so its full performance
potential still has yet to reveal itself.
The manual rack-and-pinion steering
was plenty direct but just a tad on the
numb side, and the disc brake nose
required a firm pedal to grind down any
speed whatsoever. Shifting was a touch
on the rubbery side, the result of 30 years
of work; Brad admits that a slightly more
direct shifter is in the cards. Cornering
was a revelation: While the ride was no
more harsh than other sports machinery
of the era, the nose stayed flat, and cor­
From doors forward, Pangra is fiberglass
nering was delightfully neutral, despite
th e different-sized rubber front and rear,
whil e in our hands.
So we've dri ven it; we've met the man
who knows more about Pangra s than
probably anyone else out th ere tod ay.
But what is it?
Well, surely by now you 've scanned
the rest of the pictures and figured out
the Pangra's dirty little secret: It's a Pinto.
Bu t without that telltale roofline (which ,
let's be honest, bears more than a pa ss ing
resembl ance to the full-fram e 1972 Tori­
no GT/Montego GT fastback roofline),
woul d you have known? After a couple of
miles behind the wheel, we wouldn't
have. If an ythin g, the Pangra full y
exploits the underl y ing potenti al in the
little econ obox's platform.
Once upon a time, Pangra wa s the
brai nch ild of Jack Stratton, general sales
manager at Huntin gton Ford in Arcadia,
Ca liforni a; the goa l wa s to keep th e per­
formance torch burning in w hatever way
he co uld. If that meant turbocharging a
Pinto, so be it. With the muscle ca r as it
was known nea rly buried by 1973 , and
th e Pinto's gas tank woes a couple of
years away, perfo rmance cars were com­
pelled to take on new and previously
unconsidered form s; the Pan gra certainly
fit that bill. It was developed completely
in-hou se with the exception of Ak
Miller's turbo charger conversion , whi ch
was commercially availabl e on its own
Well-shod IS-inch wheels provide the grip
Shifter sprouts from factory-only console
Still looks like a Pinto inside, but for sumptuous Recaro seats, gauges and sport wheel
Digital tach was super high-tech in the Seventies
and had prove n its mettle. Compression
was dropped fro m a stock eight-and­
change to an even 7: 1, and the head was
O-ringed for durability. Boost was limited
to ten pound s, an d more th an one maga­
zine surmi sed that the tu rbo not only
added boost, but also distributed fu el
more evenl y to all cylinders, thus acting
more like fuel injection than a draw ­
through turbo attached to a two-barre l
W eber carb had a ri ght to.
Back when the Pangra was contempo­
rary, mu ch hay was made over not only
its power (a nd 1.42 horsepower per
cubic inch is an exce ll ent number, even
by modern standards), but its relative
cleanliness: Th e turbo helped the Pangra
blow ex hau st numbers to the tune of
1975 levels. This was a massive victory­
not least of which because it was pulled
off by a mom-and-pop shop that seemed
able to get ahead of the curve on such
matters in a time when Detro it wa s
struggling mighti ly with pellet-type
catalytic con verters.
Pangra pieces were available in kit
Why extra gauges? This is all the instrumentation a stock Pinto got
April 2005 I Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES
I grew up in Temple City, California,
near Huntington Ford in Arcadia. I got a
taste of the Pangra in the mid-Seventies,
when a few friends had V-8s wedged into
Pangra-nosed cars, but I thought that a
"factory" Pangra was the car to own. After a
decade of looking, I now own two of the five
factory cars still known to exist. As Pangras
go, this is the only original running car I
know of-and I enjoy its rarity. This one was
in rough shape when I found it in Pomona in
2001 ; the head was off, the body was in
primer, the seats were ripped, and the
factory mags and the whole Ak Miller turbo­
conversion and water-injection system were
completely missing. Those were some of the
hardest parts to get hold of. I wanted to do
a full restoration , as close to what you could buy off the lot as I could get it. Other than the
wheels, it is just that. If anyone finds another real one out there, it'll probably be in bad
shape, but there are still some front-end kits floating around, and you can do a good-looking
"kit" Pangra with a little research and patience. The comments I get at shows are greatsome even ask me if this is "one of those Australian Fords." - Brad Fagan
Very few "factory" cars made
The bitchinest looking and handling Pinto ever
Seamless turbo power helped the little 2.0L feel contemporary
Club Scene:
Ford Pinto
Club of America
Dues: $20/year
Membership: 1,275
Good luck finding one intact
Controls were all a little loosey-goosey
Dress it up how you like, but it's still a Pinto
form or as a complete car so ld through
Huntington Ford; the Pantera-inspired
nose and head lamps (which integrate a
stock grille and front bumper) made up
Kit 1t1 and were a popular con version
nationwide; the revised interior, including
dash, console and Stewart-Warner
gauges, comprised Kit 1t2 ; the Spearco
"Can Am " suspension kit (sway bars,
Konis, and a two-inch slam with attendant
Rear seat tormented cramped collegians
geometry changes) was Kit 1t3, and the
real whamm y was Kit 1t4, which
included all of these things plus
the turbocharger. Not included in
any of the kits were the Recaros,
the console or the custom dash;
these are the hallmarks of the
Pangras sold through the dealer­
ship as complete cars.
You could buy only complete
Pangras from Huntington Ford ,
and for this reason, most "facto­
ry-built" Pangras tend to be
known to live around Southern
Ca lifornia. Hundreds of nose
kits were manufactured and sent
out arou nd the country, howev­
"Pinto" and "action" aren't usually mentioned together
er; just because it has the fiber-
HemmIngs MUSCLEMACHINES I April 2005
glass nose doesn't mean it's an authentic
factmy-built piece.
As we mentioned at the top of the
story, this might be the very press car that
was handed to hordes of ham-fisted jour­
nalists back in 1973. There are a couple
of indicators: When Brad stripped the car
down to bare metal to pain t it, he
noticed th at it was originally black­
same color as the one in all the maga­
zines. Also, the Pangra press beater had a
prototype roof-mounted win g added in
the fall of 1973, supposedly fitted for
some high-speed testin g conducted by
Gordon Johncock at the Ontario, Califor­
n ia, road course; our test Pangra had two
plugs th at covered holes in the exact spot
where the wing appeared to be mounted.
(It's just as well it's gone; the wing looked
more cartoon than Can-Am. ) Also, this
Pangra is a 1972 model even though Pan­
gras were introduced halfway through
1973; this, and the 1972-and-earlier front
bumper, point to signs of it being an
early development mu Ie. All ci rcumstan­
tial evidence, granted, but conSidering
how few of these were actually built,
anything's possible.
Brad 's other Pangra, a black full-on
custom job with 250hp, heartier internals
and many more modern touches, actually
was in process first and is still not quite
done at this writing; still, his work on that
particular car led him to this one. " My
neighbor, who is a car buff, told me he
knew of another one," says Brad, who
traveled to Pomona to see it.
Still , it was a bit of a mess. The body
was intact but in primer, the interior was
all there except for a set of shredded
Recaros (some NOS Porsche 914 fabric
took care of that), the factory 13-inch
mags were gone, and (rather cruciall y) all
of the Ak Miller turbo equipment had
fled the scene. Luckily, Brad had to look
no further than his own garage for some
of the pieces. "The exhaust manifold,
crossover and intake would have been
the toughest pieces to find, but I had
these from my '73," he explains. After a
thorough block-sanding, Brad applied
two coats of PPG Guards Red (a Porsche
color), color-sanded each coat with 600­
grade paper, then two coats of clearcoat,
with a 2000-grade rub in between. Other
missing pieces, like a jack, spare tire and
radiator, were easily (and relativel y
cheaply) acquired. He figures he spent
about 250 hours getting this Pangra in the
shape you see it here.
What's next for Brad and his Pangra?
Driving this one, finishing up its twin,
and revel i ng in the glory of corneri ng the
market on a little-known but significant
sl ice of American performance history. . .
1972 Ford Pinto Pangra
HORSEPOWER @ 5,500 RPM torque @ 3,600 rpm
114 mile: 15.4 seconds
Base price . . ... . ..... . .
Stock Pinto .. .. .. . . .. .. .
Type .... .. ...... .. .. ..
Displacement . . ........ .
80re x Stroke . ......... .
Compression ratio . ...... .
Horsepower @ rpm ...... .
Torque @ rpm . ......... .
Camshaft . . . .......... .
Main bearings . .........
Fuel system . ..........
Lubrication system ......
Electrical system .......
Exhaust system ... .. ...
Type .... . .. . .. .. . .... .
SOHC 1-4, iron block and head
122 cubic inches
3.58 inches x 3.03 inches
[email protected],500
220-lbs.ft. @ 3,600
Erson 290AS mechanical, .532/.532 lift,
217 degrees duration at .050 lift, solid lifters
Single Weber two-barrel
Melling M86-8 oil pump
Ak Miller cast-iron manifold and downpipe,
AiResearch T4 turbocharger (15 pounds boost
max), 2-1/4-inch mandrel-bent exhaust pipe,
Summit Turbo muffler (2-1/4-inch inlet and
outlet), 2-1/2-inch BorJa stainless tip
1972 Ford four-speed manual,
aluminum bellhousing, organic clutch
Ratios . .. . ..... . .... .. . 1st
Reverse 3.66:1
Type .. .. . . .. .. . . .. .. . . 1972 Ford 6-1/4-inch housing, open
Ratio . . . . ............. . 3.55:1
Type . .. .. . ... .. ...... . Rack and pinion
Ratio . . . . .... . .... ... . . 22.1:1
Turns, lock-to-Iock . . ... . . 4.2
Turning circle . . . . . .. . . . . 31.5 feet
Type . . .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Manual, hydrauliC
Front . . .. . ....... . .. . . 9.3-inch disc
Rear . . . .. .. . . . . .. . . .. . 9.0-inch drum
Chassis & Body
Construction . .. . . . . .. . . . Unit steel
Body style . . .... . . .... . . Two-door hardtop coupe
Layout .. .. . . ...... . .. . Front engine, rear-wheel drive
92 mph
Independent, upper A-arms, lower lateral arms,
compression struts, two-inch-drop springs,
Koni adjustable tube shocks,
Spearco solid .957 anti-roll bar
Rear . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Live axle on leaf springs, two-inch lower
blocks, Koni adjustable tube shocks,
Spearco solid .628 anti-roll bar
Wheels & Tires
Wheels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. Weld Rodlite, cast alloy
Front 15 x 7 inches
Rear 15 x 7 inches
Tires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 15-inch steel-belted radials
Front Goodyear Eagle GT+4, 185/60-15
Rear Nankang EX601, 205/65-15
Weights & Measures
Wheelbase ............. 94.2 inches
Overall length . . . . . . . . . . . 166.4 inches
Overall width ... . ....... 69.4 inches
Overall height . . . . . . . . . . . 50. 1 inches
Front track . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57.0 inches
Rear track. . . . . . . . . . . . .. 57.0 inches
Curb weight . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,315 pounds
Crankcase .. .. . . .. . .. .. 4 quarts
Cooling system ... . . . . . . . 8.5 quarts
Fuel tank . ... . . . . .. .. . . 11 gallons
Transmission .. ... .. ... . 5 pints
Calculated Data
8hp per c.i.d. . . . . .. .. .. . 1.43
Weight per bhp .. .. . .. . . . 13.22 pounds
Weight per c.i.d. . .. .... . . 18.97 pounds
Huntington Ford sold between 20 and 50 Pangras in 1973 and 1974.
The exact number is unknown.
0-60 mph ... . ... . .. .. . . 7.5 seconds
1/4 mile ET . .. . .. . ... . . . 15.4 seconds @ 92 mph
Top speed . . . . . ... . . . .. . 123 mph
April 2005 I Hemmings MUSCLE MACHINES