And now, the rust of the story

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News
When was the last time anyone was talking about rust?

I’m talking serious rust; the kind where the metal is gone and the hole in the sheet metal is large enough for a few fingers?

Looking at cars today, they’re holding up well, especially in the Snow Belt where the streets are blanketed each winter with salt.

My first new car was a white 1972 Ford Pinto Runabout, a three-door hatchback. I created this car. It had the optional 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, the upmarket trim and brown cloth interior package, whitewalls, AM/FM radio (no stereo), tinted windows (no air), factory sunroof, stick shift.

I ordered this car, patiently waiting five weeks for delivery. This car was special, at least in the Kranz household.

My love affair with the Pinto lasted a little over three years. That’s when I noticed rust forming on the inside of the metal door panels, at the bottom, facing the passenger. Within about six months there were large holes at the bottom of the passenger door, large enough for the finger test. Interestingly, there was no rust, no holes, on the exterior of the door.

I called the zone office in suburban Chicago, explained my case, and demanded that a Ford representative look at the car and provide compensation. Reluctantly, the person on the other side of the phone agreed to see me later that month at a Chicago Ford dealer located on Irving Park Road.

The Ford representative was late, about 60 minutes late. I think he expected that I would give up and be gone by the time he arrived.

I showed him the door panel, the rust, the holes, my disappointment with my first new car.

He was not in good mood. I was a young guy with a lowly Pinto demanding satisfaction from giant Ford Motor Co.

The first words out of his mouth were something like: Chicago uses salt on its streets. Salt eats metal and eventually leaves holes. Complain to the city of Chicago about fixing your car. We didn’t put the salt on the streets. We’re not doing anything.


Back then I was an avid reader of Automotive News. A few weeks earlier a story caught my attention, that the Canadian government was targeting Ford for “premature rust,” I believe is the way it was described. Essentially, Ford, Mercury and Lincoln vehicles were rusting out fairly fast and the Canadians demanded that Ford repair those vehicles.

I showed him the story.

His face turned beet red: “Ok, we’ll pay 50 percent for new doors, painting, labor, not a penny more.”

Sounds good to me, I said.



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