Pinto lovers gather to appreciate much-mocked car

(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Who doesn't love a good Pinto joke?

Not the dozens of people who own the car everyone loves to scoff at who are gathering in Dearborn today for the fourth annual Pinto Stampede.

The three-day-long festival — held for the first time in the much-maligned auto's hometown — includes participating in the Ford employee car show and a mass road trip to Hell in Livingston County.

Ford recalled 1.5 million Pintos in 1978 because of concerns about exploding gas tanks in rear-end collisions; the tanks were vulnerable behind the solid rear axles. More than two dozen people were killed in related fires.

And they've been on worst and ugliest car lists published by Time and Business Week.

But Norm Bagi, 45, of New York City, who created the event, doesn't want to hear anything bad about the car and views the weekend fun as a celebration of an iconicautomobile.

"It's a nostalgia thing. They sold 3.2 million of these. Beside for the press, which was a few bad articles, most people had good times in their cars," he said. "Most people have fond memories of them. It was their first a car or their car in college or their girlfriend had one."

Bagi's expecting more than 50 Pintos coming from all over North America, but he's prepared for non-Pinto owners, too.

"If they really don't know and want to learn, we educate them. They walk away saying, 'It wasn't as bad as it was,' " he explained.

The Pinto Stampede raises money for the Wounded Warrior Project.


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