One man’s Pinto becomes another man’s hot rod

The Ford Pinto gets a lot of flack, much of it deserved for the many design flaws that would later become the subject of litigation and media controversy. And to make matters worse, the Pinto also isn't exactly a sight for sore eyes. (I recently gave the Pinto a nod in an article about the ugliest American cars).

But, one article in the June edition of Hot Rod Magazine serves as a reminder that you should never judge a book by its cover, especially when you can always simply rip off that cover and put it on an entirely new book.

That's what happened during Hot Rod Drag Week 2011 when a 1979 Ford Pinto became the third quickest car of the entire event. In the magazine, writer Mike Finnegan profiled the unlikely story of Tim Reed and his white Pinto, which, according to the author, caused people to just about lose their minds.

Clocking in quarter-mile traps at just over eight seconds and hitting top speeds of more than 171 miles per hour, the car used a combination of small turbos, a hydraulic roller and midsize engine to achieve surprising levels of performance. To put these results in perspective, the original 1979 Pinto took more than 13 seconds to hit 60 mph and could only hit a top speed of 95 mph.

So, what's Reeds big secret?

"I beat guys with big-blocks and F3s with a thousand more horsepower," Reed told the source."It all comes down to harnessing the power. We run on a 275 radial, so it's important to have the car set up right."

But, these kind of results can't be achieved by rearranging available parts. Finnegan noted that half the recipe came from a torque converter and engine management system that were custom made for the car. With these upgrades, Reed says his car can cover 60 feet in just about 1.2 seconds.

If only he had worked on the original model.