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This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Ford Pinto. And this week, fans of the much-maligned economy car are celebrating with a drive from Colorado to Pennsylvania. NPR's Jeff Brady met up with the husband and wife who are leading the trip.
LOUISE BAGI: My name is Louise Bagi. I live in Mildford, Pennsylvania. This is my 1976 Pinto with a V-6 and air conditioning, which is a rare breed.
JEFF BRADY: Bagi's husband Norman says the upholstery inside this hatchback is a sight to behold.
NORMAN BAGI: The seats have the upgraded blue and orange plaid, which you've seen, just fabulous to look at. You know, it's almost like "The Brady Bunch" threw up in that car. It's wonderful.
BRADY: And right in the middle, between the seats there, you have a fire extinguisher.
BAGI: Yes, yes we do. That actually is at my request because, just in case...
BRADY: It's impossible to talk about the Pinto without mentioning the one thing probably everyone knows about the car.
BAGI: Yeah, if you hit them in the butt, and they blow up. Well, you know, there was a lot of hype about that.
BRADY: Norman Bagi can be defensive about the Pinto. He says the problem was exaggerated, and now there's a simple retrofit that fixes the fuel system issue.
Bagi is totally into the retrofits. Just listen to his 1977 powder blue Pinto coupe.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR ENGINE)
BRADY: That doesn't sound like any Pinto I've ever heard before.
BAGI: No, they never came with a V-8, but a lot of people did that to them.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR ENGINE)
BRADY: Bagi says he started out a Mustang fan, but now he's all about the Pinto.
BAGI: This car makes other people happy, which is kind of unusual. They beep at you. They wave. They pull out their phone. They try to take pictures.
They'll follow you to the gas station and get out and talk about the Pinto they had or their sister had or the first car they had in college. You know, they lost their virginity in a car like this. You know, you would be surprised the stories that you hear.
BRADY: The Bagis are leading their caravan of Pinto drivers from Denver to an auto show in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, this week.
How far are you going to be driving then?
BAGI: I think we're driving about 1,600 miles.
BRADY: Wow. I don't want to be indelicate or offend you, but do you have any concern about getting there?
BAGI: In my Pinto? Never. Not in a million years. I'm more worried about the tornadoes that are in the Midwest than I am about my Pinto.
BRADY: The Pinto Stampede is scheduled to arrive in Pennsylvania on Thursday. Organizers are using the drive to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.
Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.
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