Pinto Update 3: Inside, Underside… TNT

It’s bright, but it’s base! This is the completed interior/chassis/engine bay of the MPC 1979/80 Pinto.

Because the outside of a car is the part of the car that everyone else sees, it’s part that designers work at making the most visually interesting. Colour, shape, profile; these all combine to give a first impression of a vehicle.  However, if you think about it, the part of a car the driver most often sees isn’t the exterior, but the interior. This “Front Office” is where owners will interact with their car the most, and where passengers will also get to experience the pros (or cons) of the car as well. That’s why interior design and colouring is such an important facet of automotive design as a whole, although you can’t see it at first.

It seems hard to remember, mired today as we are in a sea of grey, black, grey-black, blackish-grey and tan interiors that there was a time when you could also get amazing colours like blue, green, red and even white as options for your upholstery, carpet and door panels. The insides of cars used to be as colourful and interesting as their outsides, and in some cases, even more so. This is particularly true of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s where some of the automotive styling cues were starting to trend strongly to the econoboxy and boring.

How can you add some punch to what’s little more than a wheezy four-banger breadbox-on-wheels? Well, one way is to actually add performance, but as we all know this was a definite non-starter of an idea during the Automotive Dark Ages that set in in the mid-70s. No, since actually enhancing driveability was out, stylists opted for garish paint and appearance packages. In some cases, this perception of excitement was carried over into the passenger compartment as well. In more expensive cars, this could include fancy seats, lots of faux wood trim (de rigeur in land yachts, of course) and interesting powered gadgets.

However, for the Pinto, the lowest rung on the Ford family ladder, there was really not much that could be done. The Pinto was a basic car, and that meant a basic interior. The fanciest Pinto of all was the Cruising Wagon, which tried to ride the coattails of the successful “Cruising Van” package on the Econoline, and the greater Street Van trend prevalent at the time. While the outside was awash in stripes and Euro-black trim, the inside was still pretty conventional. To this end, MPC’s “Pony Express” kit did a good job of capturing the “upper level baseness” that is the Cruising Wagon’s inner self.

Better Red…

Despite the Spartan nature of the Cruising Wagon’s interior, it’s still possible to make it exciting, at least by today’s standards. One of the fastest ways to do that is to do it in a colour very rarely ever seen today; red. If you haven’t noticed from my EXP, Volare, GTA and, of course, Faust himself, I do have a thing for cars with red seats. Red doesn’t go with a lot, mind  you. It goes great with dark colours like black and charcoal grey. It’s also fine with red (no duh)  and silver, and looks good with white. However, beyond that, it’s really not a great shade. A yellow body with a red interior is pretty loud, and red surely doesn’t go with blue, green or any greyed/beiged variant of any of them.

Thankfully, I’d decided to do my Pinto Cruising Wagon in white, so the red interior was something I could see fitting very well. I found a number of great interior shots of red Pinto interiors on the internet, and I was pretty pumped to get going on it. The first step was to paint the inside of the body shell red, so that I could get all the walls and headliner done in red, and then masked before painting the white on the body itself. I think a lot of time people forget that you CAN see the headliner, and sort of forget about it. I don’t. However, painting that much red was a bit much for my brushes, so I used an airbrush to spread some Model Master Acrylic Guards Red. I then flat coated this with Delta Ceramcoat Indoor/Outdoor Matte Urethane Varnish. This makes the surface very matte, as if it is carpeted or at least covered in felt. To  make it look like vinyl(on the side panels)  I applied a bit of “Hand Vinyl” by brush. This colour is a mix of Delta Ceramcoat Indoor/Outdoor Matte Urethane Varnish, Future and water, and it sinks into the matte surface, giving it a bit of sheen.

Buckets of Fun:

As I have mentioned before in my other updates, This Pinto, despite being a ’79 or ’80, has its roots in a very much older kit. Clearly, that was a problem for the Engine, but it also shows its ugly head again in making up the interior. For one thing, I’m fairly used to interiors that come in buckets. The bucket is worked on, and then glued to the chassis and stuck into the car. That’s not the case for the Pinto wagon. In this case, the sides of the interior bolt to the chassis, and the floor of the interior is on the flipside of the chassis. In a way, this is actually more realistic, but it means I have to work on the chassis and the interior at once.  I really don’t like that, but there’s not much of a choice.

At least the interior is carpeted, and there’s some side-wall detail too. The fit of the side panels is amazingly good, too. The back panel, though… Wow. In what would be something of a theme with this kit, the rear panel just doesn’t fit. It doesn’t have the right shape, doesn’t match well to the side panels, nothing. It doesn’t even have carpet texture on it. It just sucks. Thankfully, with my homemade side panels on there, you won’t see the plate; thus I didn’t spend time fixing it. If you build this wagon as the full-on windowed version though, be ready for this. It’s going to show.

The other thing that makes building the interior difficult is that the engine compartment is part of this build. The firewall is a very oddly broken-up piece. Whereas normally, a firewall is a wall that slips into the front of the interior bucket, on the Pinto some of the wall is attached to the sides, and the rest is a weirdly-shaped Tetris piece of an affair that then bolts into that. With the engine bay now sticking out in front of the interior, and with it needing to be white, I could see that there would be problems working on both the chassis and interior at once. Thus, I decided to paint the interior first, then mask it to paint the chassis and engine bay.

In this “under test” picture, you can see the very odd “insert” shape of the firewall. Why, MPC? Why? The world may never know…

I primered the entire interior bucket first in Rustoleum White Primer, then I airbrushed it with the same Guards Red that I used on the headliner. Given red’s inability to cover even itself well, I figured it would take a couple of coats. It did, but I was able to get a nice result. I also painted the rear seat and the two stock seats at the same time. Now, here’s where the age of the kit comes up again. I can’t be certain, but it seems that these seats aren’t quite right for this year of Pinto. There was a version that you could get with a cloth centre and vinyl bolsters; those seats APPEAR to be the ones in the kit, but the wild pattern of the cloth inserts was not something I was willing to either paint or attempt as a decal. Thus, I decided just to go with plain red vinyl seats and be done with it.

I then flatted the entire interior, and applied a darker reddish-brown pastel to the carpeting. I worked this in with a short bristled brush, in an attempt to create carpet “lowlights”. I think, in retrospect, using a Varsol-based wash might have worked just as well, but that’s for next time, I guess.  Once the pastel was in place and extra was “shaken out” of the interior, it was sealed in place with another flat coat. I then used a Crimson Prismacolour coloured pencil (that was my Grandfather’s) to add highlights. This “triple colour” method really adds life to the carpet, and even when a final flat coat toned it all down, the effect was impressive. It doesn’t always come through in the photos, but it does in real life. Due to the fact that the rear seats could fold to give extra cargo room, the back of the seats are also carpeted, and were given the same treatment.

This top view shows the matte carpet to good effect. If you zoom in, you can (hopefully) see the three-toned approach I used to give some depth.

Some red pastel was also brushed onto the seat seams and some of the door panel seams very lightly, in an attempt to create some darker, shadowed areas. This is dangerous, because if the pastel is on too thickly, or is too dark, it can make the interior just look grungy. I only did a little bit, and while I think it might be too subtle, it’s better than too much. I then used the “hand vinyl” to gloss up the front seats, rear seating surfaces and door panels.  For parts that would be hard plastic, like the rear wheel covers, rear armrests and cargo area “bed wall”, I used AquaGloss. This gives a much higher shine than the Vinyl coat, and is a better representation of hard plastic. I also used this on what I assumed was the solid plastic insert on the back of the Pinto’s front seats.

While almost none of this will be visible once the car’s together, I do enjoy taking time to texture my interiors this way. It adds life to them, and makes them a bit more realistic.

The left seat is matte coated, the middle has one pass of “vinyl” and the right (the rear seat) has two coats of “vinyl” over some light pastelling work.

To that end, I had a problem with the dashboard. Some pics showed cars with non-black interiors having a black dashboard. The catalogues I could find showed coloured dashboards. However, I went with the black. Why? There were some great interior shots of a perfect-condition Cruising Wagon that had just that; a black dash in a red interior. It also added some visual interest, and while I can’t be sure if it’s right, I thought it looked cool. I painted the dash in Aircraft Interior Black (AIB) and highlighted the details with a Silver Prismacolour pencil crayon (another inheritance from my grandfather). This helped bring out the detail which, despite the age of the moulds, is very good.

This is the Pinto’s dash, in high-performance Euro-black. I’m not sure it’s accurate for this model year either, but it looks nice!

The Steering Wheel was also done in AIB. I painted the spokes in silver and then the centre horn button was done in chrome. This kit marks the first time I’ve ever used Molotow Chrome Markers. WOW. Just WOW. For small jobs like door handles, steering wheel centres, etc., I’ve never seen anything chromier. I used the markers to do the little door pulls on the inside of the doors, as well as the window cranks. Anyone who grew up around ‘70s Fords should remember the chrome window cranks with the “clear” (more like translucent greyish yellow) knobs on them. I can remember my dad having a veritable storehouse of them, because they broke so often (especially in Canadian winters)! To replicate this, I used normal silver for the knob; sitting by the chrome handle, this bit of silver has the same “cloudy-greyish” look I remember so well.

Here are the two bits of chrome on the door. The Molotow markers are AWESOME!! Check out the silver (vs. chrome) knob on the crank.

One part of the interior which is, I’m certain, wrong for the year of the car is the centre box. This doesn’t look right at all, but it fit and closed a gap, so I wasn’t going to worry about it too much.

Belly of the Beast:

Like a lot of MPC kits before the early ‘80s, the Pinto has a pretty lacklustre chassis. It’s amazing, looking at some of the later MPCs (like, those right before they died in 1988) just how far they came, but alas, the Pinto is stuck in the relative Paleozoic era of chassis moulding. There is some good surface detail, sure, but the suspension is not particularly convincing, and is very, very simple. Mind you, the real car was no breaker of new ground, but I’m sure that it at least had tie rods and sway bars. (Okay, disclaimer time: I’m not sure they had sway bars, given the ride these little buggers had…)

Sadly, there’s none of that greebly goodness that adds so much to suspension on the Pinto. The front has coil springs (and not even really A-arms), the rear has leaf springs (leaves spring, I think, is the correct plural…) and neither end has shocks/struts. Hmm… The exhaust is a simple tube (which does appear to be likely correct) that only pins in at the exhaust manifold and by the gas tank.  Said gas tank is moulded with what appears to be the underfloor spare tire pit. This is a weird feature, and why they did it this way is beyond me.

This is what you get. TAKE IT! Realistic suspension is not high on the Pinto’s list of accomplishments.

As simple as it is, the exhaust seems to be wrong. It has a simple, straight back pipe. However, the pics of the Pinto in original condition that I found show there being a single, pencil-wide pipe exiting the passenger side of the vehicle behind the rear tire. Incidentally, this is behind and below the “4,000 Gross” decal. Clearly, I couldn’t leave this mistake alone, and I made my own to match it. There’s a danger here, of course; it could be a poor replacement pipe, and not correct at all. However, in the one brochure I found there is some kind of non-straight back pipe in silhouette on the Cruising Wagon, so I went with it. I used a small piece of Styrene rod about the same diameter as the pipe I cut off at the muffler, and then used my pin vise to drill a hole in it. I glued it at what seemed like the appropriate angle. I then painted the exhaust in various MMA metal shades: Steel, Aluminum for the muffler and Jet Exhaust for the part near the manifold.

Here’s the original pipe/muffler, but with my extension. It seems cartoonishly long, but does work out about right.

The metal parts of the chassis, namely the exhaust, springs and driveshaft were given a wash of Citadel Nuln Oil to bring them some texture and shading, and then satin coated with Future-modified Delta Ceramcoat Indoor/Outdoor Matte Urethane Varnish. The chassis itself was painted with MMA Grey Primer, and the subframes with AIB. The killer was trying to get the impression of overspray. My brother is a master of car chassis detailing, and is very big on making sure he even simulates the overspray from the painting process on the chassis. In a (very) vain attempt to live up to his standards and achieve extra realism, I wanted to do the same.

Thus, I airbrushed on some overspray. However, white on grey doesn’t show up much. Okay, it doesn’t show up at all. So, I had to simulate overspray buy using a stiff, short brush to dapple on some white at the edges. This worked great, and looks the part completely. The entire chassis was satin coated thereafter.

Here you can see the dappled “overspray” around the edges. At least is shows up this way!

The interior was masked off and the engine bay was airbrushed white. It was hand glossed with AquaGloss, and the wiring looms were painted AIB. The battery was also done in AIB. Now, you’re likely wondering about the master cylinder, fluid bottles, A/C components and all those other things one finds under a hood. Well, keep wondering. This kit has NONE of those things. I didn’t forget them; they’re just not there. This is particularly weak for any model company, but very surprising for MPC; normally, MPCs have great underhood stuff! So, if you’re going to be building this as a “superdetailed” car kit, be ready to source your own underhood accessories. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Looking for underhood accessories? To quote Calvin’s mom (from Calivn and Hobbes): “You’re going to be one sad little kid come Christmas morning!”

Once the paint was all done, I glued in the engine, and to my surprise, it fit very well. The driveshaft was actually the proper length, and even the exhaust fitted right up to the engine! This is surprising, given  that the bulk of the rather arbitrarily-shaped pipe just sort of squeezes in and around wherever it can. I did have to adjust  the angle of my new extension, though; it interfered with the leaf spring a bit. Still, the end result was a pretty nice, albeit Spartan, chassis.

Once it’s all done, the chassis looks competent, if not spectacular. There’s not a lot to work with on this one…

Rollin’ in Style:

The Pinto, in real life, had numerous choices for wheels/hubcaps. The top-of-the-line option, though, was for a white-painted rally wheel, which was basically a fancy slot mag. Thankfully, this is what the kit comes with, and I figured a white car with white wheels would look great. I stripped the chrome with Easy Off oven cleaner (yellow can, not weak blue can) and primed the wheels with the Rustoleum White Primer. I then airbrushed on the white I intend to use for the body, and heavily glossed the wheel with AquaGloss. I then painted the centres using the Molotow Chrome pen I used on the door handles.

This is where the power of the Molotow’s really showed. I was able to create a small ‘puddle’ into which I could dip a filed-down toothpick to finely paint the centres of the wheels. I couldn’t believe it. I could actually PAINT chrome, just like any other colour! Once it was done, I applied some Tamiya Clear Red to the centre to simulate the decoration in the centrecap, and then applied a small amount of Nuln Oil to pick out the four bolts. I touched up the chrome with my toothpick, and all was good. Making these wheels look even better were the new, and very nice, pad-printed tires. I used the old formula Ice Wax liquid I have to give the tires some shine and a quick pass with a sanding stick scuffed the treads just a bit.

The first wheel is chromed and capped, but not washed, while the second is washed. The wash is too dark. The third is just right, with the chrome touched up and the centrecap on.


The MPC Pinto is clearly a kit that’s not without its charms, but it has a host of problems as well. There are fewer issues with the interior than there were with the engine and “vannification” of the outside, but if supreme accuracy is your thing, then I suggest you pass on this one.

However, with some love, creative painting and a bit of artistic licence, the chassis and interior on the Pinto Cruising Wagon can at least be made to look more-or-less correct, even when they’re not. The end result didn’t really reflect the amount of effort I put into it in some spots, but by and large, it looks good and I think it will look fine once it’s inside the body.

On that note, the next installment will be the last, as I finish the body and put the whole darned thing together! Be here then!



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