PCH, Unibody Twisting Edition: V8 Vega or V8 Pinto?

Illustration for article titled PCH, Unibody Twisting Edition: V8 Vega or V8 Pinto?

We now find that nearly seven out of ten Jalopnik readers surveyed prefer a '66 Datsun pickup to a '62 Toyota Stout. And that's great, though we can't fathom why the Stout's name- which could be the Best Pickup Truck Name Ever- didn't garner it more votes. Still, there's something inherently un-hellish about a pickup truck project, no matter how difficult. You see, if you ever manage to finish a Japanese pickup truck project, you'll be able to, like, do useful stuff with it. Not only that, it will probably run for a long time once fixed up, and that means you might actually be able to take the highway out of Hell in it. That's why we need to balance the situation out, by providing you with a choice between two incredibly fun, tantamount-to-suicide dangerous, badly-built, classic Detroit econo-clanker-with-V8 projects. Naturally, both need some work...


Most of us of a certain age- let's say, at least 35- have driven or ridden in a few V8 Vegas in our time, and damn are they crazy! You stomp the gas and terrifying, amazing things happen... mostly involving hitting trees, overheating, and/or popping the windows out due to chassis twist. Sometimes, though, you go really, really fast and your brain fills with beautiful V8 noise and you feel like a genius for building this amazing car. Sometimes. Anyway, you can take a crack at feeling like a genius (or at least get some cool scars to impress your friends) by snapping up this 1974 Chevrolet Vega GT for only 400 bucks. Well, sure, it doesn't have a title and the seller tells us bupkis about the condition, but it's already set up for a V8! Maybe that leaves a lot more questions unanswered (such as the definition of "set up," which could mean anything from "original engine not there" to "V8 engine mounts and exhaust system already in place"), but at least it's no sweat to find a suitable cheap small-block to drop into the engine compartment. And check out that hood scoop! Oh yeah- you'll want a rollcage, if only to keep the thing from tying itself in a knot when you gas it.

Back in the day, the V8 Vegas got all the press, but plenty of blue oval types did the same treatment to the Pinto and Bobcat (no doubt under the influence of Primo Beer, Foghat, and Acapulco Gold). In fact, just as Chevrolet made the close-cousin Monza with a V8, thus providing abundant junkyard swap hardware, Ford made V8 Mustang IIs. And the V8 Pinto is batshit fast; I've been in a 351W-powered Bobcat and it really wanted to kill me and everyone else it could reach. There's no possible way to get enough rubber in back to get any kind of traction, and if you install a locker differential- which, of course, you oughta- you'll be getting sideways when you do edge-case actions such as "turning" or "accelerating." So if you're willing to spend a mere hundred bucks more than you would for the Vega, you could get this 1976 Ford Pinto that's already got a V8 installed! It's a Ford small-block of some sort, probably a 302 but who knows? All we know is that it needs a gigantic blower sticking up beyond roof level! The seller doesn't believe in clogging up a car ad with unnecessary verbiage, so here's what we get: "its a project car i started its need finishing. it will start and can be driven." Hey, it can be driven! Sold!

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the first car I ever drove anywhere was my brother in law's pro-stock pinto. I was 8, so I don't remember what size engine or what year it was, but I do remember that it had a hurst shifter, Gigundo tires in the back and that 16" tall sheet metal scoop in the hood. When he and my sister met he was working on it, and there were always a few bobcats or pintos laying around in the lot of the gas station he worked at. We'd spend late nights there wrenching on the thing. He'd be working on something big and heavy, and I'd be in the back of one of the bobcats taking out the taillights or something. I had to drive the pinto into and out of the bay at the end of the night. It wasn't much but it was a real car (boy howdy was it ever) and I got to drive it, not just steer while someone pushed.