Picture it: the year is 1972. The muscle car is pretty much dead, buried by the insurance companies with the EPA dancing on the grave like a gleeful demon. Catalytic converters are coming, as are railroad bumpers, seatbelt ignition interlocks and rollover standards that effectively kill the convertible for a decade. To say the future is looking grim is an understatement…the future looks like a ton of four-cylinder cars half the size of the dinosaurs they replaced, with just enough horsepower to haul one, maybe two people around. Welcome to the land of the OPEC crisis. Cars like the Chevrolet Vega, Dodge Dart and the Ford Pinto were here. Forget Hemis, forget Boss motors.Except that the public had gotten their taste of performance and they wanted more. Speed is a drug and you just don’t quit that cold-turkey…no sir, you have to reduce the dose to find an acceptable level. And one man, a man named Jack Stratton, had a vision. Stratton worked at Huntington Ford in California, and he saw the lowly Pinto as an opportunity, not a liability.
Consider the Pangra a dealership special and a kit car of sorts. They fall into two different categories: the ones that were completely put together and sold at Huntington Ford as completed cars, and the homebuilt kits that may or may not have everything that made the Pangra special. For the sake of simplicity, we will stick with the 100% completed cars’ layout, but go in knowing that there are some Pintos that may only have Pangra sheetmetal, for example. Then there’s the custom interiors, that seem to be a dealer-only option. Not every detail applies to every shark-nosed Pinto you’ll see…if you ever see one.
The kit itself for a full car was very impressive. Immediately noticeable is the front-end treatment, which slims out the fenders, gives the car hidden headlights (activated by a hand lever) and a shark-nose appearance. It’s a fiberglass kit that was concocted by fiberglass specialist Bob Crowe. Then there is the handling package: Stratton worked with Koni to procure specially tuned shocks for the cars, which got a 2″ drop and revised suspension geometry. This made the Pangra a natural handler, and since it was small and light, it was now nimble too. Then there is the party piece, the 175 horsepower AiResearch turbocharger-equipped 2.0L four-cylinder. When a typical Pinto’s engine struggled to surpass 100 horsepower, the Pangra’s four, combined with 15 PSI from the turbocharger, felt pretty damn lively by comparison. Tuned by legendary racer A.K. Miller and featuring water injection, the Pangra could easily put the “sport” into sport compact. You wouldn’t mistake it for a Boss 351, but in the 2,300 pound Pangra, it would knock a 0-60 time of 7.5 seconds and a quarter-mile time in the very low 15-second range, a healthy improvement over the stock Pinto.
Being a dealership special that cost almost double what a standard Pinto would fetch, a true Pangra is almost impossible to find completed. There’s a handful of known dealership-finished cars, and the occasional Pangra-nosed car pops up from time to time. How long did the Pangra last? Difficult to say at best, but if the program was still working when the Pinto controversy started, that would have killed it dead. The Pangra is mostly a forgotten oddball, but if you ever wondered what would happen if the hammer falls on performance, just look here: we will take what we can get and hop that up.