Garrett Fuller

The Pintomobile

Update (12/12/2016): Last night I was involved in a roll-over accident after I overcorrected. Thankfully, I was not injured, but the truck certainly was. The Pintomobile was totaled, as the cab was destroyed. RIP Pintomobile, 1989-2016.

The Pintomobile was replaced with a 2000 Buick Century... which actually has air conditioning that works, and electric everything.

The Pintomobile is my first (and only) car. It actually is a pickup truck, a 1989 Ford F-150 XLT Lariat. It (I haven't decided whether the Pintomobile is a he or she) has the 302 EFI engine, with the EEC-IV engine control. It also has an automatic transmission, air conditioning (although it does not work at the moment), and an aftermarket radio.

I was originally planning on getting a Ford Model A Tudor Sedan (made 1928-1931) to "restore" to stock usable condition and use as a daily driver. However, building up the massive funds to undertake such a project never happened. A year later I fell in love with a friend's 1984 Ford F-150 (which had the "Bullnose" design), which was in immaculate condition (minus some rust holes. But the paint was in excellent condition.) About a year later, and some searching for the "right truck", I found the Pintomobile for sale in California, MO - around 20 miles away from home.

The Name

PintosPeople ask me how I came up with the name - the Pintomobile. The truck has, and originally came with, two gigantic "Pintos" stickers on the back. The previous owner attended high school at California High School - home of the Pintos. I have never removed the stickers, and plan on never removing them. It gives the truck some personality.

As far as the Pintos, I featured the California Pintos in my article "Got Pretzel and Pinto Spirit" (Pirate Press, March 18, 2016.) I have a "behind-the-scenes" article regarding the article, titled "Pretzels, Baby! Unique mascots (behind the scenes)".

I originally purchased the truck in September 2015. Since, California fans visiting for sporting events have spotted the Pintomobile, and have actually taken pictures of the stickers.

More about it...

PintomobileThe Pintomobile has been fairly reliable, especially for being 27 years old. It originally started life in June 1989 (10 years to the month before I was born) in Wayne, Michigan. It has since passed through few hands. Multiple mechanics have commented on how structurally and mechanically sound the Pintomobile is for being 27 years old, and the interior is in immaculate condition. With some dusting and minor cleaning, the interior would look as good as it did in 1989.

The truck has aluminum headers and dual exhaust. The truck also features dual gas tanks. For some, dual gas tanks is a good feature to have. However, I typically utilize one gas tank and use the other for emergency fuel.

The truck also has chrome wheels and the chrome grille. When I purchased the truck, I upgraded the front tires, as one tire was a spare (according to the previous owner, he popped the bead on the tire on the gravel road he lived on) and the other was fairly old (manufacturing date code of 1996.) (September 29, 2016 - one of the rear tires, the El Dorado Sport Fury the truck had from a previous owner, developed some structural integrity issues. The tire was taken out of service, and both rear tires [the other tire is time same tire] will be replaced sometime in the near future.)

There were two issues I've experienced with the truck in the year I've owned it. The transmission went out at around 172k miles. Ford seems to have problems with their transmissions going out around 170k miles, as the transmission in my father's 2003 Ford F-150 went out at 170k miles. The transmission was replaced and it was on the road again, though not with some problems with the mechanic who installed the transmission.

The other problem was the radiator leaked, and there was a clogged exhaust line. The truck was not running well, as it was only running 40 miles per hour before it would not go any faster. Eventually, the problem got so bad that the engine would die shortly after starting (within ten minutes), and it wouldn't go faster than 15 miles per hour. The radiator issue was discovered with it boiled over while driving to a local garage to have it diagnosed. The radiator was replaced and the exhaust issue fixed.

The truck came with a large portion of the original paperwork, including the window sell sheet and warranty information. I also have some of the receipts for previous work done to it, including when the dual exhaust system and aluminum headers were installed.

My Plans

I don't plan on selling this truck anytime soon. I plan on actually doing a minor "restoration" of the truck, my goal is to get it looking and working like the day it rolled off the assembly line. This is going to come in phases, mainly due to my economical and time limits to spend on the truck.

Phase 1: Minor Repairs

This is phase 1 because it is the highest priority items. This phase includes replacing the tires (mainly rear) and fixing the brakes.

Priority #1: Tires, tires, and oh yeah - tires!

The rear tires were both El Dorado Sport Fury tires when I bought the truck, installed by the previous owner. They are not a high-end tire, but any tire will serve its purpose - the main thing is the reliability and safety. The rear driver-side tire was punctured by a nail back in August (2016) and required the hole to be plugged. The puncture was plugged, and the tire held air great until one evening when the tire went completely flat while driving. The tire was ruined, as inflating the tire revealed two large bubbles in the sidewall where the structure had been compromised. The tire was taken out of service the next day, after the bubbles grew and a looming fear of a blowout or explosion.

The tire I've been personally looking at is the Cooper TrendSetter tire. I like the design of this tire as it has the white stripe (white "sidewall" - but the entire sidewall is not white, just a minor portion. ~1 inch whitewall.) It resembles the tires which most F150 trucks would've shipped with during the 1980s, including mine. I also plan on having chrome valve stems inserted when the tire is mounted, to match the rims and the valve stem covers which I installed. This tire (the TrendSetter) is also fairly affordable, especially for a name-brand tire. I have yet to receive a shop quote from a local trustworthy garage, but online prices are fair.

My priority is to replace both rear tires, but I would like to eventually sell the front tires which I installed shortly after purchasing the truck (two Starfire SF340 tires) and replace them with the same tires, so that all of the tires match. However, this is lower on my priority list. (The StarFire tires are good, I just would prefer having tires that match on all four wheels.)


The second thing to upgrade in this phase would be the brakes. The brakes are currently fine, although they are getting more and more to the point where they need to be looked at. The truck stops fine, despite my "Brake" and "Rear Antilock" lights being on. (My dad has the same issue with his 2003 Ford F150, and was told by a local Ford mechanic that it may a legitimate issue with the brakes, or, more than likely, a corroded/loose wire somewhere.)


Along with the brakes, some mechanical aspects will get their average tuneup. The spark plug wires are needing to be replaced sometime soon, as they are beginning to crack. The distributor looks good, though. Other general maintenance will be performed, as usual.

Phase 2: Air Conditioning System Repairs

This is where things are going to get even more confusing. The air conditioning repairs are split into even more phases, but for the sake of confusion I'll label them as "steps." The air conditioning repairs is a major project, as basic diagnostics have told us that it could either be a big, expensive repair (i.e. bad compressor or evaporator coil), or a more cheap fix such as a clogged orifice. However, the noises made by the compressor was leaning towards the bad compressor symptoms, and the pressures in the system were way off. (I discuss this further below.)

I've been able to do "phase 1" of fixing the A/C system in the Pintomobile. The news is not good... it is much more serious than a leak. A strange noise was emitted after charging the system, and the pressures were way off. This could be caused by a bad compressor, clogged orifice (metering device), or a bad evaporator coil. On top of that, only one part of the system was retrofitted by a previous owner,instead of the entire system. There is a real possibility that someone mixed refrigerants, specifically R134a (original refrigerant) and R12, and fatally damaged the compressor in the mean time.

Thankfully, vent windows and running the blower on full blast seems to cool me pretty well when driving at highway speeds.

Phase 3: (More) repairs

Despite the numbering, this could come before or after Phase 2 (air conditioning.) My goal is to have the air conditioning system in working order by next summer (summer 2017.r)

This phase is mostly mechanical repairs. I'll go into detail below.

Oil Pan Gasket

The gasket which seals the oil pan is leaking. Sometimes the gasket will leak, and other times it will not leak. This depends on a variety of factors, such as temperature and humidity. However, it is a problem which needs to be fixed. Investigation by trustworthy mechanics revealed that there are no other oil leaks within or near the engine. Due to the odd design of the oil pan on my truck, it creates a larger puddle than usual.

The odd location of a frame crossmember makes removing the oil pan (necessary to replace the gasket) a little... difficult. The entire engine needs to be hoisted out of the engine compartment, which would allow them access to the oil pan gasket. Depending on the further cost, I may install new engine mounts (the current ones are badly in need of repair, as the truck squeaks), and I may have the engine cleaned and the grease removed.

The oil pan gasket issue, from what I've found, is a common issue with older vehicles. As the gaskets dry up and form cracks, oil leaks. My dad's 2003 Ford F150 has the same issue.

Unknown Problem

There is one problem which I have no idea as to the source. Since it is an extremely intermittent issue, pinpointing the source will almost be impossible.

The issue is simple: from time to time, especially after a long drive and leaving the truck sit for a period of time, the truck will start but will almost immediately die out. This is followed by the "Check Engine" light illuminating (of course.) The truck will start if you give press (gently) on the accelerator to give the engine gas before it dies, and put the truck into drive quickly before it dies. Of course, this is an issue which could be particularly interesting and dangerous depending on where you park. (Another reason I'm not a fan of paralell parking.)

My ideas are simple as to the culprit. It sounds like a fuel delivery problem. When the truck is low on fuel (below 1/8 tank) the fuel pump will start humming loudly. However, this issue (the dying) happens even on a full tank of gas.

There is a Facebook group that is extremely knowledgeable about the 1987-1991 Ford F-150. While these trucks are fairly reliable (although all cars have their days), the group is typically supportive and has helped me diagnose issues in the past.


Here are some television commercials I've found on YouTube which was used by Ford to advertise the 1989 F-Series trucks. Somewhat cheesy compared to the other commercials made by Ford that year for their other vehicles (i.e. Mustang), which used the "Have you driven a Ford lately?" slogan.

Update (9/12/2016): Following some research, I have found the original owner of this truck thanks to some of the original invoices in the glovebox. My grandfather actually worked with, and knew very well, the original owner of this truck. It's a small world.

Last updated: 04/01/2017 ; T420
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