Well, with the timing cover off you should be able to see the cam and crank alignment marks. I don't know about the Pinto but most have a dimple or other mark on each that needs to line up. Also, some line up one at 6 o'clock the other at 12, some are both at 6 but whatever you have, they must be in line with each other. Do the thumb thing and when you start to feel the pressure escaping look at your marks. You know you're coming up on TDC on the compression stroke so keep turning the engine until they align and you're there.
If you want to be really back yard you can turn it until you feel the pressure then insert a thin shank screwdriver or something similar, let the piston push it up and when it stops moving up note the location of the timing gear, keep turning until it starts to move down slightly, then turn the other direction until you think you're about in the middle of the slack movement. Make sure whatever you put in the spark plug hole doesn't bind or jam in the cylinder! That should get you close enough to try a start moving the distributor a little until it fires.
This should get lots of laughs from some of the guys, but I doubt you have a positive stop tool you could put in the hole or a degree wheel that you'd also need to compute TDC correctly, and it's tough with the head on anyway.
As far as advancing the cam, you just remove the belt from the cam pulley and rotate it in the advance direction one tooth and reinstall the belt. Jmark can tell you the specifics for your car, most after market timing sets, the ones with gears and chains, have optional key-ways to advance or retard the cam, which moves the power band up or down the rpm range.
Have at it - Larry