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AMC Pacer

 
Truly, no conversation about American cars could be complete without mentioning the Pacer. While it was clearly not a good car, it was, in a sense, a revolutionary and, frankly, an adorable car that has received far more abuse than it deserved.

Let's handle the criticism head-on. Yes, the Pacer was heavy and slow and looked vaguely reminiscent of an inverted fishbowl. But look closer--the lines, while bulbous, are clean, and the details are appealing. I think of the Pacer as the vehicular equivalent of somebody who is slightly overweight and who quickly wearies of being lamely told that they have a "pretty face."

Secondly, the Pacer was a real revolution in many ways--not coincidentally, in many of the same ways in which it was ridiculed. For one, it was one of the first cars to put a premium on placing lots of glass around the passenger compartment to impart a light, airy, roomy feel. That concept, a complete anathema in the days of dark, cramped, high-beltline cars in the 1970s, would later be reintroduced by Honda in the 1980s to great acclaim.

For another thing, the Pacer's rather odd proportions came from the effort to make the car comfortably inhabitable for four adults and their luggage. Compared to the slab-sided cars of the day, the Pacer's lines look swollen.

However, take a good look at today's cars--they have look far more swollen than the cars of the 1970s and tend to apportion passenger space in a way not completely unlike the Pacer. They don't look quite as strange as the Pacer, perhaps, but, well, the 1970s were a strange time.

The Pacer's most fatal problem, the way it drove, was a tragic shame because it could and should have been different. The Pacer was designed around a new rotary engine to be sourced from GM--an engine that promised to be small, light, and powerful. However, GM dropped its rotary program, leaving AMC high and dry. The emergency replacement was AMC's ancient inline six, making the Pacer extremely nose-heavy, very inefficient, and very slow.

I can understand those who don't like the Pacer, but for me it's a real character in the automotive world that helps break up the drab monotony of many modern cars. Anybody who has read my passionate defense of ugly cars knows I have, well, quirky automotive tastes, and so it should come as no surprise that I have the serious hots for the Pacer. It's not a bad looker, especially in Pacer X trim, with rally wheels and raised white-letter tires. Mmm ....

Unsurprisingly, www.amcpacer.com is a great source of all things Pacer, including these photos.

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I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT THIS CAR AND ALOT MORE. I HAD A 93 RED NISSAN MAXIMA SE JUST LIKE THIS ONE AND IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING CARS I HAVE EVER OWNED. IT STARTED FROM THE TIME I SLID INTO THE CAR ON THE SLICK BLACK LEATHER SEATS TO THE MOMENT I PUT THE CAR IN GEAR AND BLASTED AWAY FOR THE FIRST TIME. THE ONLY THING I DID TO THE CAR THE WHOLE FOUR YEARS I OWNED IT WAS BLACKED OUT THE WINDOWS AND BOY DID THAT THING LOOK SWEET. ONE LAST THING TO MENTION AMONG A TON OF ATTRIBUTES I HAVEN'T IS THAT THERE WERE QUITE A BIT OF PEPPY DRIVERS THAT THOUGHT THEY COULD TAKE THIS CAR BUT TO THEIR SUPRISE THEY WERE LEFT IN THE DUST, ZOOM ZOOM WAS MEANT FOR THE 1993 NISSAN MAXIMA SE IN BLAZING RED ROLLING DEEP.

I've the whole gamut of cars & trucks over the past 30 years; Plymouth Duster, Ford Club Wagon, Chevy Vette ('87), two Cadillac Devilles, Ford Tauraus Escalade, & two Mazda Millinias. Actually, a lot more that I'm not going to mention. But it was the '75 Pacer that I remember most fondly. It reminded me of a future car...like George Jetson's space car. But like everything else, I traded it in for the Club Wagon. Gee...after all these years, it's the one I miss most.

The passenger's door on the Pacer was 3-4 inches longer than the driver's, allowing easier entry, especially to the back seat. This car had many similar thoughtful details, way far ahead of its time. I like the first ones before the bumpers developed elephantitis (sp?), and the wagon didn't do a lot for me. But seeing one has always excited me a bit, wishing I could have had a new one back in the day.

Just one thing... don't park next to one... they have VERY wide doors!

My god! What were AMC thinking when they designed the Pacer?! It looks like a lemon on wheels, an ugly one at that. I'd be ashamed to be seen in something like this. The Matador sedan looks way better than this! I'd rather drive it than the Pacer any day.

I respect AMC because it took chances which were greater in proportion to its production volume as compared to GM and Chrysler. I also really like the rounded, organic look of the Pacer. I remember thinking to myself when my parents bought a new '84 Ford Tempo GL from Al Bennett Ford in Flint, Michigan, how the Tempo's doors, cut into the roof (flush), were similar to the Pacer's in that respect. That hideous 1978 restyle with the Mercury Bobcat-like grille (how did Chief Designer, the late, great Richard Teague, approve that? - there must have been better ways to get around the V8 configuration...) killed it for me, but I used to pine for a Pacer X like the one in the photo above. My brothers still give me grief for my affection for the Pacer.

Actually, Chris, there's nothing wrong with that "ancient inline six" except that for Detroit (unlike in Europe) inline sixes were always the cheapo engine option for little old ladies from anyplace but Pasadena. Any good hot-rodder can make that six into a powerful, fuel-efficient engine by rebuilding it with some port-and-bowl cleanup to an early (pre-smogger) closed-chamber head, install flat-top pistons and deck the block for a tight squish dimension, and then start replacing the cheap carb, intake manifold, exhaust manifold, tailpipe, and maybe a few other external parts with free-flowing aftermarket pieces.

Mate the engine to a more modern overdrive tranny, put on some modern gas shocks, rims, and rubber, and you have a good running, entirely practical ride that is cooler than anything you can have by merely writing a check to a dealer.

This kind of upgrading can be done to all of the contrarian cars that you and I and other here love, Chris. They ALL can be upgraded into distinctive yet practical rides.

But don't forget to put on your propeller-beanie before you leave the house.

This is fun, you guys! I just discovered this site, and I've been happily adding my gratuitous blather for a couple of hours now!

Never mind the outside appearance. The view from within was great. Rented one for a week's sightseeing trip with my wife during leaf turning BK (before kids). Chose it for all the glass. Best visibility in a hard-top we ever experienced. And lots of elbow room besides. Remember it fondly.

I own a 1976 Pacer X and have for the past 9 years. It is fully restored and looks beautiful! The front licence says "FISH BOWL" and this fish is FUN! I took it to a car show this summer (one of many) and received the best MOPAR car at a huge event. I was initially parked next to a Ford Thunderbird (the round bird) that was fully restored and had the optional tonneau covering the rear saet. Tho owner noticed that everyone was looking at my Pacer and said "would you please move ytour car to another location". He said everyone was looking at my Pacer. Well it's true! What a BLAST to own a unique American car from American Motors! Love Pacer!! This car is a trophy magnet and a viewer magnet!

Well, I will love to have one today. What is facinating about this car is not neccesarily the car itself, but the process of design, and how the company actually had hopes with this "jewel". This is an example of how not blend, in a changing world, where people were seeking smaller more in shape cars and drifting away from the morbidly obese american car offerings. What we all have to recognize is that this same car if design today with smarter materials and engine, will fit in easily.

I have a 1976 AMC Pacer for sale . This car is extra clean no rust only 60k orginal miles. Its yellow with black interior,new tires and chrome mag wheels. (well kept) only $10,000 contact me by email @ rjdean85@yahoo.com

I hadn't seen this post before, was thinking of writing one on the Pacer, but then figured there was NO WAY Hafner could have gone a couple of years without Lusting the Pacer.

I think this is a perfect example of a great idea executed poorly. Maybe if the rotary engine had actually panned out as it was supposed to (though betting the development of a car on a totally brand new engine from *GM* of all companies seems abominably stupid in retrospect) it might have been better received. As a young lad I recall it looking very futuristic -- wide, low, lots of glass -- and as Chris points out, a lot of what it pioneered would later become SOP. As it was, it was kind of like the Jetsons' car wrapped around a Beetle.

Used to be one a few blocks away from me that I would walk past quite often and it always -- like so many cars from the '70s -- just made me smile.

i have a 1977 mellow yellow pacer wagon and i can tell you i have never had a vehicle that draws more positive attention. i am always being asked where can i buy one. people today love the design, visibility, roominess, cargo capacity etc etc. this is a car that could be put on showroom floors today with a modern engine and would be a top seller-----dominick hewlett ny

i can hear bohemian rhapsody in the background just looking at those pics! Party on Garth! LOL

I have a 78 pacer wagon dl for sale for $1500.00.She runs and drives out fine.If interested just phone 770-315-8506 Danny location is north west Ga

I have a 78 Pacer Wagon D L for sale for $1000.00.Drive it home-runs out good.Body is fair to good.Danny at 770-315-8506

I adored my Pacer when I was a teen. Lots of space inside, and the base was so wide I'd never get stuck in NE Ohio snow. Wish I had one even now, le sigh

I had a 1977 Pacer and loved it when I was in my teens--- It definitely left an impression--- people still talk about it today---It was great and very dependable....

i had an amc pacer x (1976) for 23 years. loved it loved it loved it. it was green - kind of a beautiful dark blue green with sparkles in it. had a white landau top. i name my cars...this one's name was kermit. i wish i still had it. the only thing i would change about it would be the hood opening - it was just too hard for my mechanic to reach anything.

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