1975 Pacer base model hatchback coupe
|Manufacturer||American Motors Corporation (AMC)|
|Production||1975 – 1980|
|Assembly||Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States
Mexico City, Mexico (by VAM)
|Designer||Richard A. Teague|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door hatchback coupe
2-door station wagon
|Engine||232 cu in (3.8 L) I6
258 cu in (4.2 L) I6
282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 (Mexico only)
304 cu in (5.0 L) V8
3-speed with overdrive
|Wheelbase||100.0 in (2,540 mm)|
|Length||171.8 in (4,364 mm) (coupe)
176.8 in (4,491 mm) (wagon)
|Width||77.3 in (1,963 mm)|
|Height||52.8 in (1,341 mm) (coupe)|
|Curb weight||3,000 lb (1,361 kg)|
Design work began in 1971. The rounded shape and large glass area were unusual compared with the three-box designs of the era. The Pacer's width is equal to full-sized domestic vehicles at the time, and this unique design feature was promoted by AMC as "the first wide small car." The Pacer was the first modern mass-produced, U.S. automobile design using the cab forward concept.
The Pacer's rounded and aerodynamic "jellybean" styling has made it an icon of the 1970s. The May 1976 issue of Car and Driver dubbed it "The Flying Fishbowl", and it was also described as "the seventies answer to George Jetson's mode of transportation" at a time when "Detroit was still rolling out boat-sized gas guzzlers."
American Motors' chief stylist Richard A. Teague began work on the Pacer in 1971, anticipating an increase in demand for smaller vehicles through the decade. The new car was designed to offer the interior room and feel of a big car that drivers of traditional domestic automobiles were accustomed to, but in a much smaller, aerodynamic, and purposefully distinctive exterior package. American Motors called it "Project Amigo" as a fresh design "featuring a body style not seen before, using the latest technology, and exceeding upcoming safety regulations."
Car and Driver magazine noted that "AMC said it was the first car designed from the inside out. Four passengers were positioned with reasonable clearances and then the rest of the car was built around them as compactly as possible."
Development was under Product Group Vice President Gerald C. Meyers, whose goal was to develop a car that was truly unique: "...everything that we do must distinguish itself as being importantly different than what can be expected from the competition..."
A number of futuristic ideas were explored by AMC. However, the automaker lacked adequate resources to build components from scratch and needed to use outside suppliers or adapt its existing parts and use its production facilities. Unique for a comparatively small car, the Pacer was as wide as a full-size American car of the era. American Motors did not describe it as "cab forward", but the Pacer's layout included wheels pushed to the corners (short overhangs), a relatively wide body, and A-pillars moved forward; the windshield was placed over part of the engine compartment. Contrary to myth, The Pacer was not widened six inches (152.4 mm) to make room for the rear-wheel drive configuration. The editor of Road & Track asserted that front-wheel drive, as well as a transverse mid-engined configuration, were among "various mechanical layouts...tossed around by the idea people at AMC", adding that "it's unlikely they ever had much hope of being able to produce anything other than their traditional front engine and rear drive, using components already in production."
The introductory 1975 AMC advertising and literature proclaimed it as "the first wide small car". The width was dictated partly by marketing strategy—U.S. drivers were accustomed to large vehicles, and the Pacer's occupants had the impression of being in a larger car—and partly by the fact that AMC's assembly lines were already set up for full-size cars.
Also unique at the time, the passenger door was four inches (101 mm) longer than the driver's. This made passenger loading easier, particularly from the rear seats; and they would also tend to use the safer curb side in countries that drive on the right. Ford used this design element in the 1990s Ford Windstar minivan.
Teague's low-drag design, which predated the fuel crisis and the flood of small foreign imports into the American market, was highly innovative. Its drag coefficient of 0.43 was relatively low for that time. Teague even eliminated rain gutters, smoothly blending the tops of the doors into the roof—an aerodynamic detail that, although criticized at the time for allowing rain onto the front seat, has become the norm in today's designs.
The Pacer was also among the first production cars in the U.S. to feature rack-and-pinion steering. The body was designed with the aim that structural lines protected it from hit damages, and AMC engineers claimed that they succeeded in more than 50% of the car surface.
In the mid-1970s the U.S. government mandated major safety improvements for the 1980 model year, to include 50-mile-per-hour (80 km/h) front-end crash testing, 25-mile-per-hour (40 km/h) side crash testing and 30-mile-per-hour (48 km/h) rollover testing, as well as installation of bumpers to resist 5-mile-per-hour (8 km/h) impact at the front and 10-mile-per-hour (16 km/h) at the rear. The Pacer was designed to these specifications, and also had laminated safety glass in the windshield.
General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler persuaded the government that it was not financially viable to modify existing production cars to comply with the new regulations, and that instead each company would be put to the enormous expense of producing new, safety-compliant vehicles. Accordingly the government requirements were reduced, which led to the deletion of several safety features from the production Pacer—for example the roll bar over the passenger compartment, and the bump in the roof that accommodated it. The design of the Pacer was strong for a small car, making it solid and heavy with protection features that included strong and massive bumpers, as well as wide B-pillars that factory information bulletins described their "roll bar like characteristics." Even with the Pacer's large glass area, passengers are not near the windows because they all bow out from around the occupants. The Pacer's wide stance also makes it stable and provides a unique feeling when inside the car that gave credence to the marketing phrase used by AMC that "you only ride like a Pacer if you're wide like a Pacer."
The Pacer's remaining safety features were not strongly advertised, and seldom influenced a potential customer's purchasing decision. The car's extra weight—due in part to the safety equipment and the abundance of heavy glass—hurt fuel economy: production models tested by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave 16 mpg-US (15 L/100 km; 19 mpg-imp) in the city, but 26 mpg-US (9.0 L/100 km; 31 mpg-imp) or better on the highway (depending on driving habits and transmission), thanks to aerodynamic efficiency.
Originally the car was designed for a Wankel rotary engine. In 1973, AMC signed a licensing agreement with Curtiss-Wright to build Wankels for cars and Jeep-type vehicles. (The agreement also permitted Curtiss-Wright to sell rotaries elsewhere.) Later, AMC decided instead to purchase the engines from General Motors (GM), who were developing them for use in their own cars. However, GM canceled development in 1974 for reasons that included durability issues, the fuel crisis, tooling costs (for the engines and also for a new product line designed around the rotary's ultra-compact dimensions) and the upcoming (late 1970s) U.S. emissions legislation. It was also thought that the high-revving Wankel would not suit Americans accustomed to low revs and high torque.
General Motors's change of plans left the Pacer without an engine. American Motors took a calculated risk and introduced the new model. The company's over commitment to the project resulted in entrapment with so much money and effort in the car's design. Engineers hastily reconfigured it to accept their existing straight-six engine. This involved a complete redesign of drivetrain and firewall to keep the longer engine within the body dimensions designed for the Wankel, but allowed the Pacer to share many mechanical components with other AMC models.
The "outside of the box" thinking incorporated by AMC in the Pacer as the first "wide, small car" attempted to capture a revolutionary change in marketplace. However, a radical departure from what was accepted by consumers as "good styling" was a risky strategy. Only the largest firms can stick with a radical element until it "grows", and the automaker’s dominance in the marketplace may eventually establish it as a standard feature. However, the styling research axiom no longer applied by the late 1970s that if a car with some controversial styling was liked by at least half of the potential market segment; then chances were good that this feature was a differential advantage for the manufacturer. The AMC Pacer incorporated many controversial styling and design innovations that led to its market failure after five model years.
American Motors created the Pacer by identifying emerging trends and design technologies, but it faced a small window of opportunity since a product that comes out either too early or too late can fail even if the opportunity was there initially. A further complication was the purchasing dynamics and the Pacer's design was focused on maximizing the internal sense of space, while the market focused on external dimensions. Many of the attributes the Pacer incorporated became the goal of all manufacturers in the two decades that followed.
With an uncommonly wide and short body for a small car, the Pacer’s design is still considered controversial while its powerplants did not contribute to fuel economy. Nevertheless, “the foresight by Teague and AMC was correct” with approaches to meet the evolving U.S. government regulations covering automobiles (such as the Highway Safety Act of 1970 and the new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
Introduced in showrooms on 28 February 1975, the Pacer was designed to attract buyers of traditional large cars to a smaller package during a time when gasoline prices were projected to rise dramatically. In its first year of production, the Pacer sold well, with 145,528 units. There was little competition from other American manufacturers, most of whom had been blindsided by the oil crisis. The increased demand for compact, economy vehicles was growing rapidly. However, Pacer sales fell after the first two years, and it was available through the 1980 model year. Similar to its mid-year introduction, on 3 December 1979, production of the Pacer ended at the Kenosha, Wisconsin assembly plant where it had begun five years earlier. A total of 280,000 cars were built. Increasing competition from the Big Three U.S. automakers and the rapid consumer shift to imported cars during the late 1970s are cited as the reasons for this outcome. Automobile buyers in the U.S. became adjusted to smaller and lighter cars, particularly the imports that offered better gas mileage presented, the AMC Pacer could not match the German and Japanese cars.
The Pacer's unconventional styling was commonly cited in its lack of success. Other concerns included a lack of cargo space when carrying a full load of passengers (because of its short wheelbase). Cargo space could be increased to 29.5 cubic feet (0.84 m3) by folding down the back of the rear seat to form a flat floor. Drivers also cited a lack of power. The Pacer was heavy; Car & Driver wrote, "American Motors had already quoted a curb weight of 2990 lb. for the basic Pacer when we first wrote about the car, and that already seemed quite heavy; but when we weighed the test car (whose air conditioning, automatic transmission, power steering and so forth would not account for the full difference) it registered an astounding 3425 lb.", and the standard 232 cu in (3.8 L) I6, with a single-barrel carburetor and optimized for low emissions (all vehicles at the time carried emissions-reducing devices, including Exhaust Gas Recirculation); was relatively low-powered ("The Pacer comes with either of two AMC inline six-cylinder engines, both producing 100 bhp, but the larger 258-cu-in. unit delivering better mid-range torque"). In 1976, a "High Output" version of the 258 cu in (4.2 L) engine was offered, which helped performance at the cost of higher fuel consumption. By the time a 304 cu in (5.0 L) V8 was offered in 1978, the company had introduced a successful line of "luxury-compact" models (the AMC Concord). Additionally, gasoline prices remained high, limiting demand for V8-powered vehicles.
For increased cargo capacity, a station wagon body style was offered from 1977. The wagon version was only five inches longer (127 mm) and weighed only 76 pounds (34 kg) more than the coupe. It was also a less unusual-looking design with a squared-off back and straight, almost upright, rear side windows. Although front vent windows were optional on all Pacers, the wagon's rear side glass featured vent windows as standard. The broad and rear liftgate opened to a wide, flat cargo area with 47.8 cubic feet (1.35 m3) of space, significantly easing the task of loading cargo. The rear seat also folded flat to form a continuation of the cargo floor. Some wagon models featured simulated woodgrain trim on the lower body sides and the liftgate.
The Pacer started out as an economy car, and eventually became a small luxury car. The following information details some of the highlights.
The "X" Package: Available as the Pacer X from 1975-1978 in coupe form, this version was renamed Sport in 1978 and subsequently eliminated. The trim package consisted of vinyl bucket seats, sports steering wheel and custom trim, as well as a floor-mounted gear shift and front sway bar. The model received exterior chrome features, styled road wheels, Pacer X decals on the doors, and other package identification.
The "D/L" Package: A more upscale edition, the D/L was available for the entire run of the car and became the base model in 1978. The package originally included "Navajo design" seating fabric and a woodgrain instrument panel as well as some interior features that were otherwise optional. The exterior had additional chrome accents, different wheelcovers, and identification badging.
The "Limited": Available in 1979-1980, the Limited had leather seats, extra sound proofing, and deeper-pile carpet (18-oz. vs. the standard 12-oz) as standard, plus amenities that were otherwise options, including: AM radio, power door locks, power windows, and tilt steering wheel. The exterior had chrome accents, styled road wheels, and "Limited" badging.
The "Sundowner": Available through AMC dealers in California for 1975 only, the Sundowner was a basic $3,599 (suggested retail price) Pacer with options that listed for $300 included at no extra cost. In addition to the mandatory California engine emissions controls and bumper guards, the package included "Basketry Weave" fabric upholstery with coordinated trim on the door panels, plus remote control exterior mirror, rear window washer and wiper, styled road wheels with white wall tires, and a roof rack.
The "Levi's" Package: Introduced for 1977 to capitalize on the popularity of the Levi's Gremlin and Hornet, the Levi's Pacer had blue denim-like upholstery and door-panel trim, with small Levi's tags on the front seats. The copper buttons in AMC's other Levi's models were omitted, and a Levi's logo sticker was added to each front fender. The version, which could be combined with the Pacer X package, did not sell in large numbers and it was dropped for the 1978 model year.
Carl Green Enterprises (CGE) Pacers: these cars, modified by automobile designer Carl Green, had 401 cu in (6.6 L) AMC V8 engines plus flares, air dams, and wings. The CGE Pacers appeared in Hot Rod, Popular Hot Rodding, and Car & Driver magazines. Green also built two Pacer pace cars for B.F. Goodrich to use in the International Motor Sports Association circuit, and provided body kits for Amos Johnson's Team Highball racecars.
Pacers without the optional vinyl roof trim could be finished in several unique two-tone paint combinations, with front and rear scuff molding extensions on the body sides. The two-tone treatment was changed in 1977 to an "up and over the roof" accent paint scheme for the remainder of production.
Electric Vehicle Associates (EVA) was best known for its Change of Pace models a built- to-order adaptation of the Pacer that was priced at $12,360 in 1978. The company converted well over 100 units. First available in the sedan version, power came from eighteen 6-volt lead–acid batteries to a 15 kW series DC motor with a three-speed automatic transmission. The EVA Change of Pace sedan weighed 3,990 lb (1,810 kg) and reached 55 miles per hour (89 km/h) with a 53-mile (85 km) range.
Later, a wagon version had twenty batteries housed in two-packs (front and rear), with a 26 kW (at 3,000 rpm) motor, and the car was complete in every detail down to a gas heater. The electric Pacer wagon was one of the more expensive cars at $14,000. The Lead Industry Association (LIA) sponsored a tour for government and industry officials that featured an EVA Pacer wagon. Consolidated Edison in New York City purchased 40 modified AMC Pacers from EVA. The United States Army also included EVA Pacers in its inventory of special purpose electric vehicles.
A video documentary about the Electric Vehicle Association's electric Pacers is titled "A change of Pace."
American Motors exported the Pacer to several European nations. The AMC distributor in Paris France, Jean-Charles, compared the rounded body of the new Pacer to the buttocks of an attractive woman in its magazine advertisements. Cars exported to Europe were available in higher trim levels.
The level of current European interest in Pacers is indicated by the number of European nations listed in the AMC Pacer Registry, the members' cars in the Swedish AMC/Rambler Society, a German Pacer enthusiast Internet site, and the fact that a former AMC dealer in Germany stocked an inventory of original parts up to the early 2000s. A private museum in the Netherlands exhibits a Pacer wagon.
The Pacer was only available with left-hand drive, and the British importer converted it to right-hand drive by leaving the majority of the steering gear on the left-hand side of the car, and running a chain-drive behind the dashboard from the steering wheel (now on the right-hand side) to the top of the steering column. The car retained its unequal-length doors, designed for LHD markets, meaning that in the UK the longer door was on the driver's side, leaving the passengers to use the smaller door, which "in the typically confined British parking spot was virtually impossible". The Pacer was wider than a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and slightly longer than the then-current Ford Cortina.
The British motoring press adversely reviewed the car and AMC soon stopped importing it.
The Pacer was produced in Mexico by Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) starting in 1976. The cars were marketed as a premium-priced luxury car. The VAM versions came with different engines, interiors, and other components because vehicles made in Mexico had to have at least 60% locally sourced parts. The engine was an AMC design, but modified and built by VAM. A unique to Mexico 282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 engine was standard. It was designed to cope with low octane fuel and high altitudes. This engine featured dished pistons with a 3.909-inch (99.3 mm) bore and 3.894-inch (98.9 mm) stroke, as well as a unique head and exhaust porting design. The V8 engine and the wagon body style were not available in Mexico.
The initial VAM Pacers were the equivalents to the U.S. AMC Pacer DL models except for a noticeably longer list of standard equipment and included some features of the U.S. Limited models of 1979 and 1980. The VAM Pacer had had no model or trim level, and U.S. derivatives such as the Pacer X, the base model, and the Levis Pacer were not available. The VAM Pacer standard engine was the 200 hp (149 kW; 203 PS) (gross) 282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 with 7.7:1 compression ratio, 266 degree camshaft and a Holley 2300 two-barrel carburetor, and featured a T-150 three speed manual transmission and a 3.31:1 rear gear ratio. All VAM Pacers came with heavy-duty suspension (front sway bar with stiff springs and shock absorbers), power brakes with front disks, power steering (rack and pinion unit), larger radiator with coolant recovery tank, rigid four-bladed cooling fan, and electronic ignition.
Standard convenience features included a custom luxury steering wheel, column-mounted manual shifter, woodgrain dashboard trim, inside hood release, individual reclining front seats with adjustable headrests, center arm rest, fixed two-point seatbelts, two-speed electric wipers, electric washers integrated to the wiper arms, 140 km/h speedometer (some few units had a 160 km/h unit), courtesy lights, monaural AM radio with a single in-dash speaker, electric analog clock, heater with windshield defroster, lighter, dashboard ashtray, locking glove box, tinted winshield, plaint door panels (U.S. base model type without cloth insert and pull strap), dual rear ashtrays, folding down rear bench seat, trunk carpet, sound-insulating cardboard-type headliner (U.S. base model type), and round dome light.
The external appearance and equipment of the VAM Pacer consisted of a full bright molding package (wheel lips, top edge of the hood and fenders, window surrounds, rocker panels), bright rear panel between the taillights and the rear licence plate housing, protective side moldings, front and rear bumper guards, bumper nerfing strips, five-mile-per-hour bumpers with recovering shocks (only VAM car with this characteristic along with the Matador-based Classic line), five-spoke in-house VAM wheels, trim rings and full cover volcano center caps on the wheels, ER78x14 radial tires, driver's side manual remote mirror, radio antenna on the passenger's side fender, and a two-step hood latch.
The concept of the VAM Pacer was entirely different compared to the AMC Pacer. The car was focused to be a high-end luxury car from its introduction to its end, while American Motors counterpart started as an economy car and import fighter. This was reinforced after the first 200 units produced when the three-speed automatic transmission joined the standard equipment list. The VAM Pacer became the most costly and luxurious VAM car at the mid-year discontinuation of the 1976 Classic line. The uniqueness of the model coupled to its level of luxury and price range practically made the car a flaship for the company, even though it was never officially considered as such. Probably the most unique aspect of the 1976 VAM Pacer lies in its seat designs. VAM created a design based on AMC's Oleg Cassini interior for the 1974-1975 Matador coupe that used not just in the Pacer but in all three Classic models for the year. The Pacer's seats incorporated a golden Cassini crest on the headrests and a pattern with copper buttons. Unlike the AMC Pacer, the VAM Pacer had a very short list of optional equipment. These included rear wiper and washer, rear defroster, reading dome light, trunk cover, remote-controlled driver's side mirror and luxury wheel covers (except 1979).
The 1977 VAM Pacer was almost the same as in the previous year. The largest difference between both models was in the seat designs. The Cassini pattern was replaced with a more discreet luxury design with a "zigzag" placement of plain soft buttons on the upholstery. The AM monaural radio was replaced by an AM/FM monaural unit, three-point retractable seatbelts took the place of the hip-only units, the glovebox obtained its respective light free of extra charge, air vents appeared to the left of the instrument cluster and over the top right corner of the glovebox door. Mechanically, the 282 cu in (4.6 L) engine obtained substantial engineering upgrades in the form of an all-new head design with improved cooling system and combustion chambers, a higher 8.0:1 compression ratio and a new two-barrel aluminum intake manifold while the rear differential gear ratio changed from 3.31:1 to 3.07:1. The 1977 VAM Pacer was the first model that could be ordered with an air conditioning system. Units equipped with the A/C obtained three additional air vents on the dashboard: a central one above the ashtray area, a passenger's side one over the top left corner of the glove box door and driver's side one integrated to the cover below the steering column. The air conditioning system also included a 55-amp alternator, a flexible seven-bladed cooling fan, a three-line radiator, and a fan shroud.
The 1978 model year VAM Pacers gained new hood and grille designs, which in Mexico were just a facelift due to the lack of a V8 engine. The only technical difference of the year was the replacement of the Holley 2300 carburetor in favor of a Motorcraft 2150 unit with a built-in altitude compensator despite having a slightly lower flow. New standard features included a hood light, a speedometer in both kilometers and miles per hour, door panels finally including upholstery inserts and pull straps, a new AM/FM radio, a new flat-faced luxury steering wheel design with an AMC logo, and new seat designs.
The 1979 VAM Pacer was exactly as the 1978 model in terms of appearance, with the exception of the previously standard wheel covers. All VAM Pacers were featured AMC "Magnum 500" five-spoke wheels with trim rings and chrome screwed volcano hubcaps with exposed lug nuts. New seat designs with a horizontally stripped pattern and Barcelona crests on the headrests as a luxury touch (the same ones used in the AMC Matador models), a new steering wheel design with a soft rectangular center button, all-new door panels designs in plastic and vinyl with a rigid top pull strap and sliding locks. Virtually, all units included the dashboard unit with all air vents regardless of the presence of the air conditioning system except for the one under the steering wheel column. The headliner was changed to a cloth-wrapped unit. VAM started using for the first time the net rating system for measuring the output of its engines. This meant that the 1979 VAM 282 cu in (4.6 L) six-cylinder engine was now rated at 132 hp (98 kW; 134 PS) at 3900 rpm. The electrical system was revised with a new fuse box located under the dashboard on the driver's side. A total of 619 VAM Pacers were sold.
A new model was introduced, the VAM Pacer X, with a high performance focus. It featured a high-output version of the 282 cu in (4.6 L) engine with a higher 8.5:1 compression ratio, semiported head, modified electronic distributor for higher acceleration, a set of headers with two final outlets divided between the first three and second cylinders (even though a final single exhaust was used) and the return of the Holley 2300 two-barrel carburetor. The output for this engine, code-named "4.6 SX" is estimated at 147–152 hp (110–113 kW; 149–154 PS) net at 4000 revolutions per minute. This engine made the Pacer X the second best performing VAM car of 1979, surpassing by a single tenth of a second the American Rally AMX with the standard 282 in VAM's own acceleration tests.
The Pacer X was available in only three colors (black, white and wine red), carried body-colored bumpers and had most bright items deleted, was applied with unique thin golden stripes surrounding the door and side glass areas extending through the roof from side to side, used VAM's eight-spoke sports steel wheels painted in gold with blacked out volcano hubcaps, rear and side glass moldings were also blacked out and the lower front corners of the doors had "Pacer X" decals in place. In the interior, the Pacer X helds its own design of reclining bucket seats, had a center console with locking compartment and ashtray instead of the armrest, a set of Rallye gauges (water temperature, clock, ammeter and oil pressure)instead of the in-dashboard ashtray, a 6000 rpm tachometer in place of the electric clock, three-arm spoked sports steering wheel with a cylindrical horn button with a VAM logo, floor-mounted three-speed automatic transmission, remote-controlled driver's side door mirror, and reading dome light. Air conditioning was standard in this model and most units included a tinted glass pop-up sunroof. The rest of the equipment was the same as the standard model: power brakes, power steering, front sway bar, stiff shock absorbers and springs, 3.07:1 rear gears, heavy duty cooling system (flexible fan, recovery tank, three-line radiator and fan shroud), AM FM monaural radio, tinted windshield, light group, inside hood release, and three-point retractable seatbelts. The VAM Pacer X was a limited edition model of only 250 units and is the most collectible Pacer model in Mexico.
Unlike the AMC Pacer, 1979 was the last year of the line for Mexico.
A 2005 Hemmings Classic Car magazine article said that in 1975 the Pacer was "sleek" and "audacious"; "it looked like the car of the future" and "the automotive press loved it." Motor Trend magazine, one of many that pictured the car on the cover, said it was "the most creative, most people oriented auto born in the U.S. in 15 years".
Consumer Reports said the Pacer "scored quite high in our tests. We would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who wants a fairly small car." The report concluded that the Pacer did "at least as well as the Dodge Dart, the Plymouth Valiant, and the Chevrolet Nova, the U.S. compacts we like best," and that "overall, the Pacer scored better than such domestic subcompacts as the Ford Pinto, the Chevrolet Vega, and AMC’s own Gremlin."
Small Cars magazine noted that "admiration was an obvious reaction" at the press preview, and that "the knowledgeable product writers knew without being told that they were privileged to be there to see something new in automobile design." Road & Track ran a cover story with design and engineering details.
Michael Lamm, writing in Popular Mechanics, commented on many "thoughtful touches that distinguish AMC's strikingly futuristic new Pacer". He said the ride was “not choppy as in so many short-wheelbase cars”, the rack-and-pinion steering gave "handling a feeling of precision ... sticking well in turns, with hard cornering generally solid and predictable”, the “tight turning radius" made parking "easy”, and the steering wheel was too big. Summing up, he said that with its "very modern styling, ample power and generous interior" the Pacer was "more car" than "the Mustang II or "GM’s sporty compacts (Monza, Skyhawk/Starfire)", and that its performance felt "strong—certainly on a par with most V8s."
Don Sherman wrote in the February 1975 issue of Car and Driver that it was "our first real urban transporter...There is, of course, the chance of monumental failure; it might be another Tucker ahead of its time or a pariah like the Marlin. But...with its high priority on comfortable and efficient travel and absence of Mach 2 styling, [it] at least seems right for the current state of duress. Consider this bold offering from AMC a test: Are we buying cars for transportation yet, or are they still social props?"
The April 1975, Road & Track road test described the Pacer's appearance as "bold, clean and unique...even when it's going 60 mph is looks as if it's standing still..." but noted that, even with the test car's optional front disc brakes, "in the usual panic-stop tests...our driver had one of his most anxious moments ever as the Pacer screeched, skidded and demanded expert attention at the steering wheel to keep from going altogether out of control. The histrionics are reflected in long stopping distances from highway speeds... [The car’s] engineering—old-fashioned and unimaginative in the extreme—does not match the perky design", which the magazine declared "most attractive to look at and pleasant to sit in."
In a follow-up road test in August 1976, Motor Trend wrote: "Since its introduction in January 1975, we have been quite smitten with AMC’s Pacer." The magazine criticized the performance and the absence of a 4-speed transmission. A 2-barrel carburetor was offered on the larger six at the end of 1975, as well as a 4-speed manual, but the testers noted that although "the 2-bbl Pacer was faster than the 1-bbl car by a fair margin, it did not 'feel' faster" (author's emphasis). They commended the car's comfort: "Even with its compact exterior dimensions, the Pacer is one of the most comfortable 4-passenger cars around...The wide bucket seats were firm, but very comfortable...Front passenger leg room is extraordinary even with the seat racked well forward, and the rear seat leg room exceeds such full-sizers as the Buick Riviera and Continental Mark IV."
Popular Mechanics described the newly added 1977 Station Wagon body style as a "Styling Coup", and said: "who needs the coupe!"
By 1978 the luster had worn off the design, and as more sophisticated competitors were introduced the press began criticizing the lack of power and performance.
Collector of classic car publication Hemmings Motor News noted that small cars have always played a role in the U.S. automotive history, and that "among those produced during the late Seventies, the AMC Pacer was an economical giant, in a manner of speaking." Now old enough to be a "classic car", the Pacer has come to be regarded in some quarters as a 1970s design icon. According to Business Week, the 1970s were "infamous for disco, Watergate and some of the ugliest cars ever." Most cars in the U.S. from the early 1970s are noted more for their power than their styling, but they even lost their power by the late-1970. Many automobiles began to lose their character and looked the same across brands and automakers, as well as focusing on "luxury" features such as vinyl roofs and non-functional opera windows. The "roly-poly" Pacer was one of the few of that era that had "real personalities" and it embodies a sense of "artful desperation" making it "stand out from the crowd and epitomize at once the best and worst of the seventies."
Nevertheless, in spite of their bad reputations, cars of the 1970s era such as the Pacer are becoming collectors' items. Business Week reported that the rising values of so-called "nerd cars" - ugly 1970s-era cars - prompted the CEO of a major collector-car insurance company to buy a Pacer which has "inexplicably appreciated substantially beyond the $2,300 that he paid for it in 2004." In 2002 he said: "In what can sometimes be a sea of automotive sameness, the AMC Pacer continues to turn heads even today", and he put the value of a "mint Pacer" at "between $4000 and $6000", saying that "the increased value is fueled solely by the heart.
The Pacer has been described as one of the formerly unloved cars from the 1970s that are enjoying a resurgence in both collectibility and auto restoration — especially among fans of cars from that era. The Pacer is one of several 1970s cars that were always thought of as cheap vehicles; therefore they were poorly maintained, which reduced their life expectancy. Also the heavy engines used in the car put more load on the front suspension than intended, which caused the rack & pinion steering to fail frequently on Pacers built in 1975.
One collector-car expert says you will pay just about the same, around $20,000, for a complete restoration, whether it’s on a $1,000 1978 AMC Pacer or a $5,000 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. When restored, the value of the Pacer may be about $4,000, compared with the Camaro’s $25,000.
Although "automotive oddity" is a recognition that the Pacer gets for its contribution to history, some owners appreciate them and have also upgraded them with the modern AMC 4.0 Jeep engine as a "low-buck, dare to be different" automobile. A few owners have further modified Pacers into drag cars.
Use in media
American Motors did not made product placement or use embedded marketing deals to promote the Pacer during its production. However, over the years, the Pacer has become an icon of the 1970s. It has seen numerous appearances in movies, music videos, television programs, and computer games. Notable media mentions include:
- Disney's A Goofy Movie strongly featured a yellow AMC Pacer throughout the entire film.
- Disney Pixar's Cars 2, the character "Acer" is a green 1975 Pacer, with plate FSHBWL being a reference to "fish bowl"
- Wayne's World, the 1992 film where the lead characters, Wayne and Garth, are seen driving a 1976 model that is painted a sky blue color with flames painted on the sides. The characters in the film refer to their AMC Pacer as the "Mirthmobile." A Pacer limousine is featured in the 1993 sequel, Wayne's World 2.
- Good Burger, the 1997 film uses a blue AMC Pacer with various fast-food accessories (French Fry windshield wipers, Pickle Hubcaps) was used as "The Burgermobile".
- In the music video of the band Barenaked Ladies for the song "Pinch Me", you can see only AMC Pacers making line in the drive-thru window of a fictional fast food restaurant.
- An AMC Pacer was the subject of Season 4's opening episode of MTV's Pimp My Ride hosted by rapper Xzibit. West Coast Customs 'pimped' the Pacer (in which they found a live rat living in the dashboard) for its owner, nutrition student Jessica. Customs added included a new paint job, 18" wheels, thick yellow shag carpet (which prompted Xzibit to ask "Who killed Big Bird?"), an electronic sunroof, custom made front spoiler and rear wing (complete with working solar panels in the rear wing), an MP3 player hidden in the cars original 8-track player, an electronically operated rear hatch, and a juicer in the rear hatch (powered by the solar panels), complete with fruits and vegetables and growing Wheatgrass.
The classic vehicle publication Hemmings Motor News lists AMC clubs with over fifty national and regional AMC automobile clubs as of 16 April 2009. Pacers share the drivetrain as well as other parts and components with other AMC models, while new old stock (NOS), used, and reproduction parts are available from vendors specializing in AMC vehicles.
- Gartman, David (1994). Auto opium: a social history of American automobile design. Routledge. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-415-10571-2. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "AMC Pacer Statistics and Fun Facts". The Pacer Page. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Driscoll, Mike (November 2003). "The pylon points to: Mindi Cross". The Pylon Press. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Stakes, Eddie. "Response to the posting of Matt Crawford's "Why a Pacer?" essay, "Did the Pacer kill AMC?"". amcpacer.com. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Peter, Eric (2004). Automotive Atrocities: The Cars We Love to Hate. MotorBooks. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-7603-1787-7.
- Hinckley, James; Robinson, Jon G. (2005). The Big Book of Car Culture: The Armchair Guide to Automotive Americana. MBI Publishing. p. 122. ISBN 978-0-7603-1965-9. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Pacers in Print". amcpacer.com. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Waldrep, Shelton, ed. (2005). The Seventies: the age of glitter in popular culture. Taylor & Francis. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-415-92535-8. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Gallant-Stokes, Trudy (November 1988). "Designs on the Future". Black Enterprise 19 (4): 52. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Mobia, Steve. "Tribute to the AMC Pacer". Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Mederle, Wolfgang A. (18 April 2010). "AMC Pacer: Code Name Amigo". Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Sherman, Don (February 1975). "AMC Pacer". Car and Driver.
- Matras, John (4 April 2005). "Marlins and Hornets and Gremlins, Oh My: The Quirky Classics of A.M.C.". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Foster, Patrick (March 2005). "American Motors' Pacer". Hemmings Classic Car. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Montgomery, Andrew (2003). The Illustrated Directory of American Cars. MBI Publishing. pp. 308–310. ISBN 978-0-7603-1554-5. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Wakefield, Ron (February 1975). "American Motors Pacer: Surprising new car from the smallest of the Big Four". Road & Track: 39–44.
- Ward's Auto World Staff (1 February 2000). "Rearview mirror". Ward's Auto World. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Proctor, Tony (December 1993). "Product Innovation: The Pitfalls of Entrapment". Creativity and Innovation Management 2 (4): 260–265. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8691.1993.tb00105.x.
- McCourt, Mark J. (September 2006). "1975". Hemmings Classic Car. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Wolpert, Henry W. (1980). "Why Conventional Automobile Styling Research May Become Obsolete". Advances in Consumer Research (Association for Consumer Research) 7: 22–24. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Cagan, Jonathan; Vogel, Craig M. (2002). Creating Breakthrough Products: Innovation from Product Planning to Program Approval. Financial Times Prentice Hall Books. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-13-969694-7.
- The ”1975 AMC Pacer” display tag at the Antique Auto Museum at Hershey, PA. viewed in March 2009.
- Rearview Mirror" Ward's Auto World. 1 December 2003. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Binder, Al; Ward's staff (1 December 2001). "Rearview Mirror". Ward's Auto World. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "American Motors Pacer: The world's biggest small car?". Road & Track: 35–39. April 1975.
- "Sundowner brochure". The Pacer Page. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Sundowner brochure, page 1". The Pacer Page. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "AMC Pacer Statistics and Fun Facts". The Pacer Page. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "1975 AMC Exterior Colors". American Motors Corporation. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "1977 AMC full-line brochure". American Motors Corporation. p. 6. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Eichenberg, Dennis. "The Electric Pacer". The Pacer Page. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Kiplinger Washington Editors (July 1978). "Electric Cars Could Turn America On". Kiplinger's Personal Finance 32 (7): 47. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Leitman, Seth; Brant, Bob (2008). Build Your Own Electric Vehicle. McGraw-Hill. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-07-154373-6. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Automobile club d'Italia (1978). World Cars. Herald Books. p. 44.
- Automobile club d'Italia (1980). World Cars. Herald Books. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-910714-12-9.
- Hartford, Bill; Schultz, Mort (October 1979). "Your first electric car--build or buy?". Popular Mechanics 159 (4): 96. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Electric Vehicle Tour". Lead (Lead Industries Association). 40-47: 13. 1977.
- Electronics (McGraw-Hill) 52: 34. 1979.
- Dowgiallo, Jr., Edward J. (1978). "Electric Vehicle Test Program". Army R, D & A bulletin (United States Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command). 19-21: 28.
- "A change of Pace". youtube. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Mederle, Wolfgang A. "Extras and Originality "plain and naked base model (hardly to be found in Europe)"". Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Patterson, C.D. (2008). "AMC Pacer Registry and Owner Pages". Archived from the original on 7 February 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "the Swedish AMC/Rambler Society" (in Swedish). Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "AMC Pacer Projekt Amigo" (in German). Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "US-Autoteilehandel Gericke GmbH" (in German). Bad Homburg. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "The Rambler - AMC museum in Berlikum, Netherlands". Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Buckley, Martin (30 May 2006). "Classic cars: AMC Pacer". The Independent (London). Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Cranswick, Marc (2012). The Cars of American Motors: An Illustrated History. McFarland. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-7864-4672-8. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Foster, Patrick (1 March 2005). "American Motors' Pacer". Hemmings Classic Car. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Ludvigsen, Karl (February 1975). "Suddenly its 1980: American Motors' new Pacer is the freshest, most creative, most people oriented auto born in the U.S. in 15 years". Motor Trend: 35–39.
- "Two New Small Cars". Consumer Reports: 406–407. July 1975.
- Wakefield, Ron (February 1975). "American Motors Pacer: Surprising new car from the smallest of the Big Four". Road & Track: 39–44.
- Lamm, Michael (February 1975). "First-hand Report: AMC Driving AMC’s brand-new Pacer". Popular Mechanics 146 (4): 106, 148. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "American Motors Pacer: The world’s biggest small car?". Road & Track: 35–38. April 1975.
- "AMC Pacer: Performance Update". Motor Trend: 25. August 1976.
- "AMC Pacer Station Wagon is a Styling Coup!". Popular Mechanics 146 (4): 96–178. October 1976. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Litwin, Matthew (January 2013). "1977 AMC Pacer: Economical, roomy, compact and oh-so unique!". Hemmings Motor News. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Mederle, Wolfgang A. (18 April 2010). "AMC Pacer History". Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Palmeri, Christopher (23 August 2007). "Revenge of the Nerd Cars". Business Week. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Hine, Thomas (2009). The Great Funk: Styles of the Shaggy, Sexy, Shameless 1970s. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. p. 41. ISBN 9780374531676. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Nerd cars capture special market". Best's Review. 1 July 2003. Archived from the original on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Eye of the beholder: Here’s a jaded look at some of the worst - yet somehow desirable - cars of all time". Appeal Democrat (Marysville, CA). CTW Features. 25 October 2007. Archived from the original on 31 July 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Schneider, Keith (1 May 2006). "Love Your Classic Car? They’ll Insure It for You". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Hagerty Insurance Announces Inaugural 'Nerd Car' Sweepstakes". Hagerty Insurance. 17 November 2002. Archived from the original on 4 November 2006. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Miller, Chuck (September/October 2007). "Some people just can’t shake their habit of owning unloved 1970s vehicles". RoadKing.
- Linden, Steve (2008). Car Collecting: Everything You Need to Know. Motorbooks. ISBN 0-7603-2809-9.
- Frank, Michael (6 May 2002). "Covering Your Automotive Assets". Forbes. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Campbell, Christopher (February 2009). "1976 AMC Pacer X - Mopacer". Hot Rod. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- McGuire, Bill (October 2010). "Steve Bashford's 1978 AMC Pacer Wagon - The Flying Aquarium - Hot Rods". Hot Rod Magazine. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- panhorst. "Famous Pacers in Movies". amcpacer.com. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Strohl, Daniel (16 November 2010). "Pacer and Gremlin in Cars 2!". Hemmings Daily. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Excellent! 'Wayne's World' car for sale". CNN Money. 16 December 2004.
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- "AMC Pacer Stretched Limousine". IMCDb. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Good Burger – The Burgermobile – 1976 AMC Pacer". On Screen Cars. 2 November 2010. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- "Famous Pacers in Music Videos". amcpacer.com. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- "Funkmaster Flex Presents: Pimp My Ride: Jessica's 1976 AMC Pacer (Episode 301, Act 2)". MTV. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to AMC Pacer.|
- AMC Pacer Page: in operation since May 1995, and featured in many print publications
- The "Washington Grove Pacer Farm" web pages
- AMC Pacer History by Wolfgang A. Mederle
- Classic American magazine (UK) Pacer article (Internet Archive copy)
- AMC Pacer at the Internet Movie Cars Database
- The American Motors Owners Association
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