AMC Pacer
The AMC Pacer is a two-door compact
Compact car
A compact car , or small family car , is a classification of cars which are larger than a supermini but smaller than or equal to a mid-size car...

An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

 produced in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 by the American Motors Corporation between 1975 and 1980.

Its initial design idea was started in 1971. The car's unusual rounded shape with massive glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

 area greatly contrasted with the three-box architecture
Three-box styling
Three-box design is a broad automotive styling term describing a coupé, sedan, notchback or hatchback where — when viewed in profile — principal volumes are articulated into three separate compartments or boxes: engine, passenger and cargo....

 with "square, boxy designs" incorporating upright grilles and slab-sides of the era
An era is a commonly used word for long period of time. When used in science, for example geology, eras denote clearly defined periods of time of arbitrary but well defined length, such as for example the Mesozoic era from 252 Ma–66 Ma, delimited by a start event and an end event. When used in...

. The Pacer was described as "the seventies answer to George Jetson
George Jetson
The following is a list of major characters in The Jetsons. The Jetsons is an animated television comedy produced by Hanna-Barbera and first broadcast in prime-time on ABC as part of the 1962–63 United States network television schedule. Additional episodes were produced from 1985–1987, with the...

's mode of transportation" at a time when "Detroit was still rolling out boat-sized gas guzzlers." The large amount of glass led Car and Driver to dub it "The Flying Fishbowl". The Pacer's "jellybean" body style is a readily recognized icon of the 1970s.


AMC's chief stylist Richard A. Teague
Richard A. Teague
Richard A. Teague , born in Los Angeles, California, was an industrial designer in the North American automotive industry...

 began work on the Pacer in 1971, anticipating an increase in demand for smaller vehicles through the decade.

Car and Driver
Car and Driver
Car and Driver is an American automotive enthusiast magazine. Its total circulation is 1.31 million. It is owned by Hearst Magazines, who purchased prior owner Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. in 2011...

 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."

Designed to appear futuristic, the shape was highly rounded with a huge glass area, and was very unusual for its time. Road & Track
Road & Track
Road & Track is an American automotive enthusiast magazine. It is owned by Hearst Magazines, and is published monthly. The editorial offices are located in Newport Beach, California.-History:...

 magazine described it as "fresh, bold and functional-looking".

Development was under Product Group Vice President Gerald C. Meyers
Gerald C. Meyers
Gerald C. Meyers, former chairman and CEO of American Motors Corporation is an industrialist, author, lecturer, and management consultant.-Career:...

, 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
Full-size car
A full-size car is a marketing term used in North America for an automobile larger than a mid-size car. In the United States, the EPA uses "large car" to denote full-size cars....

 of the era. Contrary to myth, it 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
Driving on the left or right
The terms right-hand traffic and left-hand traffic refer to regulations requiring all bidirectional traffic to keep either to the right or the left side of the road, respectively. This is so fundamental to traffic flow that it is sometimes referred to as the rule of the road. This basic rule eases...

. Ford used this design element in the 1990s Ford Windstar
Ford Windstar
The Ford Windstar is a minivan that was produced and sold by the Ford Motor Company from the 1995 to 2003 model years. This front-wheel drive minivan was the second minivan designed by the company, serving as a replacement for the rear-wheel drive Aerostar minivan. The two were sold concurrently...


Teague's low-drag design, which predated the fuel crisis
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

 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 miles per hour (22 m/s) front-end crash testing, 25 miles per hour (11 m/s) side crash testing and 30 miles per hour (13 m/s) rollover
A rollover is a type of vehicle accident in which a vehicle tips over onto its side or roof. The most common cause of a rollover is traveling too fast while turning.- Dynamics :Vehicles can roll over in several ways...

 testing, as well as installation of bumpers to resist 5 miles per hour (2 m/s) impact at the front and 10 miles per hour (4 m/s) at the rear. The Pacer was designed to these specifications, and also had laminated safety glass
Laminated glass
Laminated glass is a type of safety glass that holds together when shattered. In the event of breaking, it is held in place by an interlayer, typically of polyvinyl butyral , between its two or more layers of glass. The interlayer keeps the layers of glass bonded even when broken, and its high...

 in the windshield.

General Motors
General Motors
General Motors Company , commonly known as GM, formerly incorporated as General Motors Corporation, is an American multinational automotive corporation headquartered in Detroit, Michigan and the world's second-largest automaker in 2010...

, Ford
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

, and Chrysler
Chrysler Group LLC is a multinational automaker headquartered in Auburn Hills, Michigan, USA. Chrysler was first organized as the Chrysler Corporation in 1925....

 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
Roll cage
A roll cage is a specially constructed frame built in the cab of a vehicle to protect its occupants from being injured in an accident, particularly in the event of a roll-over. Roll cages are used in nearly all purpose-built racecars, and in most cars modified for racing...

 over the passenger compartment, and the bump in the roof that accommodated it. 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
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the federal government of the United States charged with protecting human health and the environment, by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress...

 (EPA) gave 16 miles per US gallon (6.8 km/L) in the city, but 26 miles per US gallon (11.1 km/L) 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
Wankel engine
The Wankel engine is a type of internal combustion engine using an eccentric rotary design to convert pressure into a rotating motion instead of using reciprocating pistons. Its four-stroke cycle takes place in a space between the inside of an oval-like epitrochoid-shaped housing and a rotor that...

. In 1973, AMC signed a licensing agreement with Curtiss-Wright
The Curtiss-Wright Corporation was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States at the end of World War II, but has evolved to largely become a component manufacturer, specializing in actuators, aircraft controls, valves, and metalworking....

 to build Wankels for cars and Jeep
Jeep is an automobile marque of Chrysler . The first Willys Jeeps were produced in 1941 with the first civilian models in 1945, making it the oldest off-road vehicle and sport utility vehicle brand. It inspired a number of other light utility vehicles, such as the Land Rover which is the second...

-type vehicles. (The agreement also permitted Curtiss-Wright to sell rotaries elsewhere.) Later, AMC decided instead to purchase the engines from General Motors
General Motors
General Motors Company , commonly known as GM, formerly incorporated as General Motors Corporation, is an American multinational automotive corporation headquartered in Detroit, Michigan and the world's second-largest automaker in 2010...

 (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
AMC Straight-6 engine
The American Motors Corporation straight-6 family of engines was used by a number of AMC and Jeep vehicles from 1964 through 2006.-195.6:American Motors' first straight-six engine was the...

. 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 outside the box
Thinking outside the box is to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective. This phrase often refers to novel or creative thinking....

" 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
A marketplace is the space, actual, virtual or metaphorical, in which a market operates. The term is also used in a trademark law context to denote the actual consumer environment, ie. the 'real world' in which products and services are provided and consumed.-Marketplaces and street markets:A...

 may eventually establish it as a standard feature. However, the styling research axiom
In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proven or demonstrated but considered either to be self-evident or to define and delimit the realm of analysis. In other words, an axiom is a logical statement that is assumed to be true...

 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
Market segment
Market segmentation is a concept in economics and marketing. A market segment is a sub-set of a market made up of people or organizations with one or more characteristics that cause them to demand similar product and/or services based on qualities of those products such as price or function...

; 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
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an agency of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, part of the Department of Transportation...



Introduced in showrooms on February 28, 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
1973 oil crisis
The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries or the OAPEC proclaimed an oil embargo. This was "in response to the U.S. decision to re-supply the Israeli military" during the Yom Kippur war. It lasted until March 1974. With the...

. 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 December 3, 1979, production of the Pacer ended at the Kenosha, Wisconsin
Kenosha, Wisconsin
Kenosha is a city and the county seat of Kenosha County in the State of Wisconsin in United States. With a population of 99,218 as of May 2011, Kenosha is the fourth-largest city in Wisconsin. Kenosha is also the fourth-largest city on the western shore of Lake Michigan, following Chicago,...

 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.

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
In both road and rail vehicles, the wheelbase is the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels.- Road :In automobiles, the wheelbase is the horizontal distance between the center of the front wheel and the center of the rear wheel...

). Cargo space could be increased to 29.5 cubic foot (0.8353469865 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
Automatic transmission
An automatic transmission is one type of motor vehicle transmission that can automatically change gear ratios as the vehicle moves, freeing the driver from having to shift gears manually...

, power steering and so forth would not account for the full difference) it registered an astounding 3425 lb.", and the standard 232 CID I6
AMC Straight-6 engine
The American Motors Corporation straight-6 family of engines was used by a number of AMC and Jeep vehicles from 1964 through 2006.-195.6:American Motors' first straight-six engine was the...

, with a single-barrel carburetor
A carburetor , carburettor, or carburetter is a device that blends air and fuel for an internal combustion engine. It is sometimes shortened to carb in North America and the United Kingdom....

 and optimized for low emissions
Emission standard
Emission standards are requirements that set specific limits to the amount of pollutants that can be released into the environment. Many emissions standards focus on regulating pollutants released by automobiles and other powered vehicles but they can also regulate emissions from industry, power...

 (all vehicles at the time carried emissions-reducing devices); 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 CID engine was offered, which helped performance at the cost of higher fuel consumption. By the time a 304 CID V8
AMC V8 engine
American Motors Corporation produced a series of widely-used V8 engines from the mid-1950s before being absorbed into Chrysler in 1987. Chrysler kept the AMC V8 in production until 1991 for the Jeep Grand Wagoneer....

 was offered in 1978, the company had introduced a successful line of "luxury-compact" models (the AMC Concord
AMC Concord
The AMC Concord is a compact car produced by the American Motors Corporation for the 1978 through 1983 model years. The Concord replaced the AMC Hornet and to some extent the mid-size AMC Matador, discontinued after 1978 in a market moving to downsized automobiles...

). Additionally, gasoline prices remained high, limiting demand for V8-powered vehicles.

For increased cargo capacity, a station wagon
Station wagon
A station wagon is a body style variant of a sedan/saloon with its roof extended rearward over a shared passenger/cargo volume with access at the back via a third or fifth door , instead of a trunk lid...

 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
A coupé or coupe is a closed car body style , the precise definition of which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and over time...

. 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
A liftgate, also called a hatch, hatchback or liftback, is a closure at the rear of a vehicle that can be mechanically raised during loading and unloading of cargo...

 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.

Model designations

During the Pacer's production and marketing, the car went from initially being promoted as an economy car, to becoming a small luxury car. The following information details some of the highlights.

The "X" Package: A "sporty" edition Pacer. The Pacer X was available from 1975-1978 on the coupe version of the car. The title changed to "Sport" in 1978 and was eliminated after that. The trim package
Trim package
A trim package is an automotive package composed by a set of cosmetic embellishments to a vehicle. In some cases the trim package may include a specific model or ending name...

 consisted of vinyl bucket seats, sports steering wheel, custom trim, as well as a floor mounted gear shift and front sway bar
Sway bar
A sway bar or anti-roll bar or stabilizer bar is a part of an automobile suspension that helps reduce the roll of a vehicle that is induced by cornering or road irregularities. It connects opposite wheels together through short lever arms linked by a torsion spring...

. On the outside it received exterior chrome features, styled road wheels, and "Pacer X" decals on the doors and other package identification.

The "D/L" Package: A more upscale edition of Pacer, the D/L was available for the entire run of the car becoming the "base" model in 1978. This package was more "luxurious" including, originally, a "Navajo-design" seating fabric and a woodgrain instrument panel as well as a few interior features that were optional without it. The exterior received additional chrome accents, different wheelcovers, and identification badging.

The "Limited": Available in 1979-1980, the Limited model was an elegant farewell for Pacer. Inside, leather seating, extra sound proofing, and deeper-pile carpet (18-oz. vs. the standard 12-oz) was standard, as were many amenities that would have been options: AM radio, power door locks
Power door locks
Power door locks allow the driver or front passenger to simultaneously lock or unlock all the doors of an automobile or truck, by pressing a button or flipping a switch....

, power window
Power window
Power windows or electric windows as well as electric or power window lifts are automobile windows which can be raised and lowered by depressing a button or switch, as opposed to using a hand-turned crank handle.- History :Packard introduced the first power windows in the 1940 Packard...

s, and tilt steering wheel
Steering wheel
A steering wheel is a type of steering control in vehicles and vessels ....

, to name a few. The exterior offered many chrome accents, styled road wheels, and exterior "Limited" identification badging.

The "Sundowner": In 1975 only, a Sundowner Pacer was available through AMC dealers in California. This marketing promotion consisted of the basic Pacer with a US$3,599 suggested retail price
Suggested retail price
The manufacturer's suggested retail price , list price or recommended retail price of a product is the price which the manufacturer recommends that the retailer sell the product. The intention was to help to standardise prices among locations...

. This package included options listing for US$300 at no extra cost. In addition to the mandatory California engine emissions controls and state-required bumper guards, the Sundowner package included a "custom interior" featuring Basketry Weave fabric upholstery with coordinated trim on the door panels, remote control exterior mirror, rear window washer and wiper, styled road wheels with white wall tires, and a roof rack.

The "Levi's" Package: Attempting to capitalize on the popularity of the Levi's Gremlin and Hornet, AMC introduced a Levi's Pacer for 1977. This option added blue denim-like upholstery and door panel trim, with small "Levi's" tags on both front seats. Missing were the traditional copper buttons found on the other AMC Levi's seating. The package also included a "Levi's" logo sticker for each front fender. It could be combined with the Pacer "X" package. Not well promoted, the Levi's Pacer did not sell in large numbers and was gone for the 1978 model year.

Carl Green Enterprises (CGE) Pacers: AMC Pacers were modified by Carl Green, automobile designer. These cars included 401 CID AMC V8 engine
AMC V8 engine
American Motors Corporation produced a series of widely-used V8 engines from the mid-1950s before being absorbed into Chrysler in 1987. Chrysler kept the AMC V8 in production until 1991 for the Jeep Grand Wagoneer....

s, as well as flares, air dams, and wings. The custom cars appeared in magazines such as Hot Rod
Hot rod
Hot rods are typically American cars with large engines modified for linear speed. The origin of the term "hot rod" is unclear. One explanation is that the term is a contraction of "hot roadster," meaning a roadster that was modified for speed. Another possible origin includes modifications to or...

, Popular Hot Rodding
Popular Hot Rodding
Popular Hot Rodding is a monthly American automotive magazine from Source Interlink media dedicated to high performance automobiles, hot rods, and muscle cars built from 1955 to the present day- though there is an emphasis on cars from the 1960-mid 1970's....

, and Car & Driver. Carl Green also built two AMC Pacer pace cars
Safety car
In motorsport, a safety car or pace car is a car which limits the speed of competing cars on a racetrack in the case of a caution period such as an obstruction on the track. During a caution period the safety car enters the track ahead of the leader...

 for B.F. Goodrich to campaign in the International Motor Sports Association
International Motor Sports Association
The International Motor Sports Association is an American sports car auto racing sanctioning body based in Braselton, Georgia. It was started by John Bishop, a former employee of SCCA , and his wife Peggy in 1969 with help from Bill France, Sr...

 circuit, as well as provided body kits for Amos Johnson's Team Highball racecars.

All Pacers without the optional vinyl roof trim could be finished in several unique two-tone paint combinations that included front and rear body side scuff molding extensions. However, the top and bottom two-tone treatment was changed in 1977, to an "up and over the roof" accent paint scheme for the duration of production.

1979-1980 saw a hood ornament and center chrome strip down the hood. Power door locks
Power door locks
Power door locks allow the driver or front passenger to simultaneously lock or unlock all the doors of an automobile or truck, by pressing a button or flipping a switch....

 were available in 1978; however it would be 1979 before power window
Power window
Power windows or electric windows as well as electric or power window lifts are automobile windows which can be raised and lowered by depressing a button or switch, as opposed to using a hand-turned crank handle.- History :Packard introduced the first power windows in the 1940 Packard...

s would join the option list.

Electric Pacers

AMC Pacers were converted to plug-in electric vehicle
Electric vehicle
An electric vehicle , also referred to as an electric drive vehicle, uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion...


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 US$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
DC motor
A DC motor is an electric motor that runs on direct current electricity.-Brush:The brushed DC electric motor generates torque directly from DC power supplied to the motor by using internal commutation, stationary magnets , and rotating electrical magnets.Like all electric motors or generators,...

 with a three-speed automatic transmission. The EVA Change of Pace sedan weighed 3990 lb (1,809.8 kg) and reached 55 miles per hour (25 m/s) with a 53 miles (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
Gas heater
A gas heater is a device used to heat a room or outdoor area by burning natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas. Indoor household gas heaters can be broadly categorized in one of two ways: flued or non-flued, or vented and unvented...

. The electric Pacer wagon was one of the more expensive cars at US$14,000. The Lead Industry Association (LIA) sponsored a tour for government and industry officials that featured an EVA Pacer wagon. Consolidated Edison
Consolidated Edison
Consolidated Edison, Inc. is one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the United States, with approximately $14 billion in annual revenues and $36 billion in assets...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 purchased 40 modified AMC Pacers from EVA. The United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 also included EVA Pacers in its inventory of special purpose electric vehicles.


American Motors exported the Pacer to several Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an nations. The AMC distributor in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 France, Jean-Charles, compared the rounded body of the new Pacer to another attractive rear-end shape in its magazine advertisements. Cars exported to Europe were available in higher trim levels. According to some reports, the Pacer sold well in Europe and even Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot is a French former fashion model, actress, singer and animal rights activist. She was one of the best-known sex-symbols of the 1960s.In her early life, Bardot was an aspiring ballet dancer...

 is said to have promoted the car in Paris.

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
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 Pacer enthusiast Internet site, and the fact that a former AMC dealer in Germany stocked an inventory of original parts as recently as the early 2000s. A private museum in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 exhibits a Pacer wagon.

United Kingdom

Unlike AMC's other models, the Pacer was only available with left-hand drive. The British importer for the Pacer converted the car from left-hand to right-hand drive by leaving the majority of the steering gear on the left-hand side of the car, and running a chain
A chain is a sequence of connected links.Chain may also refer to:Chain may refer to:* Necklace - a jewelry which is worn around the neck* Mail , a type of armor made of interlocking chain links...

-drive behind the dashboard from the steering wheel (now on the right-hand side) to the top of the steering column
Steering column
The automotive steering column is a device intended primarily for connecting the steering wheel to the steering mechanism or transferring the driver's input torque from the steering wheel.-Secondary functions:...

. However, 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
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
The Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow is a luxury car that was produced in Great Britain in various forms from 1965 to 1980. It was the first Rolls-Royce to use a monocoque chassis, a response to concerns that the company was falling behind in automotive innovation....

 and slightly longer than the then-current Ford Cortina
Ford Cortina
As the 1960s dawned, BMC were revelling in the success of their new Mini – the first successful true minicar to be built in Britain in the postwar era...

. Because of its large size by European standards the notion of the Pacer as a 'compact' car simply didn't work in the UK and Europe, and neither did the idea of such a car having (as its smallest engine option) a 3.8-litre straight-6 (at the time the usual family saloon car in the UK had an engine capacity of around 1.5 litres, with European-class compacts commonly having engines of 1 litre or less).

The British motoring press adversely reviewed the car and AMC soon stopped importing it.


The Pacer was produced in Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 by Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos
Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos
Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos S.A. was an automaker in Mexico. The original organization, a distributor for Willys-Overland vehicles, became government controlled in 1963 with American Motors Corporation holding a minority interest. The company imported and produced automobiles and light...

 (VAM) starting in 1976. The cars came with different engines, interiors, and other components because vehicles made in Mexico had to have at least 50% locally sourced parts. The engine was an AMC design, but modified and built by VAM. A unique to Mexico 282 CID I6 engine
AMC Straight-6 engine
The American Motors Corporation straight-6 family of engines was used by a number of AMC and Jeep vehicles from 1964 through 2006.-195.6:American Motors' first straight-six engine was the...

 was standard. It was designed to cope with low octane
Octane rating
Octane rating or octane number is a standard measure of the anti-knock properties of a motor or aviation fuel. The higher the octane number, the more compression the fuel can withstand before detonating...

 fuel and high altitudes. This engine featured dished pistons with a 3.909 inches (9.9 cm) bore and 3.894 inches (9.9 cm) stroke, as well as a unique head and exhaust porting design. The V8 engine was not available in Mexico.

All Pacers built by VAM came with the following standard equipment: power disk brakes, power steering, handling package, slot wheels with ER78x14 radial tires, reclining front seats, and a radio. Only the coupe model was available. The Mexican Pacers also had different interior trim and seats that featured high-design upholstery that was not available in the U.S. models. For 1979, a total of 250 luxury and performance "Limited edition X" models were built using a modified 282 six-cylinder with an automatic transmission, air conditioning, sunroof, as well as other options.


In 1975, the AMC Pacer was sleek and audacious; unlike anything else on the road and it looked like the car of the future. "The automotive press loved it." Motor Trend" magazine was one of many putting a picture of the car on its cover and titled its article "Suddenly its 1980: American Motors' new Pacer is the freshest, most creative, most people oriented auto born in the U.S. in 15 years".

Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is an American magazine published monthly by Consumers Union since 1936. It publishes reviews and comparisons of consumer products and services based on reporting and results from its in-house testing laboratory. It also publishes cleaning and general buying guides...

 reported on the new Pacer and it "scored quite high in our tests. We would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who wants a fairly small car. Their research was summed up 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”, but the Pacer has less passenger and luggage room than those larger cars, thus “overall, the Pacer scored better than such domestic subcompacts as the Ford Pinto, the Chevrolet Vega, and AMC’s own Gremlin.”

Reviewers were positive about the Pacer's styling, and Small Cars magazine described the press preview that "admiration was an obvious reaction...the knowledgeable product writers knew without being told that they were privileged to be there to see something new in automobile design." Road & Track magazine ran a lengthy "American Motors Pacer: Surprising new car from the smallest of the Big Four" cover story with the design and engineering details.

Automotive journalist and historian, Michael Lamm, writing in Popular Mechanics
Popular Mechanics
Popular Mechanics is an American magazine first published January 11, 1902 by H. H. Windsor, and has been owned since 1958 by the Hearst Corporation...

, discovered many "thoughtful touches that distinguish AMC's strikingly futuristic new Pacer". He described the Pacer’s smooth ride and “not choppy as in so many short-wheelbase cars”, its rack-and-pinion steering “gives handling a feeling of precision ... sticking well in turns, with hard cornering generally solid and predictable”, and the “tight turning radius makes parking easy”, but the only problem is that the steering wheel is too big. He summed up 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
Chevrolet Monza
The Chevrolet Monza is a subcompact, four-passenger automobile produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors for the 1975–1980 model years. The Monza is based on the Chevrolet Vega, sharing its wheelbase, width and 140 CID inline-4 engine...

, Skyhawk/Starfire)", and that its performance felt "strong—certainly on a par with most V8s."

Automotive journalist and author Don Sherman wrote in the February 1975 issue of Car and Driver
Car and Driver
Car and Driver is an American automotive enthusiast magazine. Its total circulation is 1.31 million. It is owned by Hearst Magazines, who purchased prior owner Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. in 2011...

 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?"

Road & Track
Road & Track
Road & Track is an American automotive enthusiast magazine. It is owned by Hearst Magazines, and is published monthly. The editorial offices are located in Newport Beach, California.-History:...

 magazine's April 1975 road test review 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 of 1975, we have been quite smitten with AMC’s Pacer." Their only major gripes were the lackadaisical 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 "the 2-bbl Pacer was faster than the 1-bbl car by a fair margin, it did not feel faster" (author's emphasis). Motor Trend described that: "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
Buick Riviera
The Riviera by Buick is an automobile produced by Buick in the United States from the 1963 to 1999 model years, with 1,127,261 produced.A full-size coupé or personal luxury car, the early models of the Riviera in particular have been highly praised by automotive journalists and writers.A common...

 and Continental Mark IV
Lincoln Continental Mark IV
See Lincoln Mark for a complete overview of the Lincoln Mark Series.The Lincoln Continental Mark IV was a luxury car at the top end of the personal luxury car market sold under the Lincoln brand of the Ford Motor Company in North America between 1972 and 1976. It replaced the successful...


The British press was critical with the cover of The Motor
The Motor (magazine)
The Motor was a British weekly car magazine founded on 28 January 1903....

, a weekly automobile magazine, announced: "We test the Pacer - and wish we hadn't."

Popular Mechanics described the newly added 1977 body style in an article titled "AMC Pacer Station Wagon is a Styling Coup!", noted that its "pleasing design" and asked: "who needs the coupe!"

The Pacer received a facelift
Facelift (automobile)
The automotive facelift comprises changes to a car's styling during its production run — often including new sheetmetal and/or interior design) with minimal changes to its underlying mechanicals — allowing a carmaker to freshen a model without complete redesign.A facelift retains the...

 and an optional V8 engine in 1978, but retained the heavy-duty crash protection making its body bulkier and heavier than it would otherwise have been. By this point, the luster wore off the unique design and the press began badmouthing the Pacer's lack of power and performance as more sophisticated competitors were introduced.


Now old enough to be a "classic car
Classic car
A classic car is an older car; the exact meaning is variable. The Classic Car Club of America maintains that a car must be between 20 and 40 years old to be a classic, while cars over 45 years fall into the Antique Class.- Classic Car Club of America :...

", 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
Disco is a genre of dance music. Disco acts charted high during the mid-1970s, and the genre's popularity peaked during the late 1970s. It had its roots in clubs that catered to African American, gay, psychedelic, and other communities in New York City and Philadelphia during the late 1960s and...

, Watergate
Watergate scandal
The Watergate scandal was a political scandal during the 1970s in the United States resulting from the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., and the Nixon administration's attempted cover-up of its involvement...

 and some of the ugliest cars ever."

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
Nerd is a derogatory slang term for an intelligent but socially awkward and obsessive person who spends time on unpopular or obscure pursuits, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Nerds are considered to be awkward, shy, and unattractive...

 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 US$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 US$4000 and US$6000", saying that "the increased value is fueled solely by the heart. This trend is all about a fascination with '70s things almost because they were so bad." (Author's emphasis.)

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 US$20,000, for a complete restoration, whether it’s on a US$1,000 1978 AMC Pacer or a US$5,000 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. When restored, the value of the Pacer may be about US$4,000, compared with the Camaro’s US$25,000.

Today the Pacer's originality, as well as its deficiencies, are appreciated, if not loved, by car hobbyists and serious collectors alike.

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.

Ownership support

There are many active AMC car clubs that welcome Pacers. The classic vehicle publication Hemmings Motor News
Hemmings Motor News
Hemmings Motor News is a monthly magazine catering to traders and collectors of antique, classic, and exotic sports cars. It is the largest and oldest publication of its type in the United States, with sales of 215,000 copies per month, and is best known for its large classified advertising sections...

 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 AMC models, while new old stock
New old stock
New old stock refers to obsolete equipment, or original parts for obsolete equipment, that have never been sold at retail.The term refers to merchandise being offered for sale which was manufactured long ago but that has never been used...

(NOS), used, and reproduction parts are available from vendors specializing in AMC vehicles.

External links

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