Pacer info (Englisch)

The AMC Pacer: a future that never was

More than thirty years after its first introduction, the AMC Pacer has become a car that still causes serious discussions among car enthusiasts. While some people may think the world of if, it has a spot in just about every top 10 of ugly cars that were ever made. Still, the idea behind the Pacer wasn’t half bad.

It’s the beginning of the 70’s. Being dissatisfied with the low prices for oil, the OPEC - Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries – decides to turn off the tap for some Western countries. It marks the beginning of the very first oil crisis. As usual, it’s the United States of America that is especially displeased. The demand for smaller and more economic cars increases dramatically. Japanese manufacturers like Honda and Toyota are the first to rise to this challenge. The American car companies can do nothing but watch, while they make plans to deal with this competition from the land of the Rising Sun. But instead of technological innovations to better themselves, they come up with a plan to brainwash the American public into thinking that driving a Japanese car is nothing less but treason.

An ambitious plan

Meanwhile, the American Motor Company in Kenosha, decides to take up the gauntlet. At first, the designers take a sharp blade to the already aging Hornet. The result of this brutal operation is the AMC Gremlin, which, despite being small, is hardly more economical than other American cars, simply because of a heavily outdated engine. Still, the Gremlin sells reasonably well when it makes its appearance in 1970. Meanwhile, AMC has started developing a completely new compact car. Richard Teague and his team of designers agree on a car that will be designed from the inside out, to be able to focus on the passengers. Perhaps even more ambitious is the resolution to make the car a front wheel drive and to equip it with a rotary engine, that is still being developed by General Motors at that time. It’s a vision of the future that is both brave and beautiful. Unfortunately, it is also a vision that is killed by its own good intentions. After a few months on the drawing board, Teague and his team come up with the Pacer, a car that would even make George Jetson twist his neck.

False promises

However, the shapes aren’t the reason for AMC and the Pacer to strike out. In those days, most American designers stick to their ruler, causing the beautifully streamlined Pacer to be what it still is today… a nice change of pace! Subsequently, the Pacer causes quite a stir when it is launched in 1975. But this enthusiasm quickly fades when the American public discover that the performance and fuel consumption don’t match the promising looks of the Pacer. A mistake that can be attributed to General Motors, who fail to come up with the rotary engine that was supposed to be under the hood. Instead, AMC again is forced to adopt an already outdated engine for its project, an engine that doesn’t allow front wheel drive either. This 232 cui (3,8l) straight six – shortly after to be upgraded to 258 cui (4,2l) – delivers less than 100 HP, which is hardly enough for a car that weighs well over 3.000 pounds. All this weight also causes the Pacer to be much less economical than its Japanese adversaries – fuel consumption of about 1 mpg doesn’t even come close to the initial promise. Another thing that has caused AMC to shoot itself in the foot, is that the development of the Pacer has taken too long. By the time it arrives, the oil crisis has receded, as has the American interest for small and frugal cars. And again, it’s the Japanese who have succeeded in claiming this segment of the car market. Adding a V8 and a Pacer Wagon to the line-up is’t enough to turn the tide. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that after only six years, AMC pulls the plug on the Pacer – and goes into bankruptcy shortly after. After a little more than 280.000 produced cars it’s final curtain for the Pacer, a car that didn’t have much of a chance to begin with.

History repeating

Looking back, we can say that the Pacer perhaps was too far ahead of its time. Fact is that AMC saw the Pacer as preparation for a future that never was. The company deserves praise however; because of all American car companies it came closest to a radical change in course. A much needed change that could perhaps have prevented General Motors and Chrysler from coming to the brink of extinction when the economic crisis hit in the 21st century. Again, the big three – Ford being the only one that didn’t receive financial support from the American government – try their hand at developing smaller cars. For General Motors, the Chevrolet Volt looks to a future where fuel comes out of a socket in our wall. But it seems that history is repeating itself. Steered by an economy that is slowly, but surely recovering from the hits it took a few years ago, the American consumer no longer sees the need for downsizing. Sales of SUV’s, which were almost driven to the scrapheap a few months ago, are on the rise again, as are all kinds of other gas-guzzlers.

Fresh alien

But what does all of this mean for the Pacer? It’s been over 35 years that AMC surprised the world with this car. Even in 2011 the design still manages to look fresh, almost alien. That’s some accomplishment, especially for an American car. Sadly, what remains is the horrible quality with which this car was built. Every Pacer is extremely sensitive to rust and there’s no tight fit for either body panels or interior. Even with a V8 engine it is indeed seriously underpowered, and it may be a small car by American standards; in these modern times its width is some cause for concern in traffic and on parking lots. Furthermore, there isn’t a lot of room for luggage or passengers in the back, the front passengers being the only ones to enjoy some sort of comfort. Add to this the ridiculous fuel consumption and the somewhat insecure road holding, and you wonder why there still are Pacer-lovers that take these flaws for granted. For why would you drive a Pacer, when you could easily choose a Volkswagen Polo or a Hyundai Getz? Ask this question and you get the answer.

Alien Ant Farm; Pacer on 2:05: 

Eminem – The real Slim Shady; Pacer on 3:15:

The Tragically Hip - The Darkest One; Pacer with chicken on 0:45:

Barenaked Ladies - Pinch Me – Pacers:

The First AMC Pacer TV Commercial - 'Introducing, the AMC Pacer:

The Sandwich King:

Wayne's World - Bohemian Rhapsody:

Pacer on Fifth Gear:

TV Commercial for the AMC Pacer:

A Goofy Movie – Open Road:

TV Pacer news story:

Commercial Nissan Pixo; Pacer op 0:15: