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AMC Pacer – History

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AMC Pacer History

The AMC Pacer was developed as a 2-door compact saloon to help counter the influx of compact Japanese cars into the United States. Known as Project Amigo, the design was to feature ‘a body style not seen before, using the latest technology, and exceeding upcoming safety regulations’. The car was designed from the inside out, to offer the feel and internal space of a big car that customers were used to, but within a body that was as compact as possible. Although compact, the Pacer was as wide as other American cars at the time and is wider than a Rolls Royce Silver Shadow! The futuristic design and huge amount of glass led it to be nicknamed the ‘George Jetson Car’ or the ‘Flying Fishbowl’. An unusual feature is that the passenger door was four inches longer than the drivers’ door to aid getting passengers in and out, especially in the rear seats. The car featured a relatively low drag coefficient for the time at 0.43 and it was one of the first American cars to utilise rack and pinion steering. The unconventional styling was controversial at the time and it is often regarded as in the top ten ugliest cars of all time.

The car was offered with several engines during its production run between 1975 and 1980. These included a 3.8 litre straight 6, 4.2 litre straight 6, 4.6 litre straight 6 and a 5.0 litre V8. The fact that these large engines were constricted by a variety of devices to reduce emissions meant that they were under powered and thirsty. Because of its short wheel base there was a perceived lack of cargo space when carrying four passengers so in 1977 a station wagon was introduced. Pacers were exported to several European countries including the UK.

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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 unequal length doors were retained, the longer one being now the driver’s door made getting out of the car in the typical confines of a British parking bay quite tricky.

After a severe slating by the British motoring press, AMC soon stopped importing them. The front cover of ‘The Motor’ stated ‘We test drive the Pacer  we wish we hadn’t’. Never the less, as with many so-called lemons (the British motor industry had quite a few over the years), they have become rare and unusual cars which will always get a ‘second glance’ at a classic car show.