The AMC Pacer is a two-door compact car that has been produced by the American Motors corporation from the 1975 to 1980 model years. With the design work beginning in 1971, the rounded shape and the large glass area were unique and distinctive to the AMC Pacer. The width is equal to full-sized domestic cars, while the length was considered a “small car.”
Let’s check out some of the most important AMC Pacer facts, the inception of the AMC pacer, the unique qualities of this car’s design, and the public reaction and reviews over the years.
Top AMC Pacer Facts
- The Pacer was first launched and broadcasted to the American public in early 1975. With a cutting-edge design and construction for the period, the square cars were wider than they were tall. The wide design, which was 2 feet wider than the car, also had a 3-piece rear window appearance that resembled something out of the future.
- The car had 70% more glass than the average car of the time.
- Motor Trend loved the car at the time of production, citing that the AMC Pacer was the “most creative and most people-oriented auto.”
- AMC chairman Roy Chapin Jr. launched the AMC Pacer in January of 1975.
- The car was an immediate hit, selling 145,000 units in just the first year of production.
- The AMC Pacer featured a small turning circle due to the rack and pinion steering made for agile handling.
American Motors Corporation
American Motors Corporation was an American manufacturing company founded by combining both the Nash Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motor Car Company back in the mid-1950s. The Nash Kelvinator resulted from a merger between Nash Motors and the Kelvinator Appliance Company. Simultaneously, the Hudson Motor Car Company made Hudson and other brands of automobiles in Detroit, Michigan.
The Inception of American Motors Corp.
The similar competitors to the AMC were the automakers who comprised the Big Three – Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. The main production line from AMC focused on small cars, including the Hornet, Gremlin, AMC Pacer, intermediate cars like the Ambassador and the Rebel, and larger muscle cars including the Marlin and AMX.
The creation of American Motors began in early 1954, when Nash Kelvinator began the acquisition of the Hudson Car Company, with the merger hopefully creating a rival to the Big Three, with the 1953-1954 Ford and GM Price war having an extremely negative effect on independent and smaller automakers across the world.
During the 1950s, the first product development and consolidation began. The American Motors combined the Nash and Hudson product lines in 1955, with the production churning out the fast-selling Rambler model in 1955 and 1956.
The Pacer was created many decades later, with the AMC Pacer being an innovative all-new model that was first introduced in early 1975 and marketed as the first wide small car, being a subcompact that could also provide the comfort of a full-size car.
AMC Pacer Design
The stylist who created the AMC Pacer, Dick Teague, first began working on this innovative creation back in 1971, thinking there might be an increased demand from the public for smaller cars that could provide ample comfort. This new car was created to offer a bigger car’s interior room, but provided in a smaller and more aerodynamic package.
The shape was rounded with a huge glass area for plenty of visibility, providing a unique, functional, and unusual look for its period. Both Car and Driver magazine and Road & Track magazine described this car as bold, functional, fresh, reasonable, and compact.
Development was under Gerald C Meyer, the former chairman and CEO of the American Motors Corporation. His goal was to create a unique car, providing hate for everything they did that was individualistic, different from the competition, and possibly even controversial in the world. He wanted the AMC Pacer to be distinctive from the other cars on the market.
The American Motors Corporation considered several futuristic qualities. Still, the automaker did not have the right amount of resources or monetary value to build the components from scratch. However, they used outside suppliers to create the parts and create the AMC Pacer.
With a small car shape but positioned uniquely, the AMC Pacer was as wide as a full-size American car while mating the small interior and length. American Motors created the AMC Pacer to have the wheels pushed to the cornea, and the A-pillars moved forward. The A-pillars are the vertical supports of the car’s window area that support the vehicle.
In addition, the windshield design was placed over the engine. With all of these distinctive and unique features, the AMC Pacer was considered the “first wide small car.” The width was also broadcasted by the marketing strategy and the advertising done by the American Motors Corporation. Although American drivers had become used to larger vehicles, American Motors played up the fact that the AMC Pacer provided ample comfort for a small car.
Another unique feature of the AMC Pacer was the passenger door was longer than the drive’s, making the passenger loading easier and making driving a bit safer for countries that use the curbside and drive on the right side of the road.
Engine & Suspension
Along with the unique passenger door, another approach was unique to the AMC Pacer, including the front suspension and engine mounting. The AMC Pacer was the first car in the United States to use the engine and the suspension system noises completely separate from the passenger compartment, creating a relaxing and comfortable ride. Heavy rubber bushings accompanied the entire suspension.
In the mid-1970s, the government also required extra safety measures for vehicles that began with the 1980 model year. These safety measures included a front end crash testing at 50 miles per hour, 25 miles per hour side crash testing, and 30 miles per hour rollover testing. In addition, the car needed to install bumpers that could resist a 5 mile per hour impact at the front and 10 miles per hour impact at the rear.
Furthermore, the AMC Pacer featured energy-absorbing bumper mounts and the pillar bases behind the doors for extra support. The AMC Pacer was designed to meet the safety specifications of the time.
AMC Pacer Production
Introduced first at the beginning of 1975, the AMC Pacer was designed to attract those who traditionally bought larger cars, targeting this market during a time in history when the gas prices were projected to rise dramatically. In the first year of AMC Pacer production, the car sold well, selling nearly 145,530 units. However, as many other American companies had been prepared for the impending oil crisis, there was little competition.
However, despite the initial success, the AMC Pacer sales decreased after the first two years, although the car continued to be produced and sold throughout the 1980 model year. Similar to the mid-year introduction, the AMC Pacer production ended in Wisconsin at the very end of 1979.
The total number of AMC Pacers ever built came out to 280,000 cars and were hampered by the competition from the Big Three automakers and the shift to other imported cars and companies in the late 1970s. Since the AMC Pacer could not match foreign cars, like Germany or Japan, they stopped being produced.
Styling & Weight
In addition, another reason for the lack of success was the unconventional and unique styling of the AMC Pacer. Another concern and distinctive styling is the lack of cargo space when the car is full. The cargo space can be increased by folding down the back of the rear seat, but still could not hold passenger gear for every single person.
In addition, the car did not have a high performance or power from the engine, mostly since the AMC Pacer was heavy for a small car. The car was already quoted at nearly 3000 pounds. Still, the car increased to nearly 3,500 pounds when they added the air conditioning, automatic transmission, power steering, and other parts that were not initially counted.
AMC Pacer Reviews
According to the critics, there have been varying accounts of the reliability, performance, and user views of the AMC Pacer over the years. Back in 1975, in an issue of Car and Driver, the author noted that the AMC Pacer was the “first real urban transporter” and had “high priority on comfortable and effective travel.”
Road and Track
In the same year, Road and Track road-tested the AMC Pacer, saying the outward appearance was “bold, clean and unique.” Still, the engine and transmission of the performance were lackluster and unsafe, causing “the AMC Pacer to screech, skid, and demand expert attention at the wheel.”
Hagerty mentioned in their review that AMC offered various package options and upgrades for the AMC Pacer, such as the X Package. The upscale X package included bucket seats and trim accents, increasing the value of the AMC Pacer and appealing to the elite in society.
The AMC Pacer unfortunately did suffer from a lack of horsepower in their 5.0-liter, V8 engine that produced average horsepower ratings when compared to the competition.
The upsides of the AMC pacer included the extensive cargo space and roomy interior, due to the unique wide body production and the styling choices.
Although initially considered a strange car that might not have been the top choice for most new car owners, the AMC Pacer has risen in popularity amongst collectors in recent decades and years due to the uniqueness of the body style and interior.
In Popular Mechanics, the author wrote that the ride was smoother than most short-wheelbase cars. The rack and pinion steering gave a more precise steering feel. The cornering was predictable and safe, the turning radius allowed for ease. In contrast, parking in tight corners and the steering wheel was big and easy to use. In addition, he noted the “very modern styling, ample power, and generous interior” of the AMC Pacer.
Consumer Reports described the Pacer as doing as well in terms of performance as competitors like the Dodge Dart, Plymouth Valiant, and Chevrolet Nova, with the AMC Pacer scoring better than “domestic subcompacts like the Ford Pinto, the Chevrolet Vega, and AMC’s own Gremlin.”
Later on, in 2005, Hemmings Classic Car magazine stated that the AMC Pacer was stylish, sleek, audacious, and looked like a futuristic car. In addition, Motor Trend magazine said the car was “the most creative and most people-oriented auto bor in the US in 15 years.”
Many people on the Car Survey reported that the car received excellent fuel economy. The engine is strong and power-oriented for the time, the car is comfortable with great visibility, and the car contains lots of cargo room with the rear seat folding down. Owners stated that performance earns a 9 out of 10, reliability earns a 10 out of 10, comfort makes a 10 out of 10, and the overall marks earn 9.5 out of 10 for the AMC Pacer.
The Globe and Mail
The Globe and Mail reported that the Pacer was a unique car that wasn’t always the most functional. With tall wrap-around windows, this stylistic feature was up to personal preference – but it proved to be a styling choice that did not stand the test of time. The Pacer had asymmetric doors so that your kids could quickly get into the back of the car, but it also showed a design choice that meant the items stored in the back could fall out when the right door was opened.
When looking at the history and the production of the AMC Pacer, you must look at the history, the inception of this car, the public’s reaction to the Pacer, the reliability of this vehicle, and the overall reviews posted over the years.