Car History Year 1975
Date: Monday, September 27 @ 13:09:03 UTC
If there had ever been a competition to select the most unique car of the 1970s, a leading contender for the title would have to be the AMC Pacer. And, as with the Gremlin five years earlier, the American Motors Corporation's "Philosophy of Difference" was to pay handsome dividends initially. The Pacer was the first completely new model from AMC in some years, but the car that eventually made it into production was quite different from the model that was originally planned.
With its vast areas of glass and rounded styling, the Pacer is often referred to as a goldfish bowl and even the factory press release of the time called it "a car that breaks with automotive design tradition" -something of an understatement to say the least. Leaving the Pacer's unusual appearance aside for a moment, it was the engine under that steeply sloping short hood that created the problems for the independent AMC when deciding to bring such a radical car to the marketplace. The intention at the outset of the highly innovative project was that the Pacer should be front-wheel-drive and have a Wankel rotary engine, yet neither of these futuristic ideas made it into the finished car.
Although the Wankel was a very compact and powerful unit for its size, the problem was that the revolutionary engine couldn't achieve the sort of gas mileage figures that buyers were now looking for from smaller cars. Of course, AMC didn't have the research and development resources (or the finances) to build a rotary engine of its own from scratch, so the plan was to buy in engines from General Motors who were proposing to use the Wankel in a number of models. The oil crisis of '73 meant that GM dropped the rotary, which instigated the need for a major re-evaluation at American Motors.
They decided to take a step backward and shoehorn the reliable old 232 cu.in. straight-six engine into the Pacer, at the same time reverting to a traditional rear-wheel-drive format. While the drivetrain components were readily available from the AMC parts bin, squeezing them into the Pacer required considerable re-engineering and the bulkhead had to be completely revised. The six fitted, barely, with the rear sparkplug virtually inaccessible as it was hidden away under the cowl. Despite the retrograde running gear, some new technology survived, notably the rack and pinion steering and electronic ignition. Overdrive was offered as an optional extra.
However, it's styling that sells cars, and the Pacer's looks were guaranteed to create an enormous amount of interest. Billed as "the first wide small car," the Pacer sat on a 100 inch wheelbase (only 6 inches longer than a Volkswagen Beetle), but at 77 inches wide it was a whopping 16 inches more from side to side than the VW. In other words, the compact-length Pacer gave passengers the same internal space as an intermediate model like the Chevrolet Chevelle. The concept was the brainchild of AMC stylist Richard Teague, who overcame opposition within the company to pursue his vision for the car with zealous determination.
Apart from the low beltline and obvious expanse of glass used in the design, one totally unique feature of the Pacer is the fact that the passenger door is nearly four inches longer than the driver's door! The idea behind this oddball arrangement was that it made for easier entry and exit, with door hinges that tilted outward as they opened to give even better access. A basic part of the body design was the massive 'B' pillar (described as having the same characteristics as a roll bar), which was used to connect the rear subassembly and the forward unit construction section together.
Announced at the Chicago Auto Show in March 1975, the Pacer created something of a sensation. Extensive media coverage had people flocking to the AMC showrooms and 96,769 Pacers were sold - the bubble-shaped car was an outstanding hit. Sadly, although the Pacer provided a much-needed boost to American Motors' sagging sales figures, it wasn't enough to prevent the company from recording a loss of $27.5 million, and things were set to get worse from then.
Cast iron - 6 Cylinders in line
232 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
No. of seats
CHEVROLET COSWORTH VEGA
Cast iron - 4 Cylinders in line
Bore and stroke
No. of seats
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