Chasing Classic Cars: Not your father’s Pacer
The Racer Pacer
I had never heard of this before my dad gave me a book to read “The Cars of American Motors”, by Marc Cranswick, McFarland Publishing. The “this” were not the Pacers that rolled off the assembly line in Kenosha, WI. I had one, just like this, a 1975 with a 258. My buddies and I tailgate with this at Milwaukee Brewer games and made a trip to Cleveland in it to visit a friend going to John Carroll University. Side note: Bob Hope was the commencement speaker. What fun. Named it the Astrodome or Astro for short. Later I sold it to my buddy who went to school in Cleveland after he graduated. Sorry Joe but it was good when I had it. The AMC Pacer was built between 1975 and 1980 and was the first modern mass-produced, U.S. automobile design using the cab forward concept. AMC marketed it as “the first wide small car.” Later in the production run a 304 V8 was an option.
Enter Carl Green Enterprises (CGE) who took the Pacers which came with the 304 and dropped in AMC’s 401 along with some other mods. Swapping out engines was no big deal because the blocks were the same size. Here is where the magic started. Green loved the Pacer because its design was a breath of fresh air
Like most of us, Carl Green was a tinkerer. Bent on making things go faster and look cooler. Don’t laugh, he did it. In 1976 Carl Green Enterprises, along with Randall Engineering, began work on Pacer customizing kits. This included flared fenders, spoilers, wide tires and powerful V-8 engines for the racing crowd. He received the OK from American Motor’s brass to sell it as a mod that the dealers could do, or you could send yours to him and he would do the work. As a bit of a background Green started worked with a big name designer Dean Jeffries in the late 60’s. Jeffries’ best known work was the Monkey Mobile. If you’re an AMC enthusiast like me you already know, because of the glass, the Pacer weighed a lot, almost 3,000 pounds. Green’s mods added about another 300 pounds, and it tipped the scales about the same as a mid-70’s Corvette. This Pacer screamed! With two people in it and an auto the CGE Pacer could hit 60 in seven seconds! The conversion cost was pocket change in current numbers. The cost of a CGE V8 Pacer was around 9 grand.
Word got out and the CGE Pacer and stories appeared in Hot Rod, Popular Hot Rodding, and Car & Driver magazines. But Green wasn’t done modifying the Pacer. This is one the coolest cars I have ever seen (above left). Green made more mods, in addition to dropping in a 401 V8, he lowered the headline, chopped the top an inch, added new body panels and the spoiler. Damn, if this doesn’t look like a Porsche 911!
Utilizing the Pacer wagon, introduced in 1977, he crafted this pickup (above) Pacer. He shared it handy work with AMC’s design boss Richard Teague who showed some interest but for some reason, it never saw production. Green did one more mod, making it a 4×4.
On the car sites, I found Pacers for around 5-8 grand. There were some that were restored getting in the mid-teens. Finding CGE cars for sale was tough. Most likely since so few were made. I found a clone which went for around $10,000. Making the mods with or without Green’s parts is easy for the handy AMC collector. If money were no object, and it is now in our household, I’d snap up the 911.