Another swing for the fence car from America’s smallest automaker.
When you’re up against big car companies with big budgets and big lineups you have to do things differently as was the case for American Motors in the 70s. They were all about different in that time period first with the Gremlin in 1970 and then with the Pacer in 1975. This week’s car spot focuses on a 78 Pacer Wagon Mark spotted at the Mecum auction in Chicago this past weekend.
Introduced as America’s First Wide Small Car, it was also ahead of its time with its cab-forward design while all the other cars were the traditional three-box designs. Developed to offer the interior room and feel of a big car but in a much smaller, aerodynamic, and distinctive exterior package. That it was. The automotive press loved it and so did I owning a 75, Autumn Red Metalic with a white interior. It had a massive amount of glass which led to one of its nicknames, the fishbowl. And I added even more glass with an aftermarket sunroof, which leaked, and my friends called mine the Astrodome.
RELATED Post: Read about the Racer Pacer.
One of the complaints consumers had was the lack of space in the back seat when adults rode along so a wagon version was added in 1977. It also gave the Pacer a more traditional design and more cargo space. Popular Mechanics described the newly added 1977 Station Wagon body style as a “styling coup”, and said: “Who needs the coupe!”
The car was introduced with a choice of two inline sixes that were fuel efficient but because of the Pacer’s weight, 3,425 pounds for the coupe, 74 more for the wagon, its 304 V8 was added to the lineup boosting horsepower but decreased mpg. It was during this time period that the Pacer became positioned as a luxury car. This 78 is a great example. A D/L level Pacer that was loaded with leather seats, power steering, brakes, locks, and windows, a Sony CD player, tinted windows, the 304 V8, custom wheels, and woodgrain. Not really wood:). It sold for $8,250, about average for a Pacer like this in good condition. However in 2020 at Mecum’s auction in Indianapolis a 77 sold for a crazy amount of money, $25,300! There is/was a Pacer wagon I found on Hemmings where the guy was asking for 30k that had been converted to electric. Yikes, can you imagine the weight of that one?
RELATED Post: My promo model Pacer.
By 1980 the public had grown tired of the Pacer’s unique styling and poor gas millage and AMC ended production. 280,000 Pacers were built in Kenosha and more at VAM in Mexico. This swing for the fence might have been the beginning of the end for AMC. Developing the Pacer cost the company a ton of money as did the new Matador coupe and neither car saved the company. Renault bought a controlling interest in AMC in 79 and that was it for building its own passenger cars. Was the Pacer ugly? Maybe but one thing is for sure like the other Dick Teague-inspired designs is that they were unique and had character unlike many of the other cars coming out of Detroit at the time. Yup, I’m an AMC homeboy and proud of it!
Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back next Friday for another one of my car spots along with some of its history. Have a great weekend.