December 04, 2015

Looking back: When the last "futuristic" AMC Pacer lurched off the assembly line (1979)

John RobsonArchive

As 1979 drew to a close, the last "futuristic" AMC Pacer lumbered off the assembly line and into the pages of history... or a Star Trek set. 

This weird-looking unwieldy failure of a car is a minor but revealing example of what happens when you try to take a shortcut to the future instead of solving real current problems in time-tested ways.


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commented 2015-12-09 01:11:45 -0500
A very perceptive auto industry insider in one of the “worst car” Youtube videos made the point that while the Pacer had more money spent on its design and production than any other past AMC vehicle, then losing the planned for GM Wankel engine was serious, there was something even more deadly going on. First year demand and sales were well above estimates. This fooled everyone because expectations were the following year would zoom. No way. It turned out that the rule “Almost everyone who really wanted a Pacer had already bought one” was in effect. Then the gas shortages and bad quality rep on some of the first year rushed output killed the last hopes.
commented 2015-12-07 09:28:38 -0500
Ah the Pacer incubator with free airconditioning. No matter what advanced technology a vehicle may have, it is as good as the weakest link. The Pacer was an utter failure with people suffering of heat exhaustion.
commented 2015-12-05 18:45:38 -0500
What a jackass you are, obviously no knowledge of automotive history. AMC was one of the most innovative automobile company’s that was forced out of business by oppressive federal regulations. The Pacer was actually a very spacious, durable car with a larger passenger door to encourage rear seat entry from the curb rather than the street. G.M offered to provide a new rotary erngine to AMC and the Pacer was designed around it, but G.M. cancelled at the last minute. Instead, the Pacer used AMC’s fine inline 6 cylinder engine first introduced in 1964 as the 199, and continued along as the 232 and 258, finally evolving into the highly respected Jeep 4.0 L, used until 2005. AMC vehicles featured dual circuit brake master cylinders, seat belts, uni body construction, aluminized exhaust and front disc brakes before other makes. AMC did use other manufactures components, just like Ford used G.M. power steering pumps and air conditioning compressors, even automatic transmissions on many models including Lincoln. Some G.M cars, Buick, Olds and Pontiac, used a Ford 3 speed manual transmission on some powerful models where the G.M. unit wasn’t as durable. Rolls Royce, Ferrari and Jaguar all used G.M. automatic transmissions . AMC did use Chrysler automatic transmissions and Delco distributors as they were the best available. AMC pioneered economy cars, small all wheel drive sedans and station wagons, Jeep Cherokees and many other innovative, economical and rugged vehicles. Shame on you for your lack of respect to a fine, but small company, overpowered by unreasonable regulations. I expected much more from the Rebel, hopefully other reports aren’t as inaccurate, my trust has been shattered.
Randy Hicks
commented 2015-12-05 18:38:59 -0500
The Pacer and Gremlin were designed and built to a budget which was totally shoestring and the team involved managed to accomplish their nigh impossible goal. They soldiered on thanks to Jeep and made it through the Renault debacle and Mitsubishi’s constant on again, off again dance card. The Chrysler takeover was more related to grabbing talented designers and production management. The spanking new Bramalea plant was the icing on the cake even if its initial product was underwhelming.
commented 2015-12-04 14:48:40 -0500
Either nobody knows or everybody forgets that the big failure of AMC was the fact they used existing parts from the big 3 automakers and tried to piece them together to make a vehicle. The problem wasn’t the style of the car, it was the functionality of trying to mate Chrysler, Ford an GM parts into an actual functioning vehicle. It sounds a lot like what our current government is trying to do with our society. Some parts just don’t fit properly.
commented 2015-12-04 13:20:18 -0500
Thanks for the flashback, John. I preferred the styling of the unreliable Gremlin. Oh, how time has passed.
commented 2015-12-04 12:56:29 -0500
A lot of people used them as greenhouses
commented 2015-12-04 11:47:05 -0500
Ahhh yes…the Pacer. I bought one in ’75 and remember it less than fondly. The first time I filled it up there was a pool of gas under the car..the tank spout leaked badly. That was the first of many trips to the service shop.
It was probably the car with shoddiest workmanship I ever bought. I sold it less than a year later.
commented 2015-12-04 10:48:13 -0500
Yes, I remember that ugly car when it came out in 79. Yuk. It was ugly them and it is ugly now. Failed, just like the Ford Edsel.