AMC Pacer Statistics and Fun Facts
- Model Years of Production: 1975-1980
- Production Totals:
(Source: Illustrated AMC Buyer's Guide by Larry G. Mitchell, with a commonly
agreed-upon correction to the 1975 totals.)
(either body style)
||Pacer introduced on March 1st
||Limited package introduced
- Length (1975 sedan): 171 inches, length of a VW Dasher
- Width (sedan & wagon, all model years): 77 inches, width of a Cadillac
- Percent Surface Area Consisting of Glass (1975 sedan): 37% (5615 sq. in.)
- The passenger's side door was intentionally designed 4 inches longer
than the driver's side door, to encourage backseat riders to enter the vehicle on the
- "Early model" vs. "Late model" -- What does this mean? You'll often hear Pacer fans refer to Pacers as
either "early model" ('75-'77) or "late model" ('78-'80). The reason for this is the unique styling of the hood
that is easily apparent in the two model year ranges. An early model Pacer has a hood grille that goes straight
horizontally from one headlight to the other, where as a late model Pacer has a hood grille that is raised up in
the center, in a sort of trapezoidal shape.
|An example of an "early model" ('75-'77) Pacer grille
(photo courtesy Jeremy Orth)
||An example of a "late model" ('78-'80) Pacer grille
(photo courtesy Jon Eisen)
It has been long-suspected that the hood was redesigned to accommodate the V-8 engine option that was available
starting in the '78 model year. However, there is reason to doubt that (from Glen Hoag):
As far as I can tell, the nose was redesigned to look different from
the three year old low hood design. I haven't actually looked
closely at the details to see if AMC used any of the extra space on a
V-8 car, but I do know that Randall Engineering was putting 401s into
Pacers as early as 1975 or '76, so there was a way to fit it under
- "Sedan" (or "Coupe") vs. "Wagon" -- What does this mean? AMC released two different body styles for the
Pacer. The "sedan" (or "coupe", as it's often called) was available for every model year. The wagon was available
'77 through '80. The two styles had the same width and wheelbase, but the wagon was slightly longer, front to back.
The sedan/coupe has windows that curve around the rear corners of the car, whereas the wagon's rear windows are
straighter, with a split near the front. This enabled the wagon to have significantly greater cargo space than the
sedan (e.g., in 1977, with the rear seat folded down, wagon cargo space was 47.8 cu. ft., sedan cargo space at
29.5 cu. ft.).
|An example of a Pacer sedan/coupe
(photo courtesy Christian & Dani)
||An example of a Pacer wagon
(photo courtesy Bob Brandys)
- "X", "D/L", "Limited" -- What does this mean? The Pacer was available with a number of different
packages throughout the model years. Note that many of the features listed below were also available as
individual options on a base model Pacer.
- X Package: Available '75-77 (a "sport package" was available in '78), this was the "sporty" Pacer
package. It featured sporty appearance options (vinyl bucket seats, sports steering wheel, custom trim, etc.),
as well as sporty functional features (manual floor shift, front sway bar). A "Pacer X" is denoted by special
ornamentation on the exterior body.
- D/L Package: Available '75-77 as an upgrade option, the D/L ("De-Luxe") became the base package
'78-80. It featured options like individual reclining seats in Basketry print fabric, wheel covers, extra
molding and trim, woodgrain instrument panel overlay, etc. A "Pacer D/L" is denoted by special ornamentation
on the exterior body.
- Limited: The Limited was the Pacer's super-luxury package, available '79-80. It featured leather
seats, power door locks, power windows, tilt steering wheel, and deeper-pile carpet (18-oz. vs. the standard
12-oz.). A "Pacer Limited" is denoted by special ornamentation on the exterior body.
- Original plans for design included a rotary Wankel engine but these plans
were dropped at the last minute.
- What's with the huge plastic window sill on the Pacer door? "The door
panel 'riser' was not intended to pull the huge door closed, although that's
what it was used for. Under the plastic is a metal riser that supported the door
panel. It actually was for some side impact protection and to make the
driver/passenger feel safer. At that time, all the car companies were
experimenting with different plastics, none of which worked. The main problem
was UV. The deterioration factor was mind boggling. The only way to correct the
problem in a restoration is to vacuum form new panels with new urethane plastics
or form new fiberglass panels. The latter is actually stronger and is a simpler
process for the novice restorer." -Carl Green
- Original Promotional Tag lines:
- "You only ride like a Pacer if you're wide like a Pacer."
- "Small was never this wide."
- "The first wide small car."
- Common Pacer Nicknames: Pacemaker, Hamster-Mobile, White Lemon, Mirth
Mobile, Fishbowl on Wheels, Moonbuggy, Bubble Car, Space Module, Greenhouse,
Egg on Wheels, Glassmobile, Terrarium, Neon wannabe ("Hi."), Pregnant Rollerskate,
a Great Big Rolling Windshield on Wheels, Glass Monster, Pregnant Guppy
- Pacer shape inspired by a football:
"I heard that in an interview with [Teague], he said he got the
inspiration for the Pacer's unique shape while watching a football game and
seeing a long spiral throw, observing how aerodynamically the football sliced
though the air. That's why it kind of bows out from the bottom up- a bit
like a football." (From Larry Furse)
- Championed and, at the same time, scorned for it's unique body design,
after dropping the Wankel engine, the Pacer didn't have many mechanical innovations.
However, it was the second American car to include rack-and-pinion steering (the first
was the Ford Mustang II). Front-wheel
drive was considered only early on in the design process. The Pacer was the
first car to feature cab-forward design.
- The introduction of the Pacer under interesting circumstances...
"The Pacer was a mid-year introduction, making its debut in dealer showrooms in March
1975, if I recall correctly. This was due, at least in part, to a strike at AMC in [September]
'74." -Glen Hoag. For more information, check out
this excerpt from a memo on
1975 Pacer Advance Product Information.
- Carl Green Enterprises (CGE) Pacers: Carl Green, famous automobile designer, built numerous
modified Pacers and other AMCs, many of which were featured prominently in automotive magazines.
Carl eventually plans to build a web site showcasing all of his creations. Says Carl:
"I built dozens of Pacers in the 1970s. We built a number of Pacers with
401s in them. I also built the Pacer pick up that shows up from time to time. I had about 35
articles on the car but it seems that my name is rarely mentioned when the car shows up today.
I built the original flare/air dam/wing package for the Pacer as well. I built two pace cars for
B.F. Goodrich for the IMSA circuit as well as body kits for Amos Johnson's Team Highball IMSA race
cars. I worked hand-in-hand with Dick Teague who 'back doored' cars to me for prototyping. I was
in Van Nuys, California at the time of all the Pacer projects. The cars appeared in Hot Rod,
Popular Hot Rodding, Car & Driver and many others."
- Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) Pacers in Mexico:
"VAM introduced the Pacer for Mexico in 1976. Only the coupe model was available through the
whole run, and like the rest of the product line there never was the V8 option, but it still
got the raised hood and grille in 1978. The last year of the Mexican Pacer was 1979, the sales
of that year were of just 619 units. Also in 1979, the limited edition X model was available.
It was oriented towards luxury and performance; it came with a semi-high performance modified
282 six cylinder along with Air Conditioning, automatic transmission, sunroof (most of them),
among other options, and only 250 units were available." -Mauricio Jordán Márquez
Eddie Stakes adds:
"The Mexican Pacer 1976 [was available] with [a] 282-cid 6-cylinder, which was not available in
the US. Those big sixes are highly desirable and on occasion we find them north of the border here
in Texas. All the Auto Zones are set up in the computeres for parts for them also."
To the right are ads from VAM in 1976 (courtesy of
Autos Clasicos Mexicanos)
and 1977 (courtesy of Eddie Stakes). VAM Pacers can be seen
- 1981 Pacer?? "There is a 1981 Pacer here in Houston, the
lady lives in Memorial, north of me. She is well off, and is the original
owner of a 1981 Pacer. According to who you believe, a 1981 Pacer does not
exist. Some will say that they are 1980 models left over (this is what I
believed happened) some will say that no, there were no 1981 Pacers built
and others will just say that it couldn't or shouldn't have happened, if it
did at all. Well, I say AMC always did some strange crap, and this little
coupe, which is two tone and has a vinyl roof, complete with sunroof, wears
a 'limited' badge on either fender, and is very heavily optioned, well, I
believe this one is one of the stranger cars I have seen. I have repeatedly
given her my business card thru the years, although I have not seen her, nor
the car, in about one year now. I may add that the car has a long VIN, and I
was told that too was not possible. I guess it was as she owns and drives
it, so somehow it got titled, or VIN'ed, with a long 81 VIN, although I have
never, ever, seen any literature, brochures, absolutely nothing to prove
this car from AMC. Still, it exists. If I see it again, I will not only get
all the data tags and complete VIN, but take some detailed photos of it."
- Operational AMC dealership still in existence? Seems so. Said Jerry
Casper on 4/8/2003:
Sunday morning, Tim and I drove up to visit an ORIGINAL and supposedly STILL OPERATIONAL AMC
dealership in Pikeville, NC. We finally found the old AMC dealership on Rt. 117, about
one hour east of Raleigh, NC.
It has probably over 100 cars, and over half are AMCs, from Pacers (in the front "row"), to
Marlins to Gremlins to Matador coupes and sedans, and Javelins, too. ALL over the place.
MANY Matadors and Ambassadors. Apparently the old man there has sold a "few" cars... I think
I remember hearing he wants a lot of bucks for them, though, since they're low mileage! And
he won't sell parts, only whole cars.
He does have many cool ones - Red/White/Blue Javelin, '70 Ram Air Javelin, 390 '69 Javelin,
Pacer X coupe, etc. Only open Monday thru Friday, according to a local guy we flagged down to
ask questions. Just wild seeing all those AMC cars in an overgrown, weedy lot, but sad too --
they're just going to waste.
We may have to go back during the week, when this guy apparently has it open. It was a THRILL to
see an actual former AMC dealership, even if the cars are degrading and decaying. Still
an awesome sight! :) Not quite as good as the visit to Kenosha, but still an AMC "Mecca" in a small
fashion. I'm bushed, but still happy, as it was a great stress-reliever to see so many old cars, and
old AMCs as well.
- Pacer Carjacking? "1996 -- In January in Fremont, Calif., a carjacker
described as 5-foot-8, about 170 pounds, yanked Cecilia Laus, 54, out of her car and
drove off, leaving the woman shaken and also bewildered, since the car was a 1976 AMC
Pacer." Of course, we Pacer enthusiasts know better than to be bewildered at such a
story! (From News of the Weird -- visit
the site and search for "AMC Pacer" to find the original story.)
- Win a Pacer!
- "Burger King had a big promotion with some type of scratch and win card with
the first prize being...A NEW PACER!!!!" (From Jonboy5.)
Burger King featured the Pacer again two decades later as a kid's meal toy when
A Goofy Movie was released in 1995.
- Dial's "Bars and Cars" Sweepstakes
gave away a pair of Pacers as its first prize.
- Another Pacer giveaway was held at hardware stores.
- In 2003, Hagerty Insurance gave away a Pacer in their "Nerd Car Sweepstakes".
- Pacer Pizza Delivery: "In the 70s Pizza Hut used Pacers as delivery cars. They would get red ones and
stick what looked like a giant severed lizards foot on the roof so the car looked like a tomato." -David
- Inspiration: Porsche 928 designer Tony Lapine has stated that the Pacer inspired his use of a bubble-shaped
tail end in his design. Visit this web site for more information.
- Atrocity? Pacer fans would beg to differ, but Eric Peters included the Pacer in his 2004 book,
even choosing it to grace the book cover.
Reports Charlie Gravelle: "The book takes cars like the Yugo and the Cadillac Cimarron and describe them and what
made them so horrible. The AMC Pacer, Gremlin, Ambassador, and the Spirit X all made it in. The Pacer is described
as the car of the 70's and states that (paraphrasing), 'There are a few things that make the 70s. One is listening
to a good Bee-Gees 8-track. The other is a good *something* hairstyle. And the other is a good yellow Pacer with
the wood siding. And driving a Pacer, while listening to a Bee-gees 8-track with a *something* hairstyle only
amplify your position as the manager of McDonalds.' Luckily, though it doesn't make the Pacer look good, at least
it didn't dump on it the way it did the Yugo! And it is great to see the Pacer is still churning stomachs years
after it's production ended."
- A reference in 14,000 Things to be Happy About: Check it out
for yourself... in The Happy Book by Barbara Ann Kipfer (Workman
Publishing, New York, 1990), page 425.
- Smash a Pacer?!? On 21 April 2001, during first round of the NBA first round playoffs
between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indianapolis Pacers, at a pre-game block party in Philly,
fans were given the opportunity to smash a Pacer. Egads! (Contributed by Anthony Verna.
Editor's Note: A similar ritual is/was held by one of the fraternity's at my -- and Anthony's! -- alma mater,
Case Western Reserve University. They removed all the glass before
the smashing began. One can only hope the same practice was followed prior to this Pacer smashing.)