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AMC Pacer Statistics and Fun Facts

  • Model Years of Production: 1975-1980

  • Production Totals:

    Year Total Sedans/
    Wagons V-8s
    (either body style)
    1975 72,158 72,158 N/A N/A N/A Pacer introduced on March 1st
    1976 117,244 117,244 N/A N/A N/A  
    1977 58,264 20,265 37,999 N/A N/A Wagon introduced
    1978 21,231 7,411 13,820 2,514 N/A V-8 introduced
    1979 10,215 2,863 7,352 1,014 < 2,500 Limited package introduced
    1980 1,746 405 1,341 N/A  
    (Source: Illustrated AMC Buyer's Guide by Larry G. Mitchell, with a commonly agreed-upon correction to the 1975 totals.)

  • 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 curb side.

  • "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.

    Early model style grille Late model style grille
    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 there.

  • "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.).

    Pacer sedan/coupe Pacer wagon
    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.

    Travis' CGE Pacer Pacer pickup
  • 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."

    VAM Pacer ad from 1977 VAM Pacer ad from 1976

  • 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 here and here.

  • 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." -Eddie Stakes

  • 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

    AMC Pacer to Porsche 928 morph
  • 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.

    Automotive Atrocities book cover
  • Atrocity? Pacer fans would beg to differ, but Eric Peters included the Pacer in his 2004 book, Automotive Atrocities, 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.)

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