My Lime Green Pacer
Wendy Martin wrote this fantastic story about her former metallic lime green Pacer on 31 December 1999.
The Photo [above] is of my beloved metallic lime green '76 Pacer. When I got it in 1993 the car was a combo of rust and yellow that soon yielded to Bondo as a base color. It was brought to me by a friend who had no idea I had a closet Pacer fetish. The exact line was something like "I was in Kentucky doing some work for this guy, and I saw this car under a tree and the woman who owned it had died, so they sold it to me...it was really weird, so I thought of you." The friend who brought me this gorgeous diamond-in-the-rough had no idea that he'd delivered to my doorstep my childhood dreamcar.
The first dreamcar had been a metallic lime green Bug, then in '71-'72 I got fixated on Pintos... then in 1975 there came this wonderful creature that had all the delicious curves of a Bug and all the streamlined grace of a Pinto, with more chrome and glass than I had ever dreamed possible on a single vehicle. I had found my destiny. Unfortunately, I was yet not of driving age at the time. For years after I'd see a Pacer and sigh, seeing fewer each year until that particular little dream was buried under a myriad seemingly more pressing daily concerns and hassles. Then he delivered that beautiful car right to my driveway. I sold my 110% functional Mitsubishi Mirage (great car, I now have another to lessen the load on my current Pacer) to pay for the Pacer. This pretty much became my life for the next four years. At about the 12 month mark, the initial journey of restoration came to an end with the poor car having served through it all as primary transport for me - in Memphis, which is a pretty BIG city!
My vision was realized with a lot of talented help along the way. The back seat still had the original Indian blanket-type pattern set in Tan vinyl. The front had not been 100% salvageable, but became perhaps better than ever through a major work of restorative upholstering art that preserved the tan vinyl and replaced only the worn insets with the softest, most perfectly harmonizing bone-beige vinyl - the wonderful guy who did this for me even matched the piping line perfectly, which really brought it together. This guy really got into the project and went that extra mile. So did the body shop. Finding the right recipe for a vintage lime semi-opaque metallic was a challenge. I did NOT want the '92-93 Civic green that was going around at the time. That was NOT the color in my vision of the perfect car. The color I required was pretty era-specific. The paint-matcher and I dug around until we got to the mid-70's books. Got to love places that have the sense NEVER to throw such things away.
The paint was re-created. It was a 75 Chrysler color, actually. I tell you this knowing some of my fellow Pacer enthusiasts may cringe to hear of this impurity - you've got to understand, all my life I've seen great things and thought to myself, "Oh, yeah, EXACTLY like that...but different..." All the Pacer needed was that quintessentially early-mid 70's lime metallic I'd wanted all the way back to the Bug days. That was IT, and for ME to be that completely satisfied with anything was unheard of. Like I said, we were going for a vision here.
The Body shop took the job. They'd known me for a while and it was paid work - why not? Although they DID strongly and repeatedly advise me against changing the color of the vehicle. Afraid the interior would no longer "go," afraid chips would show the old, all the logical but utterly irrelevant arguments. Nope. Lime. Had to be lime. The poor folks had no idea what they'd gotten themselves into. I hovered for an afternoon, then left for Atlanta just so wouldn't drive them mad. I came back four days later to find the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in this tangible world... and the proudest bunch of artists you can imagine. Somehow, as always wound up happening with this car, they'd gotten caught up in the spirit of the thing and really wound up taking a lot of pleasure and pride in it, job-from-h*** though it was. The paint, as it turned out, was a slimy, ultra-thin semi-opaque. That's how they got so much glitter in, I guess. Those poor people had to put about 20 coats of that crazy stuff on my car! But about half way through, they started to see what they were actually creating and how magnificent it was, and that's when it became a labor of love. Artists, every one, bless them! So they could put a before-and-after on their display, I gave the body shop the only "before" photos I had.
This story gets long. I'll abbreviated the next bit.
After that my car, my friends and I had a great couple years. My mechanic and his wife became my best friends (yes, literally), and I one towing crew and I got on a first name basis. Flatbed only - I wasn't letting anybody DRAG my car anywhere, no matter how badly it was behaving!
I'd always wanted that car, but I'd never thought anyone else would notice it. Since about 1992, anything goes for car color and body. I'd thought I'd just be one more colorful spec for the traffic 'copter. WRONG!!!!!!!!! People stopped to talk to me daily about my car/their car/cars in general/the seventies. I'd never realized every red-blooded American alive today had Pacer memories, but they DO! And my car was, indeed, a colorful spec for the traffic 'copter. It was commented upon in just that context at length on Memphis radio twice that I heard personally and I heard from friends who listened to other stations that there were a few more such stunned on-air observations. It was a kick.
There had been many offers made to buy my car on the spot. No dollar amount had interested me. Then my fiance' and I found out our work would be taking us to Iowa. He'd lived there before. He warned my it was a tough place for cars. We went up on a pilot trip. I saw the saddest things: cars of all vintages battered and rusted through. The Pacer had some problems anyway, and I was going to need a car I could drive 600 miles back down, 600 back up to see my father in Arkansas. There was a Memphis-based movie producer who'd made several attempts to buy my beautiful cal from me in the past. It was time for us to talk. With a tear in my eye, I made the call. He promised to immortalize it on film and never to change the color. He had a friend, he said, who was a talented mechanic and would serve as personal physician to my car. It had to happen. I sold it to him and moved to Iowa.
That's where I am now, Iowa, and I have another Pacer. Guess I'm just a junkie. It's burgundy and rust. It will be either metallic slate or deep metallic purple when it's done. The interior's red. Bench seat! Bonus! Spotted it behind a Jiffy Lube and raced back to find out who owned it and see if they were either fellow enthusiasts, or, better yet for a Pacer-less me, about done with it. Imagine my luck. The owner was planning to sell, just hadn't spotted his next prospect yet or gotten a for-sale sign in the car. A price was named. We set a date and I started gathering the cash. Then, suddenly, the price came down - the previously reliable car ceased running! Figures. So I got it for a song, and I have my summer's work cut out for me. Meanwhile the Pacer gets the garage through the harsh winter while the day-to-day late model vehicles sit in the driveway.
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