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Pacergram!


On 25 July 1997, Glen Hoag drove my beloved Pacer out of my life. However, he has not only invited me to visit it in its new home in Alabama, alongside another white 1975 AMC Pacer (Glen's Pacer #1), but he has promised to provide me with Pacer Progress Reports (or "Pacergrams").

Pacergram #1: 29 July 1997

Turn indicator bulbs, gear indicator

It's doing well so far. I've driven it to work this week... I had the dash apart last night to replace the turn indicator bulbs and to figure out why the gear indicator doesn't work. There's a little cord that attaches to the indicator, goes around a plastic guide, and attaches to a hook that sticks out of the steering column. The cord broke, from rubbing against the guide. As soon as I find a part number for it, I'll check with the Chrysler dealer. If it's no longer available, I think I can make one up...

Pacergram #2: 1 August 1997

Gear indicator (cont'd), searching for parts

Not much to report since I last wrote. I fixed the gear select indicator. I posted a request for the part number to the list. George Paine wrote back to say that the cable wasn't sold as a separate part, but that a six inch steel fishing leader could be adapted to fit. So, I went down to WalMart at lunch time and picked up a pack of them for a little over $2. It didn't take much work to make it fit. It works like a charm now.

I just got a note from Jerry Casper in Virginia, who has been taking time during his own junkyard searches to look for Pacer Parts for me. He's sending a shift knob, as well as some parts for Pacer #1. He has also located an "Adjust-O-Tilt" steering column in blue and cruise control for a Pacer. I've asked him to get a price, as these would work nicely.

Pacergram #3: 19 August 1997

New shift knob, carburetor rebuild, rear hatch gas cylinders

I just received a shift knob yesterday. I'll probably rebuild the carburetor on Pacer #1 this weekend. I also ordered new gas cylinders for the liftgate a while back; now that the UPS strike is over, they may show up. :-) I'll use the old ones on Pacer #1, which I now hold open with a stick that came with the car.

I've decided to hold off on the cruise control and tilt column for now; Leon's in VA wants too much for them. I'll look around for others.

Pacergram #4: 28 September 1997

Front brake pads and rotors, trekking across the country using the trailer hitch, fuel filter and pump, other fun

Wow... a lot has happened since I last wrote. I got a report from the place I had been storing a lot of stuff since I moved from Oregon to Alabama that my unit had been broken into. So, I decided that this was as good a time as any to go retrieve my stuff.

Since Pacer #2 has a trailer hitch, I decided to take it. I also decided that it would be a good idea to replace the pads and rotors on the front brakes, as the rotors looked a bit pitted, and rust was flaking off in big chunks from the webbing between the rotor faces. I have done brake work before, so I felt quite comfortable doing the work myself. The new rotors came in Thursday, and I was leaving on Friday night. So, I started working on them when I got home from work on Thursday night. The right side went quite smoothly, but when I got to the left, I found that the nut that attaches the rotor to the spindle had been cross-threaded and the spindle was damaged. This happened late Thursday night, and the only place to find a spindle is a junkyard.

Luckily, I knew of a '76 Hornet with disk brakes in one of the local yards, so I called in to work to let them know I'd be late, and drove over to the junkyard to pull the spindle. Well, I got to their meager AMC section and found that they had moved the car. I couldn't find it, so I was starting to despair that I'd get the car fixed. Just as I was about to look under a Concord, to see if it had the same type of brakes, I looked across the yard and saw the green Hornet halfway back up the hill, in the GM section. I went over, found the parts I needed and took them home to finish repairing the Pacer. Everything went smoothly from that point, but I lost most of a day of work. Such is life.

After work, I picked up a trailer from the local U-Haul store, as it was going to be much cheaper to rent a "local" trailer, where you pick up and drop off at the same location, than to pick one up in Portland and drive it home to Alabama. After supper, I was off. The first night, I got to Kentucky. The remaining days are pretty much a blur, as I spent most of my time driving or sleeping. I finally arrived in Portland on Tuesday morning, loaded my stuff, and started the trip back.

The car and trailer were pretty heavy loaded, but at least the trailer didn't bounce around as much as it did when empty. The only tough segment of the trip was going east out of Pendleton, OR, where the road is very steep. I just dropped it into second gear and went up the hill at about 30 MPH. I was passed by quite a few cars, but some of the big rigs going up the mountain were going at about the same speed I was. Tuesday night, I stayed in Boise with some friends I have known from online for many years. They once owned a Gremlin.

Wednesday was pretty uneventful; I stopped in Rawlins, WY for the night. On Thursday, I decided to avoid another steep grade between Laramie and Cheyenne, WY, and took a secondary road to Ft. Collins, CO. This is also shorter than the Interstate route, since I was going to take I-70 back through Colorado and Kansas. I was a few miles short of Limon, CO when the engine seemed to stop making much power. I pulled off the road to check the connections on the ignition system, but this didn't help. I figured I had a problem with fuel delivery; either a clogged filter, or a bad fuel pump. So, I drove slowly into Limon, had lunch, then found the town's auto parts store. Fortunately, they had both a filter and a pump, so I bought both. I figured that even if the pump wasn't bad, it was old enough that I should replace it anyway. I put the parts on in their parking lot and continued on without any further probems. I made it to Wichita, KS that night.

Friday's goal was Arlington, TX, near Ft. Worth, to visit Dan Gibson, another AMC-List member. We went out to a couple junkyards Saturday morning, saw a bunch of AMC cars, and found some Pacer Parts. Saturday afternoon, I continued on, but had a problem with the trailer that evening; one of the leaf springs had broken. I called U-Haul; they sent a mechanic out with a replacement spring. He installed it and changed the tire, as it had been rubbing against the fender, then sent me on my way.

On Sunday, I continued on. Then I did something really dumb. I stopped to get some soda and chips, and when I got back to the car, I noticed that there was some anti-freeze on the ground right below the water pump. I decided to check the coolant level in the radiator. When I opened the cap, hot coolant sprayed all over and burned my upper arm. I was lucky that it didn't hit my face, but I got second-degree burns on my left arm. I alleviated some of the pain with an ice pack from the gas station, but I wound up going to the emergency room in Texarkana, TX to have it treated. As I write this three weeks later, the burn is almost completely healed. Moral: never open a hot radiator.

Against the possibility of getting stuck with a broken water pump, I picked up a replacement in Texarkana, but the car behaved itself the rest of the way home, and I arrived back in Huntsville late Sunday night. I plan to install the new water pump when I get the correct paint for it, so I have been driving Pacer #1 since I got home, except Monday when I returned the trailer.

According to the odometer, the entire trip was about 5700 miles over nine days. However, the tires are one size too small, which causes the speedometer to read about 3% high, so the actual mileage was more like 5500. In some ways, it was a fun trip, but the pace was such that I couldn't think about much more than getting to my next stop.

Following up on Pacergram #3, I rebuilt the carburetor on Pacer #1. It doesn't seem to have changed much, but it looks a lot cleaner. The gas struts arrived on Friday before I left, so I installed them when I was in Portland. They hold the liftgate open quite well, and the right one doesn't fall off, as the old one did.

Addendum to Pacergram #4: 7 October 1997

Inside door handle

One thing I forgot to mention in Pacergram #4 was that the first night out, the inside door handle fell off. That seems to be a common occurrence; the passenger door handle on #1 is broken, too.

Pacergram #5: 20 November 1997

Inside door handle solution

I mentioned in my addendum to Pacergram #4 that the interior door handle had fallen off. This is apparently a common problem with Pacers, and many junkyard Pacers have already been stripped of the required part. The good news is that the part is still available from Chrysler dealers. Ask for J3679668; it cost me $8.35 in Oct 97. If the dealer can't get it, ask him to check the "parts locator".

Pacergram #6: 22 November 1998

Front shock absorbers, AMO Nationals

I replaced the front shock absorbers on #2 last night. Getting the old ones off was difficult, as they were the originals and top nuts were frozen on. I had to cut them off with a Dremel tool, but the new ones went on quite easily. The difference in ride quality was astounding. I'll do the rears over the long weekend. Jerry Casper found a remote adjust sport mirror with an intact adjuster knob for me, but hasn't sent it yet.

I'm going up to the AMO Nationals/Kenosha Transportation Homecoming at the end of July. It should be fun. It looks as though I'll be caravanning with Frank Swygert, who publishes American Independent Magazine. Tim Hansen lives not too far from Kenosha and has been buying Pacers to part out. I'll be hauling a pair of 1979 doors home for #1, along with miscellaneous other parts.

Pacergram #7: 17 July 1998

Automatic transmission fluid leak

Remember that stuff that was leaking on the garage floor? It turns out that it was automatic transmission fluid (ATF) and I have finally found the source of the leak. The transmission fluid is cooled by passing it through the "lower" tank of the radiator. In this case, because the radiator is a horizontal design, this is the tank on the driver's side. To get the fluid from the transmission, which is behind the engine, to the radiator, which is in front, there are two steel tubes that carry the fluid back and forth. The tubes are supposed to run above the crossmember, near the side of the engine. The engine mounting cushions, which have rubber inserts, have worn out, allowing one of the tubes to rub against the crossmember. This constant rubbing has worn a hole in the tube.

Tonight, I'll replace the worn section of the tube by splicing in a new piece. That should resolve the ATF leak. Eventually, I'll also replace the engine mounts, but originals are expensive. Someone on the list has come up with a less expensive alternative and I might try that.

On Wednesday, I leave for the big AMC show in Kenosha, WI.

Pacergram #8: 2 August 1999

Fuel efficiency increase, new floorboard, differential gasket

Have you seen the pictures that George Paine posted of the Pacers at the AMO nationals in St. Louis? We shot a bunch more that he hasn't posted. I have some in my camera, too, if they come out. (Keeping fingers crossed.) Pacer #2 was wearing new "shoes".

The Pacer is running pretty well these days. I'm getting around 19 mpg now, with an average since I got the car of over 17 mpg. (Exact numbers are at home.) I put in a new floorboard on the driver's side before I left for St. Louis; that helps a lot. It's not perfect yet, but it's a lot more sturdy than what was there, which wasn't much.

The night before the trip, I pulled the differential (rear end) cover off and found that the last person to have it open didn't use a gasket, just silicone sealer, and overtorqued the bolts. I cleaned everything up, put on a fresh gasket, and torqued the bolts down to specification. I noted excessive backlash in the ring and pinion gears, so I'm going to have to overhaul the rear end sooner or later.


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