Amc pacer

The hard shoulder: the electric amc pacer


Now old enough to be a «classic car», the Pacer has come to be regarded in some quarters as a 1970s design icon. According to Business Week, the 1970s were «infamous for disco, Watergate and some of the ugliest cars ever.»

Nevertheless, in spite of their bad reputations, cars of the 1970s era such as the Pacer are becoming collectors’ items. Business Week reported that the rising values of so-called «nerd cars» — ugly 1970s-era cars — prompted the CEO of a major collector-car insurance company to buy a Pacer which has «inexplicably appreciated substantially beyond the US$2,300 that he paid for it in 2004.» In 2002 he said: «In what can sometimes be a sea of automotive sameness, the AMC Pacer continues to turn heads even today», and he put the value of a «mint Pacer» at «between US$4000 and US$6000», saying that «the increased value is fueled solely by the heart. This trend is all about a fascination with ’70s things almost because they were so bad.» (Author’s emphasis.)

The Pacer has been described as one of the formerly unloved cars from the 1970s that are enjoying a resurgence in both collectibility and auto restoration — especially among fans of cars from that era. The Pacer is one of several 1970s cars that were always thought of as cheap vehicles; therefore they were poorly maintained, which reduced their life expectancy. Also the heavy engines used in the car put more load on the front suspension than intended, which caused the rack & pinion steering to fail frequently on Pacers built in 1975.

One collector-car expert says you will pay just about the same, around US$20,000, for a complete restoration, whether it’s on a US$1,000 1978 AMC Pacer or a US$5,000 1969 Chevrolet Camaro. When restored, the value of the Pacer may be about US$4,000, compared with the Camaro’s US$25,000.

Today the Pacer’s originality, as well as its deficiencies, are appreciated, if not loved, by car hobbyists and serious collectors alike.

Although «automotive oddity» is a recognition that the Pacer gets for its contribution to history, some owners appreciate them and have also upgraded them with the modern AMC 4.0 Jeep engine as a «low-buck, dare to be different» automobile.


As planned, the Pacer was intended to have at least one headline-worthy technical feature: The car was planned not around a conventional reciprocating engine, but rather a Wankel rotary engine.

The rotary engine was a cause célèbre in the late sixties and early seventies, when it briefly seemed like it would eventually replace the Otto-cycle (four-stroke, spark-fired) engine. Named for Dr. Felix Wankel, who had been developing the concept since the 1920s, the rotary engine uses roughly triangular-shaped pistons spinning in a fixed housing. The rotation of the piston completes the same cycle (intake, compression, ignition, and exhaust) as an Otto-cycle engine. A Wankel engine is lighter and more compact than a piston engine of the same output with fewer parts and smoother operation.

Unfortunately, the surface area and shape of the Wankel’s combustion chambers are inherently thermally inefficient, making a rotary engine thirstier than a comparable piston engine. Worse, although the rotary engine produces fewer oxides of nitrogen than a reciprocating engine, its hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions are higher. Moreover, the rotor seals take a real pounding in high-mileage operation and finding sealing materials both durable enough and cheap enough for passenger-car use was a problem. All of these factors eventually limited the rotary’s real-world automotive application, although that wasn’t yet obvious in the early seventies.

AMC did not really have the money to develop a rotary engine of its own, but as most of Detroit was well aware, in November 1970, General Motors president Ed Cole had negotiated a five-year license of Wankel GmbH’s rotary engine patents for the harrowing sum of $50 million. GM then set to work developing its own rotary, known as the General Motors Rotary Combustion Engine or GMRCE. A two-rotor version of that engine, the RC2-206, with a nominal displacement of 206 cu. in. (3,380 cc, although actual geometric displacement was precisely half that), was to be produced by the Hydra-Matic Division for use in the 1975 H-body cars (the Chevrolet Monza and its Buick, Oldsmobile, and Pontiac siblings).

Early on, American Motors negotiated an agreement with GM to purchase the RC2-206, when it was ready, for use in AMC’s own cars. The GM rotary promised to be a lightweight, compact engine with power comparable to AMC’s smaller V8 and the ability to pass future emissions standards, all of which sounded great for the Urban Concept. AMC also spent about $1.5 million licensing the rights to eventually manufacture its own rotary engines and began discussions with fellow licensees Curtiss-Wright and Toyo Kogyo (Mazda) about the finer points of rotary engine design, an area in which GM was less than forthcoming.

In retrospect, GM would have been wiser to share information with other licensees, some of whom had already found solutions to the many problems that beset the GMRCE program. As it was, the GM rotary engine’s development was alternately fast-tracked and delayed, leaving AMC increasingly uneasy about when — or if — it would be available. Recognizing that there was a good chance the RC2-206 wouldn’t be ready in time for the Pacer’s launch, AMC went shopping for rotary alternatives, talking with Audi-NSU, Toyo Kogyo, and Comotor (a joint venture founded in 1967 by NSU and Citroën). AMC engineers built a few test mules with various non-GM rotary engines, but AMC was unable to find one that was both suitable and affordable.

The AMC Pacer D/L and Limited models had relatively lavish interiors with plush vinyl or cloth/vinyl bucket seats. The center console was optional. There was also a Levi’s designer package with blue denim, brass rivets, and Levi’s trademark red stitching. (author photo)

By the fall of 1974, the troubled GMRCE program had been postponed indefinitely (meaning it was effectively dead, except perhaps as a research project) and it was clear the Pacer would have to launch with a conventional piston engine, although Gerry Meyers still hoped — in vain, as things turned out — that it would be possible to add a rotary engine later.

In the meantime, AMC had to substitute its well-tried inline six, which dated back to mid-1964. Despite Meyers’ insistence that the Pacer had always had provision for AMC’s existing engines, the six was not an easy fit. Not only did it weigh at least 70 lb (32 kg) more than the stillborn RC2-206, the six was significantly taller and significantly longer than the rotary. The firewall had to be modified to make room and the two rear cylinders were buried so far back that the engine looked at a glance like an inline four.

Electric Pacers[]

AMC Pacers were converted to plug-in electric vehicles.

Electric Vehicle Associates (EVA) was best known for its Change of Pace models a built- to-order adaptation of the Pacer that was priced at US$12,360 in 1978. The company converted well over 100 units. First available in the sedan version, power came from eighteen 6-volt lead–acid batteries to a 15 kW series DC motor with a three-speed automatic transmission. The EVA Change of Pace sedan weighed 3,990 lb (1,810 kg) and reached 55 miles per hour (89 km/h) with a 53-mile (85 km) range.

Later, a wagon version had twenty batteries housed in two-packs (front and rear), with a 26 kW (at 3,000 rpm) motor, and the car was complete in every detail down to a gas heater. The electric Pacer wagon was one of the more expensive cars at US$14,000. The Lead Industry Association (LIA) sponsored a tour for government and industry officials that featured an EVA Pacer wagon. Consolidated Edison in New York City purchased 40 modified AMC Pacers from EVA. The United States Army also included EVA Pacers in its inventory of special purpose electric vehicles.

Still, What’s So Special About The AMC Pacer?


Let’s start from the beginning. The automobile was an absolute success, with 145,000 units sold in its first year. Almost 120,000 Pacers were sold in the second year, but flaws were starting to surface. During the third year, Pacer sales fell to roughly 20,000 and then under 8,000 in the fourth year. As we mentioned before, to compensate for the lack of performance, the automobile received a bigger, even more, inefficient straight-six and also a V8, but in 1979, as a consequence of the Iranian revolution, the Pacer was effectively facing a losing battle. Sales continued through early 1980 after production halted in December 1979. AMC fought on for another eight years under various management partnerships with Renault until being acquired by Lee Iaccoca’s Chrysler.

Nonetheless, there is a lot to commend about the vehicle. In the 1990s, the Pacer was resurrected when it appeared in Mike Myer’s Wayne’s World as Wayne and Garth’s light blue «Mirthmobile,» featuring in the iconic «Bohemian Rhapsody» scene. A Pacer was also employed by Eminem in the video for «The Real Slim Shady» in order to make donuts in a parking lot. «Driver, San Francisco,» a 2011 video game, likewise pays tribute to the Pacer.

Show Cars

Pacer Stinger – for the 1976 auto show circuit, the AMC Pacer developed a different type of car that is caused the Pacer Stinger, featuring a matte black painted blower body panel, over the roof matte black stripes, oversize radial tires, aluminum racing road wheels, a side mounted exhaust, NACA duct on the hood, and a front spoiler and wheel well fender extensions. 

AM Van – the 1977 AM Van was a specific type of AMC Pacer that was based on an existing platform, but had proposed features of four wheel drive, turbo decal on the double side opening rear doors, and was used primarily as a concept car during the auto show circuit tour.

Crown Pacer – American Motors evaluated the AMC Pacer as the personal luxury model with the Crown Pacer concept first designed in 1978, finished with an all white interior, large inbuilt sunroof, real wire wheels, full rocker bright trim, and bumper covers with black rubber guards.

Экспортные рынки

В дополнении к рынку в Северной Америке, то Pacer было экспортировано в Мексику , через местный производитель Vehiculos Automotores Mexicanos  (ES) (VAM), а также в некоторых странах Европы .


Обладая шаблоном, более подходящим для европейского рынка, Pacer мог претендовать на достойную карьеру на старом континенте. Однако из-за очень слаборазвитой дистрибьюторской сети и вялых и жадных двигателей продажи в большинстве европейских стран будут анекдотичными . Импортированные в Европу модели имели более высокую комплектацию.

Соединенное Королевство

Доступные исключительно с левым рулем, импортные модели должны были претерпеть значительные изменения, чтобы стать пригодными . В результате асимметрия боковых дверей потеряла всю свою полезность, и длинная дверь со стороны водителя оставила других пассажиров использовать узкую дверь. Британская газета The Independent отметила, что водительская дверь была такой длинной, что было практически невозможно выбраться с типично ограниченных английских парковочных мест.


Продан в Франции через импортер Jean Charles Автомобили , расположенные в XVI — м округе Парижа , то Pacer будет испытывать умеренный успех

Его шикарный образ привлечет внимание некоторых звезд, таких как Брижит Бардо и Мишель Друкер , что обеспечит Pacer значительную, но эфемерную известность.. Известность Pacer во Франции также увеличится благодаря фильму L’Aile ou la Cuisse , выпущенному в 1976 году, в котором Колюш водит Pacer X Sedan.

Известность Pacer во Франции также увеличится благодаря фильму L’Aile ou la Cuisse , выпущенному в 1976 году, в котором Колюш водит Pacer X Sedan.

Мы также можем привести фильмы Мир Уэйна и Мир Уэйна 2 выпущен в 1992 и 1993 годах , в которых герои фильмов путешествуют в Pacer: в Garthmobile.

Всего до 1980 года во Франции будет продано около 3000 экземпляров Pacer .


Pacer был произведен в Мексике по местному автопроизводителю Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos  (о) (VAM) с 1976 по 1979 году.

Единственный двигатель был использован , основан на 6-цилиндровый в линию происхождения AMC , модифицированный и построенный VAM. Это дает смещение от 4,600  см 3 и развивает максимальную мощность 174  л.с. . Будет продаваться только версия Sedan.

В 1979 году будет выпущено роскошное специальное издание Limited edition X в количестве 250 экземпляров, включая множество опций, таких как кондиционер , люк на крыше или .


Yet there was a special role for the Pacer when the fuel scarcity gripped the United States. To respond to the crisis, the EVA (Electric Vehicle Associates) project was started in the early 1970s. This focused on converting existing cars into electrically powered variants. This was subsidized and urged by the government to get as many business drivers as possible electric from A to B and thus reduce the fuel consumption of the country.

EVA caught its eye on the Pacer for these conversions in the second half of the decade. The Pacer was very suitable for this, because there was relatively much space in a rather small package. Enough space to house all the components for the electric drivetrain, while still keeping a relatively low weight. In addition, the Pacer was also fairly streamlined and that would of course benefit the power consumption. The fact that the car was low, but very wide, also helped significantly, because despite the higher weight with the electric drivetrain, the handling remained quite acceptable. Initially, EVA purchased Pacers that included removing the engine and fuel tank, and installing the electric drive. Later AMC could also buy Pacers without those ‘unnecessary’ things on board.

International markets[]


American Motors exported the Pacer to several European nations. The AMC distributor in Paris France, Jean-Charles, compared the rounded body of the new Pacer to another attractive rear-end shape in its magazine advertisements. Cars exported to Europe were available in higher trim levels. According to some reports, the Pacer sold well in Europe and even Brigitte Bardot is said to have promoted the car in Paris.

The level of current European interest in Pacers is indicated by the number of European nations listed in the AMC Pacer Registry, the members’ cars in the Swedish AMC/Rambler Society, a German Pacer enthusiast Internet site, and the fact that a former AMC dealer in Germany stocked an inventory of original parts as recently as the early 2000s. A private museum in the Netherlands exhibits a Pacer wagon.

United Kingdom

Unlike AMC’s other models, the Pacer was only available with left-hand drive. The British importer for the Pacer converted the car from left-hand to right-hand drive by leaving the majority of the steering gear on the left-hand side of the car, and running a chain-drive behind the dashboard from the steering wheel (now on the right-hand side) to the top of the steering column. However, the car retained its unequal-length doors, designed for LHD markets, meaning that in the UK the longer door was on the driver’s side, leaving the passengers to use the smaller door, which «in the typically confined British parking spot was virtually impossible». The Pacer was wider than a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and slightly longer than the then-current Ford Cortina. Because of its large size by European standards the notion of the Pacer as a ‘compact’ car simply didn’t work in the UK and Europe, and neither did the idea of such a car having (as its smallest engine option) a 3.8-litre straight-6 (at the time the usual family saloon car in the UK had an engine capacity of around 1.5 litres, with European-class compacts commonly having engines of 1 litre or less).

The British motoring press adversely reviewed the car and AMC soon stopped importing it.


The Pacer was produced in Mexico by Vehículos Automotores Mexicanos (VAM) starting in 1976. The cars came with different engines, interiors, and other components because vehicles made in Mexico had to have at least 50% locally sourced parts. The engine was an AMC design, but modified and built by VAM. A unique to Mexico 282 cu in (4.6 L) I6 engine was standard. It was designed to cope with low octane fuel and high altitudes. This engine featured dished pistons with a 3.909-inch (99.3 mm) bore and 3.894-inch (98.9 mm) stroke, as well as a unique head and exhaust porting design. The V8 engine was not available in Mexico.

All Pacers built by VAM came with the following standard equipment: power disk brakes, power steering, handling package, slot wheels with ER78x14 radial tires, reclining front seats, and a radio. Only the coupe model was available. The Mexican Pacers also had different interior trim and seats that featured high-design upholstery that was not available in the U.S. models. For 1979, a total of 250 luxury and performance «Limited edition X» models were built using a modified 282 six-cylinder with an automatic transmission, air conditioning, sunroof, as well as other options.

Model Designations

The specific models and variants of the AMC Pacer depend on the year of production, with the AMC Pacer First starting out as an economy car, and eventually turning into a small luxury car in later model years. 

X Package – Available as the AMC Pacer X from 1975-1978, the version was renamed the Sport in 1978 and then only lasted one year after that. Consisting of vinyl bucket seats, the sports steering wheel, and custom trim, the car contained exterior chrome features and styled road wheels. 

D/L Package – a more upscale edition than the original AMC Pacer, the D/L was available for the entirety and every single generation of the AMC Pacer and became the base model in 1978. The package included woodgrain instrument panels, optional interior features, and exterior chrome accents. 

Limited Package –  Available in just two years from 1979-1980, the Limited featured leather seats, sound proofing, and deep carpet, available with other amenities including an AM radio, power door locks, power windows, and a tilt steering wheel for the AMC Pacer. 

Sundowner – Available through AMC dealers for the 1975 model year only, this type of AMC Pacer was nearly $3,600 and included coordinated trim on the door panels, remote control exterior mirrors, rear window washers and wipers, and a roof rack.

Levi’s Package – Introduced during the 1977 model year, this type of AMC Pacer capitalized on the Hornet, and featured a Levis’ logo sticker to each front fender, denim upholstery, and door panel trim, but did, unfortunately, it do well on the market and was only produced for one year. 

Carl Green Enterprises – These types of AMC Pacers were created by Carl Green, featured AMC V8 engines, and appeared in various magazines and were used as pace cars during the International Motorsports Association circuit. These AMC Pacers used optional vinyl roof trim, two tone treatment, and a center chrome hood strip. 

AMC Pacer Reviews

According to the critics, there have been varying accounts of the reliability, performance, and user views of the AMC Pacer over the years. Back in 1975 in an issue of Car and Driver, the author noted that the AMC Pacer was the “first real urban transporter” and had “high priority on comfortable and effective travel.”

In the same year, Road and Track road tested the AMC Pacer, with the magazine not sign the outward appearance was “bold, clean and unique”, but the engine and transmission of the performance were lackluster and unsafe, causing “the AMC Pacer to screech, skid, and demand expert attention at the wheel.”

In Popular Mechanics, the author wrote that the ride was smoother than most short-wheelbase cars, the rack and pinion steering gave a more precise steering feel, the cornering was predictable and safe, the turning radius allowed for ease while parking in tight corners, and the steering wheel was big and easy to use. In addition, he noted the “very modern styling, ample power, and generous interior” of the AMC Pacer. 

Consumer Reports described the Pacer as doing as well in terms of performance as competitors like the Dodge Dart, Plymouth Valiant, and Chevrolet Nova, with the AMC Pacer scoring better than “domestic subcompacts like the Ford Pinto, the Chevrolet Vega, and AMC’s own Gremlin.”

Electric AMC Pacers

Some types of AMC Pacers were converted to plug in electric vehicles, vehicles that could be recharged from an external source of electricity, like sockets, and stored in rechargeable battery packs that contribute to the wheels. The Electric Vehicle Associates created the Change of Pace model – an adaptation of the AMC Pacer that was priced originally at $12,360 and produced nearly 100 units. 

First available in the sedan version, power originally was produced through the eighteen 6-volt lead acid batteries to the DC motor with the three speed automatic transmission. The Change of Pace sedan weighed nearly 4,000 pounds and reached nearly 60 miles per hour with a 53-mile range in the AMC Pacer. 

Later on in the production of the AMC Pacer electric version, the wagon version had twenty VARTA batteries that were housed in two packs with a 26 kW motor. The electric Pacer of the AMC Pacer was one of the most expensive cars coming in at around $14,000.


American Motors still has a lot of fans, as does the AMC Pacer. Charlie and Debbie, the owners of the blue car in the photos, are two such enthusiasts. Charlie has owned the Pastel Blue Gremlin pictured in our earlier Gremlin article since it was new. He told us, “This Gremlin was my first new car, purchased it at the age of 21 in 1975. I had gone to the local dealer to buy a Javelin, but was told that 74 was the last year they were made … On my way out, I saw this Gremlin on the show room floor and it was an immediate ‘had to have.’”

A few years ago, while scouring eBay for Gremlin parts, he discovered the Pastel Blue Pacer for sale. Debbie had wanted a Pacer for years, he said, and the fact that it was the same color as his Gremlin (and the same color as the Pacer in the movie Wayne’s World) was perfect. “The guy selling it lived less than two hours away from me,” he said. “He had bought it to restore, but was injured at work and was placed on disability. I got the sense the wife made him sell it. I figured if we were ever going to buy a Pacer, that would be the one! Well, we won the bid and my wife got her Pacer for Christmas. (I loved watching the expression on people’s faces when my wife told them what she got for Christmas.)”

Not a lot of Pacers survive intact, and unlike more popular cars like the Ford Mustang, no reproduction parts are available (although mechanical parts for its engine and driveline are easier to come by). The AMC Pacer has flirted with collectible status for years, but it remains decidedly a special-interest car, a symbol of a future that — perhaps fortunately — passed us by.


American Motors Corporation – Who Made the AMC Pacer

American Motors Corporation was an American manufacturing company founded by the combination of both the Nash Kelvinator Corporation and the Hudson Motor Car Company back in the mid 1950s. The Nash Kelvinator was the result of a merger between the Nash Motors and the Kelvinator Appliance Company, while the Hudson Motor Car Company made Hudson and other brands of automobiles in Detroit Michigan.

The similar competitors to the AMC were the automakers who comprised the BIg Three – Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. The main production line form AMC focused on small cars, including the Hornet, Gremlin, AMC Pacer, intermediate cars like the Ambassador and the Rebel, and larger muscle cars including the Marlin and AMX. 

The creation of American Motors began in early 1954, when Nash Kelvinator began the acquisition of the Hudson Car Company, with the merger hopefully creating a rival to the Big Three, with the 1953-1954 Ford and GM Price war having an extremely negative effect on independent and smaller automakers across the world. 

During the 1950s, the first product development and consolidation bega. The American Motors combined the Nash and Hudson product lines in 1955, with the production churning out the fast-selling Rambler model in 1955 and 1956. 

The Pacer was created many decades later, with the AMC Pacer being an innovative all-new model that was first introduced in early 1975 and marketed as the first wide small car, being a subcompact that could also provide the comfort of a full-size car. 

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