AMC Pacer, ugliness has not sold well

In the mid-1970s, American carmaker AMC launched the Pacer, its vision of a revolutionary compact car. The problem was that customers didn't really follow!

Founded in 1954, the American Motor Corporation (AMC) produced vehicles that enjoyed a certain success on the American market despite a certain lack of character. At the beginning of the seventies, the company wanted a new dynamic and played the marketing card with a compact model intended to compete with the Volkswagen Beetle. It had to stand out clearly from the other AMC products and from the competition. Various projects were then proposed to the brand's management, who approved the design of a two-volume vehicle with 40% of its surface made up of windows. With a length of 4.35 m, the car is short by American standards, but in order to offer a good amount of space and above all a lot of elbow room, it is 1.95 m wide, which is enormous for this type of model. Since AMC's management asked the members of its eastern styling team to be inventive and original, they had a field day. The decision to create a passenger door that is 10 cm longer than the driver's door was taken to make the rear seats more accessible.

Disappointment under the bonnet

To power this new model, AMC imagined using a Wankel rotary engine that was under development at General Motors, but the project was halted. But the project was halted and the manufacturer drew on its own bank of organs. Unfortunately, its engine blocks were of a very old and unrefined design. They are 6 cylinders in line of respectively 3,8 and 4,2 litres which develop respectively 90 and 95 hp, a null output compared to their large displacement. With 1.3 tons on the scale, the little AMC is far from being a featherweight and the performance is not there.


The AMC Pacer was finally launched in 1975. Critics immediately called the car "the fishbowl" and criticized its large glass surface, which quickly turned the cabin into a furnace at the first ray of sunlight. Nevertheless, the Pacer sold well and 145,528 units were sold. Unfortunately, the wind died down very quickly with 117,244 units in 1976 and 58,264 in 1977, despite the appearance of the Wagon, which represented more than half of the sales. The following year, the Pacer was given a facelift and a 130 hp V8 engine, which was only sold for two years. In 1980, the Pacer was finally withdrawn from the catalogue with only 1,746 units sold in its final year. It was a huge commercial failure for AMC.

Culture of singularity

For many years, the AMC Pacer was the subject of much ridicule because of its distinctive look, which made it the ultimate "loser car" in the USA. Not for nothing was it Wayne Campbell's car in the cult film "Wayne's World"! However, the Pacer had a great career at the time... in the export market! In France in particular, where the importer Jean Charles Automobiles made it the darling of stars including Coluche. For a few years now, the little (well, not so little) American car has finally become a household name on both sides of the Atlantic. As a result, prices have unfortunately risen and you can expect to pay between €12,000 and €15,000 for a beautiful example. The first 6-cylinder models with the "Indian" pattern fabrics are the most sought after, even if their finish leaves something to be desired. If you are looking for adventure, it is better to buy a car in the best possible condition: specific parts are not easy to find!

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