What the Hell Were They Thinking: AMC Pacer


Nothing like riding in a car surrounded by too much glass.

It all began in 1971 when American Motors Corporation (AMC) began initial design work on the Pacer. AMC was no stranger to daring to be different and try new things, both in design and engineering. It wasn't always successful and, for better or worse, the Pacer may just be the best example of that. When it entered production in 1975, even the sobering counterculture flower children of the previous decade thought it looked weird. Car and Driver described it as "The Flying Fishbowl."

But at the same time the Pacer was an interesting alternative to the gas guzzlers Detroit was then so good at building. AMC was attempting to look years ahead at what the car ought to become instead of what it was then. The Pacer was designed from the inside out, with all four passengers given the maximum room available for a compact car. And yet it was as wide as a full-size car. AMC knew the Pacer was going to be controversial from the get-go, but it may not have been prepared for the onslaught of mocking laughter. Just look at the thing; both hatchback and wagon body styles are simply dorky, like the thing a high school teacher still living with his mother at age 45 would drive.

Although the Pacer was meant to be an example of safety and fuel efficiency, it wasn't really either. It weighed 3,000 lbs. and passengers were surrounded by an abundance of glass they hoped wouldn't shatter all over them in a serious collision. On the plus side, AMC's French distributor compared the Pacer to the ass of a beautiful woman.

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