The AMC Pacer was produced from 1975 through 1980. The design is one of the most recognizable of all time. Its large windows and fishbowl appearance were designed by Dick Teague with the purpose of appearing futuristic. Richard A. Teague, AMC's chief stylist, had begun working on the design in 1971. He designed the vehicle with the purpose of satisfying future safety regulations, fuel economy concerns, and small-car desires. The original Pacer design called for a roof bump that fell between the front and rear which would act as a roll bar. This never made it into production. Another design that never made it into production was the use of a Wankel rotary engine. Part of the demise of this feature was the rising fuel crisis and concerns about emission legislation in the United States. The Wankel engine did not comply with emission levels so in 1974 GM canceled its development.
The vehicle rested on a 100-inch wheelbase and had a length of 171.8 inches. The large window was designed to break into small round beads in case of an accident. The glass was also designed to help retain passengers inside the vehicle even upon an accident or roll-over. The extensive use of glass made the car rather heavy, which ultimately hurt its fuel economy. In the city, the Pacer average 16 mpg and 26 MPG on the highway.
The Pacer design was very aerodynamic, achieving a drag coefficient of .32.
The design of the AMC Pacer had been intended for the lightweight and compact Wankel engine. When the idea was abandoned, it left AMC struggling to find an alternative. The design was reconfigured to house the AMC inline six-cylinder engine.
During the first year of the AMC Pacer's introduction, there were 145,528 examples produced. Part of its success was its compact design and little competition from other manufacturers. Sales throughout the next few years fell sharply and by 1980, AMC was no longer producing the vehicle. In an effort to stimulate sales and to improve performance, AMC outfitted the Pacer with a High Output 258 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine in 1976. This did, however, decrease the fuel economy. In 1978 a 304 cubic-inch V8 could be added to the Pacer.
In total, 280,000 examples of the AMC Pacer were built. The design is still considered controversial. Its wide body and short design was uncommon. Also, a small car being powered by large engines did little for its fuel economy or its appeal.
The foresight by Teague and AMC was correct with the evolving emission controls, US regulations, and fuel crisis. Sadly, the compact design of the Pacer was controversial; had it been met with a greater appeal, the AMC Pacer made have had stronger sales.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006