We love cars and the styling, power, and everything else that falls under that umbrella, but that doesn’t mean the hobby isn’t without a sense of humor. After all, who knew an underpowered car from Germany would end up being popular, if not collectible over time? Irony has a way of finding its way into our hobby, and perhaps no other car better exemplifies this than our Pick of the Day, a 1976 AMC Pacer. It is listed on ClassicCars.com by a dealership in Downers Grove, Illinois. (Click the link to view the listing)
My memory of the Pacer when new is not sharp because I was a kid. I remember my kindergarten teacher had one, and I knew it was built by a company called American Motors, but nothing beyond that. In later years, the Pacer was the butt of jokes, an odd-looking car from a decade that had plenty of laughable machines. Or was it because it was yet another unusual car from AMC? Yet the movie Wayne’s World brought the fishbowl-on-wheels to a new generation in the early 1990s, creating fans that never knew the car existed. Since then, it’s likely that the Pacer stopped being a disposable car and became a collectible curiosity. Though it’s been awhile since the movie, the Pacer continues to be a minor collectible among other underpowered Malaise-era vehicles like the Pinto and Vega. Perhaps the Pacer is the 1961 Plymouth of the 1970s?
Certainly the Pacer deserved a better fate. By design, the Pacer had a lot going for it, including contemporary styling, plenty of space, and visibility beyond reproach but, from an engineering POV, the Pacer lost what would have made it technically interesting as it was created to be powered by a General Motors-designed rotary engine, but GM cancelled the engine program and AMC was forced to use its straight-six, which required re-engineering the pacer’s front end. This, combined with the Pacer’s weight (it ended up being about 500 pounds heavier than intended), resulted in poor fuel mileage though, it should be pointed out, rotary engines were not known for their fuel efficiency either. A V8 eventually appeared, as did an extended wheelbase wagon. After six model years, the Pacer was put to rest after 1980.
This 1976 AMC Pacer, which was originally sold new in Nashville, looks like a quintessential Pacer due to its Sand Tan paint with matching two-tone interior. Powering it is the optional (and welcome) 258cid six paired with a column-shifted automatic transmission. With a visual walk-around, it appears this Pacer lacks any of the fancy trim packages that were available at the time — this is simply basic Pacer transportation in all its Malaise-era goodness. Note the lack of air conditioning, so hopefully you live in a place that’s not in the Sun Belt. And don’t let the lack of FM radio frequency bring you down because there are so many solutions to be had, especially in this era of smart phones.
So, here is where more irony comes in: what does it take to obtain a nice example of one of the most polarizing American cars in the past 50 years? $19,988. Chuckle all you want, but this car belongs in MOMA as much as your garage.