1975 AMC Pacer Tested: An Oddball that Was Once a Fresh-Faced Novelty (2023)

From the Archive: A small car for people who don't think they like small cars.

By William Jeanes
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From the June 1975 issue of Car and Driver.

There is an excitement-generating quality about American Motors' new Pacer that calls to mind the days when we spent most of the fall frothing at Detroit's new cars as they appeared one by one in our hometown showrooms. The Pacer is lovable, and you feel an instinctive urge to take it home­—like a rubber ducky, to put in your bathtub to play with. Detroit has finally issued a car to which people are reacting.

The Pacer was supposedly designed from the inside out, the theory being that claustrophobic Americans who have thus far resisted small cars with small interiors will go along with a car that is essentially an intermediate with the ends lopped off. If early indications are to be relied upon, the theory is sound. The car seems destined to sell well, if for no other reason than that the buying public seems ready for a new approach to motoring. This the Pacer is. Regarded as a be­ginning step in the proper direction, the Pacer is as encourag­ing an offering as Detroit has produced in some time.

For once, an automobile advertising campaign is telling the unvarnished truth: A large man is completely comfortable in the driver's seat or as a front-seat passenger. There is ample legroom, and were it not for the fact that your left knee comes to rest against the window crank, matters would leave little to be desired. The steering wheel is well placed and provides the driver with the proper amount of elbow crook; every con­trol is not only within reach but also visible and readable.

The same big man can survive in a condition approaching comfort in the rear seat, too. Average-size people will find the rear seat at least as comfortable and roomy as those to be found in the new "precision-size" cars. Compared to the rear compartment of such cars as the Chevy Monza and Ford Mustang II, the Pacer appears to have the proportions of a ballroom. Headroom is the only dimension lacking, but in light of its other benefits, the rear area is still a minor triumph.

Interior finish in the Pacer is attractive, if rather utilitarian, and consists largely of molded plastic panels. The dashboard sits well away from the seats, lending reinforcement to the already considerable atmosphere of spaciousness. The front seats are large, well-proportioned, and sturdy; the rear seats, like all rear seats, are certainly not as comfortable but are more than serviceable—certainly an improvement over the average small-car rear seat. With a body area that's almost one-third glass, visibility is one of the car's strongest suits.

Looking at the innovative Pacer silhouette, it's easy to con­jure up visions of scooting through traffic like a family-size Honda Civic. Sadly, this is not the case. There are two en­gines available in the Pacer, both inline-sixes (232 and 258 cubic inches). If you de­mand head-snapping acceleration, nei­ther is equal to the task.

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If, however, you are content to motor along in a sane and economical fashion, all is not lost. The Pacer will handle this kind of service easily, if unspectacularly. But it is slow enough to make it all too obvious that the fun, the outright enjoy­ment, its peppy appearance promises simply is not there. Certainly not with the larger engine and the Chrysler-built three-speed automatic. With this power­train, the Pacer took 20.4 seconds to ne­gotiate the quarter-mile, attaining a speed of only 65.8 mph.

The Pacer's steering, handling, and ride are traditionally American. Rack­-and-pinion steering has been made a part of the Pacer's standard equipment, but it has been damped to the point of numbness. The car's front cross-mem­ber is damped and insulated also, both from the body and from the engine, to help lower the noise level. If ride quality concerns you, you will find the Pacer ex­cellent. While there is admitted insulation from the road, the sensation is not at all like a wallowing full-size car with mushy suspension—it is like a good, well-ordered intermediate car.

The Pacer's handling suffers a bit from its weight (3432 pounds) and its high center of gravity, which contribute to the car's pronounced understeer in low-speed cornering. The short wheel­base and wide track do, however, aid high-speed maneuvering.

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The Pacer's braking could stand im­provement, again because of the car's high gravity center and heaviness. There is an alarming amount of dive under hard braking, giving you the impression that the front bumper is about to tuck under and roll up. The Pacer required 205 feet to stop from 70 mph. By comparison, a Mazda stops in 192 feet while the Mus­tang II, another middleweight, takes 213 feet of pavement. The car appears set up for optimum braking with a full load, which ought to be reconsidered in light of prevailing motoring habits. With too much rear brake bias, the rear wheels tend to lock. More bias on the front discs would probably help.

Here's what to consider if the Pacer personality appeals to you: You'll get a car made largely from proven compo­nents; a car that you can enter or exit without braining yourself; a car that you can sit in and see out of with ease and enjoyment; a car that is pleasing to oper­ate and offers reasonable economy. Granted, you will not get eye-popping acceleration and sports-car handling, but you will get a car that is a new design representing a new approach to Ameri­can motoring. The small car for the per­son who doesn't like small cars may at last be in our midst.



1975 AMC Pacer D/L
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 4-passenger, 2-door hatchback

Base/As Tested: $3404/$5233
Options: air conditioning, $399.95; D/L package, $289; automatic transmission, $239.99;AM/FM stereo 8-track radio, $239; announcement package 2 (front sway bar, steel belted radial tires, power front disc brakes), $203.45;announcement package 1 (tinted windows, power steering), $139.00; styled road wheels, $85.05; 258-cubic inch 1-barrel engine; $69.00;rear window washer-wiper, $49.95; visibility group, $49.95;light group, $34.95;door vent window, $29.95

pushrod inline-6, iron block and head
Displacement: 258 in3, 4230 cm3
Power: 95 hp @ 3050 rpm
Torque: 179 lb-ft @ 2100 rpm

3-speed automatic

Suspension, F/R: control arm/rigid axle
Brakes, F/R: 10.8-in vented disc/9.0-in drum
Tires: Goodyear Custom polysteel radial

Wheelbase: 100.0 in
Length: 171.5 in
Width: 77.0 in
Height: 53.6 in
Curb Weight: 3432 lb

30 mph: 4.4 sec
60 mph: 16.2 sec
1/4-Mile: 20.4 sec @ 66mph
80 mph: 37.7 sec
Top Speed (observed): 84 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 205 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.80 g

13-17 mpg


William Jeanes

Contributing Editor

William Jeanes is a former editor-in-chief and publisher of Car and Driver. He and his wife, Susan, a former art director at Car and Driver, are now living in Madison, Mississippi.

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How much is an AMC Pacer worth today? ›

A: The average price of a AMC Pacer is $15,372. Q: When was the AMC Pacer produced? A: The AMC Pacer was sold for model years 1975 to 1980. Have another FAQ about the AMC Pacer?

What was the original price of a 1975 AMC Pacer? ›

"Sundowner": Available through AMC dealers in California for 1975 only, the Sundowner was a basic $3,599 (suggested retail price) Pacer with options that listed for $300 included at no extra cost.

How bad was the AMC Pacer? ›

The Pacer had asymmetric doors - the right was longer than the left, so passengers could climb into the back more easily. But the oddball design feature had unexpected consequences. When the Pacer was converted into a station wagon, items stored in the back fell out when the right door was opened.

What is the nickname of the AMC Pacer? ›

The Pacer was nearly half as wide (77 inches) as it was long (171.5 inches on a 100-inch wheelbase), and with its large wrap-around windows, it quickly became known as “the fish bowl.” On hot summer days, however, it was “the boiling lobster pot.”

What was the most expensive AMC car? ›

That car was the mid-engined AMC AMX/3. It was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show in 1970, and was designed by AMC, but assembled by Bizzarrini in Italy. Though it never made its way to the production production line, a total of five concept cars were completed before the plug was pulled on the $2 million project.

How many miles per gallon does a 76 AMC Pacer get? ›

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.

Why did they stop making Pacer cars? ›

Pacer sales collapsed after selling well initially

The Pacer's poor sales were double trouble because the rest of AMC's lineup was also doing poorly. The result was that in 1977 the automaker produced fewer passenger cars than 10 years earlier, when American Motors teetered on the brink of insolvency.

What year did they stop making AMC Pacer? ›

On December 3, 1979, the last Pacer rolls off the assembly line at the American Motors Corporation (AMC) factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. When the car first came on the market in 1975, it was a sensation, hailed as the car of the future. “When you buy any other car,” ads said, “all you end up with is today's car.

What was the last AMC car built? ›

On December 14th, 1987, the last AMC, the Eagle Wagon, left the assembly line. Financial troubles resulted in Chrysler stepping in by 1987 and purchased AMC as well as its assets.

How many miles per gallon does the AMC Pacer get? ›

The acceleration from 0 to 60 mph took roughly 16 seconds, and the peak speed was around 85 mph. Fuel efficiency was roughly 16 miles per gallon, which was standard for six-cylinder American cars at the time. Nevertheless, the Pacer was so hefty that AMC introduced a larger 4.2-liter motor in 1976.

What was the largest AMC engine? ›

The 390 and 401 engines used larger ones than the smaller 304, 327, and 343 mills. The 401 was the biggest, strongest engine that AMC offered. While its brute strength was only on display from the factory for one year, its reliability and toughness lasted nearly all the way to the end of the decade.

What is the fastest factory AMC? ›

This car set a C-Production class record of 161.733 mph. Three 1968 AMC Javelins were entered in total, each was modified by a team of three contestants, the winning team with the fastest car then won all three cars – one each.

How much horsepower does the AMC Pacer have? ›

AMC Pacer 1975 258 Auto Engine Technical Data
Compression Ratio :8.00
Maximum power - Output - Horsepower :110 HP / 112 PS / 82 kW @ 3500 rpm
Maximum torque :195 lb-ft / 265.0 Nm @ 2000 rpm
Drive wheels - Traction - Drivetrain :RWD
27 more rows

What car looked like a fish bowl? ›

AMC Pacers have been called “fishbowls” since their debut in the mid 70's, due to the shape of the rear and the large glass areas.

What car is like the Pacer? ›

1975 AMC Pacer and 1977 Porsche 928

Porsche designer Tony Lapine was supposedly struck by the Pacer's design and it inspired the grand touring Porsche's B-pillar and rear glass treatment. The 928 has nothing on the Mirthmobile though.

What did AMX stand for? ›

The AMX name originates from the "American Motors experimental" code used on a concept vehicle and then on two prototypes shown on the company's "Project IV" automobile show tour in 1966. One was a fiberglass two-seat "AMX", and the other was a four-seat "AMX II".

What is the most expensive vintage car in the world of all time? ›

Few vehicles are as legendary as the mighty '63 Ferrari 250 GTO. Arguably the most expensive classic car ever built, only 36 of these vehicles were ever produced.

What was the first million dollar muscle car? ›

Million-dollar muscle: First 1970 Plymouth Hemi 'Cuda listed for sale at $2.2m.

How many MPG does a gold wing get? ›

42 MPG - Miles per gallon values are calculated estimates of fuel consumed during laboratory exhaust emissions tests specified by the EPA, not during on road riding.

What is the top speed of AMC the machine? ›

The Machine's top speed was 127 mph (204 km/h).

What was the gas mileage on a 1976 AMC Gremlin? ›

Fuel economy was 28 mpgUS (8.4 L/100 km; 34 mpgimp) to 30 mpgUS (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpgimp) with the small six, compared with the 35-plus mpg economy of the VW Beetle.

When was the last AMC Pacer made? ›

On December 3, 1979, the last Pacer rolls off the assembly line at the American Motors Corporation (AMC) factory in Kenosha, Wisconsin. When the car first came on the market in 1975, it was a sensation, hailed as the car of the future. “When you buy any other car,” ads said, “all you end up with is today's car.

How many Pacer cars were made? ›

Between the nameplate's launch in February 1975 and its demise in 1980, only 280,000 Pacers were produced.

How much is an AMC Gremlin now? ›

A: The average price of a AMC Gremlin is $18,628. Q: When was the AMC Gremlin produced? A: The AMC Gremlin was sold for model years 1970 to 1978.

How much did a 1976 AMC Gremlin cost new? ›

But the Gremlin's best attribute may have been its price. AMC put the bare-bones two-seat Gremlin on the market for $1,879 (about $12,500 in 2020 dollars), while the four-seat model listed for $1,959 ($12,950).


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