Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
1 THE PACER WAS WIDENED BECAUSE ITS CONCEPT CHANGED
It’s a frequently repeated untruth that the Pacer gained its girth from a last-minute design change – that front-wheel drive was axed and rear-wheel drive substituted, with 6in added in the process. Not so. The car was always meant to be broad. At 77in, AMC’s car was more than a foot wider than the Volkswagen Golf MkI. It was intended to lure American buyers away from their enormous gasguzzling sedans of the mid 1970s.
2 THE PACER WAS TERRIBLE TO DRIVE
Road manners and performance were actually little different to other, softly-sprung, rear-drive mid-‘70s American cars. Indeed, as it featured rack and pinion steering it felt considerably sharper than most rivals (although not the RHD versions), while its generous track meant there was little of the pitching found in other ‘small’ American cars, such as the Ford Pinto. It feels refined because a front subframe for the engine and suspension isolates the rest of the car from vibrations and road surface knocks. But there was no escaping the car’s weight, partly down to all that glass.
3IT WASN’T VERY ADVANCED
That was certainly true of the drivetrain, steering apart. But the rest of the car was by no means crude. The hefty construction kept it well within projected crash safety levels. Yet with a drag factor of 0.43, it was actually quite aerodynamic for its time. The car was well ahead of trends by having no external rain gutters, and windscreen wipers that parked below the bonnet line. The passenger door was 4in longer than the driver’s, easing access to the back seats. And, from a classic car perspective today, it’s very easy to work on.
Designed to appeal to economy-economyminded buyers: 18mpg in town.