AMC Pacer: Shakin’ dat (American) Ass
The American Motor Company, which came up with the highly attractive AMX GT concept in 1968, the shooting brake-style lines of which informed a generation of nearly-classic, never-quite-made-it American motors, was always troubled company. Why? It tried to bring innovative concepts on to the mainstream of an American car market hooked on straight-line loving octane-burning guzzlers based on the three box standard of automotive Americana. It was suffering from the same sorts of problems that any American car company comes across, and continue to still. The American idea of what a car should be is so set-in-stone that anything that deviates from the way of being is almost doomed to failure. But with the early introduction of the Hatchback, the designers were truly forward thinking and, in France, of course predated the Renault Mégane’s booty-shaking marketing by a quarter of a century.
To illustrate the problem, look at the confusing marketing of the cultish pacer. Apart fro the confusing “wide small car’ line, the copy is all about apologetically explaining the physics of aerodynamics and its implications on fuel economy and illustrating the benefits of big doors, hatchbacks and plenty of glass for visibility. If you look at the best selling, most desirable cars of the time, like the Dodge Charger, the Ford Mustang, these elements were far from the mainstream. The Pacer was not only innovative in its look and feel and had the lowest drag coefficient of any Yanqui vehicle ever made, it was the first production car to introduce rack and pinion steering.
But unseen technology rarely make completely successful cars. To be truly successful, a car has to have a zeitgeist-hugging mix of elements that happen at the right place and the right time. Sadly, the AMC pacer was a couple of decades too early.
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