The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

22 April 2008

Pacer madness

Lileks has it:

I loved it, but rust took us apart. Until that day I was inordinately fond of it, because it was simply the most futuristic car on the mass market, and futuristic in a way only the benighted 70s could have produced. It was round in an age when most cars had the aerodynamic profile of a tipped-over Frigidaire, and it was wide — had the wheelbase of Sophie Tucker, it did. The hatchback area was big enough for sleeping, and I slept it in a few nights when I was between apartments or off in the woods. I don't remember any gearhead details like "pickup" or "top speed," and the latter wasn't that important in the 55 MPH era, anyway. Half the cars I drove in those horrible dark times shimmied like Little Richard in a KY Jelly factory, and the engines sounded like a skeleton pitching a fit on a tin roof. (To quote Foghorn Leghorn.)

Who apparently got it, I say, got it, from Sir Thomas Beecham, but no matter. One's connection to a motor vehicle comes from something deep within:

Best feature: twice I drove it in a horrible blizzard, and lived. Once I was driving back to the Cities from Fargo, and the road simply disappeared; you couldn't see more than six yards ahead, and you had only the tracks of the previous car to guide you. But that was nothing compared to a storm that closed the Interstate entirely. There's nothing quite like being on a highway thats been closed already; the radio said I-94 has been closed, but there you are, driving along, wondering what waits ahead. I pulled off at Alexandria, checked into a Holiday Inn, and I believe I had my first scotch ever in the hotel bar. It seemed like a manly thing to do.

Just imagine, though: (1) if AMC had ever been able to fit the Pacer with the Wankel rotary engine for which it was designed and (2) had they put in enough of an air conditioner to deal with the car's tremendous glass area, we wouldn't be having this discussion now: we'd be nodding to ourselves and thinking, Yeah, that Pacer, that was a great car. And by the benighted standards of the late 1970s, maybe it was.

Posted at 7:00 PM to Driver's Seat


Husband and I took a test ride in a Pacer. I said no. (Husband was relieved.) It felt like I was wearing a strapless dress---too revealing.

Posted by: Deborah at 10:32 PM on 22 April 2008

One of my high school buds had one. It was called The Lunar Lander. His driving skills were less than stellar even without alcohol, and it ended up wrapped around a utility pole. It was a sad end for such a gutless icon.

Posted by: Jeffro at 1:01 AM on 23 April 2008

"And by the benighted standards of the late 1970s, maybe it was."

Which is kinda like being the best Democrat candidate in the '88 presidential election.

Posted by: Tam at 7:47 AM on 23 April 2008