Although I have no doubt that the Pacer was unreliable in the ways you describe, people need to keep things in context.
The 1970's were probably the worst decade for the US automobile industry. Tightening fuel economy rules, new safety regulations, superior Japanese competition and various other factors dealt severe blows. The industry itself admits that 1978 as a whole produced the most unreliable cars of any year regardless of American brand.
Anyway, the point of my comment is how does the Pacer compare with other cars of its vintage? Was it significantly less reliable than, say, a 1978 Chevy Malibu or Chrysler Newport?
At least his Pacer doesn't have rats in it or is in the condition of the 76 AMC Pacer that was on the show "Pimp my Ride". His Pacer has probably come a long way with much less work and money, and probably runs/drives/looks great too. Plus it is a rare car none the less, even if it wasn't built well out of the factory.
By the way, a 78 Malibu is nothing to write home about either and stock doesn't have class. Now if you have restored it with a worked Chevy 350 or larger motor (even the 305 was a complete dog in these cars), a four speed or better auto transmission with overdrive (those three speed ones sucked), a nice paint job and wheels, you have a car with class. In that case, "Were not worthy" is the best term to describe here.
Re the above comment: yes, a stock Pacer with a six cylinder is some great car, but a stock Malibu with a 305 V8 isn't? Oh yeah, that makes sense. The reviewer's car may not have rats living in it, but it has not "come a long way" either-he just got it this year and all he has done is replace a blower switch, wiper motor and horn button. Oh, and he bought a radio for it. First place at car show here we come! Finally, the writer must have thought he was clever throwing that line from "Wayne's World" in there--too bad it has nothing to do with the rest of the comment.
Anyway, to answer the question about how Pacer compared to its contemporaries: the car had a LOT of plastic in the interior which as another comment has already pointed out, did not hold up too well especially in hot climates. The Pacer was also (like every other AMC built since the late '60's) extremely rust-prone, which is one reason why they are so "rare" now. Mechanically the Pacer was probably no better or worse than the competition, however it should be noted that AMC bought a lot of the mechanical components it used from the "big 3": transmissions from Chrysler, ignition systems from GM, power steering pumps from Ford, etc. It was the parts that AMC itself built (bodies and interiors) that had the problems.
I just thought I'd point out that the comparison to the porche is actually well documented, and I believe that the owner of porche definitely did take a styling cue from the Pacer when he designed his porche.
I agree with the above poster. I think AMC went out of business not because it made bad cars, but just because of marketplace whims.
After all, the AMC Eagle was way ahead of its time in offering all wheel drive on a passenger car. The only other car to do so was the Audi Quattro, but that was much more expensive.
The Eagle failed, but today, ironically, one of the most sought after options on any new car is all wheel drive, which is why you will find it available on cars as diverse as the Ford Five Hundred and Mercedes S Class.
I don't care what anyone says as I have always loved the Pacer though never owned one. But I have never followed the crowd when it came to buying cars.
Re the Mar. 14 comment: the kammback design of the Gremlin was not exactly original, European cars had been using it for years before the Gremlin showed up. And the Gremlin was nothing more than a Hornet with the back end chopped off. Hardly an all-new subcompact like the Pinto and Vega were at the time.
Btw, I have owned a number of AMC's: Javelins, Ambassador, Matador and even a Pacer. I wish AMC was still around, they did provide an alternative to the mainstream choices. Too bad not enough other people felt the same way...
Re the kammback design of the Gremlin comment above. I didn't mean to imply that the design itself was new, merely that it was the first American sub-compact, hence demonstrating AMC's ability to lead the industry at times, abeit few and far between.
Try to understand one thing before you criticize the AMC Pacer.
Today, a few very odd vehicles are known as generation X or Y etc...
Using the above scenario the AMC Pacer had this concept long before it was even tagged with a (generation)!
The AMC Pacer was far ahead of it's time, actually way too far because it did not achieve a following.
All that was necessary: a simple little tag name like (generation ___) etc...
Marketing failed to initiate the latter title that would have catapulted this magnificent vehicle into stardom!
Fancy wheels, lowering kit, interior upgrades ALL would have added to it's fame.
...yes, 30 years ahead of what we see today in the Scion!
The Pacer (and it's big brother in AMC weirdness, the Matador coupe) actually had respectable (for AMC) sales figures in it's first year. The problem was, everybody that wanted one, bought one, but after that, AMC could not maintain the interest after the novelty wore off. The fact that AMC's quality control was not the greatest then either did not help.
By 1978, if not earlier, AMC had run out of money for risky expensive ventures like the Pacer and the Matador. They dumped the Matador that year and the Pacer two years later, and retrenched by restyling the Gremlin/Hornet and renaming to Spirit/Concord. With the exception of the introduction of the Eagle (again, based on existing models) not much product development took place until they were bought by Renault. All of the old AMC non-Jeep models disappeared soon after that, never to return.
As far as the Scion being a gen-x or gen-y market car, take a look at who is buying and driving them, at least the xB: a lot of the same people who are old enough to remember, and who possibly even turned their noses up at, the Pacer!
OK... pacer reliability. I have the honor of owning a completely original 76 pacer D/L. So I can tell you exactly what issues come up on this car over the decades. Nobody interested in this car is expecting a strong daily driver, at 25 - 30 years. So the real issue is "what will I need to watch for and most likely fix to restore this car for its odd charm."
The pacer is an antique in the car world. This is not a car you buy for reliability. It's a vehicle you buy for novelty. And it's uniqueness give a built in value that won't be found in the N.A.D.A price guide. This can be proven by the fact that at this very moment there's a 78 pacer with 50k miles on it on the eBay auction block, that has already reached $6800.
The drive train on this vehicle is solid. Straight six jeep engines, and the torqueflite chrysler transmissions are known for their basic bulletproof nature.
This is an Arizona pacer, so every bit of plastic interior that has been touched by the sun for the last 3 decades is crumbling into dust. literally. The fabric of the seats is the classic navajo weave design. Gone. rotted away to delicate threads and dust. Thankfully, there's a fabric store on the northwest coast that still carries rolls of the fabric.
Both doors pop and sag and need to be replaced. Novel idea making wide doors, but their supports never could've held up for so long. If you see this, replace the pins with truck pins as quickly as possible and pray the doors weight has not warped anything. The waterpump will most likely have been replaced on any pacer still running. They rotted out quickly. If not.. replace it quickly. My car had stop leak sludge from a previous owner over a decade ago, and I eventually had to flush the engine, replace the thermostat, waterpump, and radiator.
The front end suspension, struts, rack and pinion system are another big weak point on this car. I've had to replace several parts, a couple more than once.
The gas line will rot out right at the gas tank. That was a pain to replace, but you can get to it and do so.
Power brakes are an issue, and the age of the vehicle makes it hard to find a new vacuum assist for the car. You may have to send it to a shop to rebuild the original.
Should you have questions, or otherwise. feel free to contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org.