What made the AMC Pacer such a Bad Car?


American automakers have created some outstanding vehicles. However, it has also generated a fair number of duds throughout the years. One flop that many people immediately think of is the odd 1975–1979 AMC Pacer. The American automotive press, which hailed the AMC Pacer as groundbreaking, was ecstatic about its introduction. 37 years later, history presents a different picture of the Pacer as a horrible ghost that tarnishes the glorious tradition of American auto manufacturing. Was it really so horrible, though?

Poor Fuel Economy Shortened the AMC Pacer’s Range

The Pacer’s poor fuel efficiency was one factor in its rapid decline in popularity. The Pacer was not a lightweight vehicle; it weighed close to 3,000 lbs. This “compact car” didn’t weigh at all like one, considering that it was one. The weight of the vehicle was increased by the use of heavy glass for the windows and a plethora of safety features, including thick bumpers and a roll bar. And it was because of this weight that the Pacer’s EPA-rated city fuel efficiency was so low, at just 16 MPG.

On the interstate, the Pacer’s fuel economy would increase to about 26 MPG. But only because of how effective its aerodynamics were. For a “compact car,” the Pacer was nevertheless quite a behemoth. Additionally, owners didn’t want to deal with the vehicle’s jerky handling. While the Pacer’s weight and poor fuel efficiency were major issues, there were a number of other issues that eventually hampered its sales. issues like the steering freezing up and failing on drivers.

The Pacer’s Big Engine Could Damage the Cars Steering

Actually, a rotary engine was considered when the Pacer was first being developed. AMC was never able to incorporate a Wankel rotary engine into the Pacer, though. Given the issues rotary engines had, maybe that’s a good thing. Instead, the Pacer received an AMC six-cylinder engine. This inline-six engine wasn’t exactly compact or light. not only making the Pacer heavier, but also making steering difficult. The Pacer’s engine added weight to the vehicle, and there have been complaints of the steering seizing and failing. This is due to the stress it placed on the vehicle. It was never going to be good for anyone’s money account to fix issues like these.

In actuality, the steering was a rack and pinion system. One of the earliest automobiles in America with the design was the AMC Pacer. So, the novelty should be credited to the car. But that didn’t change the fact that the Pacer was overly wide, heavy, and underpowered. It was almost seven inches wider at 77 inches than a conventional compact at the time. Its size more closely resembles the medium-sized Matador from AMC. However, the fact that the Pacer achieved high sales in its first two years suggests that AMC was right to be optimistic.

Poor Performance Sales Ended the Life of The AMC Pacer

About 12,000 Pacers were sold during the second year. But the Pacer would soon see the writing on the wall. Even in the 1970s, not many people were going to be interested in a car with a 0-60 mph time of more than 14 seconds. AMC installed a 5.0-liter V8 engine under the hood in an effort to increase power. However, AMC had already introduced more successful “luxury-compact” automobiles like the Concord before releasing this version of the Pacer. Additionally, gas prices were high in 1979 as a result of the second energy crisis. Thus, there was a very low level of demand for V8 automobiles. The Pacer was obviously doomed when you consider that, its weight, fuel efficiency, and the fact that it never offered anything in the way of luxury. AMC made the decision that enough was enough in 1979. It ended the Pacer’s production in a respectable manner.

Summary of the Reasons Why AMC Pacer Gained Negative Reputation:

1979 AMC Pacer


The Pacer’s unusual and distinctive design caused controversy. Many people found its bubble-like design, oversized curving front and rear windshields, and short wheelbase unusual and disproportional. The majority of car customers did not like this unusual style.

Size and Weight

The Pacer was cumbersome and sluggish since it was heavier and bigger than the majority of small automobiles at the time. Fuel economy and performance were impacted by its weight because a stronger engine was needed to move its mass.

Performance and Handling

The Pacer was slow and had poor acceleration due to its hefty body and weak engines. Numerous engine alternatives were available, but they had concerns with dependability and longevity, which frequently broke down. Additionally, the Pacer had poor handling and was vulnerable to body roll and instability because of its short wheelbase and high center of gravity.

Quality and Reliability

Numerous quality control difficulties, such as shoddy building, out-of-place body panels, and rust issues, plagued the Pacer. Due to these problems, it lost durability and dependability, resulting in frequent failures and expensive repairs.

Safety Concerns

Large glass sections on the Pacer made it vulnerable to breaking and cracking when hit. Safety issues also included the lack of enhanced side impact protection. Some buyers thought it was hazardous and it had bad crash test results.

Fuel Efficiency

The Pacer’s fuel efficiency was lower than that of other small automobiles at the time, despite the 1970s fuel crisis, in part because of its weight and poor engine options.

Market Competition

Established American and foreign automakers who built more dependable, effective, and fuel-efficient automobiles presented the Pacer with fierce competition. The Pacer’s general reputation was further damaged by the unfavorable reputation of AMC’s earlier models and the company’s financial difficulties.


The AMC Pacer has a cult following and is cherished by some for its originality and historical significance, despite the fact that it is frequently thought of as a “bad” car. The Pacer is an interesting car despite its many flaws. Its distinctive look and the addition of a powerful V8 transformed it virtually into a small muscle vehicle. a little like the Dodge Hornet of today. The Pacer has developed into a small-scale collector’s automobile. With some stunning vintage examples still standing across the country. These are both in museums and on the go. The highest price ever paid for a Pacer was $71,500. The breathtaking “Wayne’s World” Pacer was this. Despite all of its flaws and issues, many old automobile enthusiasts still have a soft spot in their hearts for the Pacer. Although perhaps not in the hearts of former AMC employees considering the $60 million construction expenditures.