A Pacer Racer?

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The American Motors Pacer is often the punchline to an automotive joke. Its odd looks, its short hood and large cabin were partly due to plans to buy the compact Wankel rotary that GM was developing. GM ended up canceling that program, but the design of the Pacer was almost completed, the money was already sunk into tooling, so they went with the long and heavy (but unbreakably durable), tried and true AMC inline six, which wasn’t great for the car’s packaging and handling but got it out the door and into the showrooms. Still, the Pacer was a noble effort, an attempt to make a small car with a large interior. Richard Teague, AMC’s head of styling may have tried to reinvent the family sedan, but its odd looks, its fishbowl glass, its association with perennially challenged AMC, and its starring role in a Wayne’s World movie have made it, as I said, a punchline. So seeing a Pacer set up to go sports car racing is a bit jarring. The truth, though, is that a number of AMC products were raced in the late 1970s, including this Pacer, which was campaigned in IMSA by Robert Wood and Keith Swope. Surprisingly, this car has that reliable AMC 6 and not a V8, which fit in the short, wide engine bay and was available starting in 1978. The racer Pacer was on display at the American Motors Owners meet last August in Livonia, Michigan.

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