When the AMC Pacer came out in 1975 it was the toast of the automotive press, which called it “futuristic”, “bold” and “unique”. AMC even produced an electric version to respond to the gasoline crisis of the 1970s. But over time, what seemed futuristic started to look downright strange, and the Pacer’s unorthodox looks fell out of favor. In the last few years, car collectors have come back to it, but not enough for the Pacer to escape the gravitational pull of our ugliest list.
The AMC Pacer is a two-door compact car produced in the United States by American Motors Corporation from the 1975 to 1980 model years.
Design work began in 1971. The rounded shape and large glass area were unusual compared with the three-box designs of the era. The Pacer’s width is equal to full-sized domestic vehicles at the time, and this unique design feature was promoted by AMC as “the first wide small car.” The Pacer was the first modern, mass-produced, U.S. automobile design using the cab forward concept.
The Pacer’s rounded and aerodynamic “jellybean” styling has made it an icon of the 1970s. The body surface was 37 percent glass, and its surface area of 5,615 square inches (3.6 m2) was 16 percent more than the average passenger car at the time. The May 1976 issue of Car and Driver dubbed it “The Flying Fishbowl,” and it was also described as “the seventies answer to George Jetson’s mode of transportation” at a time when “Detroit was still rolling out boat-sized gas guzzlers.”