The “first wide small car,” the AMC Pacer, hit showrooms on this day in 1975. Quickly earning the nickname the Flying Fishbowl, the Pacer and its 37% glass surface area was AMC’s sub compact snub to the gas guzzlers that were continuously rolling out of American auto plants. Despite worries from inside AMC about its design, the economical car received various accolades from Car and Driver and Road and Track. Popular Mechanics even wrote, “This is the first time in the history of the American automobile industry that a car manufacturer has said in advance of bringing out a new product that some people may not like it.”
Richard Teague, American Motor’s chief stylist, began work on the car in 1971, aiming to get ahead of the curve in terms of rising gas prices, stricter safety regulations and the latest technology. AMC’s Board Chairman Roy Chapin Jr. called the development of the Pacer, “an idea that represents a transition between what has been and what’s coming. Today versus tomorrow.”
The car came equipped with an inline six or for the more adventerous, a 304 cubic inch V8. This gave it a compact car look on the outside with full size vehicle feel under the hood. A 3 speed manual, 3 speed automatic or a 4 speed manual transmission was available, offering an option for everyone.
In its first year of production 145,528 Pacers left the Kenosha, Wisconsin AMC plant, marking a huge success for the company. The high sales numbers are attributed in part to the oil crisis that hit many other automakers like a brick. After two years on the market, and other brands rolling out their own small cars, sales began to dip. By 1979, the Pacer’s meager 22 mpg was no longer appealing. On December 3, 1979 the final Pacer left the same factory where production began.