For years, AMC Pacers have suffered the brickbats and ignominy that only come with being a little too different, the marketplace having long ago decided which side of the intersection of daring and dopey the Pacer parked on. The airy greenhouse, the long doors, the last-minute change from GM’s aborted rotary engine to an inline-six out of the Rambler parts bin… it wasn’t an easy birth for the Pacer, and it wasn’t an easy life, either.
Time heals all wounds, it seems. Yesterday’s wackadoo freakshow is today’s individualistic outlier. The ’70s weirdo is the ’20s’ brave choice. For the second time in just two years, Hemmings Auctions has set a world-record sale price for a non-Wayne’s-World Pacer: a stunning $37,275 inclusive of buyer’s fees (a modest 5 percent, it’s worth noting). Showing less than 27,000 miles on its odometer, this first-year Pacer X spent its first dozen years as a showroom attraction in Pennsylvania and has a complete history from new. The result was only $125 shy of the movie car’s 2016 sale price, but well shy of the Mirthmobile’s most recent result of $71,500 at the 2022 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction.
AMC made around 280,000 copies of the Pacer, of which some smaller fraction survive today. The number of clean, unrestored examples of the wide, small car is an even smaller fraction. Of that subset, a connection to Chilson Motors makes this 1975 AMC Pacer X up for bids on Hemmings Auctions a rare offering. Those already in the AMC fold know the Chilson name well. Gordy Chilson kept the AMC flame alive by hosting an annual gathering at his family’s dealerships (which once included an AMC franchise) near the Pennsylvania/New York state line. Suffice it to say, when an AMC from the Chilson collection comes up for sale, it’s probably one of the good ones. From the auction listing:
This original 1975 AMC Pacer is doubly historic for fans of the United States’ last independent automaker, American Motors Corporation. First, this is one of more than 90,000 examples of the audacious, widebody Pacer compact built in the model’s initial production year. Next, the car is reported to have been custom ordered by Gordy Chilson, of Chilson AMC in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, the site of a well-known AMC gatherings. The Pacer, with the desirable X trim package, is said to have been a display inside the Chilson showroom since the original owner traded it for a new AMC Eagle in 1987. A fully optioned car, including air conditioning, cruise control, and an 8-track audio system, this Pacer is part of the Chilson AMC collection, with an odometer reading of 26,811 that the seller believes is accurate.
This Pacer’s interior, including carpeting, is described as being entirely original, the materials presenting as being in excellent, undamaged condition. The padded dashboard also presents as being in excellent condition, with no missing trim or small controls. The seller reports that all instrumentation is functional, including the original 8-track audio system. The heating and air conditioning system are believed to be in good working order although the a/c system may need to be charged before use. The cargo area presents as being undamaged and strongly clean.
The Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and Hudson Motor Car Company merged in 1954 to create the American Motors Corporation, AMC, which would be the fourth biggest car company in America until it was acquired by Chrysler in 1987. Over their 33 year run, AMC managed to create cars that if not better than the big three, always seemed to be unique and interesting. Often AMC would lead the way, only to be over taken in the long run by foreign companies and the big three. So to better understand the history of AMC, here is a list of the top 10 cars sold by the American Motor Corporation, and also Jeep, the “crown jule” of AMC.
#10. Jeep Scrambler CJ-8
In 1981, Jeep under AMC released the CJ-8 Scrambler, a long wheelbase truck version of the CJ-7. Unlike other trucks at the time, the bed was not separate from the cab, but connected to the rest of the body, creating a small bed in the back. The car was officially named the CJ-8, but became known as the “Scrambler” after a popular appearance package pictured above. One notable owner was US president Ronald Reagan, who many of you will also remember owned a Subaru Brat, telling me he must have had a soft spot for small trucks or something. The Scrambler was built to battle new imports, and to widen the range of customers Jeep had without having to design a completely new vehicle. The positives of the Scrambler are it’s appearance, which is charming, and it’s utility as it is still a good off-roader but also a truck. One downside of the Scrambler, as with all AMC jeep products at the time, was that the components from the AMC parts bin, especially the engine, were not exactly grade A material, so you couldn’t expect a lot of speed or reliability. Overall, the CJ-8 Scrambler was one of AMC Jeep’s better ideas, but they have had much better sellers, and revolutionary vehicles later in the list. Outside of this list, I still have a soft spot for this sporty little Jeep truck and its quintessential 80s styling
#9. AMC Rambler and Hornet (SC Editions)
The AMC Rambler and it’s successor the Hornet were cool American compact cars before compact cars were cool. I don’t have much to say about the base models other than that they seem like nice basic cars, but the SC versions are both batsh!t insane in a good way. Hurst and AMC partnered together to create the Hurst SC Rambler with a 315 hp 390 cu. in. (6.4L) V8, which propelled the compact muscle car to the quarter mile in 14.4 Seconds @ 100 mph. Other features included a unique multi-color paint job shown above, a nice Hurst Shifter, a functional hood scoop with gaudy “air’ logo in front, factory ready for (NHRA) F/Stock class, and under $3,000 (priced at under $20,000 adjusted for inflation, but would likely be priced at closer to $30,000 today). In short, the Hurst SC Rambler was the late 60s drag car equivalent to the modern Subaru WRX STI! Later, when the Rambler was replaced by the Hornet, we got a less beast, but more beautiful SC 360 HornetWhat the 360 SC lost in craziness it made up for in more reasonable styling and practicality. The SC had standard a respectable 245 hp, which could be upped to 285 with an optional “GO” Package, which added a four-barrel carburetor and a ram air induction system. The car was supposed to be a hit, but less than 800 were produced due to raised insurance premiums, and the car was only ever made in 1971, with the 360 cu in engine becoming just an option in 1972. Overall, these were both good cars, but they failed to impress in sales and were not completely revolutionary idea wise. In a better world, we would have seen more of the Hornet SC 360, but the dieting muscle car market destroyed a neat little car, at least little for its era anyway.
#8. Jeep CJ-5/7
The classic civilian jeep continued under AMC, and the biggest change was marketting. Instead of just being for retired vets, and work, the CJ was now for all people old and young, who wanted to have fun with no top and doors in the sun (excuse my sporadic rhyme). AMC campaigns to turn the CJ from old war veteran to symbol of youth were successful and a true act of brilliance! As with the Scrambler, AMC engines were a help at first for a car with outdated Willys acquitment, but left much to be desired. Still, the CJ-5, and especially the CJ-7 became more desirable vehicles under AMC, and are still enjoyed by many off-roaders and young people wanting a fun car today. I would’ve place higher, but I have to say the biggest updates to the car came under Chrysler when they updated the design to create the Jeep Wrangler, which added in the area of creature comforts while retaining it off-road ability and a better power-plant.
If you’re shopping for a well-preserved Corvette or Mercedes-Benz SL, the market’s probably got you covered one way or another. People just don’t ever throw those cars away and most were a second or third car when new, so they largely got taken care of. But, what if your tastes run to something that was, back in the day, just a little different, and, perhaps, not that well received by the marketplace?
Well, have we got something for you.Bid to win this 1980 AMC Concord D/L two-door sedan, currently offered on Hemmings Auctions, and you will surely be taking the road less traveled. Though not truly super rare, this AMC is still a remarkable survivor. Originally purchased by an AMC dealer for his wife, this little sedan seems to have survived so well due to careful ownership, years in the salt-free environs of the Pacific Northwest, and what appears to be an intact layer of undercoating on the rather clean undercarriage.
The Navy Blue finish looks to be in pretty fine shape, as does the partial vinyl roof. Don’t forget to check out that light blue “Sculptured Rochelle Velour” interior, as plush-looking a fabric as American car companies offered at the time, well this side of a buttoned-leather seat, anyway.
Including the carpets, door cards and seatbelts, there’s a whole lotta’ blue going on in this Concord. About the only thing non-standard would be the raised white letter Firestone Firehawk Indy 500 tires on bare steel wheels. But AMC wheel covers were nothing to write home about in 1980 anyway.Whether you want to call cars on this end of the hobby entry-level or a bargain, most family cars of the era are hardly in the condition this Concord is. And that makes it really easy to appreciate not only the car, but the care and effort that went into keeping it the way it is today.
In June of 1969, under codename E18, BMW engineers took delivery of an aggressively styled mid-engine coupe for development and testing. Except the car wasn’t theirs, wasn’t even built in Germany, and was destined for the American market. That car, the first-built American Motors AMX/3, did eventually make its way to the United States, where it proceeded to sit for decades before a recent sale got the ball rolling on a once-promised restoration.
“(This is) arguably the rarest American muscle car in existence,” George Huisman of Classic Design Concepts said of the AMX/3, chassis No. 1, which will make its public debut after more than 50 years at the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals show in Rosemont, Illinois.