Butterscotch AMC Pacer

1979 AMC PacerI was reading online this morning and came across an article about the 10 Worst Automobiles that should have never made it on the road.  There at #1 was the AMC Pacer, and the photo illustration could have been of the very one that we (my mother) had purchased in 1979 in Jacksonville, NC.  I don’t recall the exact name of the dealership, but it was something like “Coastal Motors” and Jere Pelletier was the owner.  The dealership was located on the north end of town on Highway 17/Marine Blvd.

I believe one sales slogan for the Pacer was, “the first wide small car.”  We bought a butterscotch colored vehicle.  The rear had a hatchback and there was alot of glass all around.

One odd event that I recall happened on a Saturday morning.  My mother and I got up early and drove the Pacer to the dealership.  We rolled up to the front door and stopped.  We both got out of the car, and there was a newspaper on the ground.  We picked up the paper and walked into the showroom (the door was partially open) and went over and sat down in a couple of chairs along the wall.  Mom gave me a section of the paper, and/or we traded off the sections.  I don’t think either of us thought that it was unusual that no one had come out to greet us.  We probably thought they were in the back doing whatever it takes to get ready for customers.

At some point, when I had finished reading the paper, I got up and looked around the corner to see if I could see anyone.  The light was on in a back office, and as I walked back to it, I saw that there was a safe, and near it was a green Acetylene tank & torch.  I noted that the safe had been turned on its side, and broken into with part of it peeled back.  It was then that an odd feeling came over me.

I must have come back to my mother and told her what I had seen.  We went outside and got into the Pacer.  We had to go down the road a little to find a telephone.  I don’t recall now if we stopped at a phone booth, or if we stopped into another business and called from there, but we talked with Law Enforcement.  We reported what we had seen and then drove back to the car dealership to wait.

We waited and no one came.  We then went back to call and then were told that because the dealership was outside of the town (Jacksonville) that no officer had been sent out.  *We must have talked with the City of Jacksonville Police Department first, but because of a jurisdictional issue, they had dropped the ball.   I guess we then called the Onslow County Sheriff’s Department, and went back to wait.

My mother died in December of 1980, and I continued to drive the Pacer even when I went up to Louisville, KY to attend Southern Seminary.  At some point, while at Seminary, the Pacer’s steering started to go bad.  Apparently, the Pacer had a “rack and pinion” steering system and I think it was explained to me that some of the teeth had either broken off or worn down and this allowed for great play in the steering wheel without much motion in the wheels.

When I finally took the Pacer to see what it would take to get the steering repaired, the cost must have been something like $400 then (1983 or so).  I decided to get a new car, and I asked my dad (living in Stockbridge, GA) if he wanted the Pacer.  I put the $400 in to get the steering fixed on the Pacer and then drove it down to Georgia and gave it to my dad.  I don’t recall how I managed to give him the Pacer, but have a replacement to drive back to KY.  *This must have been about the time that I purchased a white Mazda 626.  In 1988 I bought a new white Chevy S-10, with bumpers included;-)  The dealers were actually selling these little trucks without bumpers so that the cost to the customer would be less.

I don’t recall how long it was before I visited my dad again, probably the next major holiday.  But, when I rolled up into the yard, I looked over to the right and there parked, was the Pacer and it had a bunch of junk in it.  I don’t know what had gone wrong, but I always attributed it’s demise to my dad’s intention.  *I once counted the number of “junk” cars he had dotted about his yard, and I think it was about 14.


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