Curbside Companions: AMC Pacer and ’67 Thunderbird

It pays to change up the walk routines once in a while, especially to break the cabin fever. I’ve seen this black Pacer before, a few years back. To my knowledge, it’s the only one in town that still sits out on the curb. But now it’s acquired a white companion, and they do make quite a pair. I’m not sure what the attraction is, but they’re both a bit out of the mainstream, especially their front ends.

Let’s check out the Pacer first. It’s stating the obvious, but this is one of the most unusual and unlikely American cars of the whole post war era. What a shocker it was, when I (and the rest of the country) first laid eyes on it. Who would have thought? Sure, AMC proved it was willing to go against the grain with the Gremlin. But that little abomination was just a Hornet with the back 1/3 sliced off. This was something radical. And bizarre. A very wide but short car, with a very glassy greenhouse. It looked like a cartoon car, since all the proportions were so different than the typical car. A small car for two wide persons; it was just a couple of decades ahead of its time. Kind of like a Toyota C-HR of its time. Except even weirder.

This one is a manual; no, not a slick shifting 5 speed; it’s a lowly three speed. And teamed to either the 232 (3.8L) or 258 (4.2L) six. Curiously, both were rated at 100 hp. Don’t ask why.

The floor shift required the optional bucket seats; good thing, as the center of the standard bench was absolutely useless, given that giant transmission tunnel.

And no, the Pacer’s hood isn’t so short because it was originally designed to have a rotary engine. That was always going to be optional, or a big maybe. The hood was just part of the design brief. AMC really would have liked it to be FWD, but that was wishful thinking. Designer Dick Teague was just indulging one of his many little manias. This one along with the Matador coupe effectively killed AMC and drove it into the hands of Renault. Oh well, it was going to happen sooner or later anyway. And he gave us two of the stranger cars in the process, so I say, good job, Dick!

I was never a fan of this generation T-Bird. The front end was intriguing, for about 90 seconds, but that wasn’t the whole problem. The rest of it just looked…uninspired. The designers were forcing it, trying to make an aging concept still look relevant somehow. The Bullet-bird was peak T-Bird, such a great reflection of the zeitgeist. But by the late ’60s, this was getting old and stale. Nobody under 50 or 60 wanted something like this in 1967. Not groovy, man. It had become an old fart-mobile.

This was all wrong anyway, even if you were an old man. The Brougham Epoch was raging, and it should have been big fat tufted velour, panty-cloth, or leather, and lots of fake wood. This is from a different era altogether.

And the wrap-around rear seat was so 1961. In order to stay cool and relevant, you have to be cool and relevant.

It’s got a Brougham Era correct top, so it’s obviously a Landau model.

I hate to think what the vinyl is hiding.

Now here’s a tough question: which of the two would end up in your driveway?