Cohort Sighting: The First And Last Compacts From AMC – A Compact Arc of (Pudgy) History

AMC Rambler and Pacer

(first posted 6/9/2014)    This shot, posted by William Rubano, perfectly bookends the long and varied efforts by Nash/AMC to find success in the compact segment of the market. In both cases, these cars eschewed the conventional approach for something decidedly different. The little Rambler of 1950 is what started the whole trek by AMC into the world of compacts, and the Pacer wagon finished it off, in an unfortunate grand finale blow-out, the car that pretty much did AMC in. What a compact arc of history we have here.

Rambler 1950 fq

The 1950 Nash Rambler (I’m not sure of the exact year of this one) was a George Mason’s rather clever solution to make a profitable compact, something that had eluded the other independents so far. Rather than sell on low price, the Rambler was strictly a high-trim model that came only as a convertible-sedan and wagon. More expensive than a low end Chevy or Ford, it carved a niche with buyers who wanted something small but stylish, and even a bit sporty. It’s not a stretch to call it a predecessor of the Corvair Monza a decade later, and appealed to a similar clientele. Sales weren’t big, but it encouraged Mason to essentially bet the whole company on compact/mid sized Ramblers, which really came into their own in the late 50s.

AMC Pacer wagon

We’ve covered the Pacer here pretty thoroughly, but never the wagon. It was a desperate and utterly futile effort in trying to make the Pacer more acceptable. It did improve its luggage capacity somewhat, but certainly didn’t solve its many other shortcomings. And how much money was tossed away on that extended rear end and that horrendous raised upper lip? The Pacer’s spectacular waste of limited resources and losses forced AMC into the hands of Renault, which resulted in the subcompact Alliance and Encore, and a few other Renaults. But the Pacer was the last new car designed by AMC, a sad ending in their elusive chase for success with compacts, and of course much more.

Related: 1975 Pacer X CC