This article in Auto Reports assumes that this Pacer pickup with AMC manufacturer’s plates was a prototype of something they were seriously considering building. With a bed a wide–or wider–than it was long, it undoubtedly would have done the Japanese mini-pickups very serious harm.
They got it wrong. Here’s the backstory:
A custom car builder named Carl Green built it, and tried to sell AMC on the idea. Presumably AMC kept it for a week or so to evaluate it, hence the plates. But they gave it the thumbs down, reasoning–among other things–that Jeep was the better brand for pickups than AMC, never mind a Pacer.
But someone who saw the original in a magazine a year later or so, after it had been customized, was taken by the idea and bought a new Pacer wagon and had one built just like it. He later sold it, but the found it again in 2008. Presumably it still exists. The whole saga was written up here.
For once, AMC made the right decision.
The original seems to have disappeared early on. But
The phrase “the worst of both worlds” fairly leaps to mind. 😉
… of course, in 2022, it would have been branded as a Jeep. 🙁
And they probably would have rehashed the “Comanche” name to go along with it.
I dunno, I think that with Pacer X trim and wheels it might have found a niche – which by AMC standards would have been pretty small). It’s not as if the Pacer pickup would have been the worst idea AMC had in vehicle development during that decade. Or maybe the niche might have been bigger had they done it to a Hornet Sportabout (using coupe doors), or better yet, the 4×4 Eagle.
But with these whitewalls and poverty caps – just no.
Regardless it would have never cut into Chevy LUV or Datsun mini truck sales, at least here on the West Coast…And the only thing AMC accomplished in the ’70s was completely destroying the Jeep name and legacy…
The AMC produced Cowboy based on the Hornet would have been a MUCH better basis for a small truck
Didn’t that one have a partial frame extending from the Hornet unibody (like the Comanche that followed) to support the separate bed?
That looks amazing!
I’m more and more convinced the Hornet is the most modular car ever made, every body configuration offshoot they came up with somehow works. Too bad that didn’t make production
Back in the ’70s here on the West Coast, If you wanted a mini truck, you bought a LUV or a Datsun. Toyota was not even on the radar in that market yet. And before pundits scream “what about Land Cruisers?” Those were not considered a mini truck.
Toyota was not even on the radar in that market yet.
The Toyota Hilux was being sold here quite successfully since 1969.
I can’t believe that anyone saw this as a credible threat to Japanese pickups of the time, given that the Pacer pickup would’ve gulped nearly twice as much fuel, not to mention the build quality, or lack thereof.
Jeep should have been the logical competitor for Toyota and Datsun, but the odd thing is that Jeep never built a small pickup. Though the CJ was the shortest vehicle around, the Jeep pickups were always on the large side. The base Jeep pickup in the ’50s was on a 118″ wheelbase, while the base Dodge half-ton was 108″.
In the 70s when Ford and Chevy were successful with Ranger and LUV, AMC still didn’t try to fill its own best niche.
Jeep did have the CJ-8/Scrambler from 1981-86, essentially a CJ-7 with a 10″ longer WB (103.5″) and a bed instead of rear seating. The bed was only about 6″ shorter than a typical minitruck’s, and 3′ wide between the wheel wells.
The Jeep FC (forward control) of the ’50s and ’60s were certainly small, if unconventional, pickup trucks. Actually were available in several lengths.
What about the Jeep Comanche pickup built from 1984 to 2001?
The XJ Cherokee on which the MJ Comanche was based was made from 1984-2001, but the Comanche itself was only offered from 1986-92.
Those dates didn’t sound right to me due to too much overlap with Chrysler’s buyout of AMC. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) 🙂
To be fair, my hasty lunchtime skim of the Wiki article.
That, and demand for Cherokees was so high, it wasn’t as profitable to make Comanches.
It should come to no one’s surprise that I like the El Pacero.
I completely concur. This is an interesting looking automobile. The B-pillar has a great deal of similarity to the Subaru Brat. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
Yes! With or without the jump seats, I think they’re both cool.
Great back story.
It take a very playful mind to do this kind of thing. It is very imaginative and it is right up there with that topless GM minivan you took photos of years ago.
The relatively wide for its length bed, with limited wheel well intrusion, is similar to the Honda Ridgeline. I doubt this Pacer pickup would have sold well for a variety of reasons, but like the wagon it seems like a more useful – and attractive – package than the coupe.
Given how wide the Pacer was (over 77″, like a “mid-size” Matador), it looks like this could carry the vaunted 4×8′ plywood sheet inside…provided you cut it in two first.
Kind of the opposite of the long bed minitrucks, which could be 90″ long but were usually less than 40″ wide between the wheel wells. (Even the later 8′ bed Dodge Dakota had to carry that vaunted plywood sheet on top of the wells.)
The biggest problem I see is what the rest of the Pacer line had as the late ’70s came in. Pacers had the operating costs of the new downsized midsize cars with the usable space of a subcompact. There would’ve been no reason to live with a bed 2′ shorter than a ’78 El Camino’s.
It reminds me of the Austin A30 pickup and road tax avoidance was the only reason for that.
Some car magazines were cheerleaders for Motown back then. Any new “small car” was supposed to “push them back”. Example C&D’s first cover story for X cars.
This might have had possibilities if AMC had built a version with optional Subaru BRAT-type pickup bed removable seating and a fiberglass topper over the rear.
In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest this would have been a way more viable option than the Pacer wagon introduced for 1977. Unfortunately, it was quite apparent to AMC (and everyone else) what a loser the Pacer was and they were just trying to cut their losses by then.
This would have found a few sales, especially the first year, to those who just wanted something different. It would be too impractical for use as either a car or a truck to have any effect on Japanese mini-trucks or even the El Camino though. Plus, it’s an AMC Pacer. AMC smartly didn’t build this.
Some ideas never die PT Cruiser pickup
Of all the PT Cruiser customizations that might be the only one that I really kind of like. A stepside bed is a good fit
In detail, too, when they said it had “AMC manufacturer license plates”. Manufacturer plates are a thing in Michigan—generally called “M plates” because in addition to saying “Manufacturer”, they all have an M as the middle character. But they don’t have a callout or decal or code or anything else identifying any particular manufacturer. One doesn’t see GM manufacturer plates, Ford manufacturer plates, etc. Maybe that was a thing in the past, but I doubt it.
Interestingly this concept was featured in the video game Vigilante 8, you had to collect powerups when you’d blow up cars to upgrade your own and the character with the Pacer would end up with this when fully upgraded
For nearly a year, the Pacer was the “next big thing” and “sliced bread” of car biz. Then reality set in. Or, just that its looks were a “fad”, then became ‘last year’s car’ by early 1976.
One of the biggest car fads of all time, hot for a short while, then good bye.
That’s the general pattern with unusual-looking cars of this sort. Driving a Pacer or Chevrolet HHR or PT Cruiser the first few months they’re available, when most people have never seen one, is attention-getting, a rolling conversation piece. But once they’ve been in production for years and everyone has seen them, they’re just unusual-looking cars, and by that point most people that want one have already bought one.
Ah, but the PT Cruiser had an ace-in-the-hole: easily removable rear seats, which may have been the way Chrysler was able to get it classified as a lower-cost minivan. Indeed, the PTC actually became an unintended darling of the older, senior demographic, the same of which could be said of the Chevy HHR. For this reason, I suspect they both stayed in production for much longer than one would have thought.
Then, when these two retro-mobiles were (finally) cancelled, the geezer market seemed to move to the Kia Soul, another one that’s lasted quite a long time (and is still being built).
So, if not completely impractical, oddball vehicles can sometimes have a long shelf life. Unfortunately for AMC, the Pacer didn’t have any kind of innate practicality.
The Subaru BRAT was reasonably successful, this wouldn’t even need some vestigial in-bed seats to avoid an import tax, being manufactured domestically. I think they shoulda went for it, assuming the structure was rigid enough to support a decent payload capacity and it could have been configured to tow a reasonable amount.
Great find. I find as a pickup, it looks kind of dumpy. AMC made the right decision, not pursuing this. I do like the Chev Blazer style prototype Dick Teague had built. With what appears to be a removable cap. According to Jalopnik, there were several reasons Teague had this prototype constructed. “Meet demands for recreational vehicles, take some pressure off the Jeep plant by building more vehicles at the Kenosha plant, and to try and get more out of the investment in the Pacer overall.”
IMO, the Pacer wagon works best (of the two production bodystyles) stylistically, in 4WD form. Best AMC never pursued this probable money-losing venture.
Given the attractively-styled Dodge Rampage, with its sports car-like handling struggled to sell, excellent chance a bloated Pacer pickup would have been another sales failure for AMC.
I do like this more masculine wheel arch shape, than the round shape used on the production Pacers.
I wonder just how “built” that actually is given its sitting on jackstands in all the images
My bad choice of word saying ‘built’. It appears to be a stock Pacer, with pieces added.
It’s not you, it’s the presentation in the pictures, it’s certainly built cosmetically, in that you can tell the styling department had their way with it, but didn’t yet go through the engineering department to figure out how to make a 4×4 suspension setup like they did with later Eagles. It appears they simply just jacked it up, let the stock suspension droop to its limit and threw on some big ol tires just to get those pictures.
It’s definitely interesting stuff, especially the “Jeepster” rendering, pretty much directly preceded Eagle, only using the Pacer platform
AMC also styled this ‘Jeepster II’ concept. Clearly based upon the Pacer, with Jeep details.
This reminds me of the little Ford Bronco truck I saw last December. It was parked at an Olive Garden I stopped at to purchase a grift card. I had never seen such a small Ford Bronco “mini” truck and was rather taken by it. Lucky for me the owner was sitting inside so I knocked on the window and peppered him with the usual questions. He said they nicknamed it the “Wheelbarrow” because of its tiny bed. He purchased it used when it was only a year-old with 5,000 miles on it. He said he used it as his daily driver year-round in Minnesota for all these years. He said he pulled the original engine installed a small block V8. He tapped the gas and it sure sounded like it. I say long live to these little goofball trucks.
That half cab was one of two roof options over the basic roadster when the Bronco debuted, and may have been the first use of the term “Sports Utility” in advertising. It wasn’t as popular as the enclosed wagon, though, so it was dropped after 1972. The new Courier that year had a bed about 2′ longer, so it wasn’t sorely missed.
I’m glad his Bronco survived all those Minnesota winters. They rusted pretty fast. These followed the same idea as the International Scout. IH offered the same choices too.
I rather like the Hornet / Cowboy mock up .
The Pacer Coupe Express looks okay but I too think it would have only sold the first year out .
I spotted a, what looked to me factory, Pacer X pickup with sliding rear window in Kelso, WA on November 26th, 2022. It’s right off I-5.
Would have been fun to drive around in. AMC made some good looking cars albeit very futuristic.