Trackside Classic: Pacer Racer – The Real Thing

A few years ago during AMC Week, Paul posted a photo from the Cohort of a faux Pacer racer. Well, this one is the real thing. It’s an International Motor Sports Association Radial Sedan (IMSA RS) car which I shot heading up the hill to Turn 2 at Sears Point (now Sonoma Raceway) in California, in 1976, according to my note on the back of the print. The Radial Sedan series was for “small” sedans, with some engine and chassis mods, running on DOT approved BF Goodrich street tires.

AMC had previously run Gremlins, which were very competitive and won the 1974 championship. In 1976 the Gremlins were handicapped by a NASCAR-style mid-season rule change to add a carburetor restrictor. So the AMC team switched to the heavier Pacer (still 258 six powered), which didn’t require a restrictor. When IMSA then mandated the restrictor for the Pacer as well, the team returned to running the lighter Gremlin. Behind the Pacer, which is trailing 1977 champ Don Devendorf in a Datsun B210, and 1975 champ Nick Craw in a BMW 2002, are a Datsun 510 and a pair of Mazdas, an RX3 and RX2. I believe the Pacer driver is Amos Johnson, who was one of the more successful AMC drivers in that era. The 1976 championship was ultimately won by a Dodge Colt (rear wheel drive).