So, what’s more awkward than taking a sedan, chopping off the back end and making in an economy hatchback (aka creating the AMC Gremlin)? How about making a small car that is as wide as a big car, but making it as dorky as possible?! For extra awkwardness, make it look like a rolling fishbowl and give it bug-eye headlights! Sound good? No? Then you clearly didn’t work for AMC when they created the Pacer! To make matters worse, try “freshening up” the design by adding a ridiculously formal grille and getting rid of the sportiest model the year you introduce a V8 to try and add some sprightliness to the rolling terrarium!
Okay, so all of this sounds like a bad idea, right? It was, basically, and that’s part of the reason that American Motors Corporation (AMC) is no longer with us today. However, despite the weirdness of the Pacer, despite its oddball looks, anemic power plants and ant-under-a-magnifying-glass midsummer interior heat, time has actually been kind to it. Pacers are something of a cult car now. They’re so outlandishly odd and aesthetically challenged that they’re almost the automotive equivalent to the Blobfish! (Look it up, you’ll be amazed how close to a Pacer it is!)
Because of this, the original, 1978 issue of the MPC Pacer has long commanded high resale values, and those of us (like myself) who would like to adorn (is that the right word?) our shelves with one simply can’t afford to do so. That is, until now. Round 2, the modelling equivalent to daytime TV (rerunning all those campy, but awesomely so, shows from the 60’s and 70’s), has now seen fit to save all Pacer People from EBay gouging by re-releasing the 1978 Pacer X, from MPC!
Oh, how I’ve waited for the day that I can extend my loser car timeline back into the late 1970’s, and now it is here! So, now that we’ve got it, was it worth the wait? Let’s pop open a box o’ Pacer and find out!
This reissue is one of Round 2’s “Retro Deluxe” ones, which means it keeps the original packaging, just reprinted so it’s not water stained and yellowed from years of hoarding. I’ve not seen an MPC box this old before, and it is surprisingly slick and modern; more so than the cheesy boxes they used on their 80’s cars. It’s the same size as a normal car box, though; this isn’t one of their “Original Art” series. That’s no big loss, though, since there’s no art on the box top, just photos of the painted prototype model.
The side of the box, though, is where it’s at! There you can see for yourself the awesomely awkward and totally period “extras” that come with the kit! You see, like all good old car kits, the Pacer can be made stock (geeky) or as a “Street/Rally” (WTF-Street-Freak) version. To entice you to let your inner Kar Krafter out, MPC includes such options as custom lights, off-road tires, air dams, a roof spoiler and a roof rack. What they don’t mention, but you can’t miss, are the louvers!
Looking at these options on the box is worth the price of the kit. The air dams and roof spoiler look absolutely ridiculous and don’t fit with the car at all. The roof “spoiler” is basically just a vertical plate that goes behind the “targa” bar on the roof. It wouldn’t create downforce so much as it would just induce drag, reducing the Pacer’s already weak performance even further! As for the louvers, they’re just altogether something else. I mean, we all know that louvers were a big deal in the 70’s and 80’s. Heck, my 1980 Trans Am has them. However, they work best on cars with moderately small amounts of glass. That’s why louvers don’t really work on third-generation F-bodies; there’s just too much glass to cover at once. Well, on a Pacer, that problem is MULTIPLIED several-fold!
Putting louvers on a Pacer is akin to trying to put louvers on an old-school bubble space helmet! There’s just so much glass that any attempt to louverize (new word!) it becomes impossible! However, the 70’s knew no bounds on automotive taste (the Pacer itself is proof of this) and MPC went right along with the trends. Thus, should you want to totally macho out your Pacer for the streets, or the Discos, then you can. Oh, you can also put some kind of weird off-road winter tire-looking tires on the back, if you want even worse ride, handling and fuel mileage. Just saying…
Okay, so we’ve established that the box is cool, retro and very entertaining. Inside the box, the fun appears to continue. The kit is moulded in white, and comes with the body, chassis and interior bucket all together in one bag. There’s a separate bag for the windows (someone finally figured this out in North America! Huzzah!), one for the chrome and one for the three racks of white parts. Unlike most old MPCs, this kit is actually really well contained. Surprisingly, the tires are also in a separate bag, something almost as rare as having the windows bagged!
The tires are nice, with no real noticeable seams, and have raised letters. I can’t tell what they say through the bag, but there’s something there. I doubt you’d white letter them anyway, but heck, I might. The best is the two tractor/snow tire things. What the what??? They look like a Dinky Toy Military tire, with aggressive tread and knobby sidewalls. That’s boffo, man…
The moulding looks good, for the most part, but as expected there’s a lot of flash. It is MPC, and I like to think of it as getting more kit (per pound) for my money! The moulding is surprisingly good, though, and most parts look straight and well-formed. One exception is the roof rack. It’s very thin and flimsy, and it looks totally useless, as well as bent. I wouldn’t worry about it, though; who puts a roof-rack on a Pacer?
The chrome rack looks good, with bumpers, tail light bezels and wheels all being chromed, along with the requisite oil pan and valve covers. The wheels are cheesy-looking (but factory correct!) slot mags. The grille and headlights are all as one piece, too, and there aren’t any clear lenses for the headlights. Seeing the grille off the car finally made me realize why it looks so out of place on a Pacer: the general shape, and the “shouldered” appearance, reminds me of the old International truck grilles of the 1970s! Why you’d want that on a small car escapes me.
One thing I love about MPC is their engines. They always have lots of separate piece accessories, and this kit is no exception. The best part about the Pacer’s engine, though, is that it is the INLINE 6! When AMC restyled the Pacer in 1978, they bulged the hood, put on that horrid new grille, and introduced a V8. A common myth is that the bulged hood was added to accommodate the V8, but this seems to be false; I guess it was just for a change of pace. So, even though the kit is a Pacer X, you get to build it with the 258 cid I6 engine! Just what a loser car deserves!
Another thing I love about AMC is their interiors. They’re usually nicely detailed and have good carpeting texture. Even though this Pacer is quite an old mould, this is still the case! The carpet is quite aggressively napped, so should look good for doing a pastel shadowing job, and the door panels are also nicely moulded, although it’s hard to see in the white plastic.
There are some issues with the kit, mind you. For one thing, there aren’t any hood hinges, so the Pacer’s trademark forward-opening hood cannot be easily reproduced. Also, there are large, and very disappointingly crude, pour stubs on the sides of the body. These are pretty ghastly, and you’ll have to clean them off with a razor saw if you have one; otherwise, you run the risk of pulling big dents or holes in the body. There are a couple of other rough “break points” on the car, too. There’s at least one on the chassis. The chassis itself is nicely done, with good texturing and detail (again, typical MPC). Unfortunately, though, the exhaust is moulded into it, and that’s something I hate. There’s no real suspension to glue on either; the underside is really just there to hold up the fishbowl body, it seems. That’s rather disappointing, especially given that the 79 Omni of scarcely a year later has a full exhaust.
The box proclaims that this car is a 1978 Pacer X. In fact, that’s even moulded onto the body sides. However, it isn’t. How do I know? Well, I know because there is NO Pacer X after 1977. You got it; just when the brought in the V8, the killed the X-version. Why? Who knows… we’re talking about the company that graduated from making Nash Metropolitans to designing things like the Matador Coupe (nice bug-eyes!), Gremlin and Pacer.
Regardless of its “gene puddle” (not really deep or varied enough to be a true “pool”), the Pacer didn’t have an X after ’77. So then, what is up with the kit? It’s fairly common for kit companies to ‘jump the gun’ on things like this. It would only be logical for there to be a Pacer X for ’78 since there was one before then, right? Also, since only the grille and hood changed, MPC figured they could just update their ’76 and ’77 Pacers and capture the excitement (?) that would be the ’78 Pacer X. (That’s similar to capturing the excitement that is a bout of mono, or capturing a case of hemorrhoids, in case you’re wondering!)
So, Pacer bashing aside, what the what is this thing then? Is it a What-If? Could be. However, in ’78 there was a Pacer was offered as a “Sport” model. This was a trim package that gave you the slotted wheels, the 258 I6 or the newly available 304 V8, the sport steering wheel, steel belted radials (that’s actually pretty advanced!) and two-tone paint. It seems that the Sport model was quite rare, only offered for 1978 and only available as two-tones.
Here’s what I learned from a man who knows his AMCs:
As for the sport package colors, I’m not sure how many two tone colors they came in but the ’78 AMC brochure shows a Powder Blue and Captain Blue sport. I’ve also seen them in Sand Tan and Golden Ginger, Quick Silver and Classic Black and Khaki and British Tan.
The source for this was Rob Pederson at http://j4fmotorsports.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/hello-world/. So, thanks to him, you have some idea as to how to paint this thing correctly.
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions are very simple. There’s not a lot to this, and I don’t think that it’s going to be difficult to build from a piece-count point of view. The age of the moulds and relative inaccuracy of the whole modelling industry at the time, though, may come back to haunt us all! There aren’t many steps, and everything is very clearly illustrated.
There’s a nice decal sheet that comes with the car, but it’s all the striping and stuff for the “Street/Rally” version. They’re beautiful, but they’re pretty useless for doing a stock car. That’s okay, though, because the real cars have no decals on them at all!
The 1978 Pacer coupe/sedan (i.e. non-wagon) seems to be the unloved forgotten child in a family of largely unloved forgotten children. While the Pacer was successful in real life for the first few years, by 1978 the wagon had far eclipsed the coupe as the main seller, so it’s really quite nice to have a kit of something this uncommon. Thanks to MPC’s gun-jumping, we even get something rarer, a model of the Sport Package coupe in the only year it was offered!
Clearly, this kit is a trip down memory lane for those who had one back in the day. It’s a great treat for those of us who have wanted one forever, too. It’s a pretty simple kit, but I fear that could be a problem for less experienced modellers. If you’re new to cars (or modelling in general) you might find that this is more problematic than it looks; a lot of MPC cars are like that. The age of the moulds won’t help this, and those building it should be aware that a lot of test fitting will be your best friend on this one. It’s not going to be as easy as a Tamiya curbsider or a new Revell Camaro or Challenger!
Despite some roughness and flash, the moulding is by and large good, though and this makes a great addition to a collection. I don’t know how many people will actually build this thing, but I intend to, and I know it’s been on a lot of wish lists for a long time.
I know I’m pumped to have my very own fishbowl at long last! Kudos to Round 2 for rescuing this one. Now, how long until the Monza and Brat get repopped?