Round 2 (MPC) 1/25 1978 AMC “Pacer X” (OOB)

At long last, one of MPC's Pacer kits is reborn! The folks at Round 2 decided to bring us the most awkward of them all, the 1978 Pacer Coupe!

At long last, one of MPC’s Pacer kits is reborn! The folks at Round 2 decided to bring us the most awkward of them all, the 1978 Pacer Coupe!

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!

The Box:

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…

Check it! Look at those macho street mods! Look at those amazing (cough) louvers! It doesn't Kraft much more Kar than that, boys and girls!

Check it! Look at those macho street mods! Look at those amazing (cough) louvers! It doesn’t Kraft much more Kar than that, boys and girls!

The Kit:

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!

This is the contents of that cool retro box. You can see the large number of separate bags, which is unusual for an American kit.

Here are the contents of that cool retro box. You can see the large number of separate bags, which is unusual for an American kit.

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.

It's not an International truck, but you're forgiven for thinking that! The rather unfortunate grille is well moulded, at least!

It’s not an International truck, but you’re forgiven for thinking that! The rather unfortunate grille is well moulded, at least!

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.

Here you can sort of see the door panel texturing and the texturing of the carpet, too. Both are well done and look correct. This is a detail I wish Japanese car kit makers would understand.

Here you can sort of see the door panel texturing and the texturing of the carpet, too. Both are well done and look correct. This is a detail I wish Japanese car kit makers would understand.

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.

Yikes! Check the gate stubs or whatever they are on the rocker panel. That's pretty bad, even for 1970's technology! Care will be needed to remove them without wrecking something.

Yikes! Check the gate stubs or whatever they are on the rocker panel. That’s pretty bad, even for 1970’s technology! Care will be needed to remove them without wrecking something.

Mistaken Identity!

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.

This is page one of the instruction booklet. You can see the large number of engine parts, and the aggressive, tractor-like "off road" tires for the custom version.

This is page one of the instruction booklet. You can see the large number of engine parts, and the aggressive, tractor-like “off road” tires for the custom version.

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!

Nice decals, but they'll only really be of use on a custom job.

Nice decals, but they’ll only really be of use on a custom job.

Conclusions:

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?

Wider is better! Compare the width of the Pacer (Center) with that of a 1/25 Gremnlin (left) and Omni 024 (Right). It is a fat car, isn't it?

Wider is better! Compare the width of the Pacer (Center) with that of a 1/25 Gremnlin (left) and Omni 024 (Right). It is a fat car, isn’t it?

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2 comments

  1. You are apparently enamored and believe the sun rises and sets on Junkie Motors . I , sir , am not . I’ve actually driven and repaired on the 1:1’s . This includes a Pacer . I owned , actually it owned me , a Vega in disguise and borrowed a friend’s Pacer for a Day . Yup , the Junkie Motors had .. wait for it .. failed and needed life support . The Pacer actually constantly ran .
    You can stress your opinion about AMC , designs and non-sellers . Who is the Largest Manufacturer of Loooosers ? Who made the killer Corvair ? The exploding Buick V/6 ? The Wonderful Wrecker Bait Vega ? The non stop Citations ? The 15 generations of V/6’s ? The Direct copy of the Japaneese cars , sent them to Japan and the Market there did reject these cheap immitations . BTW , the Saturn changed the Engine designs every two years trying to get one to work right . Did you know about the Cylinder heads porosity leaking coolant into the oil as a bonus for some Saturns ? The Recall of the ’58-’60 Cadillacs and why the recall was initiated in the first place ? How the Oldsmobiles were sold with less costly , less HP and durability , and Fuel Milage ? A SBC instead of an Olds Engine . The Cadillacs Halo Cars initiating the flood to other Luxury makes and Imports ? Do not drive any GM car when it is Hot . As little as 1 foot = Complete Engine Meltdown . Non other than Junkie Motors . IMHO , the American Vehicle Maker that groomed Customers for Japan Inc . . I spent my Carreer as an insider for the Automotive Industry in one way or another .
    MPC did not make an exceptional boo – boo making the X Pacer . Annuals kit Manufactures did not have Private information as to model , detail , options , and some design changes made Prior to Assembly and sales to the Public . Would you like to have a discussion detailing the mistakes made since the advent of annuals on the Promos and kits ? It may take more than 50 years to do so . Did you ever hear about : Production Dates – Jullian Dates – Serial Number Batches ? The Manufacturing Process changes constantly . IMHO , this is why there are No Annuals made today .
    If I was to be in a Crash : give me a Pacer or give me injuries . If you don’t know what this means , consult Saftey Experts and Body Repair Persons .
    I am glad this kit is back . I owned two AMC Javelins . I’m sorry I did not but more AMC’s while I had the chance . My owner’s experiance was much better in one of these vs a dozen Junkie Motors . Did you ever notice Mr. Goodwrench has clean Manicured hands ?
    I build / collect model cars . I will not hesitate to add AMC’s . Brand X , I am reluctant to do so . MPC kits were baffo in the day . Thanx ..

    1. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I am well aware of the failings of the General; the debacle of the Citation comes to mind first and foremost, but I know there were others.

      I also know that AMC made good cars, if not a bit oddly styled and awkward. They really were ahead of their time in many ways.

      What you say about annuals makes sense, and it is a shame we don’t still have them today. I really like the idea. Even if not an annual, I’d like to see more “everyday” cars; Fusions, Cruzes, etc. I like to model what I see on the road, not a Ferrari I’ll never own.

      I am familiar with a lot of the things you’re talking about automotive industry-wise; I also work in automotive.

      I wasn’t trying to slag AMC any more than I will be slagging Ford and GM and Chrysler when I do write ups on their loser-mobiles.

      You man think I’m enamoured with GM, but I’ve driven Fords, Mecuries, Mazdas and Volkswagens, and they’re not a lot different from each other. I am, however, as you seem to tell, a fan of Pontiac. Does this mean I think they are the best car ever? No, not at all.

      However, I do like the Ponchos that I own; the T/A is still the best looking car of its day (to me) and the G8 GT still annihilates most cars in its class for half the cost.

      I’m glad that you have had good experiences with MPC kits. I have too; they’re great, and actually they are my favourite brand as well! I have build the Omni 024, EXP, Daytona (1988) and Cavalier, and all were excellent kits. I have many more in my stack, and am always glad to get more.

      I’ll add ANY interesting car to my stack, from AMC to Zil, if I can find it!

      Have a good one, man!

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