The AMC Pacer was one of the first of the American compact cars to be designed in the wake of the first Oil Crisis. But that didn't mean Americans wanted a compact car. Oh no no no no. They wanted a big, wide, properly patriotic car. And that's where the Pacer fit the bill.

The Pacer could fit a Vega, or a Pinto, or an Eldorado, or a city bus, or an M60 Patton tank inside it (maybe, to those last three), according to the manufacturer. And while claiming that your compact car is wider than a city block is long is one marketing strategy for selling small cars to Americans that already like big cars, the truth of the matter is that AMC's assembly lines were already set up for producing full-size vehicles. AMC was perpetually on the ropes before finally giving up the ghost in the 1980s, so any money-saving corner-cutting they could do was quickly turned into a feature.

Like many cars made by AMC, the Pacer was a great idea but was poorly executed. Starting production on a small car in an era of floating barges took a lot of courage, but it never really caught on the way AMC hoped. The main advantage of having a small car is that it gets great gas mileage with maximum fun, but the 1970s gas crisis, combined with AMC's engine deals consistently falling through (they originally wanted a Wankel, which would've been awesome), led to the Wisconsin-built car having big but underpowered engines. All that glass was incredibly heavy, too, leading to less-than-impressive performance.

Nevertheless, I'm still a big fan of the Pacer. Sure, it weighed more than the Moon, but just the very idea of a small car with big glass, rear-wheel drive, and a straight-six in the base model?

I'd be getting into a Pacer, too.