I'd been keeping my eyes open for one of these on the street in Alameda for quite a while (we see one in a driveway behind the '50 Pontiac Chieftan, but driveway cars aren't, like, on the street), so I had the camera out and shooting before you could say "defunct automobile manufacturer" when I saw this '76 on Alameda's main drag. Not only is it a Pacer, it's the coveted X model! And in great condition to boot.

The Pacer was supposed to have had a GM-built Wankel under the hood, but The General canceled the program (after a billion or so bucks down the drain) and AMC was stuck with a car that no longer had the oddball powerplant that would have justified the crazy styling. The Pacer X was the "performance" version, though in the Malaise Era that meant tape stripes and not much else.

When I photograph these cars, I'm always careful to set the camera's zoom so that there's minimal distortion of the car's lines. However, this is absolutely impossible with the Pacer- a photograph from any angle looks like you used a crazy fisheye lens.

Your world looks like this once you've stared at a Pacer for long enough.

I was nine years old when the Pacer first appeared, and I recall having a lot of bewildered discussion with my classmates about what the hell was the deal with this crazy-looking car. We'd drone out the Pacer's advertising slogan "It's small... but wiiiiiiiide!" whenever we'd see one (which was often; the Pacer actually sold pretty well). For what it's worth, the VW Thing rated highest on our collective Cool-O-Meter at the time.

Since the later Pacer was available with a 304 V8 under the hood, a 401-powered machine should be a junkyard bolt-in. Anyone who's done this gets instant Hoon of the Day status in our book.

First 100 DOTS Cars