Everybody, get over here, now. Drop what you’re doing! You with the plasma cutting torch, just let it drop to the ground! You, pediatric dentist doing an emergency filling, just let go of that drill, crank that gas, and leave the kid there, because I have something important to tell you about AMC Pacer grilles, and my opinions on them: I have one a prefer significantly, and the other I dislike. There. I said it.
As you’re all likely aware, the AMC Pacer was one of AMC’s most bold and unusual designs. Dick Teague’s original vision was even more wild and remarkable, a strange, mid-rotary-engined travel podlet with the rear seats facing backwards.
That vision wasn’t quite realized, as AMC only had their tried-and-true inline-six engine to work with, so the car got a conventional front engine/rear-drive layout and a more conventional hood.
For all of the mockery it gets, though, I think the overall design is really quite strong. Do I need to remind you that Porsche designer Tony Lapine used the rear end as an inspiration for the 928?
I shouldn’t have to remind you of that! But, look, we’re here to talk about the other end. The front end. Specifically the two grille and hood designs. Here’s the first one:
Okay, got it? Now here’s the second version, which was first used on the Pacer Wagon, and I believe also provided extra clearance for the AMC V8 engine, though it was also used on I-6 and hatchback Pacers, too:
My take? I hate the bigger grille. Wow, that just came out. I’ve never just admitted that before. But I mean it! Now that I’ve said it, I mean it! I love the sleek, low-profile, clean original grille, and find the bloated lumpy one a miserable abomination that ruins the look of the whole front end!
It’s terrible! All the great lines of that front end get ruined! Ruined!
Look at that—look at those densely-packed parallel grille bars, the way the grille’s height forms a contiguous band into the indicators, broken only by the headlight pods. It works!
Then we have this laughable bullshit and I’m supposed to think it’s all okay? That overdone grille pattern, the clumsy bulge, it makes the car look like it’s trying to be something its not, turns it from an unashamed bold styling experiment into an insecure weirdo.
I’m not even willing to accept it as necessary to clear the V8; they could have done a hood bulge and left the original grille intact, and it would have been much better.
This may be the worst variant-grille design in all of motoring that I can think of at this moment; definitely the worst of the 1970s.
I’m so cross about it I have half a mind to exhume George Romney and give him what-for. But I won’t. I’ll rise above it, and just content myself with the knowledge that one of the Pacer grilles was wonderful.