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Jeni's Kenosha Journey

Having owned Pacers since 1994, I decided 2002 was the year to change the fact that I'd never attended a national event. 2002 was the 100th anniversary of the Jeffery's Rambler, the US's second mass-produced car. To commemorate this anniversary, all the national clubs (AMO, AMCRC, AMCWC, NAMDRA, Nash, Met, etc.) held their national meets in Kenosha, Wisconsin in late July 2002. In a whirlwind four days, I was immersed in AMC "heaven". Here is my story, as told to the AMC Pacer mailing list while I was in Kenosha.

Day 1

What fun! I flew into Chicago O'Hare this evening, and Glen Hoag picked me up at the airport. It was a short 45 minute drive up to Kenosha, where we checked out the remainders of a cruise night at The Spot, drove by the DaimlerChrysler engine plant, then parked near the lake and grabbed a bite to eat. We meandered around the parking lot at the host hotel, checking out the various AMCs (especially the Pacers!) parked there.

So, here I sit in a somewhat marginal motel room, waiting to digest my BBQ pork sandwich enough to be able to go to sleep. All sorts of exciting stuff lined up for tomorrow! :)

Day 2

It just gets better all the time! :) Friday morning, Glen and I had breakfast at Denny's, then headed to the show field to check out the vendors. I saw a lot of fun stuff, but my "frugal" nature (read "cheap") allowed me to spend just $5 on one of the 1975 Pacer introduction invitations. (Anyone else have this? It's a pretty neat collectible.) In mid-afternoon, we headed to the Boat House for the AMC listers lunch, where it was fun to meet a bunch of people I've only known through email, as well as other friends and acquaintences I haven't seen in person in a while. After that, we attempted to check out the new Kenosha historical museum, which was dedicated just the day before, but it was unfortunately closed. Then we hung out a little while at the cruise night at Wendy's before heading out to dinner with some Peach State AMO folks at an Italian restaurant near the host hotel. Our final stop of the evening was the car wash, to get Glen's Pacer ready for the show the next day.

Pictures from Day 2:
Click on a thumbnail to view the full-sized image.
Glen and his Pacer #4 Glen Hoag and his Pacer #4, in front of my somewhat shady motel.
AMO welcome banner The welcome banner at the AMO host hotel.
AMO Registration Signs The AMC-logo-based registration information signs at the AMO host hotel.
Hotel sign The host hotel sign -- it read, "Welcome AMO classic cars".
70s article from Kenosha News series The Kenosha News published a decade-by-decade weekly series of articles in the months leading up to the show. The AMO goodie bag contained a special edition of the paper including all of the articles. This is the article from the 70s, which has the following to say about the Pacer:

"Even more innovative [than the Gremlin] was the Pacer, which joined the AMC lineup in 1975. The car was low and wide-bodied, with plenty of interior room and plenty of glass. It was a daring gamble that received plenty of attention, not all of it favorable. One car magazine likened it to a vehicle designed for lunar exploration.

"AMC produced 145,000 Pacers that first year, but by 1978, the novelty had worn off and production had dwindled to about 20,000."
Lake Michigan A view of Lake Michigan from the lakefront park where the swap meet and car show were held. Tomorrow, this view would be filled with AMCs from across the continent.
Pat Barnes' Pacer
Pat Barnes' Pacer
Pat Barnes' grandmother's Pacer. He drove it from Washington state to Kenosha for the show. I first met him at the cruise night at Wendy's on Friday night.
Blue Pacer at cruise night A blue Pacer coupe from Wisconsin, at the Wendy's cruise night. I couldn't find the owner. If anyone knows, please let me know! :)
Pacer dragster engine
Rear shot of dragster Pacer
Closeup of dragster Pacer tire
This totally tricked-out Pacer dragster has a Pontiac engine, massive racing slicks, and a pretty cool custom paint job.
At the car wash Glen and his Pacer at the quarter car wash late Friday night.

Day 3

Saturday -- show day! I woke up this morning, showered, got dressed, and parted the curtains to find -- rain! It was coming down pretty hard, too. However, by the time we got to the show field, it had slowed down. It drizzled on and off for the next hour or two, but by late morning, it was clear and sunny (and HUMID!). I think I can best sum up the scene at the show field like this -- I have never seen so many AMCs and related vehicles in one place, and I doubt I ever will again. There was a literal SEA of cars. Loosely organized into the major clubs of Nash, Met, NAMDRA, AMCRC, AMCWC, and AMO, cars were scattered all over the place. I couldn't even begin to count the total number of cars there, but I've heard estimates ranging from 800 to 1500. In the AMO section alone, there were over 300. As for the number of Pacers, wannabe Pacer owner Thomas Gustavson, who drove down from Minneapolis with his mom and friend for the sole purpose of finding a Pacer to drive back, counted 13.

For the 8-9 hours we were there, I only had time to circle the show field twice, the second trip being quite abbreviated. There was much to see and many people to meet and talk to (including original AMC interior designers Vince Geraci and company hanging out in one of the tents - how cool!), and time just flew! We had just enough time to return to our respective hotels, freshen up, and head to the Italian American Club for the AMO banquet, from whence I just returned.

Tomorrow morning, it's off to the MGA proving grounds (the former AMC proving grounds, where there are giant "AMC"-shaped shrubbery) for a tour, then to the airport and back home to Phoenix!!

Pictures from Day 3:
Click on a thumbnail to view the full-sized image.
Rain The view from my not-even-good-enough-to-be-a-Knight's-Inn-anymore-but-still-looks-a-lot-like-one-and-charges-so-much-it-might-as-well-be-the-Ritz motel room. Oh, the rain -- that's what I wanted to point out. :) It was coming down at a pretty good clip that morning. When I first looked outside and beheld this view, many folks were still holed up in their motel rooms, waiting for it to pass.
Rain A bunch of Ramblers in the AMCRC section of the show field.
Window-mounted A/C unit The "Thermador Car Cooler", a window-mounted air conditioning unit. This unit was not original with the car, but the owner made it fit perfectly. He still uses it to this day, and he told me it works like a charm when speeding down the road quickly enough.
1902 Rambler The oldest car at the show: a 1902 Jeffery's Rambler. The owner told me that the car is all original, not restored, which is especially impressive, considering the body is made out of wood! This beauty tops out at a speed of ~20 mph, though the owner has only taken it to 15 mph or so.
1908 Rambler A beautiful restored 1908 Rambler.
Horseless Carriage license plate The California "Horseless Carriage" license plate on the 1908 Rambler.
Cars in Nash section A bunch of cars in the Nash section of the showfield.
Showfield One of my meager attempts to capture a shot of most of the showfield in a photograph.
1929 Nash A great restored 1929 Nash. The owner catalogued his restoration in the photo album near the front bumper. Once the sun came out later in the day, the top came down and the rumble seat was opened. Stay tuned for more pictures of this... :)
Purple Nash This purple Nash was screaming for a photograph from this angle. :)
Nash Mets Just a few of the 50 or so Nash Metropolitans present at the show.
1975 Pacer with designers An autographed photograph of a '75 Pacer with its designers (from left): Chuck Mashigan, head of advanced design; Vince Geraci, director of interior design; Dick Teague, Vice-President of Design; Bob Nixon, director of exterior design. Vince and several of his former AMC colleagues were at the show, and Vince was kind enough to provide me with a copy of this photograph.
Teague memorabilia Some of the Dick Teague memorabilia on display at the tent where the AMC designers were stationed, centrally located on the showfield.
More memorabilia More memorabilia...
Interior drawings Some of the original interior drawings of various AMC cars.
Teague tribute A portion of one magazine's tribute to Dick Teague, following his death.
Teague - Man of the Year Chilton's Automotive Industries magazine named Dick Teague "Man of the Year" in their February 1, 1976 issue, less than a year after the introduction of the Pacer.
AMX with enormous engine This AMX was just too unique not to snap a photo of.
AMX rainbow Just a portion of the AMX "rainbow" on display at the show.
Curt Uhrin's Pacer Curt Uhrin's Pacer from Clearfield, Pennsylvania.
David Gardner's Pacer David Gardner's '76 Pacer from Royal Oak, Michigan, with a hand-sprayed blue-green paint job.
Tom Altemus' Pacer Tom Altemus' '77 silver/brown, four-speed wagon with bucket seats from Connecticut.
Showfield panorama Another one of my meager attempts to capture the showfield on film. Unfortunately, my photo-stitching program seems to have had some trouble merging these images.
Mets & Lake A view of Lake Michigan, from behind the sea of Nash Mets.
Wisconsin Pacer A Pacer from Wisconsin, in the non-club section of the showfield. I can't recall whether I ever was able to find the owner of this car.
Biege Pacer A biege Pacer in the non-club section, with a for sale sign in the window.
Blue Pacer X A blue Pacer X, which appeared at both the cruise night at Wendy's the first night I was in Kenosha, as well as on the showfield.
1929 Nash Another shot of the yellow 1929 Nash I photographed earlier, this time with the sun out and the top down.
1929 Nash's Rumble Seat A close-up of the rumble seat on the 1929 Nash.
Jeni in the rumble seat Me in the rumble seat. The very nice gentleman who owns the car helped me in. He had a very well-defined procedure for helping folks in, which strangely enough, requires stepping on the seat itself. The seat was more comfortable than I expected for such an old "piece of furniture", but I could never ride back there -- the inability to see out the front window (it being blocked by the folded-down top) might activate my unfortunate tendency toward motion sickness. But, all in all, it was a very fun experience. :)

You may also notice me "modelling" my Pacer "Hi" t-shirt, which I homemade specifically for this event.
Orange Pacer An orange Pacer, parked off (but near) the showfield.
Showfield at the end of the day A shot of the showfield, from atop a picnic table near the south end, as the day drew to a close.
Little Gremlins A look at some of the "shriner-sized" motorized mini-Gremlins at the show.
Little Gremlin A close-up of one of the mini-Gremlins.

Day 4

Well, my Kenosha trip has come to a close, and so must this saga... But first, I have to tell you about my last day. We got up early (and I must mention here that Glen did a great job of calling me every morning to wake me up, as my cheap hotel room didn't have an alarm clock!) to grab breakfast before the caravan to the MGA Proving Grounds. Unfortunately, we missed the caravan, but still got to the grounds in time for a tour.

First, we toured the crash test facility, which was way cool. MGA is an independent company that does a lot of government testing, so you've very likely seen tv commercials and 20/20 specials and the like that show films taken in their facility. It was impressive and interesting, but somewhat "low-budget-feeling" at the same time. Interesting note: their cable pulley acceleration system for the side- and front-impact tests is still powered by two AMC motors.

Next, we headed to the dummy lab, where they store and calibrate/repair crash test dummies of various shapes and sizes.

Then, we headed out on the grounds to tour the various tracks and surfaces where cars were/are (mostly were) tested. There were all sorts of fun features, like the "shimmy exciter", alternate roll track, 20% up grade, and 28% down grade (yikes!).

And, of course, no visit to the MGA Proving Grounds would be complete without a view of the AMC bushes, which we caught a few glimpses of while on the track. They were planted in 1961 and maintained while AMC owned the facility, but in recent years, they've become quite large, and most recently, somewhat overgrown. It was hard to tell from far away, but they're around 15 feet tall. Our engineer tour guide said MGA is planning to have them cut down to four feet tall at the end of the summer. Hopefully, they'll survive the haircut.

Pictures from Day 4:
Click on a thumbnail to view the full-sized image.
Collision Path Looking down the path to "scientific collision" at the MGA Proving Grounds. Vehicles (or objects to be crashed into vehicles) are pulled by cables (by an AMC motor, no less!) down this track, from the garage-like building in the distance into the building behind the location from which the picture was taken.
Side impact collision area A look inside the building I mention in the above caption. This area is set up for a side impact collision (you can see the same track as in the previous picture running underneath the car). The car is underneath a tarp to hide confidential information from prying eyes. :)
Collision area Know those car commercials that show head-on collision tests? This is one of the areas where films like that are made. The car is a prototype cab from a British company.
Collision area Another shot of the collision area. Man, those lights were hot! (And not even all of them were turned on yet!)
Collision area All the lights were going full-blast. Notice how most of the people cleared away as a result. :)
Rotisserie The rotisserie, onto which a car was loaded after a collision to check for fuel & oil leaks and other such defects.
Collision engine One of the few remaining relics from the days of AMC ownership of this facility -- the AMC engine that facilitates the collisions.
AMC bushes A (not-so-great) shot of the AMC bushes. AMC used to hold company picnics in this area, and they planted the bushes in 1961. Fifteen feet tall when this picture was taken, MGA finds this shrubbery unwieldy to maintain. Our tour guide later told us that MGA had hired a company to chop the bushes down to just four feet tall. They aren't sure whether they'll survive.
AMC bushes Another photograph of the AMC bushes.
Body twist The "body twist" segment of the proving grounds track (with a 10 mph sign). Since the tracks aren't regularly used for MGA's work at this facility (collision and related experiments are their primary activity), you can easily see the signs of neglect -- poor-quality, cracked pavement, through which grass grows.
Crash test dummies Some of the crash test dummies used in MGA's collision testing. These dummies are carefully calibrated to mimic real human bodies as closely as possible. The colored chalk you see on some of the dummies is used to indicate where the dummies collide with various parts of the car's interior.
Crash test dummies More dummies...
Crash test dummies More dummies...
Crash test dummies More dummies...
Dummies and Jeni More dummies... oh, and me. :)
Dummy head An old dummy head mounted above a door frame, much like a hunting prize. ;)
Alternate roll track The alternate roll track, as seen out the windshield of Glen's Pacer.
Shimmy exciter The sign announcing the shimmy exciter, which was a faster, tighter version of the alternate roll track. I took a picture of the sign because I liked the phrase. :)
20% grade The incline portion of the 20% grade. I didn't take a picture of the decline -- I was too busy holding on!

The Trip Home

From there, it was off to O'Hare, then back to Phoenix with me. My Kenosha journey is over, but I've got some fun memories that'll last for a while. :)

As a footnote, I must comment on how my Pacer "saved the day" while I was gone. Despite the fact that it remained in Phoenix while I traveled to its birthplace, my Pacer provided unplanned, but much needed cargo transportation for lumber for my husband's project that weekend -- building CD shelves in our office closet. Even my husband, who, before that Saturday, never drove the Pacer and avoids contact with it at all costs, admits that it played an essential role. I suppose it was only fitting that my Pacer had something to do to keep its mind off not being in on all the fun. :)

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