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The Love and Loss of Pacer #1

Grandpa Sawyer and his first car in 1939
My grandpa and his first car on August 25, 1939, two days after his 19th birthday

Jeni's Ex-1975 AMC Pacer When I was 16 years old, only three months after I passed my driver's test and earned my license, I got a call from my grandparents. The previous autumn, they had purchased a new car, and between their two homes, three cars were enough -- leaving their oldest car without an immediate use. They asked if I would like their 1975 AMC Pacer as an early high school graduation gift, and eagerly, I jumped on the opportunity. "Hey! A free car!" I thought. I knew I wouldn't get a car any other way, so I took it. Two months later, after my junior year ended and school let out for the summer, my parents and I drove up to Albany, NY to meet my grandparents halfway between my home near Cleveland, Ohio and their home in Central Maine.

I knew what was coming to me. I grew up with that car on visits to their cabin in Maine. Even so, I still cringed the first time I laid my eyes upon it as its owner. I had a little trouble adjusting to the standard brakes I wasn't used to, and driving home eight hours without a working radio annoyed me quite a bit, but I kept telling myself, "Hey... it's a car. It's better than nothing."

'Supermodel' Jeni on the Pacer It wasn't until I began driving the Pacer around daily that I finally recognized how truly unique my little car was. People walking around my neighborhood would stop to chat with me about it while I was washing it, other drivers on the road literally stared at me as I passed by, and two people even offered to buy my Pacer on the spot, in just the first month I had it! By then, there was no way I was going to let go of my newfound "fortune". That car was a fixture in my life, and I loved it, despite frequent cracks about the "White Lemon." I even posed on the hood of the Pacer in my senior year prom dress.

The birth of The Pacer Page followed soon after. During my senior project in May 1995, I discovered the World Wide Web. At that time, the web was small, and the only online information I could find about AMC's was Jim Stone's AMX-Files. Inspired, I created The Pacer Page 1.0, a one-page version of this site. I also joined the AMC mailing list, and as my knowledge of Pacers grew, so did The Pacer Page.

A car as old as this certainly comes with its share of problems, and my Pacer had become quite familiar with one of the local garages and my mechanic. I had my share of searching the country for parts, eagerly taking other Pacer people's help along the way, trying to get bits and pieces in working order. However, disaster befell my Pacer early in the spring of 1996. I was driving home to my dorm on the campus of Case Western Reserve University one evening, when an angry driver intentionally hit my car and immediately sped away. For over two months, the Pacer sat at home in my driveway and in my mechanic's garage, waiting for a replacement rear end, the parts that could put my beloved car back in working order, but never restore it to its former state. In this interim, I began a lease on a new car, a 1996 Honda Civic, a more reliable but significantly less interesting automobile.

Refusing to let my parents junk the Pacer, I turned over ownership to them, since they could afford the necessary repairs. In the year after the tragedy, the Pacer remained a superfluous fourth car to our three-driver family, in use only when another car was being repaired. In April 1997, my younger sister, Beth, got her license and our parents' permission to venture out on the roads alone. In her first trip out in her "new" car (yep, you guessed it... the infamous Pacer), the steering gave out. Deciding that the repair costs were too high, my parents (having the final word on the issue, unfortunately) demanded that I find a buyer for the Pacer. After many offers and much scrutiny on my part, Glen Hoag became the buyer of choice. On 25 July 1997, after a bus ride to Cleveland from Huntsville, Alabama, a few hours of repair on the floor of my parents' garage, and a title transfer, Glen was on his way back home with his second white 1975 AMC Pacer.

Pictures from that sad day:

Click on a thumbnail to view the full-sized image.
Glen with the Pacer in my parents' garage Glen posing with the Pacer in my parents' garage, before the repairs.
Our dog, Casey, mourning the loss of the Pacer Our dog, Casey, mourning the loss of the beloved Pacer. (Ok, so maybe she was just lying there. :)
Glen starting on repairs Glen scoping out what needs to be done, before starting the repairs. He came prepared with all necessary tools and parts.
Glen in the midst of repairs Glen in the midst of repairs...
Mom and Glen check out the repairs Mom attempting to learn something from the resident Pacer expert. :)
Mom handing over the title to Glen The ceremonial handing over of the title...
The Pacer at Sears A shot of the Pacer cruising into Sears Auto for a front-end alignment.
The Pacer at Sears The Pacer at Sears Auto. As we were leaving Sears, a bus driver came over to talk about Pacers, as he used to own one.
A final shot of the Pacer in my parents' driveway. A final shot of the Pacer in my parents' driveway.
The now-famous pose, one last time The now "famous" pose, one last time.
Old owner and new owner Old owner and new owner.
Javlynn Sue Leair and her AMC nails Javlynn Sue Leair poses for a picture of her fingernails and toenails, each individually adorned with an AMC logo.

More pictures from Pacer #1's past:

Click on a thumbnail to view the full-sized image.
The Pacer at Kingsbury The Pacer was my grandparents' second car in Maine, their summer residence. (Their other car drives back and forth between Maine and Florida, their winter residence.) Their home is a log cabin (built by my grandfather, friends, and other folks the year my mom was born, with an addition added in the 80s) on Kingsbury Pond, about 15 miles outside of Bingham, Maine. This picture was taken in the summer of 1990, about four years before my grandparents gave me the Pacer.
The Pacer at Kingsbury Another shot of the Pacer at Kingsbury. My mom is in red, leaning against the Pacer, and my dad is Paul Bunyan. Judging by her hair color and his hair volume, I would date this photograph to the mid-80s.
Pacer at Kingsbury with trailer In addition to hauling trash to the dump, this trailer was also used to haul me, my sister, and friends to play near the dam at the foot of the pond. I'm on the left side of the picture, in the back. Circa 1985.
Jeni in front seat of Pacer #1 Me sitting in the front seat of my Pacer, in either '94 or '95. When stirrup pants come back into style decades from now, I'm gonna be really sorry I got rid of these.

Onto Part 2, "A Life Without Pacers"...

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