Illustration by Sean McCabe
After about 10 minutes behind the wheel of a meandering 1975 AMC Pacer — often regarded as automotive history’s most ill-engineered vehicle — the Eagles 8-track cartridge shoved into the faded fake-wood dash seems to have amply warmed up. (Everything in the Disco Era, it turns out, had to be preheated.) What sounds like an underwater version of “Hotel California” bleats loudly from the car’s speakers and through my open driver’s-side window, assaulting the helpless citizenry of Atlanta suburbia.
As I tool past their staid minivans, men of a certain age (however old John Travolta is) melt like little girls who have just spotted a pony. Some of them burst into giddy laughter. Forget chicks. This car is a middle-aged-dude magnet.
With giant, rounded windows atop a tiny two-door body, the Pacer drives like a one-horsepower? groovy solarium on wheels. The car’s wacky alignment seems determined to slowly veer the vehicle through a strip-mall Starbucks, where it would ineffectually bump against the shins of a barista. Keeping it on the road is like guiding the world’s smallest parade float. The unnervingly cushiony driver’s seat ensconces my rear end like a ?leopard-print water bed. And as a tourist in ?Georgia, I’m dutifully hopped up on pie, waffles and sugar-?heaped sweet tea. The whole experience is tripped-out bliss, the vehicular equivalent of listening to a Jefferson Airplane record backward.
The Pacer’s owner snaps me out of it. “You could probably go a little faster,” posits Harris Goodkind, who’s riding shotgun. I glance at the speedometer and realize I’m doing 20 mph and that a line of Priuses and Escalades containing decidedly un-blissful drivers is snaking out behind me.