Category: Pacer pickup: Getting started


I’ve had a few requests for more details on the body kit. I’ll let you know what I’ve learned and what I’d recommend. First I set the body on jacks so there was no movement and then leveled a base platform at the bottom front. Then I built top and bottom wood frame for the bumper and glued blocks between the bases and filled in the spaces with 1/4″  foam board. After finishing the base I began covering it with Fixall. It was a good product to use. Very little shrinkage and easy to work with. As I mentioned earlier I didn’t like the way the first front turned out so I started over. 

I found it very difficult to work with the wood frame if I wanted to make any changes and I liked using the foam board. It was light, easy to cut, shape and glue and I could make changes along the way with ease if I didn’t like the result. Good thing I did because when I switched from the Cobra design back to the Pacer front it was fast and simple. After applying and shaping the plaster I began my mould. I first had to cover the bumpers and flares with Gel coat, release agent and then two coats of wax. In the end I still had to tear the mould apart just to get the final product out. Always remember when building your kit that it has to come out of the mould and since the mould is not flexable your angles must be such that it will slide out like a ice cube from its tray.

The next step was to build the mould over the mock up. Here’s my recomendation. Take it to a fiberglass fabricator and have them make mould or at least shoot the final product. The mould could be expensive but to have it just shot is not too bad. I was told when you build the mould brace it well. I couldn’t emphasize this point enough. If you want a proper fit to the body after all your work is done make sure the mould will not move or flex, at all! Take whatever time you need to get this right or you will spend alot more time later getting it to fit.

As for the rocker panel pieces I used a 4″ ABS pipe, cut it in half and fit it to the flares. It was simple and could flex to the radius of the Pacer rocker and gave me the look of sidepipes.

Last, you’ll have to think about how you will mount your kit. I played it by ear as before because in the end I am just a novice trying to figure it all out along the way. That is my take. I’m sure their are other, easier and better ways to do it but that’s how I did it. I wasn’t to concerned about retaining the moulds because there was no plan to reproduce and market a kit for sale. I must say that the Pacer, as old a body style as it is, adapts pretty well to a modern look. I would hate trying to do it with a Gremlin, Pinto or Vega.

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By now I was pretty sure it was going to turn out so I moved forward finishing the ground effects kit and truck bed. I didn’t really know how to make a mould so I contacted a local fiberglass fabricator, got some good info and purchased some products. First I had to coat the flares and bumpers with gel coat then release agent and two coats of wax. Then another coat of gel coat for the mould base and then fiberglassing. The fiberglassing was a mess.

 Long story short, I completed the kit and started the bed. After alot of templates and metal fabricating I had it completed. The tailgate ended up being as much work as the bed. Had I not tried to integrate the spoiler into the tailgate and tie it in to the bed rails it would have gone much faster.

 Next I attached the ground effects kit and was ready for body work. Just for fun I put the wheels back on to get a peek at what the final product would be.

WOW! I loved it. I needed to see that to keep my motivation up. It was really getting fun now. I was happy to finally be at the body work stage. It was alot of work getting there. First I completely disassembled the body for cleaning and any unseen problems. Everything came off.

Prime and then paint finally gets us up to date and ready to move on to finishing.

   The first thing I had to tackle was the custom ground effects kit. I tried finding fiberglass kits from other vehicles that looked close to my design but nothing worked. Realizing I was going to have to build my own from scratch was a real leap of faith. I had no idea what I was doing! I decided just to jump in with both feet and figure it out along the way.

   I started by using plastic fender flares from a 79-80 AMX as a base and cutting them to fit the body then filling and shaping where required. I needed to order new wheels with a correct backset and then install them so I would know where to set the flares up and make sure the front wheels would clear any obstacles. This was a huge challenge! I wanted 18″- 20″ wheels but most all custom wheels are made for later model cars with much to deep of a backset and the classic car rims were either not large enough in diameter or had too little or too much of a backset. Eventually I found Boze Wheels which offer custom backsets to your specifications, custom fit to your vehicle, 15″-24″ wheels and perhaps the best choice of wheels styles I had come across. I order 20″x 10″ for the rear and 20″x 8 1/2″ for the front. Once they came I was on my way.

It was now time to start on the front end. I started by building a wood and foam board frame and then covered it with fix-all. When I was done I didn’t like it at all. It just didn’t do what I wanted it to do. The thought of starting over was not pleasant but I knew I couldn’t move forward the way it was, so, take a breath and dig in again.

I nearly bagged the truck idea and drew another sketch as just a custom Wagon. Pretty cool but again opted to move forward with the pickup design. Had I known the work involved in building a pickup I probably would have stuck with the wagon. Fortunately I was an idiot.

I also toyed with the idea of a convertible pickup with a lower raked windshield.

Just before I started the new front end I felt inspired to make the front end look like a Shelby Cobra. I also realized that I could use foam board and a glue gun to more easily build the mock up. So I moved forward with that idea.

I loved it! Again it would take alot more work to include the hood, headlight bezels and grille as part of the project. At length I decided to stick with the Pacer front end. I wanted people to know what it was when it was done. Besides it be alot less work and at this point I was all for it.

The bumper half would stay but needed a little modification. I next pulled the hood and installed the 75-77 Pacer hood which required some restructuring of the upper radiator support. I decided to remove the front turn signals and bag the originals but move them to a different location. I wasn’t sure where but figured I’d find a place.

The new front end was turning out much nicer. My youngest daughter, Hallie,  wanted to help.

Now time to start the rear. I hadn’t even worked on a design for the rear bumper but had some ideas and moved forward with them. I wanted the exaust to come out at the bottom center, I wasn’t going to use the spare tire area so I covered it and cut a channel through it for the exaust. At this point the exaust is not installed. I hope it works.

So far so good! I didn’t want to go through all the hassle of finishing the ground effects kit unless I knew the pickup part of the project was going to be awesome so I decided I’d better tackle it next. The cutting was easy! The tailgate and bed fabrication was not quite a nightmare, but close. The spoiler was from a ’79 Mustang Cobra and fit the curve of the Pacer hatch nearly perfectly. It would get additional fabricating later. Part of solving the low body, tall glass look of the Pacer was to increase the height of the bed sides, putting a longer rake on the b-pillar, replacing the vent windows with a single door glass and removing the trim from the side windows. I also needed to add a ground effect base at the rocker panels to make the body appear taller, lower and wider at the bottom. I used, after much searching, the hatch from an 80’s Volvo stationwagon for the rear window. It fit the Pacer styling better than all the other cars in the junk yard and the window area was wide enough and not too tall.

I never liked the 90 degree fender well humps used in nearly every other Pacer Pickup conversion I had seen but knew they had to run front to back because of the gas tank filler tube on the right rear. I had hung onto a pair of 71-74 Javelin front fenders thinking they would be a nicer fit and with alot of figuring and coaxing they went in great. I also had to rework the bottom of the rear bed to get the tailgate to work the way I wanted it to.

Inspiration

Welcome! My name is Rob Pedersen and this is my first attempt at a blog so be kind. Please feel free to leave comments.

When I was a teenager a friend of mine decided to take his 4-door Corvair and build a two seater out of it. They cut 36 inches from the center and welded the front of the front door to the rear of the rear door and welded the body back together. Then they pulled the rear engine and replaced it with a front mounted 350 LT-1 V-8. What a ride! That sparked a fire in me that has never left.

 As a youngster I loved automobile design and began drawing sketches of my own. After seeing the AMC Pacer Prototype Pickup, Built by Carl Green Enterprises, I knew someday I had to take my own shot at it. I always enjoy a good challenge so why not an AMC Pacer? The following is my journey, that began many years ago, and the resulting project.

My first thought was to build it from a Coupe (since I already had one).After some sketch work I thought it was pretty awesome looking but in the end decided to hold out for a wagon. Over the course of a few years I sketched until I had what I pretty much wanted. I knew it would be an enormous project but couldn’t wait to get started. Eventually I was able to move all other projects aside and began moving forward. My son needed something to race for high school drag racing club, since his Mustang tranny took a dump, so I was able to trade some architectural work with a freind for a ’78 Pacer Wagon with the factory 304 V-8 auto set up (to be modified to a 401, 5-speed). It ended up being a good candidate.

As I began My project in the back of my mind were always the questions; Would it really turn out like the prototype sketch I had drawn?, What was I thinking, putting all this work into a Pacer? The last thing I wanted was a custom “fish bowl” Pickup. But there were  certain caracteristics to the Pacers design that I really liked. The low slung short front end, it’s wide stance, integrated door frames and the mechanical guts underneath.

   I would have to deal with the low-round body/tall door design but had some ideas on how to mitgate those problems.