Porsche begets Pacer, begets Porsche. Nice theory, if it held water…
Before going any further, I have to point out my experience of the American auto industry is scant, apart perhaps from some surface level intelligence any motor enthusiast worth his automotive archive would be privy to. But assumptions can make fools of us all, especially when knowledge is spread thinly.
First a confession. I’ve always maintained an affection for the 1975 AMC Pacer – a car that seems to have become a four wheeled punchline to some joke or other for decades now. Even a less than complementary UK road test many years ago did little to disabuse me of the Pacer’s (visual) appeal. It’s such a cheerful looking thing, with its four-square stance, tall glassy canopy and friendly demeanour. Looking at it forty years on, I’m inclined to view Car and Driver’s sobriquet of “the flying fishbowl” a little snide.
But back to assumptions. For some time, the car community has been of the view that elements of Porsche’s 928 was inspired by the Pacer’s styling; one I was happy to go along with for a time. But considering the matter further, the waters muddy a little when one considers Porsche’s own 1973 Forschungsprojekt Langzeit Auto concept (FLA) concept; that’s Long Life Car Research Project to you by the way.
To be honest, I had meant to bring up the FLA during our recent Economy theme, since its a rather interesting machine in its own right. But I didn’t get round to it then and it feels a little late in the day now, however there’s a reasonably informative piece on it here, which you may find of interest.
Could Porsche’s concept have influenced AMC design director, Richard A Teague? The timeline is tantalizing. Work on project Amigo began in 1971, the finished car being revealed to the public as the Pacer in 1975. But given that the AMC design was finalised around 1972 and the FLA was first shown in 1973, it seems unlikely that AMC’s designers could have any idea of what Anatole Lapine’s stylists were up to almost simultaneously at Zuffenhausen.
Nevertheless, Lapine had previously spent years working for Harley Earl at GM’s secret design skunkworks in the US, before his stint with Opel and subsequent leading role at Porsche. While it’s probable as senior designers, (albeit for rival firms), both Lapine and Teague were acquainted, (to say nothing of AMC exterior design chief, Bob Nixon), whether this led to any intelligence being passed between them can only be speculated at, although not I hasten to add, by myself.
Returning to the 928, it’s been suggested that designer, Wolfgang Möbius was a fan of the Pacer, but considering the presence of FLA, it’s more likely he employed ideas pioneered closer to home, and given the 928 was designed virtually in parallel, the chronology simply doesn’t bear the assumption out.
So where does all this leave us? Not much wiser to be honest, but better minds than mine may provide further clarification, or quite possibly a stern correction. Which, I’ll be the first to admit, is also a bit of an assumption.