Chrysler Valiant VF Pacer
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
The question for Chrysler was not so much if the Pacer was any good – but if it was good enough to lure buyers away from Holden
and Ford? The VF Valiant
was a solid performer, and with the 225 engine it was even better. Performance figures indicate that the Pacers lopped almost a second off the stock VF’s acceleration time from 0 to 30 miles per hour, lowering it from 18.9 to 17.8 seconds. 0-60 came up in a shattering 9.6 seconds, as compared to 10.5 seconds, and the standing quarter mile time of 17.5 seconds represented an improvement of .3 of a second.
Some indication of the Pacer's accelerative ability can be taken from the fact that a Falcon GT from that era recorded 0-60 times in the high eight seconds bracket, while the Pacer could manage around 9.1 seconds – so while it may not have beaten the V8 monster in a straight line, it would loom large in the rear view mirror. Naturally, the big V8-powered GT ran away from the six cylinder Pacer at higher speeds, but even so a recorded 0-90 mph time of 23.4 seconds was nothing to be sneezed at. Bear in mind, too, that the Falcon cost A$4200 as compared to the Pacer's base price of $2798 – as you can see below in the Pacer advertisement from 1969.
3 Speeds Will Do Nicely
But it would be unfair to compare the sumptuous and fast Ford product with the rather spartan Pacer. In reality there really was no direct alternative available from either Ford or GMH, except perhaps the 186S GTS Monaro, but that was dearer and slower than the Pacer. And today, as back then, it is easy to argue that the three speed gearbox should have been replaced by a four speed unit, however to the Pacer’s credit the big 225 cubic inch engine was really quite happy coping with the inevitable gaps between gears. After second gear exhausted itself at 67 mph, top had all the power needed to keep the car accelerating strongly right through to maximum speed, which meant that you were in reality never left without a ratio appropriate to a particular road speed.
Part of the reason for this was the Valiant's rather old-fashioned under-square bore/stroke ratio which made it unnecessary to keep engine revs high to give best performance. The Pacer had good "lugging power" and would pull away strongly from moderately low rpm in top gear without protest. Of course the positive, if somewhat heavy, floor mounted lever didn’t really invite this sort of treatment and the driver needed to make full use of the fully synchro gearbox.
On the Inside
Getting away from the performance angle, there were two things about the driving position that many found detracted from the Pacer experience. The position of the wheel was considered by many to be very high and GMH
-like – a little lower and it would have provided a much better driving position. The steering also felt a little indirect, much more like a family-car set-up than what should have been a tighter sports set-up in keeping with the performance potential of the Pacer. And the pedal placement was not as good as it might have been, with a long travel between the accelerator and brake pedals and the dipswitch mounted in an awkward position beneath the clutch pedal.
The seating position offered by the twin high-backed units was excellent, but rear seat legroom was reduced to almost nil by long legged front passengers when they moved the seats to the fully rearward position. Moving a seat forward into a compromise position brought about the familiar wheel-against-chest attitude enjoyed by millions of Australian family motorists of the 1960s. Interior space was therefore not a strong point with the Pacer. But when this deficit was stacked up against all the desirable features of the car, it becomes a minor drawback.
If any other criticism could be levelled against the VF Pacer, perhaps it was that the interior was a little too Spartan. Chrysler's aim was obviously to keep the price as low as possible – and the entry price for this kind of performance was indeed very low when compared to the competition. Had the “Bang-for-Buck” nomenclature been around in 1969
, we think it would have been a podium finisher.
On the Road
Although handling was improved considerably over that of the standard VF Valiant, ride hardness was much better sorted than was the case with Ford's and GMH's performance machines. Road testers of the time did note that the Pacer exhibited a small amount of body roll on fast corners, but it handled extremely well. On sealed surfaces it understeered, with power over-steer being available through judicious use of the right foot. Rear axle location was good enough to keep all wheels in firm contact with the ground under all but the most trying circumstances.
were optional, and for the money they represented good value at only $55 extra. If you were only going to tick the one option box, then the disc brakes
should have been the one. Although pedal pressures were somewhat higher than most would have expected, they were adequate for the Pacer's 108 mph performance and made the package a whole lot safer when travelling at speed. Although the standard drum brakes
were quite satisfactory for normal road use, those drivers who wanted to exploit the Pacer 225’s performance would have soon regretted any decision not to opt for the disc brakes.
The VF Pacer was replaced by the VG Pacer
- it being the first model to offer a Pacer
2 door coupe.