Media - Chrysler Articles/Road Tests

Road Test - Valiant VG Pacer - Wheels Magazine - July, 1970

Thanks to a sustained and interesting advertising campaign, we all now know pretty well what a hemi is.  What we've been endeavouring to do in the last few days is to find out how a hemi goes. The answer, in as few words as possible is - pretty well.

The object of this test - the hemi 245 Pacer - probably sells in less numbers than any other car in Chrysler's new range (with the possible exception of the VIP), but it is safe to say that it commands the most interest among both Valiant owners and would-be owners, and just motorists generally.

In some strange way the Pacer has captured the public imagination. The new model can only improve on the car's already favourable image.

The best part about the Pacer is of course that new engine - an engine whose precise output remains hidden behind a veil of Chrysler hooha. It's about 190-195 bhp - not bad considering that a few years ago the five-litre V8s were giving about this, and aren't giving much more right now,

We plan to publish a detailed technical run-down in a not-too-distant issue, but for now here are a few facts on the motor.

For a start, it has a cubic capacity of 245 cu. in. - 20 more "cubes" than the slant six that powered last year's Pacer.  It is oversquare, measuring 3.76 in. across the bore, and 3.68 in. in the stroke.   Compression ratio is, 9.5 to 1, and a double-choke downdraught carburettor is used.   Valve actuation is by means of hydraulic tappets, and down below the crankshaft runs in seven main bearings to ensure durability and improve smoothness.  A split exhaust manifold and high lift camshaft complete the Pacer picture.

The motor is coupled, via a diaphragm spring clutch to a new three-speed manual transmission, with a floor shift arrangement.  The shift is stiffish, and has the disadvantage of not having a lock-out on reverse, which is in the position occupied by first on a normal four-speed shift.  Limited slip differential was fitted to the test car, and this helped considerably getting that generous power to the ground.

Speaking of acceleration, consider if you will the improvement wrought by the new engine. We thought the slant-six Pacer was a pretty honest performer, but the new car puts it to shame. We managed a standing quarter in 16.4 sec. whereas the best recorded in the earlier car was 17.9.

These figures tell the story:

   225 Slant 6 245 Hemi 
 0-30mph  3.3 sec 3.0  sec
 40  5.3 sec 4.3  sec
 50  7.7 sec  6.5 sec
 60  10.6 sec  8.8 sec
 70  14.6 sec  12.3 sec
 80  20.4 sec  17.2 sec


We're inclined to think that the car would be further improved by the fitting of wider wheels - 5.5 in. rims are standard, and the test car was fitted with Olympic radial ply tyres. We can think of no reason why 6 in. rim, should not make a significant improvement to adhesion, and subsequently, pointability.

Overall gearing is fairly tall, thanks to a final drive ratio of 3.23 to 1. Maximums in gears are 42, 76, and 114 mph, although in the indirect ratios we found it more conducive to rapid acceleration to change gears a few mph before these maxima.

Suspension is good old Valiant torsion bars, non-parallel control arms, anti-sway bar and tele shock absorbers at front, and a rigid axle with semi elliptics and tele shock absorbers at the rear. On most surfaces this set-up works very smoothly, and is generally less hysterical in its behaviour on very rough surfaces than the GM-H and Ford competition.

But a combination of power on, and rough surfaces can send the Pacer sideways very rapidly, and when this happens the pilot has his hands very fully of not-very-fast steering.  The same sort of thing happens on slick bitumen too, and the unwary young driver who takes his brand new Pacer out in the rain should be extremely careful.

Of course, high quality rubber of the Michelin XA5 or VR type would help. (We drove the Pacers Chrysler was using in its abortive record attempts at Sandown in April and these were running on Michelin's pricey VR tyres. Despite very wet conditions, the cars felt very safe on the streaming track).

The torsion bar suspension provides a nice level ride and the Pacer corners with not much body roll.  Handling characteristics are anything but neutral however. We found that the car was very willing to oversteer and for some reason this was more pronounced in right handers than left handers. It was however, reasonably controllable, and responded well to applications of lock and the less subtle method of simply backing off the throttle.

Braking was adequate. The Valiant range has swung to ventilated Kelsey-Hayes disc brakes - same as Ford - and these, fitted as standard to the Pacer work extremely well. Unlike other front disc/rear drum braking systems, the Pacer's is not servo assisted.  Despite this, pedal effort is not excessive.

On our crash stop test, the first stop - the critical one in most emergency situations - was the least satisfactory. The rear drums locked up, and the car travelled further than it should have.  Fortunately, it didn't show any inclination to deviate off the straight-ahead.  Subsequent stops were achieved with no rear brake locking, and the best stop - the third - was .76g with 62 lb. of pedal.

The clutch pedal required a pressure of 35 lb. - not excessive by performance-car standards, but disconcerting in that the return spring action was strong and the result - initially at least - was bouncy take-offs.

The engine feels as if it could well be a winner. Interesting that Chrysler should pin its hopes in a big straight six, whereas GM-H has taken the opposite tack with a small V8.  The 245 Hemi starts easily, idles smoothly, and responds very promptly to the throttle. In the last respect it is quite outstanding. But it is not as smooth an engine as we expected, nor as torquey low-down as we would have liked.

The Pacer will pull away from 20-or-so mph in top gear, but it isn't lively and there is a pronounced period of vibration before speed builds up.   Higher up the scale it is rough too. The tachometer is redlined at 5000 rpm, but we found the engine not-too-happy to go this high, and changed gears at about 4500 rpm which corresponds to about 37 and 70 mph in the indirect ratios.

Chrysler's claims about their hemispherical combustion chambers improving economy seem - to be well founded. We averaged 21 mpg in commuting-type motoring, whereas the slant six Pacer tested about 12 months ago couldn't better 18.5 mpg. That's quite a worthwhile improvement.


The Pacer is deliberately pared down to keep its price within the reach of young people interested in sporty type motor cars. Consequently the interior looks a little stark compared to other cars in the Chrysler range.  But that's to be expected in a car offering so many other things and costing only $2978.

For all Chrysler's claims, the interior of the car still isn't as good as it could be. Sure, the instrumentation is a big improvement, but they persist in mounting the dipper button right under the brake pedal, and the screen washer button where the dipper should be.

The seats are quite good however. The backrests don't have nearly as pronounced a headrest extension as the previous car, with the result that rearward visibility is improved.

The new instrument cluster had a unique distinction. It was the first Chrysler speedo we've calibrated in several tests that was inaccurate. Usually they're spot on. This one however, was a shade off.  Instrumentation generally is good. The dials are clearly calibrated - white on black with bright red needles that are easy to see.

Corded carpet is now fitted to the car, whereas the first Pacer had rubber mats. The carpet is an improvement and together with the efficient heater/demister manages to make the cab quite cosy on cold nights.

Styling? The VG is substantially the same as the VF i.e., pretty old hat. But we're told that next year is new body year for the Valiant.  At least by keeping a body style for a number of years, Chrysler are able to get their body quality sorted out.  Panel fit and finish wasn't very good when the current shape was first introduced as the VE.  But no such criticisms could be levelled at the VG Pacer.  But the car is certainly in need of a face-lift. Maybe then the packaging will be as good as the lusty 245 Hemi hidden within.