Drag racing is one of the few forms of motorsport that allows racers to use their imagination to its fullest extent when building a vehicle for competition. Englishman Steve Wright is one of those racers who wanted to build a unique car, so he decided to create the wildest 1975 AMC Pacer you’ve ever seen. This small car is packing over 500 cubic-inches of supercharged Chevrolet power, and Wright is ready to lay down some 7-second passes with his AMC.
For every drag racer, there’s a defining moment that pushes them toward the sport — it can come from riding in a particular car, or being a part of the family racing operation from a young age. Wright got his introduction to drag racing thanks to his uncle, who took him on a fun trip to one of the world’s most famous drag strips.
“I first got involved in drag racing when my uncle took me to Santa Pod Raceway in 1966 on the back of his motorbike, in the rain. We broke down on the way there and on the way home. There was something that just stuck with me being 10 years old at the time about the whole trip. It had a big impact on me and I just couldn’t wait to get back to the track,” Wright says.
Growing up in the 1970s, there were plenty of American performance cars around for Wright to see, and after the price of gas spiked they became very affordable. When Wright could drive, the first place he went was to Santa Pod to make some laps down the track. Soon, Wright was racing anything he could — it didn’t matter if it had two wheels or four, he was more than willing to race it.
Wright has always enjoyed taking things apart, rebuilding them, and finding ways to make every vehicle he owns faster. For the past five years, Wright has helped build several race cars and been part of a nitro Funny Car team; while all of that has been going on he’s been searching for a car of his own to build.
According to Wright, the Pacer wasn’t on his shortlist of cars to build, it just happened to be the right car at the right time.
“Often, when you’re building, buying, or selling, oddball cars turn up. I can’t remember exactly why I ended up with the Pacer about four years ago, but I knew I would do something with it. About two years ago an SFI 25.4c 7.50 certified chassis that was under a Barracuda came up for sale and the price was great, so I bought it. I knew I wanted to build a serious racecar, so I started looking for a fiberglass body to fit the chassis. One day I was walking past the Pacer and I thought, ‘I wonder if it will fit on that chassis?’ ”
Wright got out the measuring tape and discovered the Pacer body would fit on the chassis, so it was time to start cutting. With help from his son-in-law Steve Spiller, Wright got to work building his racecar with all parts he’d collected over the years. A Powerglide transmission from another project was added to the mix, along with a 9-inch rearend and some leftover suspension parts from a different build.
“The car was always meant to look a little mad, but it really happened quite naturally. I had been working for a while on a deal with a good friend, Kenny Gomez, who has previously hooked me up with several blown methanol engines, to get a powerplant sorted out. Once the deal was done with him the building really started. A lot of this wasn’t really planned, it just kind of happened as we went along,” Wright explains.
What really sets this whole build off is the 509 cubic-inch big-block Chevy with a BDS 14-71 supercharger bolted on top. Kenny Gomez at Superpower Unlimited built this engine using a World Products Merlin II block, ARP hardware, a SCAT crankshaft, BME connecting rods, and Ross pistons. The top end is finished off with a set of Dart heads, COMP Cams lifters, T&D rocker arms, and a camshaft from Engle. The steady diet of methanol comes from an Enderle fuel pump and is turned into combustion by an FIE Supermag.
“The whole build was done at my home with just my son-in-law helping along the way. It took around a year doing work when time allowed between other jobs. We were hoping to be out testing later this year but sadly, that is looking less likely by the day. When we get the green light and go racing it’s going to be great fun. I’m hoping to be running 7-second zone when the car is dialed in and we are on it. A big thanks goes out to my son-in-law for all his help. Kenny Gomez for building the engine, and Zane at ZanNetec for building the transmission,” Wright says.
Steve Wright’s Pacer is the perfect mixture of imagination and horsepower that any racer can appreciate. Wright found a way to take the parts he had available and combine them with some other ingredients to create one wicked Pacer that would make any AMC fan proud.