It happened today - December 3, 2015

Remember the AMC Pacer? If so, it’s probably not in a good way. The last “car of the future” rolled off the assembly line on Dec. 3 1979 and into automotive history. Or was it a fishbowl?

The Pacer, part of AMC’s attempt to be really different from the “Big 3” was different indeed. Short, squat, too wide to park, with huge windows, and mismatched doors that were a nightmare for British drivers, it was also weirdly heavy for a car aiming to meet anticipated stringent fuel economy standards and terribly underpowered.

AMC hyped it as “a piece of tomorrow” when it appeared in 1975 and it acquired a bit of that cult classic status reserved for mechanical “hopeful monsters,” tributes to the persistence and daring of human ingenuity in the face of an often hostile universe. But like so many efforts to imagine the future, it would have looked good on the set of Star Trek but didn’t get you from here to there in real life.

Cars built to look good, work well or honour tradition seem as a rule to have much more of a future than cars built for the future. Perhaps there’s a broader lesson there.