copy heads (1981-82) - 1981
were the only Pacers that Kramer offered in the first year. Color options
were trans red, trans blue, 3 tone sunburst, black, white, melaga purple,
and cream. Custom colors were candy blue, candy red, blueburst and emerald(trans
green). Graphics were also available. There have been reports also that
the Strat head shape on the necks varied slightly but this is unconfirmed.
The Strat head era no doubt ended quickly because of the fear of a lawsuit
from Fender for copyright infringement making these guitars pretty rare.
Whether or not they were approached by Fender is uncertain but whatever
the case, the Strat head era ended in mid 1982. The Custom and Standard
models were dropped in the same year.
The change from the Strat head brought about the "modified-Strat" or "classic" head era. Clearly a trimmed down Strat head, the Classic head served as a new design for Kramer in the coming years and brought about some new models. 1982 was the first year for the Pacer Carrera and "The Pacer" models. The Carrera was an all black model (neck included) with no face dot markers and 2 hums with a black-finished Rockinger tremolo and 2 vol/1 tone knobs and 3 way switch. The earlier ones have the side dots, the later ones don't. Logo also said "Carrera by Kramer" at first but was changed to "Kramer Carrera" down the line. This was Kramer's top of the line Pacer for a while and it was entirely black including tuners. "The Pacer" was Kramer's stab at the Strat market. It had 3 single coil pickups, a tortoise shell pickguard, 1 vol and 2 tone knobs and a 5 way switch. These like the others, came with either the Rockinger or the vintage trem or with a ESP Flicker which was an option through 1985.1982 also marked the beginning of Van Halen's contract with Kramer which had directly brought about some changes to the Pacer line as well as others and eventually, along with Floyd Rose, brought the company out of the financial pinch it was in.
The Pacer Special was the first to utilize the classic headstock and the others soon followed. This year also marked the first usage of rosewood boards. Skunk stripes were also featured on the maple fingerboarded guitars but also, and oddly enough, some rosewood boarded guitars also had it.The Pacer Carrera survived until the very beginning of the pointy head era in early 1986. "The Pacer" lasted until early 1985. 1982-84 note: Some classic headed necks were unlaquered from the factory. On these necks no is no "Pacer series" decal. Same goes for the other Kramer lines.
were a few changes to the Pacer line in 1983. The biggest being the
shape of the body itself. The Strat style body was trimmed down to a
sleeker image of it's former self. The horns were thinned out and the
mid section or "waist" was offset a bit more than a Strat.
With the exception of the headstock, the years 84 and 85 didn't do a whole lot to change the Pacer lines a great deal. Bodies varied a slight bit going back to a thicker profile like they had in the beggining.The biggest change was the switch to the "banana" or "hockey-stick" headstock. Rosewood fretboards were standard, maple being optional. There were several different versions to the headstock as different manufacturer's were contracted to fulfill orders. This was probably done to meet the rising production demands. ESP of Japan, Sports of Connecticut and Lasido of Canada were among the providers. Up until this time, Kramer mostly had used lighter body woods such as poplar, alder, etc. but now in 1984 began using heavier woods such as Maple and heavier Ashes.
Shredding was in at the time and most kids wanted the thick necks. Also
note that many of the last "classic" headed necks around C4000-5000
also had the 1 3/4" so this was probably Kramer conforming with
the times. Note: Kramer was now offering a black Floyd Rose as well
as a chrome on Pacers and pickups had changed from Schallers to Seymour
Duncan.While Kramer did not offer an actual custom shop per se, there
are some Kramers out there made for popular artists or maybe employee
creations that information-wise, go against the grain of listed features.
I've noted that most of these were made in late 1985(many are marked
in the neck pocket or on the neck heel). These feature a flat black
neckplate with "Kramer" and the serial number below it. Most
DO NOT have a letter prefix and some say "Made in USA" and
some do not. The real differences I've seen besides colors or graphics
is knob placements, the addition or subtraction of knobs and non-luthier
jointed necks. These "custom" Pacers are fairly rare. 1984
note: Most headstocks from this era will be black with the Kramer block
logo and the truss rod cover desribing the model. However, there are
some that have the "Pacer Series" under the logo and others
that have model AFTER the logo. We assume this is due to the different
manufacturers that Kramer contracted. We've tracked down the "Pacer
Series" version being made in Canada. There will also be many headstock
shape varients in this era. Also, some headstocks will also match the
body paint although this was more common throughout the Baretta series
and later on in the Pacer's "pointy" head era.
in late 1985 to early 1986 switched production of the Pacer and it's
other lines to ESP in Japan. All necks and bodies after the banana head
era were then made there and added the "pointy-droopy" variety
of headstocks. They were then assembled in the USA. The 1986 logos remained
the same as the ones on the banana headed guitars but this only lasted
a year when Kramer went with the new "diminishing" logo in
1987 which featured a large "K" with the subsequent letters
getting smaller as they go. Maple or rosewood options were more available
at this time compared to the banana heads and more models came out of
changes of 1988-90 were not so much models but details. The Pacer Imperial
went back to the 2 straight hums and all still had the 3/4 size sharp
radiused body later gaining a recessed treble horn scoop in 1989 and
the 12th fret dot inlays changed to the rectangular "Kramer"
inlay in 1988. Headstocks were bound on these necks also. Later in 1989
bound fingerboards and "headstock shaped" or "shark's
teeth" inlays became an option with the Kramer logo in the 12th
fret. The Pacer line survived until late 1989 when it was dropped capping
off an era and, sadly, a once great company.
Pacer SCs and DCs
In 1987, Kramer came out with the only production flame top guitars it had ever produced. While a far cry from the regular Pacers, they were still listed as Pacers. First was the SC3, a bound Tele shaped body with a flame maple top, rosewood or maple fretboard, diamond inlays on the ebony necks, a slanted hum and 2 singles, 1 vol and 3 on-off switches.The DC3 was the same guitar but was a double cutaway. These lasted less than a year and are very rare. They are also the only examples of Flame Tops ever created by Kramer in the wood necked era.
IIn 2005, Kramer based out of Nashville, Tennessee embarked on a mission to reissue the classic, beak head Pacer from 1983. The guitar was modeled after an original B serial plate Pacer Imperial. What came out of those designs was a 2008 production model release that in many ways far exceeded the consistency and quality of the original with various feature upgrades. You can find out more abouut this model on the Pacer Imperial Review page.
good news about Pacers is there are plenty out there to be had. When
collecting, keep in mind there are many oddballs out there. The rarest
of Pacers will be (in no particular order):
In 1990, as a last ditch effort to save the company, Kramer reissued the banana headstock neck. Although not many made it on guitars, they are practically indistinguishable fron the bananas heads of earlier on.
hope this summary was informative. There are many details left out,
control cavity changes, fret wires, Floyd hanges, headstock shapes,
etc, but due to the amount of space we are forced to leave those out.
Still, this section should give you the basics of what the Pacer line
was all about and help you answer some questions about a guitar that
still in some ways retains a historical mystery. If there are any questions
you may have about your Pacer, feel free to email Dave at email@example.com.