The Kramer Pacer Details

Strat copy heads (1981-82) - 1981

1981 was the first year for the Kramer Pacer. The first necks were the Strat-copy headstocked necks. It should be noted that the very first prototypes outfitted with this neck were not Strat-style bodies at all! But in fact were bodies based on the 450G body shape from the aluminum neck era! The necks were the standard Strat headed necks found on early Pacers with then new "Kramer" logo and "Pacer Series" below that. (Note that the "Pat. Pending" was not on the earlier models of any Pacer). Interestingly enough, these protos did not have tremelos but rather had a Gibson style bridge and stop tail piece. I have been witness to two of these. One transparent red and one white. Very few have ever been seen even in the Kramer collector circles and so far we have no photograph. However, when one comes up, we will include it here.

Pacer Prototype
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featuring Gotoh Chevrons, Aluminum Era Shaped Cavity, non numbered neckplate, and Strat Headstock (missing stock Schaller pickup)

The first production Pacers had the Strat styled bodies. There were 4 types, the Imperial(the very first), Special, Standard and Custom. For all practical purposes here, the Imperial and the Custom as well as the Special and Standard were the same guitars. The only difference being the pickups and the bridge options. The Imperial/Custom had 2 hums and 1 vol/2 tone controls as well as a 3 way switch. the Special/ Standard had a single hum and 1 vol/1 tone control and a 3 way phase switch. Pickups were called "Ultra Specs". The input jacks on the Imp/Cust were side mounted. The Spec/Std ones were either on the face or the side. No doubt the face mounted Spl/Std bodies were actually Imp/cust bodies as the jack hole is located exactly in the same place as a 2nd tone knob would be. Necks were maple on maple with Schaller or Gotoh styled tuners that were unmarked. Some necks were one-pieced(no fingerboard). There have been one or two rosewood fingerboarded ones that appeared in this era but their validity is uncertain. Bridge options were vintage style gold trem, Rockinger or ESP flicker. There are also reports of another brass trem that was available also. Tuners were gold plated Schaller or Gotoh types with chevron or "wing" shaped buttons.
Very Early
Pacer Review
Strat Era Headstock Pacer with vintage tremolo

These 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.

Classic head era (1982-84) - 1982

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.

Pacer Special
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Pacer 2 Hum
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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.


There 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.

1983 also marked the debut of the Pacer Deluxe which was one of the first Super-Strats. It had a HSS configuration on a black pickguard, 1 vol/2 tones and a 5 way switch. The early Deluxes had no coil tap switch. They were added on a bit later. By now, all Kramer stock pickups were Schallers. Tuners were changed from the gold unmarked Schaller style to actual chrome Schallers.

Note: there are many guitars out there from this era with chrome hardware and gold tuners. Kramer was known for using up old stock before going on to new so if you find one of these from this era, it's probably original.This year also was the first year for Floyd Roses to go on production models. No doubt Van Halen's influence summoned this. EVH had expressed his frustrations with the Rockinger and had been working with Rose to perfect a new system. This system would eventually revolutionize the guitar market as we know it and soon 97% of all Kramers would be equipped with the system. Pacers used chrome Floyds during this era.

1984-1985 and custom orders

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.


Sometime 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 this year.

In 1987, except for the Pacer Deluxe, the bodies were changed from the round-ish strat style to the Jackson-influenced "sharp-radiused" body which featured more cornered shaped edges, longer horns and thicker shoulders.The Pacers that utilized this new body was the Pacer Imperial, still with 2 hums but now the bridge hum was angled. The new ones were the Custom I and Custom II. The Custom I was actually just called the Custom early on. It had the HSS configuration with the slanted hum, 1 vol, 3 on-off switches and a coil tap for the hum.The Custom II was basically the same guitar but the hum was straight, not angled and it sported 1 vol, 2 tones, 5 way select and coil tap.Necks at this time were also slimmed down from the thicker necks of the Banana era and began to see a little more consistency among models. Also, bodies were utilizing lighter woods in the imported era. This era also summoned the Floyd Rose recess cavity in the body around the E12XXX serials.1986-90 Note: No necks are the same. Profiles, radii, shapes and edges all varied. As with all Kramer eras, there is no set measurement, however, compared to the others beside the Strat head era, this is the most consistent headstock shape.

Pacer "Pointy" headstock
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Pacer "Reverse" Maple headstock
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The 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.

Pacer SC3 "Tele" Flametop
Kramer DC3
Resurrected by Rick Marts and GMW Guitars

Vaccaro and 90's Model Pacers

Henry Vaccaro Sr., the finance director for the original Kramer company attempted in 1995 to resurrect Kramer by offering several newly designed aluminum necked and wood necked Kramers reminiscent of the original models. Vaccaro along with Phil Petillo, the designer for the original aluminum necked Kramers went to work on several new guitars and basses including 10 aluminum neck models and 3 wood neck guitars. Literature and more information on the KMI era can be found here. See this page for more information.

2008 Pacer Imperial (reissue)

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.

Rare Pacers

The 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):

1980-1 Prototypes
Strat copy head Pacers
ESP Flicker loaded Pacers
Maple fretboarded banana necks
Custom shops
SC3 and DC3s


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.

I 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

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