Rolling Fishbowl: 1976 AMC Pacer

1976 AMC Pacer

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Calling the AMC Pacer odd might be a bit of an understatement. The styling is, well, unique to say the least. The rear end is bulbus and kind of looks like a fish bowl, oh and one door is longer than the other! So maybe it isn’t the best looking car around, but these were actually great little cars. A number of design choices can still be found on modern cars! I’ve always thought it would be fun to own one to make parts runs in. At first, I thought this one might be a great choice for the Barn Finds errand runner, but it has a few issues that would keep us from jumping on it. If you can overlook the problems, you can find it here on eBay in Guelph, ON, Canada.

AMC Pacer Project

So, you might be asking yourself, what’s the problem with it (besides being a Pacer)? Well, after it was towed out of the barn, someone decided to have it primed. I’m not sure why that is the first thing so many people do when they get a barn find. Leave the paint alone until you have the car running, safe to drive, and you are sure you’re committed to the time and expense of painting it! In the case of this car, it looks like it was at least properly masked off before being primed. There’s nothing worse than having overspray all over the windows, chrome and rubber bits!

1976 AMC Pacer Interior

The seller claims this Pacer runs, but they also admit that it needs a complete restoration. The lack of information makes it difficult to gauge to what degree of restoration is required, but from the photos it doesn’t look too bad. While I might think having a Pacer would be a blast, I understand they aren’t for everyone! So I’m curious to hear what you think of these cars and whether you would want one?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Birdman

    All I can say is this…

    Party on,Josh!

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  2. Jim

    Junk in ’79 junk today!

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    • Tim

      Jim, I’ve had three of them, still have two, and they’ve been tough and reliable. I reject any accusation of them being junk.

      Like 2
    • Jett

      Gee, thanks for that glorious insight.

      Like 0
  3. RayT

    I could go for this….

    The only “issue” I can see — considering the current low price — is missing trim/bumpers/fender, etc. If they’re all there, this could be a fun project.

    I would certainly redo brakes, shocks and tires as a matter of course. If the engine and trans. are okay, a good cleaning plus fluids, belts and hoses. Looks like it would thereafter be a good driver, with only an inexpensive respray needed!

    Engine problem? Sure cure would be a small-block or an AMC 304. And definitely a/c!

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  4. mark

    The only thing missing is the Carter/Mondale sticker on the back bumper.

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  5. HoA Howard AMember

    Now just a “ding, dang, diddly” minute. The Pacer, while being the “butt” of all jokes for years, really was a good car. I knew several people that had Pacer’s and they loved them. They were roomy, dependable, economical ( with the 6) and they would have bought another, if they could. At the AMC reunion in Kenosha, ( great show, btw) a guy had a Pacer drag car that would eat most other cars. When I said, “Wow, that’s certainly not your grandma’s Pacer”, and he responded, “actually, it WAS my grandma’s Pacer”.

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  6. Terry J

    When these came out they did have many modern engineering aspects that ended up being normal later. With the wide body on a “compact car” they were advertised as a modern new design. There was some idea of offering a Rotary engine in them too. Oddly enough, GM toyed with a Wankel powered Corvette back in those days as well. But alas, like Studebaker before them, AMC didn’t really have the financial resources to pull it off and their new car ended up kind of heavy.With the robust 6 banger, they did not get great mileage at a time when the Japanese cars were really taking over the market (my ’77 Datsun B210 weighs 1000 lbs less than a Pacer). Cool though. :-) TerryJ

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    • Jim

      The car was designed for a Wankel engine that was going to be sourced from GM. Just before they were ready to release the car for production, the Wankel program was cancelled by GM. AMC then had to scramble to find an alternative and that is how the heavier six cylinder came to be put in it.
      As far as the doors go, the thinking was that the drivers door needed to be shorter since the car was so wide. Entry and exit were difficult in a parking lot with the longer doors and getting into the back seat was difficult with the shorter doors, Solution? Make the passenger door longer to accommodate easier entry into the back seat while keeping the drivers door short for easier entry when it was parked next to another car. It was actually an ingenious idea considering that you would probably not use the back seat unless both front seats were used and therefore loading the back seat from the passenger side was not a problem
      I owned a ’76 Pacer X and I absolutely loved it. There are times i wish I still had it.

      Like 1
    • Tim Rusling

      Terry J, the original concept of AMC’s Project Amigo [Pacer] was that the GM-sourced rotary engine would be THE engine, not just offering one in them. With the engine’s cancellation, AMC had an engineless car and had to do major engineering changes to stuff the inline six in there, plus it was now a very different rear drive car, and of course, heavier. All that said, the resulting car was quite successful in its early years, and now has become a kind of cult classic. My ’79 D/L Limited woody wagon seems to have found today’s teens/early twenties as its biggest fans. I just adore the car, warts and all.

      Like 0
  7. David Frank DavidMember

    European visitors to the museum have interesting comments when they see the Pacer on display. It seems a number of Pacers were exported to Europe, are considered collectable and are a regular at car shows. I’ve been told in Germany they call them something like “Schlaf Sarg Schönheit” or Sleeping Beauty’s Coffin.

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  8. Bobsmyuncle

    I dig them. Saw a couple stunners last year at Woodward.

    If someone is serious, this is about 40 minutes away. I could look it over and use the excuse to visit a buddy I don’t see enough.

    Let me know.

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  9. The Walrus

    I’ve never understood why you would make one door longer. Why not make both equally long? I’ve heard their ‘rationale’, about the door you always open being short and the door to let people in being longer, but to me it seems as if the engineers were all ‘because this one goes to 11’ about 10 years before Spinal Tap did.

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  10. Greg Zimmer

    I worked for AMC/Jeep in the 70s and 80s and was closely acquainted with the Pacer from birth through its last gasp. It was originally designed for a rotary engine (supposedly from GM). When that program was scratched AMC had to stuff the 232 and 258 cid I6 units into the Pacer. Considering that the six was an afterthought they weren’t horrible performers, albeit somewhat underpowered. It was a lot of fun to drive. They did have a few innovations such as rack and pinion steering and the larger passenger door (which actually aided access to the back seat), but the design and promotion as “America’s first wide car” was an answer to the question that no one had asked. Especially considering the fuel economy focus at the time. American Motors did lack the financial backing/leverage required for an all new vehicle and probably should have focused on refining issues on the existing fleet. But hindsight is always 20/20!

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  11. MountainMan

    Kid I went to high school with had one. It was a dependable car and was kinda fun at the time 1988-89. I would certainly own one if the right one came along

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  12. piper62j

    Nice find.. Install the missing parts, already primed… scuff and shoot… Got a nice car..

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  13. bob

    when the car was introduced the world went nuts. my wife and i stood in line for an hour waiting for a salesman. seated, we asked what kind of a deal are they offering. he laughed-they wanted sticker plus. when we got up to leave, he didn’t bat an eye. NEXT!

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  14. CJay

    A friend of my had the wagon (with the woodgrain sides) and a 304 V8 a great little car that surprised a lotta people

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  15. Barry T

    The style of the Pacer has always charmed me. Quirky yes, but fun.

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  16. Rob

    When I first started dating my wife, she wanted one of these things. I told her I wouldn’t be caught dead in one. Sooooo, what’s she do? She goes out and buys a Pinto.

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  17. tut

    We always called them a “bubble”…LOL!!

    Like 0

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