28,000 Miles: 1976 AMC Pacer

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We all know what this baby blue beauty is, it’s an AMC Pacer! A 1976 AMC Pacer, to be exact. This one is on eBay in Altoona, Pennsylvania where it was purchased new. There are still 9 days left on this auction and the bid price is already up to $3,650 and the reserve isn’t met!

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I sure wish that car companies made cars like this again. Maybe not exactly like this, but at least in the spirit of wackiness like AMC mastered until they shut’r down almost three decades ago. This car only has 28,000 miles on it and, as you can tell from the 100 photos, it’s in superb condition. This car was known as The Wide One, as you can tell from that front end photo. The seller bought this car last summer from the grandson of the original owner just 20 miles away. It was stored for 20 years and then a decade ago it was moved to another storage space, but in the meantime it was gone through and changed the fluids and installed a new master cylinder. The current owner had his mechanic go through everything and bring it up to daily-driver status, although it still has the original bias-ply tires on it so those should be changed before the next owner does any serious commuting.

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The most famous part of the Gremlin Pacer is the rear view.  We’ve all heard stories as to how these cars would heat up like a terrarium in the summer and even cars with AC weren’t perfect, either the AC didn’t keep up and/or it dragged down the six-cylinder engine so much that folks had to turn them off and suffer. AMC made the most Pacers, by far, in 1976 with 117,244 of them going out the door. 1977 had half as many sales and 1978 had half as many sales as 1977 did.

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The interior looks almost perfect. Dig that sweet seat fabric! You won’t have to worry about AC slowing this car down, it doesn’t have that option. In fact, there are more blanks on the dash than you can shake a stick at. The bottoms of the doors and a few other areas are showing a bit of rust in the cracks and crevasses, but being a Pennsylvania car that has to be expected, even with it being stored for two decades.

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This is AMC’s famous 258 cubic-inch inline-six with 100 hp. It looks pretty shiny and nice in the one decent engine photo that’s provided above, out of 100 photos total.. hmm.. The engine purrs like the proverbial kitten, according to the seller, and the automatic transmission shifts perfectly. I’m a huge Pacer fan and this one looks great to me. I would prefer a manual transmission and AC but I wouldn’t kick this one out of the garage. What do you think the final price will be on this one, it’s sure starting out strong!

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Comments

  1. gord

    pacer not gremlin though just as wacky (you called it a gremlin in the writeup)
    weird fact, passenger door is longer than the driver for access to the rear!
    and don’t forget the rotary connection!

    • Scotty G

      Ha, I have Gremlin on the brain. Sorry about that.

  2. Dave W

    My first car in 1984 was a ’76 Pacer I got for $250. It was the “fully loaded” D/L version with A/C (didn’t work), tach, rally pack gauges, sport steering wheel, Indian-pattern bucket seats, extra chrome trim, 3-speed stick, roof rack (fell off) and even chrome mag wheels. It didn’t last long, but I sure wish I had it now! The exterior was silver, but the interior was the same color blue as this one. I never had problems with the engine, but everything else fell apart.

    Like 1
    • Joy rohde

      I had a blue one of these with the pebble white roof. My friends called it the fishbowl and even christened it with a bunch of goldfish crackers once.

      I’ll tell you what – I was tboned in this car, and it was like nothing had hit it – the other car was totaled while I just had to replace the side lamp and some minor cosmetic damage.

  3. Jacob

    I’d love to own one of these things. I saw one a month ago tons of badly repaired rust and no front fenders or hood. Some of the ads they came up with for the “wide” thing were pretty crazy by today’s standards:

  4. RJ

    The want is strong.

  5. Jumping g

    Put some flames on it and party on Wayne party on garth……..

    • Gary

      I can see it now,,,,,,

  6. Terry J

    Ahhhh……the Pacer. It had many modern design characteristics but alas AMC didn’t quite have the resources to pull it off. It was designed to use the Wankel rotary engine but problems eliminated that, so they used their standard (heavier) engines and the car’s fuel economy suffered at a time when that was critical. Passenger door was longer than the drivers. It used the 2nd rack and pinion steering to be produced in the US after the Pinto. In fact it looked the an oversize Pinto unit and when they were plentiful in junk yards, it’s assembly was a popular swap for bigger street rods that were too heavy for the light Pinto unit. Did one such swap myself, on a pals 1951 Chevy 1/2 on truck. A Hot Rod magazine had a “how to” article with the contact info for a fabrication company that built a kit with pates and brackets to make it almost a “drop in” swap. I showed my friend the article and about a month later he says “It’s here”. What’s here? “The Pacer kit for my truck”. Aww Geeezzz… was not my intention to actually do one but it worked out well. :-) Terry J

    • Terry J

      From Terry J: My description above was lacking in detail. The popular Pacer swap was the entire front end. We went to he local wrecking yard, cut the front end out of a wreck, frame section and all, then trimmed it down. With the brackets and plates, the ’51 Chevy pickup frame, devoid of it’s front beam axle and parts, fit onto the Pacer’s. The result was a modern front end with disc brakes, power steering, the works. Made the truck much better. Cheap & easy too. That was 30 years ago, parts would be too hard to find to do that today I think. :-) Terry J

  7. Pfk1106

    Friend had one, he called it the baseball cap….

    • Bingo

      Ours was called the fish bowl

  8. David Frank David Frank Member

    When German museum guests see our Pacer, they tell me that these are collectable in Europe. I’m told they are called “Dornröschens Sarg”, “Sleeping Beauty’s Coffin.”

  9. Another Bob

    I don’t think it came with snow tires. Just being picky. Those aren’t the original fronts either. Since they are both worn down, maybe odometer is off a bit.

  10. Rex Kahrs Member

    So if those aren’t the original tires, then the claim that they have the original air is questionable.

  11. charlie Member

    Bias tires only went 25,000 miles or so, we have been spoiled by radials – the Sears / Michelins in the late ’60’s advertised 60,000 and wonder of all wonders, they did! Another good entry into the hobby for short money,

  12. Prowler

    I remember the joke that salesmen would throw in a bottle of windex. to close the deal

  13. Michael

    I had a ’76 Gremlin with the 232 ci engine (same as the 258 ci, just smaller bore), and runing the A/C never slowed the engine down under any type of load. The AMC 6 cyl engine was a powerful little engine, and was practically bullet proof, with 7 main bearings tying down the crankshaft.

  14. Allen Member

    I have three US cars at the top of my bucket list: (1) a 1960 Valiant four-door slant six with the spare wheel imprint on the deck lid, (2) a 1980-85 Cadillac Seville without the vinyl roof, and (3) a Pacer 258 with A/C (of course). Experience with my ’80 Concord taught me that there is no way A/C could slow that engine down!

    I know, ’tis a strange list – but not anywhere near as strange as it was ten years ago.

    Oh, I forgot to mention I also want a ’48 Studebaker Champion Starlite coupe, a ’53 Studebaker V8 coupe and/or a Golden Hawke, an Avante, any pre-war Packard, a ’34 Plymouth Town Sedan, a …, …, …, … … .. .. . .

    • tom bray

      you’re a man after my own heart…I own a 76 pacer…my first car was a 1933 Plymouth…I then had a 1941 Packard 120 sedan, a1947 Packard sedan, a1949 stude land cruiser,a 1953 lowey stude coupe, a i962 stude G/Tand almost bought a 1960 ply sedan……could we be related?

  15. Allen Member

    OMG, I forgot to mention a Buick Reatta, a ’49 Cadillac black 4-door (the earliest and most graceful of the finned cars IMHO). And I have yet to get started on British cars…

    • Eric Hare

      Allen you are a sick and twisted individual. I like the way that you think.

  16. rod444

    I thought Pacers were just quirky til I saw the Pacer Truck. If AMC had built this they might never have gone under: https://pacertruck.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/aaatzr-0091.jpg

  17. Allen Member

    Mighty handsome Pacer, but Dodge tried it on the Omni – ‘ can’t recall what it was called. Neat little truck but it did little to boost sales. And the Omnirizon cars were terrific cars – Detroit’s best secret for years. We had two of ’em. A ball to drive and you couldn’t break ’em!

    • CarNut from Winnipeg Member

      Was called Dodge Rampage. VW had a Rabbit p/u too.

      • CarBuzzard Member

        There was a Plymouth version of the Rampage, called the Scamp.

  18. Dennis M

    The mid-’70s fuel crisis killed the Pacer. It was not an “economy car” it was heavy, which meant it was quiet and nice riding. Electronic ignition bugs put the nails in it’s coffin.

    They were nice cars to drive though, very comfortable.

  19. Michael

    Never had a problem with any AMC electronic ignitions.

    • Dale S.

      I drove a 1975 Pacer with a 258 engine/automatic trans. for over 6 years, and never had any issues with the ignition…the master cylinder, and rear differential both needed to be replaced. I found a working rear differential in a junkyard, It was the last part left for that car in the yard. The only other thing I had to replace was the hood release cable, which I installed myself. I wish I had seen that blue ’76 Pacer add when it was for sale. It was identical to mine, even down to the vent windows.

      • Dale S

        I hope the new owner ditched the white walls for radial black wall tires. If he found a chrome locking gas cap to swap out the one that’s on it now, it would be the exact copy of my ’75 Pacer. I still miss that car!

  20. CarBuzzard Member

    The Pacer was designed to use the GM rotary engine. GM had plans that by 1980, 90 percent of its product line would be powered by rotaries. Alas, they couldn’t make it both clean and fuel efficient at the same time.

    (Mazda ran its rotaries rich and then cleaned up the exhaust with a thermal reactor, hence the poor mileage of the Mazda rotary engine back in the day).

    GM was very close to releasing the rotary. I’ve seen a Fram filter application chart and it had a listing for the “rotary-engine Vega,” which of course was the Chevy Monza, which had been designed around the rotary. But that’s another story

    When GM dropped the rotary engine in 1975, the Pacer was left without an engine.

    The six was always a poor fit in the Pacer.

  21. Larry Grinnell

    My first new car was a ’76 Firecracker Red Pacer X with a white vinyl top, which replaced a suicidal ’72 VW Superbeetle. At the time, AMC wasn’t offering a 4-speed (!) but there were two optional 3-speeds: 3-on-the-floor (which is what I bought), or a 3-on-the-column with optional overdrive (!). As I lived in Florida (still do), it definitely had A/C, which worked well enough, though it did struggle a bit when the Air Force sent me to Tucson, AZ in the summer of 1978. It got so hot at one point that it baked the ignition coil–the only time it stranded me. The heater was pretty good, too, taking me through the winter of 1977 in Kansas City.

    It did like to eat speedometer cables, though, esp. right after a severe cold snap. I was told the cable ran too close to the exhaust manifold and it caused the graphite lube to move away from the area closest to the manifold, creating a “dry” area. Warranty (I had the full 24 month/24,000 mile warranty–even wiper blades!) covered it.

    Less nice was the way it went through clutches. I’ve owned many cars with manual transmissions, but never in about 22,000 miles of ownership did I go through three clutches and four (maybe five) throwout bearings. I can only think something was misaligned in the factory, or maybe while the car was a demonstrator, it may have been hit, causing a misalignment in the drive train.

    Another related issue, which may have had something to do with excessive clutch wear, was the fact that the rear axle ratio was 2.73:1, which, with a maybe not so low gearing for 1st gear, could have been a factor. I know it always seemed like I was lugging the engine, coming off from a full stop. Again, none of these failures, other than the coil, left me stranded on the side of the road.

    When I got my assignment to Germany, I almost considered taking the car with me, but figured that parts availability would be spotty at best, so I sold it to a Broward County (FL) Sheriff deputy (he bought it for his wife). I did a full detail job, including removing the carpet trim on the door panels, so I could spray paint them black to deal with the sun bleaching. The interior, with the white vinyl bucket seats, and the black carpeting looked like new.

    In terms of performance, I do remember at one point when crossing the Continental Divide on Interstate 10, I got very close to needing to shift down to second gear, but it did finally make it in third.

    About 6 months before I sold it, I put some Metzler Perfect tires on it, which absolutely transformed the car: handling, wet weather, etc. Wonderful tires. After the Air Force moved me to Germany, I bought a very (VERY) used BMW 2002 and one of the first things I did was buy another set of Perfects (Euro Tire in NJ shipped to APO addresses–seemed odd to buy German tires in the US and have them shipped back to Germany, but hey, I saved a bundle over buying them on the German economy, and a Wertkauf (a German version of Target, I guess) auto center mounted and balanced them for me.

    • davew833

      I went through two clutches in two years with my Pacer. Granted, I was a new driver, but that’s a bit excessive. I also believed drivetrain misalignment might have been the issue, especially since the first replacement clutch disc shattered just a few months after it was installed.

  22. chad

    they were wide alright, when new kept wackin things (rear views, bumper corners) till got used to it (as a 24 y/o newish driver).

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