Live Auctions

64k Original Miles: 1978 AMC Pacer D/L Station Wagon

AMC introduced a Station Wagon to its Pacer range in 1977. The original Hatchback’s styling polarized opinions, but the Wagon’s appearance was considered less radical. It also proved an important move because Pacer sales were in freefall by the time the Wagon came to market. Our feature car is a 1978 Pacer D/L Wagon that presents beautifully. It would suit a meticulous buyer seeking a practical classic. Located in Fenton, Missouri, you will find the Pacer listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has hit $6,402, although that figure remains short of the reserve.

Sometimes referred to as the “Flying Fishbowl,” the Pacer Hatchback was a love-it or hate-it proposition. However, it once again proved that AMC was willing to push the boundaries on vehicle design and styling on a minuscule budget. The Station Wagon met reasonable acceptance, although AMC brought it to market when sales had fallen through the floor. It hoped that the new model would save the company, but it proved to be too little too late. This Pacer is a D/L, representing the entry-level version for 1978. It presents impressively in its original shade of Claret. It is unclear whether it has received prior restoration work, but the paint shines richly. Any flaws or imperfections are too small to show in the excellent selection of supplied photos, while the panels are impressively straight for a vehicle of this type and age. There is no evidence of exterior rust, while the floors wear a consistent coating of undercoat. Therefore, it appears this beauty is rust-free. The trim, including the damage-prone hubcaps, looks great, and the glass is flawless. The AMC Pacer may not be the most desirable classic, but this one appears to be a gem.

The Pacer’s Maroon vinyl interior trim complements the exterior paint and presents nicely. The upholstered surfaces show no evidence of wear and no signs of UV damage. The enormous expanses of glass allowed the blazing sun to bake upholstery and plastics, but this Wagon has avoided that fate. The carpet is excellent, the woodgrain trim is equally impressive, and the dash and pad are free from cracks and aftermarket additions. The Wagon’s party piece is its additional load capacity. The Wagon was a mere 5″ longer than its Hatchback sibling, but the extra length and squarer rear roofline saw space grow by 60% to 47.8 cubic feet. This Pacer’s cargo area, another aspect prone to damage, looks spotless. There are no signs of scuffing, stains, or physical abuse. It may be an entry-level offering, but the original owner equipped this beauty with air conditioning and a stereo AM/FM radio.

In addition to the Station Wagon, AMC introduced its V8 engine into the Pacer line to stem the sales collapse. Once again, it proved a failed strategy. Only 2,514 buyers ticked that box on the Order Form, and this car’s original owner wasn’t one of them. Its engine bay houses the 258ci six-cylinder engine that produces 120hp. That feeds to the back wheels via a three-speed automatic transmission, with this Pacer also featuring power steering. For a car that is under fifteen feet in overall length, its weight of 3,278lbs means that it is hardly likely to break any land speed records. The journey down the ¼ mile would take 18.9 seconds, with the Pacer hitting the wall by the time the needle nudges 109mph. The seller indicates that this Wagon has a genuine 64,000 miles on the clock, although they admit they hold no verifying evidence. The vehicle’s overall condition makes the claim seem plausible, but verifying evidence leaves it an idle claim. They don’t supply any information on its mechanical health or how it drives, but its clean state is cause for optimism.

In 1975, AMC found itself with a minor sales success in their new Pacer. Potential buyers found the unusual styling refreshing, with 145,530 people electing to park one in their driveway. By 1976, that figure dropped to 117,244, and things went downhill dramatically. By the time our feature Wagon rolled off the line two years later, the total had collapsed catastrophically to 21,231, of which 13,820 were the Wagon variant. Many have succumbed to the ravages of time, and spotless examples aren’t thick on the ground. They are rallying slightly in the current market, although value growth is hardly startling. This Pacer has received thirty-three bids, indicating that a few people consider it desirable. Its overall condition suggests that it could pass $10,000 before the hammer falls, but if it does, I doubt it will be by much. This auction would be worth watching if a quirky classic appeals to you. It could represent your chance to secure one of the tidiest Pacer Station Wagons available at a relatively affordable price.


  1. Connecticut mark

    How would you work on that engine? Too much crap in the way!

    • That AMC Guy

      Heaven help you if you need to pull the cylinder head or even replace a leaking valve cover gasket.

      • AMCFAN

        Not the end of the world to pull a head or work on the car. It’s like anything else. One would about working on an Subaru STI but people do it every day.

        It should be noted when looking for a Pacer buy the most clean example you can. Interior plastics are unobtanum. No one is making replacements.

        Check for leaks. The power steering rack usually needs rebuilt and the engine and trans will usually need sealed if original.

        Like 1
    • nlpnt

      Not to mention the back two cylinders are under the cowl, a result of having to shoehorn in the straight-6 in a space meant for a rotary.

      Like 1
  2. geezerglide85

    I think all Pacers in ’78 were D/L ‘s . I had a ’78 wagon w/ a 232 and 4 speed stick that was a D/L. My father’s ’77 wagon had air and auto. but not the D/L package that had door pulls and woodgrain dash and a couple of other small things. Both great cars, mine would get 30mpg on the hiway (no air) and really load it up with camping stuff. I’ve probably owned 50 or so cars in my lifetime (so far) but that was one of my favorites.

    Like 5
  3. Steve Clinton

    Call me nuts, but I’ve always liked the Pacer design (especially the wagon).
    I owned a ’75 and loved it…until the rack & pinion steering broke and I ran into a tree.

    Like 1
  4. Rick H

    Having worked at an AMC dealer when the Pacer debuted, I can attest to what a nightmare they were to service, let alone remove the heads in case of a burnt valve.

    This car was originally intended to have a Wankel rotary engine, then AMC went with their six cylinder. This two cylinders were buried under the cowl.

    The Pacer had a nice ride but problematic areas like the rack and pinion steering, that often sprung leaks and/or locked up. Initially AMC thought they could be overhauled using a kit, but soon they realized it would still leak so you needed a new assembly. And at the time it was pricy, about $400 as I recall.

  5. Howie

    Cool, been many years since i have seen one on the streets.

  6. Peter

    Had a 77 wagon same color combo six-cylinder Auto air conditioning roof rack real nice cruising car. Lots of room for my camping gear. Ran great, miss that car !

  7. chrlsful

    2 days late to ur daily but 2 of my favs side by side (this pared w/panatera).
    Only a wagon, never the ‘coup’.
    And this engine espicially. Lots to like w/this one (from my chair anyway).
    Thanks Adam (any ever make it down there?)

  8. Car Nut Tacoma

    Although I’ve always loved the American Motors (AMC) Pacer, it depends on the year of the car. I’ve always preferred pre-1978 models. I’ve never been a fan of the grille. Earlier models have what looks like a flat top grille, while later models have what looks like an elevating grille.

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