Best One Left? 1978 AMC Pacer D/L Station Wagon

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Some cars slip easily from public consciousness once production ends. Others are saved from obscurity by fortunate circumstances. The AMC Pacer enjoys a devoted following, but it could have been ignored by the broader community if it weren’t for the fact that a 1976 Pacer Hatchback enjoyed a starring role in the 1992 movie Wayne’s World. This 1978 Pacer D/L might be a Station Wagon, but it features the enormous expanses of glass that became the badge’s hallmark. It is an exceptionally tidy survivor and might be the nicest one left. The seller has listed the Pacer here on Craigslist in La Cañada, California. You could drive it home by handing over $17,900, and I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Tony P for spotting this beauty.

I have long admired AMC because while not all of its cars were oil paintings, the company was willing to be bold and daring with its limited financial resources. The Pacer perfectly encapsulated that philosophy. The company aimed to produce a vehicle with the interior space of a large car but with the relatively modest exterior dimensions of a compact. It succeeded in its quest, creating a distinctive vehicle with soft styling and enormous expanses of glass. There was also a dash of lateral thinking, with the passenger door made deliberately larger than the driver’s to improve safe access to the back seat. This Pacer D/L Wagon rolled off the line in 1978, finished in a combination of Sand Tan paint with the obligatory faux woodgrain trim. Its overall condition is exceptional, with the paint shining warmly and the woodgrain free from significant damage. The panels are as straight as an arrow, and there is no evidence or mention of rust. The exterior trim package includes a chrome roof rack, a practical option for improving luggage capacity. The trim is in good order, and the tinted glass is spotless. The steel wheels retain their color-coded hubcaps and are wrapped in narrow whitewalls.

The seller’s photos in their listing are pretty poor, with none providing an overview of its interior. However, what is visible shows promise. The seats are trimmed in Tan cloth, with vinyl in the same shade covering the remaining upholstered surfaces. The condition looks pretty impressive, with no evidence of abuse or sun damage. The carpet is spotless, the dash is excellent, and the exterior faux woodgrain carries over to the dash. There are no aftermarket additions, but there are a few welcome factory options to provide a pleasurable motoring experience. The first owner ordered this Pacer with ice-cold air conditioning, a tilt wheel, and an AM/FM radio/8-track player.

I have an admission to make. The listing suggests this Pacer is powered by a V6 engine, and I knew that AMC didn’t offer such a powerplant in the Pacer. I looked at this prior listing mentioned by the seller to uncover the truth, discovering that its images are significantly better than the ones supplied by the seller. Therefore, the Craigslist advert’s lack of engine shots made me use this one instead. It reveals a 258ci six, which the first owner combined with a three-speed automatic transmission and power assistance for the steering and brakes. The six should produce 100hp and 200 ft/lbs of torque. The Pacer Wagon tips the scales at 3,278 lbs, meaning acceleration will not be particularly brisk. However, this Wagon should cope well in city traffic and cruise effortlessly on the open road. Potential buyers seeking a turnkey classic may be strongly drawn to this Pacer. It has a claimed 46,000 miles on the clock, and while verifying evidence isn’t mentioned, the suggestions are that it exists. The transmission has clocked only 4,000 miles since undergoing a rebuild, and the Pacer is in excellent mechanical health. It appears that flying in and driving home is a realistic expectation.

When the original owner drove this 1978 AMC Pacer D/L Wagon off the lot, I doubt they imagined it would hit the market for $17,900 forty-six years later. The reality was that this car emerged in an era where most vehicles of this type were considered disposable, and most made their final trip to the scrapyard many moons ago. This Wagon hasn’t merely survived but has done so in an exceptional and unmolested state. The seller’s price may seem optimistic, but the growing popularity of the AMC Pacer makes the figure realistic compared to recent sales results. Have you ever owned a Pacer? Was the experience enjoyable enough for you to consider a repeat performance?

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Comments

  1. HoA HoAMember

    What? Oh, right, the AMC thing. I simply loved the Pacer, and way before Wayne and Garth. I never had one, but several folks I knew that did, and would have bought another if they could. See, what happened was, these cars lasted so long, by the time they finally did need replacement, rust mostly, a new one couldn’t be had. One guy said, with a set of “Town& Countrys”, it went through the snow well. It was roomy, comfy, ran great, great heat-a/c, what’s not to like? Oh, yeah, its ghastly appearance, well, I’ll tell ya’, it may have looked odd, odd was in, and while “only” 280,000 were sold in its 6 year run, the last year, 1980, it sold over 145,000 alone. If you have the scratch, and apparently some do, and need a car, a REAL car, and march to a different beat, like most Pacer owners did, you couldn’t possibly go wrong here.

    Like 17
    • CCFisher

      1980 Pacer production was only 1,746 units. AMC barely managed to move 145,000 units in 1980 across all model lines.

      Like 6
      • JustPassinThru

        AMC abandoned the recaP, er, Pacer, in April, IIRC. Management was as shocked as anyone at the sudden red-hot popularity of the new Eagle.

        They needed a second line to fill all the orders, and at that late date, with bankruptcy seemingly in their future, building a new plant was out of the question. Something had to go, so the recaP joined the Mad Adore and Embassador, in the pile of dead marques behind the Kenosha plant.

        FWIW – so reported David E. Davis – AMC’s 1980 sales showed the first profit since 1974. Also their last profitable year as an independent company.

        Like 8
      • HoA HoAMember

        Thank you, sometimes the sites I check aren’t very accurate, your figure sounds much more in line.

        Like 4
      • CCFisher

        “Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975” and “Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1976-2000.” If you can find copies, buy them. They’re invaluable resources.

        Like 5
  2. Nelson C

    Looks pretty crisp and clean. I would hope the factory upholstery is as nice as those fuzzy seat covers.
    Too bad these sellers don’t do some research before declaring an engine type or interior material. I’m so tired of ads that proclaim vinyl as leather and such.

    Like 5
    • Bruce M

      My late life and I owned a 78 pacer wagon DL with the Levi’s interior package fully loaded it was a nice riding car not so horrible on gas, but you couldn’t keep the rack and pinion steering. It was one of the Few faults we found with this car . Was three little ones the backseat was just a little snug so the Caprice wagon we had for many many years. I could not fault that little egg on wheels all that much

      Like 6
    • Bruce M

      My late life and I owned a 78 pacer wagon DL with the Levi’s interior package fully loaded it was a nice riding car not so horrible on gas, but you couldn’t keep the rack and pinion steering. It was one of the Few faults we found with this car . Was three little ones the backseat was just a little snug so the Caprice wagon we had for many many years. I could not fault that little egg on wheels all that much

      Like 0
    • Bobert

      Fuzzy seat covers? Those seats were a factory option, and they were quite comfy!

      Like 0
  3. Sam61

    Great write up Adam! A better description of AMC might be the Picasso or Salvador Dali of the auto world….although Citroen would be in the running.

    Like 5
    • CCFisher

      I don’t know about Picasso. AMC did some strange stuff, but it’s not like they put one headlight in the bumper and one on the roof, or put the grille on the passenger door, or put the rear hatch on sideways.

      Like 10
  4. Kevin

    I had a 76 DL model with the Mag wheels…it was the AMC Dealer’s wife’s car so had every option available. Overall it was a horrible car mechanically and embarrassing to drive and I sold it for $800….wish I would have kept it :P

    Like 2
    • ramblergarage

      odd since it had the best six cylinder engine ever built. Must have been built on a monday.

      Like 5
  5. Yblocker

    There’s still a lot of nice classic cars out there that can be had for $17grand. Just sayin…….

    Like 6
    • Rick

      I can recall my dad’s shock when the neighbors paid $4,700 for a loaded, brand new ’66 Olds Ninety Eight 4-door hardtop.

      Like 3
  6. Mitchell G.Member

    About 10 years ago someone built one of these with an LS7 and took it drag racing. It was in Hot Rod magazine. Wicked cool

    Like 5
  7. Al clark

    I had a new 1975 pacer with the three speed standard and overdrive. My previous car was a 1970 Porsche 911 and the pacer drove better except for acceleration Then I bought a 1978 pacer wagon So my wife would have one too, but it had the automatic. When my 1975 was new, I went to work on a mountaintop and then came home every night and my portion 11 would have crashed if I drove it like I did that car I put Over 200,000 miles on each of them with no major repairs other than a broke the springs on the 1975 hauling bags of concrete when building a new house. It looked like new inside and out, but it had a lot of Bondo from being in upstate New York with salt on the road At somewhere over 200,000 miles the standard clutch started slipping from hauling a trailer for many of those miles and I traded it, but I should’ve put a new clutch and kept driving it. I’ve owned a lot of cars and those were the best driving cars I ever had But going from my top-of-the-line Porsche 911 that I had in Europe They definitely did not have acceleration, but then I did not need acceleration here in the states. The 1975 would make 35 miles the gallon at 80 miles an hour but I didn’t need a car that would do 170 like the Porsche

    Like 3
    • CCFisher

      I’d still rather have the 911

      Like 1
  8. Jett

    My Mom bought a brand new 1976 Pacer D/L wagon, burgundy, with the expected woodgrain. She bought it to aid in transporting my Grandma around, because of the extra wide passenger door.
    It turned out to be a bit of a disaster, with electrical problems and major leakage in rain or washing. She always loved the car, because she felt so safe in it, but it eventually became more hassle than it was worth, so in 1978, she traded it in for a brand new blue Concord sport liftback, which became my first car in 1991, and ended up restored by my Dad a couple of years later.
    It stayed in the family until 2022. I wonder how many families can lay claim to each member owning the same car for nearly 44 years, let alone all three members owning an AMC of their own (Dad also briefly owned a new silver ‘77 Hornet sport liftback, which he traded in for a used GMC truck…ugh).

    Like 5
    • Joe

      77 was first year for wagon.

      Like 0
  9. Kevin Yancey

    My first car was a ’73 AMC Javelin, with a 4 Bbl 360 cu in V8 and the 727 torqieflite trans. I was always confused with AMC of why everything came from somebody else, like Motorcraft ignition, Chrysler trans, the Olds oil fill.
    I was fortunate to work at the old Kenosha plant in its last year’s, when it was only making the 4.0L I6, 2.7L V6, and the 3.5L V6. At that time, we had been in production for 100 years on that spot, starting with Jeffery Motors in 1902. They were the second auto company, behind Olds, to employ an assembly line, though Ford would use the first moving assembly line. However, Kenosha did build the highest selling car, the Rambler Runabout in 1902 for $750. At that time, everyone had horses and only the rich could afford cars. Now, everyone owns cars and only the rich can afford horses!

    Like 8
  10. Barto

    When I was a boy some friends of my parents had one. This was in Phoenix, AZ. The AC had a horrible time keeping up in the summer, turning that rolling greenhouse into a sweat box!

    Like 3
  11. Cliff C

    My Mom fell in love with a new 1978 bronze Pacer DL on the showroom floor! Dad was not so impressed but bought it anyway. Immediately told the dealer to add an extended warranty so he could be covered until he “got rid of it”. Skip ahead about 15 years and the Pacer ended up in Florida as the “snow birds” permanent Florida ride. I proposed to my future wife in that thing in along the ICW! It remained in the family for a few more years faithfully fulfilling all it was asked to do! Really was a great vehicle!

    Like 1
  12. Scott Taylor

    heavy.. real heavy doors….. hinges were a weak link!

    Like 1
  13. Loving AMC

    I miss AMC.

    Like 5
  14. Loving AMC
    • Erik

      No, the car isn’t sold. This is an old advertisement on the Schmitt website.

      Like 0
  15. C. John

    Personally liked the Pacer. It was easy to navigate with all the glass, and the ability to judge blind spot areas/distance with your own eyes was a breeze. The interior was roomy and was nicely appointed — still remember a D/L version with the Navajo cloth pattern which was both comfortable and quiet. Gas mileage and performance were both somewhat disappointing as the curb weight of the car was a challenge for both the 6 cylinder engines offered. However in mid 1978, AMC’s 304 CID V-8 was offered which substantially increased the acceleration for those wishing it.

    Like 0
  16. david

    Lets see, buy this or a couple years old Lexus. Hmmmnn…..

    Like 0
    • Gary J Lehman

      David-old AMC dealer here. I am still involved in the automobile business. You can’t buy a couple years old Lexus for $17,900. I own 2 Lexus’, but I’m selling my wife’s 9 year old, 98,000 mile RX 350 F Sport for $22,000.

      Like 1
  17. Shawn O'Connell

    Best Clown Car ever made 🤣 🤣

    Like 0
  18. Greg G

    For 17k, I’d buy the Lexus and I’m a AMC guy.

    Like 0
  19. Thomas

    This was one of my first cars. My beige paint wasn’t this yellow, but it was close. Mine had a V8

    Like 0
  20. Martin Brink

    We’ve had three or four here in the Netherlands and bought them (in the eighties) only for the engines, just for using those in Jeeps. One was with the 304 V-8…. Serious regret always comes afterwards…

    Like 0

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