Fish Bowl With A V8: 1979 AMC Pacer Wagon


I’ll admit it, I’ve been on the hunt for an AMC Pacer or a Gremlin. Either one of these oddly shaped cars will do, they are just so unique. While the inline sixes that are typically found under their hoods are good engines, the reason I haven’t bought one yet is that I’m on a quest to find a factory V8 car. In the case of the Pacer, finding a clean original example with the V8 is rare. Many of the V8 powered cars you come across have either been driven to death or were originally six cylinder cars with a poorly done swap. This Pacer Wagon is looking a bit tired, but it’s original and is packing its original 304 V8! You can find this little wagon here on eBay in Bogata, Texas with a current bid of $1k.


If this one was close enough for me to go take a look at it in person, I’d be bidding on it right now. I just love the goofy looks and strange proportions. The 304 isn’t a high performance engine by any means, but there is lots of potential to be unlocked from this small V8. Just getting rid of the emissions equipment will free up some power, adding an intake manifold a new carb would be my first orders of business. So am I crazy for wanting one of these fish bowls?


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  1. Skip

    Whooooa! I’ve never seen a Pacer wagon. Neat. I’ve always liked the Gremlins; and with my EMS background really liked the Rescue Gremlins they came out with for a short time. Nice find!

  2. Terry J

    304 slouch? Yes but where a 304 resides, a 343 or 360 or 390 or 401 would easily go. Why you ask? Why not, I reply. :-) Terry J

  3. boxdin

    Really. That six and its various iterations have put out some serious HP, probably much more that the 304. Look how far the 4.0 jeep engine has come. I admit I have become a fan of straight 6 engines. Now working on a 90 EFI 4.9 (300 cu in) w 280 Tq from the factory in a short ford van w a C6.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      I had a 75 Pacer DL 258 auto with A/C. It was my Dad’s and when it blew a head gasket, he parked it. A year later, I fixed the gasket and drove it on and off for about a year with no issues. I ended up selling it to a AMC fan who had plans of restoring it even though it was not in that bad of shape. It was a wide comfortable ride that kept up with highway traffic just fine at 65 mph speeds. Dad’s nickname for it at the time was in fact, “The Fish Bowl” and he went so far as to put static stickers of fish in the rear quarter windows. The I6’s were great engines from most manufacturers and can be prompted to out perform quite a few of the smaller V8’s. Even the 225 Slant could be beaten to a pulp and still kept going. I currently have a Ford 300 Big Six, 80% near completion on a stand in the garage….best workhorse engine Ford ever built.

      • S Ryan

        Not to sabotage the car. Pacers are an acquired taste.
        But I drove a slant six Chrysler with a rod sticking out the side and no oil pressure for 2 weeks before I replaced it and it was still running. One tough SOB.

      • Jeffro

        Had a 300 six in 92 ford F150. Wasn’t the fastest but it was a strong pulling motor.

  4. terry

    I guess AMC was already in a death spiral when the idea for this car came about. The designers must have gotten together and said “hey, the end is near let’s put out a product so ugly we’ll deserve to go out of business”. And the rest is history.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      terry….instead of hitting the thumbs down icon, let’s just say that I agree to dis-agree. It lasted four and a half years.

    • DrinkinGasoline

      The Pacer’s conception started in late 1970, long before AMC’s demise. Again…..I resist the thumb’s down icon.

  5. Rick

    Had a Gremlin itch for years. Finally scratched it!


    Actually the Pacer was the beginning of the downfall of AMC. The Pacer replaced the venerable Javelin which was the first mistake. The second was that the Pacer was designed around GMs new wankel designed engine. However right before launch GM pulled the plug on the wankel thereby leaving AMC scrambling to then retrofit the 6 to fit. Problem is it was to heavy and to big. That is why the drivers door is larger than the passenger door. It is also why they were initially a big hit but the weight did them in as they weren’t designed to handle it and started breaking.
    So the 304 in this one is even heavier. It won’t steer right and really doesn’t have much more hp than the six.
    AMC never recovered from this debacle and I believe GM sabotaged them.

    Like 1
    • DrinkinGasoline

      It is well known (to those privy) that General Motors intentionally went for AMC’s throat. I’m sure you’ve heard of industrial espionage.
      Tucker ring any bells ?

      Like 1
      • AMCSTEVE

        Not documented though like Tucker

    • Dave W

      The passenger door was bigger than the driver’s door to make it easier to get in and out of the back seat. It had nothing to do with whatever engine the car was equipped with.

      Like 1
    • Frank M

      Actually, it was the passenger door that was longer than the drivers door. It was advertized that they made it longer to enable easier access to the rear seats. It helped us get our two young sons in their car seats. We had a 76 Pacer wagon and it was one of the best riding cars because of the wide wheel base.

      Like 1
  7. DrinkinGasoline

    Truth is….during the 1970’s energy crisis in the United States, ALL automobile manufacture’s did their best with what they had to work with, to create compact, fuel efficient vehicles to serve the need of the public and it’s financial restrictions and capabilities while still trying to offer some sort of performance appeal. In the early 70’s, everyone had big 460 Fords, 440 Chrysler’s or 455 Oldsmobile’s and 454 Chevy’s. When the fuel crisis hit…they either traded them in for econo-boxes because they had a family to feed or stored them if they could afford to, and bought fuel efficient vehicles. No one was immune during that time unless you had money to burn. These vehicles are a part of America’s automotive history whether anyone likes it or not, just as the Model T, the Baker Electric, the White, or any other vehicle. A true automotive enthusiast appreciates a vehicle’s origins as well as it’s “stamp” in automotive history.

    Like 1
  8. Mark

    I actually owned a 1976 Pacer wagon with the v8 and manual transmission. This car and the AMC Eagle were way ahead of their time. I would love to restore this one and my son in on the way to Bogata!

  9. Rustytech Member

    It was ugly then and it’s ugly now. Some thing really do never change. Might be fast though.

  10. Rich Truesdell

    Being a V-8 and a Pacer makes this car extremely rare as 1979 was the end for the eight cylinder AMCs.

    Biggest problem with Pacers, cosmetically, was interior soft trim. Because of the fish tank-like glass, the soft trim deteriorated from the sun and replacements parts, especially the plastic panels in the cargo compartment are now made out of unobtanium.

  11. JCW Jr.

    The wagons have a better look. Although either version would be ok with me. Always wanted to make a pacer pickup.

  12. Tim Rusling

    At first glance I thought this was my car – a ’79 six-cylinder woody with real wood framing around the applique, though I do have the front vent windows and mine is the Limited model. To some, Pacers may be an acquired taste, though I’ve loved them right from the get-go. I custom-ordered a yellow Pacer X with all the rare goodies, and have a ’77 which I hope to make a near clone from. It also has the neat stuff like factory gauge pack, aluminum rims, rear luggage compartment cover, locking center console, tilt, and I love these cars more than anything else that’s affordable. You either get it or you don’t. Nothing wrong with that. Everything on the road has its lovers and haters, plus those who are indifferent. I think the Pacer, known within AMC as Project Amigo, had its fans from the beginning, skipped a generation when it became the butt of jokes, but now there’s a new generation of drivers who think that just maybe these are cool cars in their own right. Most of the raves I get are from the young folk.

  13. Wayne

    Party on!

  14. Jeffro

    No Josh. You’re not crazy for wanting this. But could you please put on this white jacket with long sleeves. Don’t worry…the sleeves are supposed to fasten in the back. Seriously though, Id drive the wheels off this. Won’t see another one at a car show!

  15. Dave W

    Many consider the wagons more attractive than the coupes– they are more traditional looking, but I love the wraparound rear glass of the coupes. My first car was a silver ’76 Pacer I got for $250 in 1984. The whole thing fell apart around the engine, which never quit, and two years later I traded it for a Subaru. Wish I had it now though!

  16. Car Guy

    From what I remember, the front end was restyled to allow better cooling for the V8 engine. The original front styling was much easier on the eye. To me, the Pacer wagon (with the 6 cylinder front styling) looks better than the standard Pacer.

  17. Bruce

    I have one that I drive now. Get tons of attention. Just fun!!

  18. JR

    The UGLYEST car is the ’66 & ’67 chevy 2 / NOVA!!!!! ( quite many “chevy” people agree also!!!)..

    • Tim Rusling

      Sure don’t understand this opinion!

      Like 1
      • Terry J

        I can understand Tim. My guess is that JR owned a Ford and took on a 327 ’67 Nova one Saturday night without realizing what he was doing. Would have been in front of a bunch of High School classmates including girls ( think American Graffiti). Scarred him for life. :-) Terry J

        Like 1
  19. Terry J

    Huh? CINO s maybe, not actual Chevy fans. There wasn’t an ugly Chevy 2 / Nova ever built excepting perhaps the Toyotas. The 66 & 67s were exceptionally handsome cars though some were equipped so that only the tail lights were what most folks ever saw of them. :-) Terry J

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