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Fully Inspected: 1978 AMC Pacer Wagon

Transparency in the auto sales process is always appreciated To say that the truth sometimes gets stretched is an obvious understatement. That being the case, it’s helpful and wise, to heed the warning in this listing for a 1978 AMC Pacer station wagon which admonishes, “PLEASE READ THE INSPECTION BELOW BEFORE PLACING A BID”. And after reading it, I can see why it is suggested to do just that. Let’s delve in, this Pacer is located in New London, Wisconsin and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $1,050 with seven bids tendered so far.

Offered for six model years (’75 through an abbreviated ’80 model year) total Pacer volume reached about 280K units. In 1977, a station wagon version, such as our subject car, was introduced and the distinctive Pacer orb shape was negated somewhat but it’s still obvious enough to recognize it as a Pacer. First-year sales were brisk with about 145K copies finding homes but the bloom was off the rose quickly as those first-year sales equaled just about half of the Pacer’s total five and a half model year sales.

The inspection report on our subject car is full of surprises. While the exterior shows well on one side, the report states that the body condition is poor due to “bodywork and is missing components”. The tires’ tread depth is also stated to be less than legal. Well, a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case probably a couple of pounds of Bondo, and yes – the body is in rough shape. The Pep Boys plastic wheel covers are a nice touch too.

The interior is notable for its upholstery pattern and unfortunately, more notable for its condition which the inspection report rates as, ” Poor-major signs of wear and damage (cracked, torn, faded, or missing components)“. The dash pad and steering wheel are cracked and the rearview mirror has fallen off – an admittedly a minor problem. At least the carpet looks to be in fair shape.

Under the hood is a non-running 130 net HP, 304 CI V8 engine tethered to a three-speed automatic transmission. The hit list on the engine states, “non-runner, excessive leak from rear main seal; fuel system-problems, carn needs rebuild; water pump leaks; shifting problems, trans leaks, trans slips; brakes – not legal“. But other than that…At least it has a new battery.

So, the bidding is pretty restrained, what’s holding it back? I’d say everything. The mileage is recorded as 72K miles, and if it’s a genuine reading, it’s reasonable mileage but there is a lot wrong here. And, regardless of the engine leak, (a rear main seal can be a bear to replace) the engine is a non-runner so it could be more than just a fuel system problem – and that’s before we get into the entire transmission matter. The flip side is that this Pacer will go on the cheap. I say fuggedaboutit, what says you?


  1. Evan

    Was that bondo applied by a blind man wielding a shovel?

    Like 21
    • Steve Clinton

      If I wasn’t blind, that comment would REALLY make me see red!

      Like 3
  2. Rasputin

    Every since Waynes World, I have wanted one of these.

    Like 4
  3. Dave Peterson

    This is the perfect combo for this car. It could only be better by adding the Limited Package. However, my enthusiasm is from experiences now forty years old and I do not recall anyone being glad to work on these cars. My bid would depend on the tare weight. I cannot remember what that upholstery package was called.

    Like 2
  4. Steve Clinton

    Those are some hideous JC Whitney wheel covers!

    Like 2
  5. Howie Mueler

    Does that 2×4 for the rear hatch come with it?

    Like 1
  6. Troy

    Somebody must really love these things for bidding to be that high.
    I like to think they just truly want to support the organisation selling it and they don’t have a clue what to do with it when they win the bid

    Like 0
  7. Allen Member

    I’ve loved Pacers since long before Wayne’s World. The concept was really intriguing: a small car with big-car space inside. The problem was that while small cars were intended to be economy cars, the Pacer rather failed by that measure. I think I’ve heard that it was designed to use a four-cylinder engine that would have been more economical. Somehow that engine never made it into production, and in it’s place was the venerable-but-not-particularly-economical 232 and 258 straight sixes. Or you could have the 304 V8 – which answered to a totally different calling.

    I wish the car had survived – at least I wish the idea had survived. A car of these proportions getting 35-40 highway mpg would have been a total winner – especially with full-size car owners who would rather figtht than switch. But with 1978 technology, quite impossible. Even with today’s technology, could it be?

    Most of our 21st-century large cars can deliver 20-25 mpg at interstate speed limits. Indeed, our 2014 Chrysler T&C will exceed 25 mpg, and if held to 65 mph, it has delivered 30. And it is hardly the world’s most aerodynamic vehicle! A buyer today needn’t resort to a compact car to get more than the 26 mpg highway mileage rating, but part of the explanation lies in the fact that our current “full-size” cars are but a shaddow of mid-70s behemoths.


    Like 5
    • chrlsful

      yup, the ‘not used, almost” engine wuz the wankel (B4 the rotary).

      Here the waggy, I’d say “Yes”. And ‘total restore” as not 1 aspect is there. The only hold back for me would be the hood bump (of course if right priced by seller) and that could pretty much kill the deal. No hood at reasonable prices… So back to the i6 (jeep or amc), locate seat pattern fabric, back down to metal at bondo, etc, etc. if located~

      Like 0
  8. Mark

    Why are these turds even on here? No desire or collectability. You can do better Jim.

    Like 0
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Maybe not to you Mark, but others show interest and that’s our BF goal, present as wide a variety of cars and trucks as possible to a multitude of readers.


      Like 6
      • HoA Howard A Member

        Yeah, and believe it or not, Jim, some actually thank you for the variety. A more accurate comment would be, why are comments like that guys here at all? My attraction to BF’s is waning particularly because of shallow minded people, more of an “innernet”[sic] thing certainly not because of the writers or the content. Thanks again to all that make BF’s happen.

        Like 5
      • Mark

        Not every car manufactured is desired just because it’s old. There are plenty of muscle cars and hot trucks produced over the years to happily forget about the old slugs that are best suited for recycled metal.

        Like 0
      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        Again, your opinion.

        And yes, there is no supposition that just because something is old, it is of interest. Cars of all stripes, regardless of age, have interesting features. What someone thinks is an “old slug” is an attraction to someone else.

        As with a newspaper, magazine, or internet news website, my suggestion is that you skip the posts/articles that feature cars or trucks that are of no interest to you and hopefully you’ll find others that are.


        Like 3
    • Gary J Lehman

      Mark….you know you can scroll by cars you don’t like.
      I like Pacers and AMC products, so I like to see these “turds”.

      Like 3
    • Stevieg

      Mark, some people appreciate these cars. You go to a car show today & you see nothing but the muscle cars you want to look at. And there is nothing wrong with that. I love muscle cars, had a few back in the day. However, I also appreciate these too. They were sooo common back in the day, but now they are rare because they were throw away cars. You just don’t see them no more. So I as a gear head and a history buff want to see them. Lots of people on this site do.
      If they post something you aren’t into, just sail past it. That’s what I do with most of the European cars they post, because they don’t interest me (usually).
      So instead of knocking some of the cars here, where you also knocking people’s tasted & interests, maybe you can try ignoring the ones that you don’t like, and learn some tact.
      Merry Christmas to all!

      Like 0
  9. Bob-O

    Beef up the driveline and replace the 304 with a 401 and go have fun.

    Like 0
  10. Allen Member

    Howard A. X 2!

    Like 1
  11. Allen Member

    Hey Mark,

    Hold up there a bit, good buddy, no offense but you just might not speak for all of us. Some of us have quirky tastes and we enjoy the hobby just as much as you do. I speak as a master of “Quirk”: three of my favorite American collectibles have been: 1960 four-door Plymouth Valiant; 1980-85 Cadillac Seville, and AMC Pacer. Well… I shouldn’t leave out just about any Raymond Loewy Studebaker, or any prewar flathead Mopar, or… or… or…

    At car shows, I am totally eclectic, and I can respect – even love – anything that shows exceptional creativity and/or craftsmanship, and I love talking to the owners/builders of these cars, as I frequently learn a lot from them. Among these are ” muscle cars and hot trucks”, and I’m just not interested in owning one.

    My own cars are all MGs – my favorite being a 1958 ZBV Magnette saloon – hardly a muscle car! Even the MG guys privately wink and roll their eyes a bit when I admit I’m looking for a Farina Mk IV Magnette, circa mid-60s.

    But I can assure you, my quirkiness extends short of a Pontiac Aztec.

    Like 2
    • Mark

      Points well made Allen. To each their own. I do look at as Pacer as you do as Aztek.

      Like 1
  12. Allen Member

    This is so cool, Mark. I couldn’t have picked a nicer guy to disagree with!

    Like 1
  13. john

    I too really like the Pacer, and a favorite flame of mine owned a red (ish) one with the Navaho print on the seats. Easy to drive and park, easy to find at the mall, and could be hot inside in the summer just sitting in the sun. We can rest easy knowing Mark will not be a bidder or the winner of this vehicle. Best of the Holidays to ALL readers and staff.

    Like 1

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