Know When To Say No


My name is Jesse Mortensen, and I am an autoholic… I hunt for cars. I do it everyday and sometimes it feels like an addiction. Online hunting offers the best fix for me because there is less of a temptation to jump on every bargain that presents itself. Driving down the street can be dangerous though because I’m always on the prowl and sometimes I stumble across cars that are just begging to be bought. As Wayne Carini puts it, “It’s all about the chase”.

I am no Wayne Carini, but there are few things I enjoy more then automobiles. I find a car, inspect it thoroughly, and then rush home to do my due diligence. Some may call me a tire kicker, but if I bother the owner for a test drive a car, it’s because I aim to buy it. Then the dealing begins… I like to initiate the negotiations by asking the seller what their bottom dollar is. Most of the time they will drop the price right off the bat just by asking! Then I can determine if the car is worth pursuing. I don’t flip cars for profit though. I like to buy different cars, experience them for a while, and then sell them on and hopefully break even.


Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of pursuing the wrong cars. Oddballs, credit card classics, and sports cars from the eighties are not always the best route into classic car ownership. For example, take these three cars that I found this past summer. I had to do some detective work to track down the owner of this abandoned GTI, but felt that the $400 asking price seemed fair. It’s rough, but the owner claims that it just needs a CV joint… (Ended up buying it!)


This Porsche 924s is very clean, but there are no service records so there’s bound to be a timing belt change in its near future. We started at $3,500, but the seller has since dropped the price to $2,500 on his own. This could be my cheap ticket into the PCA, right? I’m still having a hard time getting over the stigma that the 911 is the only real Porsche though.


Finally, we have this 1976 AMC Pacer. It is a quirky car that drives even worse than it looks, but it is wearing its original paint and the seller voluntarily dropped the price by $900 during the test drive. I laughed a little as that strange little car drove away and a voice in my head said, “you really need to learn when to say no”.


  1. Calgurl

    Well Jesse, if you added up the money you spent on those three cars, instead bought one car for the money, you could buy a classic Mercedes convertible and you’ll still have a little $$ left over.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      That’s true, but luckily I only bought one of the aforementioned cars. Perhaps I should do a followup with some of the cars I have actually purchased over the years. I didn’t figure anyone would be interested, but it might be fun to gather up all the photos and document some of them!

      • jim s

        yes i like that idea very much. and how is the gti doing?

    • dave

      shame its not a V-8. they were a rare amc ride. and YES amc DID make a 304 2-v car later on in life. Ever wonder why they put a crown at the front of the hood? Radiator clearance.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        It is a Pacer X though! I do remember seeing a V8 around my hometown when I was younger. Eventually it got parked in the owner’s yard where it sat for years. Eventually it disappeared and I have always wondered where it went since. Now I wish I would have went and tried to buy it, but at the time no one wanted those ungainly little guys.


        My dealership had a V8 Denim Pacer around 10 or so years ago. Was real clean and I think it sold for $1400 or around there? I wanted it but as usual didn’t have the cash at the right time :(

  2. Mike

    Great article! I think there quite a few of us like that out there! Maybe we can start a club and just swap cars at no cost! You bring a car to the club and you have to swap it. You keep the next one for 4 months and then swap again. Sort of like a time share for oddball cars, interested in a Le car?

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Great idea Mike! I’m all in and yes, I would like to test out the Le Car! We just need to find a cheap way to ship them back and forth…

    • Rev. Rory

      I lettered “Le Can” on the side of mine in the correct font.

      • bruce r colbert

        @ RevRory
        “Le Can”
        Hilarius, I gots coffee comin’ out my nose !

  3. rusty

    As much as I like this blog [a lot], I always find it funny people dropping names especially when the fame of that person is relative and is only limited to a specific audience..I said to myself “who the hell is he” then luckily you supplied a link..I still said “who the hell is he” though it was an interesting read do we really have to cross promote “the famous”. Though I accept your cross promoting of your book man as it seems partly linked/partnered to this site.

    Please keep in mind not all your audience is based in USA and hence do not get the “famous show” in our countries and the internet is global and so is your audience.
    .And many of us are not that interested in comparisons to money spinning hunters..your own thoughts were interesting enough especially as I’d like to know did you get the pacer…I have always thought they have looked great aqs I live in an upside down country the car is proportioned upside down. Really cool.

    say no to famous name slipping

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Sorry about that Rusty, sometimes I forget that our site has such an international following. Wayne is a nice guy though and puts out a great show here in the States. That is saying a lot since some of my favorites still come out of the UK. Anyway, Josh and I will try to keep all our readers in mind.

      About the book, that is actually written by Tom Cotter. We just did some promotion for him in return for permission to publish some of the stories.

      I ended up passing on the Pacer. It drove terrible, but it did still bring a smile to my face!

      • rusty

        Its ok Jesse..
        its a bit of an elbow in the rib and a wink of the eye thing..
        I do hate the naming of famous people [unless necessary] but as your title said “Know When To Say No” I thought it was my time to say NO. Just playing the game , careful what you ask for..hee hee

        I can handle it either way but prefer famous people to dance in their own fame in their own peerdom. Hee hee

        I hold you in more esteem as I am privy to your writings. Fame is only relative to the purveyor. hee hee

  4. paul

    Some one down here did the same thing on an old XJ6 as is on the Impala at top, my question is why to both cars, the GTI should be a real good little screamer, the Porsche is great for a cheep cool sports car but you will pay a heavy price on parts in the end will be very expensive & have very little value, the Pacer was never a sports car terrible handling / brakes. Want a cool a cheap sports car Triumph Spitfire/ MGB&/GT chrome bumper if possible.

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      That first car is a head-scratcher indeed. Someone put a lot of work into it though. It has a 4×4 chassis and running gear from a diesel truck? Funny thing is, I have actually seen two of these things. One in Montana and one in Wyoming. Maybe they make good ranch cruisers?

      Spitfires are fun, but the pedal box was a little tight for my big feet! An MGB GT is on my short list though…

      • Robert J

        I recommend Jensen Healeys. They have tons of legroom. I am. 6′ 6″ tall and can barely reach the firewall in mine with my left foot. The Lotus engines are better than they get credit for, especially when converted to efi. My Jensen Healey is a daily driver.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Thanks for the recommendation Robert. I looked at getting one once, but I had read so many bad things about them that I passed on a good one. The Lotus twin-cam made it tempting and frightening at the same time. Josh has a 124 Spider parked in his garage and I fit in that too, but again, a twin-cam!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Does anyone know if this is some sort of sub-culture in the car world? Josh and I were discussing it and we have actually seen a few of these monstrosities on the streets. He has seen an El Camino and I have seen two Caprice with similar treatments. Seems strange that there would be more than one around.

      • Chuck

        I don’t know that it is a sub-culture—I think it is more along the lines of doing something different just for fun. In Lake Havasu,Az we had a Boat Tail Rivera with the same treatment. Looked pretty cool to me, but maybe it was the 117 heat !

      • Jim-Bob

        There used to be a 1987 or so Dodge Caravan running around here that got the 4×4 treatment. Odd thing is, they actually used it as a minivan! It had a baby seat in it and was used to transport their children. All this while on a set of 33s…weird. Then again, this is a weird place to live (Pasco County, Florida… as we locals call it “The place where dreams go to die”).

  5. Brian

    Jesse, I am glad you were able to find an outlet for your addiction, which we all very much enjoy and share with you. I now feel lucky to have grown up during a time and place that, as a teenager, I was able to run the roads looking for bargain classics or just fun junk that was as easy to find as scanning the back rows of used car dealerships and I guzzle thousands of gallons of sub one-dollar-per-gallon gasoline doing it. Those days are done now but at least the internet allows me to save on gas, even if I don’t get the sunshine and fresh air that the real chase allows. Even though it hard to do these days, there is a joy in buying and bringing home a sub $500 car that even Christmas can give you… unless someone leaves you a $500 car under the tree!

    Keep up the therapy…um…work!

  6. rusty

    If you ever come across a Pacer for sale I’d love you to do an article, I know they are not held in high esteem but i’d love to hear those who have owned them or have knowledge of them pass on there thoughts..the good and the bad…sometimes the lemons bring out the most interesting threads.

    We never got any here but I have always loved that high roof and big windowed look of it..a bit cartoonish I reckon..for a major manufacturer to put out such a weird design [in its day] I think they were very game…this is a car I love for its strange looks & as I note people say it drives terribly my thoughts are probably like a cartoon car drives..hee hee

    I think you are going to have one of those manic long threads on this one now…anyway.


      I see a lot of Pacers and Gremlins around me but they are all asking way to much for em these days :(

      • rusty there is a collectable side to them if the prices are getting too high..thanks.

    • David

      Back in high school, when my brother and I were out cruising, we were slowly passing by a kid in his parent’s Pacer with his window down, trying to look cool, with his arm perched up on high on the sill. I stuck my head out the window, pointed at his front tire and yelled “hey, did you know your wheels are turning?” Poor kid panicked, zipped his Pacer over to the curb and jumped out to inspect his turning wheels. I don’t know if he mis-heard me or if wheels turning on a Pacer are really a bad thing, but it sure gave my brother and I something to laugh about all night!

    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      Hey rusty, here is that Pacer article you requested:

      • rusty

        thanks jesse…just gave it a read and am looking forward to comments..

        I truley love its rad shape..although being in Aussie we cant have one, I’d consider one if here [if RHD converted], alas anything Yankee imported here is worth too much..I have a feeling many years ago a Pacer or Gremlin was advertised for sale here..possibly at the time the only one. [we used to have a lot of Hornets and ramblers here as factory imports in the old days]

        Of late when the Aussie dollar was up there was a glut of Yankee imports..perhaps another may have come thru…its ironic now that our vintage car selling mags and ebay are full of LHD projects..and I mean full of them..everyone cashing in on their importing during the high dollar days..its getting now that LHD feels the norm when looking for that dream car here.

  7. Roy Smalley

    ……get over the 924. Bottomless pit of an ill conceived design. Porsche has made a few strike outs’ and that is one of them.

    • rancho bella

      Yep, those 924’s……boy……what were they thinking? And I’m a Porsche guy. One exception is a 924 turbo but the that is it…….the exception…

      Best to head on over to a 944.

      • paul

        A friend of mine has a 944 S2 turbo & it is quite slick

    • Brian

      Maybe feed the fever with a Mazda RX7, did they build them without a rotary engine??


        Nope and the Rotary engines didn’t last all to long around me either. I have pics someplace of LS V8 swaps and even a 4G63 Turbo swapped into one too

  8. erikj

    I had to comment on the pacer. Years ago 1984ish I saw a add for a 1970 cuda 440 for $1000. I went to look at it ,it was parked in a garage for 4 years because his wife got a different car. anyway the cuda was a 440-6-pk/auto tons of options and purple all orig. I bought the car and made plans to get it after he would get it running for me to drive away, several days later it was ready and he also said his wife worked near my home and she was willing to give me a ride to get the cuda. to shorten the story I went to her work ,went to her car – IT WAS A PACER!!! Never rode in one, thought they where the ugliest car in the world. All that said , what a weird ride that was . the front seat was like sitting on a couch,that glass made me feel like a spectacle for all to laugh at the sight. And then no transmission hump on the floor,just flat. the whole ride was so awkward-mired me to this day.
    And to think the cool cuda she gave up for better mileage to drive a pacer!!!

    • David

      Wow! What a great find! Sounds like it was too much car for her if she was fine with a Pacer as its replacement. I wonder if she ever upgraded to a Gremlin or a Chevette

  9. rancho bella

    Guess I’m the odd man out. I always thought Pacers were functional and cute. Lots o’ room…..

  10. Horse Radish

    About the Porsche 924:
    Here is my opinion on it.
    The ‘plain’ 924 is less of a Porsche than the 924 turbo or the 924S, because it has an Audi engine (remnants of the temporary VW Porsche Audi cooperation).
    You can pick these relatively rare turbos up for less than you’re eyeballing the white one above.
    It is under priced.
    The turbo may be a little more temperamental or moody, but I think it has a better long term value gain potential.

  11. davew833

    My first car was a ’76 Pacer! WANT!

  12. MH in MN

    Jesse I live in minnesota and see lots of mid 90’s Cadillacs on 4X4 frames. Quite common around here.

  13. That Guy

    The Impala (Caprice?) is hilarious. I wouldn’t own it, but I like it and I applaud the builder for their sense of humor.

  14. Jim-Bob

    The thing about the Pacer is that it was designed around the spatial requirements of 4 adults and then they built a car around it. Originally it was to be powered by a front wheel drive GM Wankel 2 rotor, but when GM cancelled the engine program the Pacer lost it’s drivetrain. So, it was re-engineered at the last minute to take AMC’s venerable inline six drivetrain and was widened to include a trans hump for the Torque Command 904 automatic. The original design would have been a revolution in small car design for an American manufacturer but, sadly, it never came to be. Instead it had 14-15 mpg city fuel economy and simply wasn’t a competitor for European and Japanese offerings at the time. It sold well initially (over 100,000 in it’s first year) based upon novelty, but as the novelty wore off, so did sales. It went out of production in 1980 with less than 5,000 sold that year, if memory serves.

    As to this one, it can’t have the factory V8 because it uses the original hood. AMC later added a hood with a taller grille and a hump to fit the 304’s taller profile, and those are the cars that could be ordered with a V8. If memory serves, some were even sold new with the 360 (or Randall AMC of Mesa, Arizona built a few like they did with 401 Gremmies back in the day).

    I have only ever driven one Pacer and it was an odd experience. It was painted in it’s original Nautical Blue (same color as on Wayne’s World) and was a woodie wagon. The suspension was in terrible condition and the steering was very vague compared to the 1979 Spirit I was driving at the time. I guess the GM sourced rack and pinion steering in the Pacer really needed some tie rods because that thing was terrifying. It belonged to a friend’s dad, who later traded it in on a ex-rental Dodge Shadow (he didn’t exactly have good taste in cars!).

  15. Doug M. Member

    Jesse, BUY the PACER!! ….its an “X!!!” …and you gotta love that yellow color. I’m sure some tlc can fix whatever it needs to drive better?!? As for the 924, a nice clean one seems to be collectible now, as they are so “period correct” from the 80’s. Grow a mustache, get some polyester shirts and bell bottom pants and go cruisin! As for the 4×4, I would not give it a second glance…. I heard recently “the higher the car, the lower the I.Q. of the owner.” Nothing mean intended… just seems that its a car without any future. Personally, I have more fun buying and fixing cars that I can get for less than $1,000. In fact, $950 is my favorite price to pay for a car… not sure why, but it keeps me in some really interesting rigs, and lots of grins!

  16. Bryan Cohn

    If that was a Pacer X with the 258 six, 4 speed and sway bars you’d have had a bit of a rare car.

    Not fast. Not a good handling car. Not good looking. Rare, yes!
    The 1978 Gremlin X w/258, 4 speed and BIG sway bars was a rather oddly fast Showroom Stock race car in its era. AMC had the genius idea to use the same parts on the Pacer in limited quantities. An old friend still has his ’78 Gremlin X, retired race car, last run in probably 1988 sitting at his home. I should buy it and resurrect it. Old hold a wake. Or maybe both.

    Love the blog, keep up the good work!

  17. jim s

    i say no because my garage is full. but i plan on selling some this year as i want to make a run at some 1990 miatas by the end of the year. but i still look every day and see something else i should buy/save. great fun

  18. Binski

    I say buy the Pacer if the price is right. Do you remember the Hornets? Check this one out on craigslist. Looks to be in good shape.

  19. Charles

    Jesse, I think that I suffer from the same addiction as you. The only limit for me is when I get up to an absurd number of vehicles, there is no way that the wife will allow me to bring another one home. We are currently over our limit, with an original low mileage 1982 Trans AM, an original low mileage 1986 Trans AM, a 2001 Expediton AWD, a 2002 F-350 Superduty, diesel, 4×4, CC, dually, a 2007 Crown Vic, and a 2008 Crown Vic. Add in the bass boat and the 22 foot sport boat with a 454 Chevy big block, and the 30 x 70 garage is full. The race car trailer and the equipment trailer have to sit outside because there is no room inside for them. Still I am secretly always on the prowl for a mid 80’s Camaro to build a pro-mod street cruiser…

    As for the Pacer, I worked for a company in the 70’s that required me to travel a lot. In those days the Pacer was a common rental car. The company would usually reserve a Pacer, because it was cheap. I have driven a lot of miles in many different Pacers. As rental cars they were equipped with the inline 6, auto, and factory air. Once one got over the feeling of driving a rolling fish bowl, the cars were pretty decent drivers. Of course this is when they were new cars.

  20. AMCFAN

    I think I’ll chime in on the Pacar bashing. The original idea came in part by a government mandate by 1975 US vehicles had to be safer. Thank the Ford Pinto. AMC had an idea that no one thought of and that was to have an interior the size of a Cadillac in a wide small car. Simple enough. Build something no one else has. Several inovations in the original plan was to use a Wankle engine as earlier stated. AMC being a very small independant only had so many resources to make this happen. The mandate as mentioned, AMC had taken very serious. The design of the Pacer had very heavy side door beams and even what can be taken as a true safety cell. If you look at the body that hump in the roof is made to act as a roll bar, Well GM had no intentions of changing anything. They complained to the Government and were not ready for the mandate and it would cost millions etc. AMC was too far in the design to change and it went into production anyway in late 1974 as a 19751/2. Due to the added safety factor the poor car was quite heavy. That changed for 1978 with the 304 V8 option. The raised hood for 78-79 has nothing to do with the V8 needing room. What some feel the car lacked in power made up with the way it would handle. The car was wide and had rack and pinion. The car would corner as good as a Corvette. Some cool features many do not know is that the passenger door is longer then the drivers door to ease entry and exit. Nice Pacers command money and rightfully so. Nice ones are hard to find. Several V8 Wagons have sold for over $10K in the last 5 years. Part of the reason is the lack of nos interior and trim parts available. When Chrysler purchased AMC the first thing was recover money as a tax write off. That was haul everything to the landfill ALL the nos parts from 1979 down were simply thrown away.Many collectors NEVER had the chance to save anything for the Pacer or any AMC vehicle. Food for thought is that if anyone other then AMC made the Pacer it would have sold very well. They were on track to turn the Pacer into a mini van (AMVAN) The car sold very well at first but tapered off never to recover. The real figures are 159 made in 1980. I can’t imagine a Chevette or a Citation would be considered a better car. But that is my thought. I own a rare 1975 Pacer X prototype and a 1978 Wagon that started life as an H code 304 but now has a 401. Jessie, you really missed out on the Yellow Pacer X. Oh,Sorry erikj the Pacer does have a transmission tunnel on the floor

  21. rancho bella

    Is this from an episode of moonshiners?,,,,,,,,,,,,,,gawd

  22. Charles

    I had completely forgot about the Denim Pacers. Shame you missed that one.

  23. erikj

    amcfan, I guess I could be wrong about the hump in the floor. That was a few years back. I just seem to remember something about the floor added to the awkwardness feeling riding in that pacer. maybe there was simply lots of room in that area.
    It sure was pure joy when we got to the house and the cuda was washed and running and talk about the trip home, never forget that!!!!!!!!!!

  24. George B.

    A great point was brought up in this thread, something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I am just shy of 6’10” – love all things cars. My first car was in 1983, a 1969 Camaro SS, 350 Corvette engine, primer white and a leaky gas tank. Hard to get through one week without thinking about that car!

    I feel like I would fit in about 10% of cars I see at shows. I have a total weakness for muscle cars, and those usually have tons of room, but what are some other makes or models that are a little gentle to those of us with lots of height?

  25. midbay

    Hi, my name is Joe and I am an autoholic too. Everything from a Caddy to a bunch of Bugs to a few Minivans and mini pickups. Including 4 Javalins and 6 (so far) Honda Del Sols (a favorite). All told about 150 cars have passed through my hands so far. It really is a disease that needs a cure. Someday. But not just yet. I think I see another Del Sol for sale nearby.

    P.S. Wasn’t Arthur Hailey’s book “Wheels” about the design and production of the Pacer (I’ve always wanted a Pacer wagon — maybe someday).

  26. AMCFAN

    Dave (and others) I mentioned this before however the raised hood from 1978-1980 on the Pacer has nothing to do with the V8 engine option. NO additional space was needed for the radiator….or anything else. It was installed only to change the looks of the car which at that time was three years old. The flat hood from a 1975-77 will bolt on to the later cars with a V8 with no issues. There were 21,231 Sedans and Wagons made in 1978 and out of the total 2514 had the V8 engine option. In 79 the production dropped to 10,215 and only 1,014 were V8 powered. Just as AMC put L6 engines into the Gremlin,Hornet and Spirits you could also get a V8. Remember they did share parts. It took minimal effort to install a V8 into a Pacer and the only real difference is the oil filter adapter was used. Several AMC dealers were installing V8 engines into Pacers way before the factory. It may seem hard to believe now but the Pacer was popular when new. Check the Jan 76 issue of Car Craft with a modified Pacer on the cover!

  27. Don Andreina

    I’m a one-car guy. Portion control (that’s new-age speak for ‘wish I could have some more’).

  28. Chris in WNC

    so you didn’t make an offer on the jacked Monte Carlo?

    • Chris in WNC

      ooops. jacked Caprice. straight out of a Jeff Foxworthy routine…….

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