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Plain Brown Wrapper: 1978 AMC Pacer


Talk about unassuming! Barn Finds reader Charles H. sent us this terrific find from Louisville, Kentucky. That plain brown wrapper hides a really big surprise under the hood! It’s up for sale here on craigslist for $6,000. That probably seems a lot to you for a Pacer wagon with some rust, and it would be if this were a normal Pacer wagon–but it isn’t!


Just look under the hood at 500 cubic inches of Cadillac V-8! Wow! The seller states that they built this car about 10 years ago and now they need “a more tame ride.” I’m thinking this is just about the least tame Pacer wagon there has ever been! Where are Wayne and Garth when you need them to drive?


I don’t know about you, but I was wondering whether the Pacer unibody could handle the torque from the Cadillac V-8. In order to help, the builder/owner added box tubing subframe connectors; you can see one in this picture. The ad states that prior to the build the car stood in a carport for a long time and accumulated some rust in the rockers and lower doors. The owner left the rust there to add to the sleeper appearance!


The interior looks like–surprise–a Pacer. Apart from the shifter, a few auxiliary gauges and the fire extinguisher, it looks like any other Pacer. I guess the most apparent change is the tachometer clamped to the steering column, but even that’s done in a way that someone next to you in traffic probably isn’t going to notice.


I can see the Cadillac emblem above the dashboard in this shot, I think it’s a reflection off of one placed on the dash, but I’m really not sure. Can any readers tell? One thing else to note about the advertisement; the car comes with sheet-metal and other parts from taking apart another Pacer, so my hope would be that replacements for some or all of the rusty parts are included, just in case you want to refurbish the car cosmetically. I don’t think I would, though–I’m thinking this could be real fun on Saturday nights! Let us know what you’d do with this sleeper!


  1. randy

    A whole ‘nother aspect to “unequally yoked”.

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  2. David Frank David Member

    This has got to be among the best sleepers ever. Those skinny tires and drum brakes must take some attention, though. Something like this would have been great “back in the day” when we used to take on the “doggies” (military personal) in their Corvettes and Mustangs for $10 bills. We went the low tech route with 2 speed truck rear ends, truck tires with tubes at less than10 PSI, sheet metal screws to keep them from twisting and such. I can only imagine what a sleeper with real horsepower like this would be like.

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  3. Nicholas Malaspina

    The caddy hood ornament is right up front. Perhaps the only hint that something is a little different with this Pacer!

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  4. Norb

    Look at the front of the hood, there is a caddy emblem there. I like it and it would be fun to see the expressions on peoples faces after you blow their doors off in a little light to light fun…

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  5. Jason Houston

    Never cared much about Fish Bowl Ramblers, but color appliques on wheel covers were always a nice touch.

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  6. EmmyJ

    Cadillac emblem is a hood ornament; you can see it in the front 3/4 photo.

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  7. Oldstuff 1941

    I would just drive it and have fun !!

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  8. Marty Member

    The body-colored hubcap appliques are definitely in keeping with the whole Pacerado theme here. Love it!

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  9. sheffield cortina centre

    great just needs a std shifter & more discreet gauge mounting & would be perfect.

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  10. Cassidy

    is it too late to tell Santa I want this Pacer under my tree or in the driveway for Christmas?

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    • randy

      It depends on “who” your Santa is, and how much he/she loves you.

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      • Cassidy

        I’m in trouble then… She just laughed at me

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      • randy

        I hate it when they do that, but it was worth a try.

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  11. piper62j

    Not toooo bad.. A bit overpriced, but do-able… I could never understand why AMC put such big bucket seats in such a small car..

    Nice though..

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    • boxdin

      They put big buckets in just about everything. Look at the nice ones in the AMC Eagle Sportwagon 4wd, huge overstuffed buckets.

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  12. alfred

    why, I’m confused.lol

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  13. AMCFAN

    Maybe I am a purist or a realist but I think the builder would have had an easier time if he would have installed an AMC 401. No secret that AMC installed the 304 V8 in 1978. The 401 is the same size and will swap right in. With minimal effort the 401 can make nearly 500HP and a lot more depending what you want to spend if you are needing more power. A Matador rear axle will bolt in place in what I am to assume a 6cyl rear. Can’t find a 401? A 360 AMC is the next best thing. The AMC V8 is a lot lighter to this Cadillac counterpart. Because it can be done….why should it? In regards to the 500 cubic inch Cad. It has been said there is no substitute for cubic inches. In this case should read common sense. I am thinking the value of this hybrid would be the same as a stock Pacer. Non running that is.

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  14. Norm Wrensch

    The rectangular tube is not a sub-frame connector! That my friends is a traction bar. Evidently the author has not had much to do with muscle cars with leaf springs. Which will wheel hop like crazy with out traction bars.

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    • randy

      That is what it looked like to me, but I did not want to say anything.

      Thanks for clearing it up.

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    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      You’d be right on that front, Norm — but I was going by the description in the auction. Thanks for the help!

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    • phil

      The J-bolt- traction bar is shown in pic, the 2×2 connectors can’t hardly be seen.

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  15. Ralph Terhune

    I know the gentleman that owns this Pacer. A very nice and knowledgeable man on all things AMC. As a fan of both AMC and Cadillac, I can definitely appreciate the effort that went into this build. Now, if I can only talk him into giving me a ride. 😀

    Like 1

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