Super Sleeper: 1978 AMC Pacer 500 V8 Wagon

So, you’re sitting around one day, either bored, or after a couple of adult beverages, or maybe you’re just trying to think of your next project. You start thinking of crazy things to do with a vehicle and you start to wonder if you could somehow sink a 500 cubic-inch Cadillac V8 into a Pacer wagon? Here is the result of that experiment: a 1978 AMC Pacer Wagon with a Cadillac 500 V8 in it! This front-heavy sleeper is here on craigslist with a $6,000 asking price, and if any of us have learned anything over the last year or two, six-grand isn’t a bad price for a regular Pacer wagon. I wonder if the next owner of this car could drive it home from its current home in Louisville, Kentucky?

This car would indeed fall under the radar, exterior-wise, but once the highway patrol officer finally caught up to you, pulled you over, and walked up to your window, they may reach for one of those really big foamcore speeding tickets, sort of like the checks that Bob Barker used to hand out on The Price is Right. Yeah, one of those. This is anything but a stock AMC Pacer interior, at least judging from this one and only interior photo. That non-Kenosha shifter is for the BOP (Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac) transmission under that be-gauged hump. A fire extinguisher in a Pacer? Maybe to cool it off from the hades-like heat in these cars due to the fishbowl windows and an AC system that could never seem to keep up, but not for any performance reason, usually, unless there’s something other than a 258 or a 304 under the hood.

Which there is. The seller has owned over 150 AMC cars over the last five decades and is a super-fan, and, apparently, a super-fabricator. He built this fantastic fantasy 14 years ago and it’s “one of his signature cars” so he hates to sell it, but age has a way of getting in the way sometimes. In case you’re wondering about all of that weight, it’s mounted to a “2×2 box tube tied sub-frame.” For the record, a Cadillac 500 V8 only weighs around 65 pounds more than an AMC 304 V8 does. That’s less than the side of beef that you could cook on the manifold as you drive it home from Louisville. I’m a big AMC fan and even a Pacer fan and I normally like things bone-stock, but I love this build! By 1978, AMC’s 304 V8 had 150 hp. There is no word on the horsepower that this monster engine puts out, but if it’s a stock, factory Cadillac 500 V8 it would have had anywhere from 190 hp to 400 hp and anywhere from 360 ft-lb to 550 ft-lb of torque! One of you will know which engine this is by looking at it, I’m guessing. In any case, horsepower notwithstanding, this is one super sleeper!

Fast Finds


  1. Fred W.

    Not seeing an A/C compressor, that would be my biggest concern being in the fishbowl.

  2. Joe Haska

    I have no concerns, I want it!

    Like 2
  3. Dan D

    Meh. Would rather have a modded 304. This strikes me as an answer to a question nobody asked.

    • Gary Weiland

      Couldn’t agree more! RANDALL AMERICAN in Mesa Arizona “shoehorned” 401’s in those things all day long, back in the 70’s. I just bought a 500 + horsepower 401 to put into my 1972 AMX Trans Am. I got a 400+ horsepower AMC 360 I just pulled out of it. Going to build it into a 383 AMC striker motor. Those ca be made to make 500 HP too. Other than the weight issue, AMC motors can be made into indestructible hotrod motors that will run with anything !

      Like 1
      • Mike H. Mike H

        “Shoehorned”? The 304 and 401 used the same block; they were physically the same size. A 401 would be a drop-in replacement in a Pacer, Gremlin, Hornet, Spirit. . . Any of the AMC’s that came with the Gen 3 V8 would never know the difference, physically.

        Like 4
  4. Drew V

    Living in the South where summer temps consistently hit 100*F+ the lack of Ac in this great glass globe would be a hindering non-feature… I don’t think AutoZone carries enough Limo Black Window Tint to keep all the sun’s rays out… And you can just bet that as tight fitting as the Caddy mill is in the engine bay with the obvious lack of air flow, all the heat is gonna radiate through the firewall… I admire the build and if I lived in a milder climate would like to have it. Personally,I don’t like the idea of driving an oven down the road in 100* weather… However, I am sure it is quite comfortable to drive in a sub-zero degree climate…

    • phil

      Drew V: I’ve been through 14 years of weather, and never driven in heat more than 95* and since I have other AMC’s that have good AC we would use them on high temp days..

  5. Howard A Member

    I never in a million years expected a Cadillac motor. I’d be interested in what kind of times this thing would do. Was the Caddy motor all that powerful, I mean, sure, it says an impressive 500 cubes, right there on the valve cover, I just don’t know. Lot of work for a Pacer, but wow it is, if that’s what the builder was aiming for.

    • Luxurious Lexus Land-yacht

      It was chock full of torque, but the 500’s time in the sun was after Malaise started, so 200 HP, max.

      I had a ’73 472 CID Coupe DeVille, and with a redline of a diesel-like 4,500 RPM, or so, while it didn’t have legs, it had some serious grunt.

      Still…shave the heads, do some valve work, and good, reliable power could be had.

      • phil

        Lux-lex: The torque comes in at low rpm and holds strong,, dont need much more than 4500 rpms.. its on demand with little throttle response… no need to rev-up to obtain dead stop launch .

  6. Don H

    At least it’s not a small block Chevy 💀

    Like 3
    • Chris W.

      Your right, it’s a Big Block GM (CHEVY)!!

      • John C Cargill

        There are no connections between the Caddy 472/500 and any Chevy motor, except maybe oil.

        Like 3
  7. boxdin

    Love it I’ll take it.

  8. Rock On

    This is seriously cool. I would make it even sleepier by using stock stamped steel valve covers. The 500 c.i. Caddy is starting to be discovered like Buick Nailheads and Chevrolet W motors have been. Wonder why this car is still for sale after a month? If it was in the Toronto area I would be all over it!

    • Steve65

      Just because it’s still posted doesn’t mean it’s still available. Not bothering to take down ads after the item sells is one of the more popular ways to abuse craigslist.

      • phil

        Steve65: It is still for sale ( 7-13-17)

    • 68 custom

      did 409’s ever fall out of popularity? 348’s maybe, but 409’s?

    • JCW Jr.

      I sent this in about 2 months or so ago. Sombody else must have sent it again.

      • Scotty Staff

        I just ran across it last night, JCW Jr. I didn’t see it come through before, I must have missed it, somehow.. if it’s possible to miss this one! Thanks for sending it in.

  9. DrinkinGasoline

    Hang a Swamp Cooler out of the window. You would be cruising fast enough !

  10. Sam

    Freaking awesome! Great bop-around car to tow behind the Airstream. I like the interior and body color wheel covers.

    • John S

      Heck, you could tow the Airstream with this thing!

  11. ROTAG999

    Tach is covering speedo above 40 mph so when the popo stops you and asks do you know fast you were going you can say no clue…

    • Lord Humungous

      Or the officer gets confused and thinks his radar is malfunctioning because there is no way a Pacer wagon could break the speed limit…any speed limit.

    • Howard A Member

      “I was going 4200 rpms ,officer”.

      • phil

        Howard A: how true as my speedometer is now broke,, and in a dumb move one evening I was able to see 4200 rpms = 121 mph

  12. Sheffieldcortinacentre

    Wasn’t this for sale a out a year ago? Loose the gauges & shifter std hubcaps, then it would be perfect

    • Gene

      Why would you want to loosen the gauges shifter and hubcaps. Wouldn’t they just fall off?

    • phil

      Ya kinda want to see the temp and oil pressure and rpms in a build of this nature.. I thought about hiding those in the glove box and making a quick door drop.. but oh well..

  13. Scotty G

    My apologies to Jamie, he wrote up this same car in December of 2015 – I didn’t look back far enough. There are some more photos, too!

    • Howard A Member

      I don’t have a problem revisiting these cars. For me, that was pre-BarnFinds, so I’m glad you featured it. Thanks, it is pretty cool.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      And Scotty, you write better than I do!

  14. Vintageracer

    This car has beeen for sale on the Louisville KY CL for the last 2+ years at the $6K price with no takers.

    • phil

      Yes,, advertised very little but gets a lot of free ads via Mags.
      Only had 1 out- of -state man come to view and he was 6ft 4″ and hoped for my leg room.. I do not post for sale in my home state…

  15. Larry

    “Swamp cooler.” “Cruising fast enough.” LOL!!! DrinkinGasoline, I don’t know where you get this stuff, but please, please keep it coming!
    Your the BEST!

  16. Car Nut Seattle

    I’ve heard of AMC Pacers with V8 engines, but this is crazy.

  17. Luxurious Lexus Land-yacht

    “I wonder if the next owner of this car could drive it home from its current home in Louisville, Kentucky?”

    What’s the limit on your gasoline credit card?

    • Mr. TKD

      My dad had the 500 in his ’75 Calais. He got about 10 mpg in the city and 13 to 15 mpg on the highway.

      • Luxurious Lexus Land-yacht

        Not bad at all.

        I had a 472 in my ’73 Coupe DeVille and even after a new carb and much tweaking, the best I got out of it was about 8.3-8.7. City, highway, A/C on or off, pulling a couple thousand pound trailer, nothing mattered.

  18. Rustytech Member

    Love it but not surprised it hasn’t sold. This going to be a very narrow market segment

  19. Loco Mikado

    People have been stuffing Cadillac engines in everything with 4 wheels since day one. One of the more famous ones was the Studillac by Bill Frick. It was a ’53 Studebaker with a Cadillac V8 with 100hp more instead of the 232 Studebaker V8. The Caddy engine weighed at most 50lbs more than the Studebaker. Ian Fleming the author of Janes Bond owned one.

    Most people associate Cadillac’s with being heavy but their engines were relatively light for their size incorporating many weight saving techniques such as hollow crankshafts.

    Looks like a Paceillac to me.

  20. Mr. TKD

    I’d figure out a way to put a/c in it, tint the windows as dark as the law would allow, and drive the wheels off it.

  21. Don H

    I like it ,but an AMC guy pry would not want a Cadillac engine in it ,and a Cadillac guy would pry not want a Pacer

  22. AMCFAN

    It has been said there is no substitute for cubic inches. It is also true that Cadillac didn’t make racing engines. American Motors did and was in the racing business…and business was good.

    AMC made the (H) code 304 an option in 1978 and 79 only. The builder could have saved a lot of head scratching joined an AMC club on line. Made friends and just sourced the correct AMC parts for the build. He would have had a relatively desirable car. The Pacer is by no means everyone’s cup of tea anyway

    An AMC isn’t a 32 Ford where it is acceptable to install what you want. It is funny but rationality some have building a car is “I’ll will do what I want because I’ll never sell it” Or I want to make something different. (a Pacer all by it self stock is already different) Without further thought. Some never get their hybrid idea off the ground or as far as this builder did. But you can’t own them forever. Sooner or later you will need the finances.

    I can say the true AMC people I know would never be interested and pay the cost many ask in any AMC vehicle without the correct brand of engine under the hood. I have known guys buy them for next to nothing and dump the Chevy drive train quicker then you can blink an eye.

    The future of this poor Pacer is as follows: Sold to a new owner. Smoke the tires a few times. Figure out quickly it is too dangerous with the front so heavy it squats. It won’t handle or brake worth a damn. At the same time figure the car is heavy despite the GM boat anchor and isn’t the road shaker they thought……Stew a bit. Try to impress friends at the local Sonic. Park in driveway…. For Sale sign, Online Ad. Repeat!

    • Howard A Member

      Bingo! However, it is still a hobby, and this person probably doesn’t have a huge expense with this car, but they had fun, and sure got us talking. I like your input, AMCFAN, and your dedication to the brand, but sometimes, it’s just fun to do this stuff, and it’s not always a slap to the brand.

      • AMCFAN

        I agree Howard it is a hobby however you missed the point. How come it has been for sale for $6K for months? Years? Stock AMC powered Pacers are bringing more money. Taking a very nice example and making a freak is fun? So what kind of buyer would it take to pony up? Certainly not an AMC person. There is lots of talk yes but no one biting the bullet. This clean example is ruined. Because it seems “fun” as you state wouldn’t seem fun to me to take such a hit trying to find a new owner. No way a 500 CID is cheap.

        Find any Chrysler vehicle (an AMC is not a Chryco product btw) with a Chevy or GM motor and see what is said. Same thing with a Ford/Chevy. I am not out of line. I stand by my post. The future of this poor little car is going to be bleak. One non understanding owner to the next. until the fun wears off and the car gets more run down and so on.

      • phil

        Howard A: I have won an award at Muscle Car Nat’s years ago,, that was called: ” Low Buck – High Fun” So since I’ve owned over 150 AMC since 1964 this was strictly for the fun… I also had a 401 Pacer in 1990.. swapped out 304,, so Ive been around the block…

        Like 1

    It’s as rare as the person looking for it. That being said, I’m a fan of some “wrong” cars. Pacer, 928 Porsche, Allante. But this has me laughing. No kidding, if this was for sale back when money was no object to me. Sold. Someone is going to have a lot of laughs in it. And who knows? They might make another movie “Wayne’s World” and that would pay for it.

  24. Oil Slick

    I’m an AMC guy thru and thru but I HATE Pacers. They replaced my beloved Javelin and were the downfall of AMC. This thing is butt ugly and a waste of a Caddy motor.

    • AMCFAN

      The Javelin’s demise wasn’t the fault of the Pacer. That is far from being correct and I am being nice.

      It was decided in 1973. That the last year of the Javelin was going to be in 1974. Although still selling in respectable numbers many reasons killed it. High insurance rates on performance cars. The gas crisis. The government. The 74’s Javelins cost AMC about $103. per vehicle because the front bumper didn’t meet the 5 mph government mandate.

      Dick Tiegue could not restyle the Javelin with the huge push bumpers the government required. So he made the decision to kill it. Detroit was moving away from the pony cars. Chrysler killed the Challenger and Cuda as well and that’s like saying the Aspen killed them. One thing is for sure. I am damn glad AMC didn’t turn the mighty Javelin into a Mustang II

      Another less obvious reason for killing the Javelin. AMC ruled the Trans AM circuit but now was hungry for NASCAR. To be competitive HAD to replace the flying bricks from 72/73 thus the new for 74 Matador Coupe.

      AMC took a bet on making something the big three didn’t have. Thus the Pacer. Being a small company with minimal capital they were very lucky to pull it off at all. A new car with interior room the size of a Cadillac but in a compact car. One of the last take everything you know about a car. Throw it away and design an all new one from scratch vehicle. It was very successful. Many design elements were and are patterned after the Pacer even today.

      If GM would have made this car, why it would be the best thing on wheels (because of the Chebby motor no doubt) But GM gave you the Vega and Citation and Chevette. No thanks I for one am thankful we have the Pacer. Give me the Pacer any day!

  25. Tyrone Shoelaces

    This is simply art!!!! Truly garage art. and driveway art… I want it.

  26. Rock On

    The main reason that the 472 and 500 cubic inch Cadillacs have limited top end power is the intake manifold. It was designed to clear the low hood line of that era Cadillac. Edelbrock has been producing an intake manifold for a number of years now to solve this problem. For anything else look these guys up.

  27. American_Badaz

    I gave this some serious thought about a year ago. It had been for sale for a few months at the time and that in itself had me worried. However, had the price been lower, it would be in my driveway now.

    • phil

      American_ Badaz: People will buy a stock Pacer any day over this Pacer,, this car will take a special person..

  28. Gary

    This vehicle was found and brought to us by Barn Finds about a year ago; same seller, vehicle, price. Still, it’s an orthodox build, which I find quite interesting.

    • Lord Humungous

      $6000. Hard to justify for a one of a kind sleeper. My problem is how safe the car is on the road. AMC products other than an AMX do not handle well, especially a Pacer wagon.

      • phil

        Lord” with the rack & pinion it handle’s well…

  29. HeadMaster1

    Please people, top saying how heavy the 500″ Caddy lump is….The cubic inches measure the “Internal Displacement”, having nothing to do with the external size or weight of an engine. The Caddy 500″ weighs less than a 100lbs more than a SBC……That’s about the same difference as a girlfriend vs. a wife…….(probably why I have a GF and not a wife).

  30. Lord Humungous

    Wow! This discussion has gotten pretty serious. I love sleepers. If I had the means to buy it I would just for the fun factor. The car looks completely stock even to the point of being a safety issue in my opinion. Paul Newman drove a Volvo wagon around Connecticut with a Ford 5.0 terrorizing the New England yuppies from what I’ve read. That’s the meaning of this Pacer wagon’s life.

  31. phil

    FROM The owner of Pacer : Its sold today 7-22-17 went to Colorado.. I owned for 15 years,, Lots of fun,,,

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