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The Big Small: 1978 AMC Pacer Wagon

1978 AMC Pacer

UPDATE: The seller just lowered the BIN to $1,500. Someone buy it before we do!

It might not be the best looking or performing car, but for some reason the AMC Pacer has slowly been growing on us. Perhaps it the quirky shape or the fact that they can usually be had on the cheap. While we would rather say it’s because we can pick them up cheap, we have to admit that it has more to do with that bulbous shape. Sure we love the smooth flowing lines of an Italian sports car or the low brutish shape of a British roadster, but those cars won’t grab the attention of every person on the sidewalk like a Pacer will. If you’ve been looking for a cheap driver that will get some looks, have a look at this 1978 Pacer here on eBay where it is being offered with a BIN of $1,800 and the option to make an offer. Thanks Jim S for this tip!

1978 AMC Pacer Interior

When the Pacer was released, one of AMC’s major selling points was that it offered the interior space of a full sized vehicle in body of a compact car. Looking at this one’s big cushy seats, you can see it really did offer a surprising amount of space. The seller claims this car has only seen 26k miles and while the interior has a few issues, it looks right for this kind of mileage and age. If this one had a manual transmission, we would be tempted to buy it as a fun daily driver.

1978 AMC Pacer Engine

The Pacer wasn’t designed to be a performance machine, it was meant to be a comfortable compact car. There were some to leave the factory with a 304 cui V8, but most came with a more efficient inline-six. This 258 cui six was only good for about 100 horsepower, but most Pacer owners were more concerned about comfort, utility, and efficiency. Ironically it wasn’t all that efficient. To make sure the ride was as comfortable as possible, AMC isolated the engine and suspension from the chassis, via rubber bushings. This made for a smooth ride with very little road noise and vibration. They had originally planned on powering it with a rotary engine, but scrapped the idea and installed the six-cylinder instead. We can only imagine how different the Pacer’s image might have been if they had gone ahead and installed a light weight rotary in the engine bay. Sadly we will never know how it might have impacted the Pacer.

1978 AMC Pacer Wagon

It isn’t until you see the rear profile that you notice that this is the wagon version of the Pacer. In ’77 AMC introduced the Pacer Wagon for those who needed more cargo space. It only added 5 inches of length to the standard Pacer, but it gave the car a much more conventional look. After a tune up and some cleaning, this wagon would be ready to hit the road and would certainly grab some attention. Whether it’s the kind of attention you want or not is another question though! Would you drive this quirky wagon proudly or is it a little much?


  1. Avatar photo SoCal Car Guy

    So uncool that it’s crazy cool. if this thing was on the Left Coast anywhere near SoCal I’d buy it — and drive it at least once a week — just for grins. I hope it goes to someone with a twisted enough sense of humor to appreciate it.

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    • Avatar photo rapple

      You summed it up perfectly!
      This would be a real conversation-starter. As a bonus (and in an effort to stay positive) you would be hard-pressed to find a car with better visibility.

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  2. Avatar photo Brian

    Wow! An ebay buy it now that’s actually fair! Now THATS a rare find! Looks likes a nice buy and alot of fun!

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  3. Avatar photo Don S

    You forgot to mention that it is a woody & a station wagon!

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  4. Avatar photo Connor

    Wow now that’s an oddity I’ve never seen before (and I’ve seen some odd cars) I just looked at the first picture and immediately thought ‘I want one’ I think it’s worth saving just for the fact that its such a cool little car, and when are you likely to see another one.

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    • Avatar photo Connor

      I also think that this looks better than the ordinary pacer.

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  5. Avatar photo Sir Robo

    When I lived in SoCal way back when, I bought one of those 304V8 quirky station wagons new off the lot in ’77 for my Ex; it was all yellow, and had the vinyl woody decals as the one shown. For her it was a love/hate kinda thing, i.e. comfortable, had gobs of power, was great for loading groceries, ‘n taking the kid(s) to the beach, but it wasn’t a Jag or a Lincoln either, which is what she really wanted, so in short time it went away. I still think it was a nifty car.

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  6. Avatar photo davew833

    My first car in 1984 was a ’76 Pacer. I loved it for its quirkiness. My friends called it the “Pregnant Fishbowl”. I wish I still had it– I’m sure I could easily recoup the $250 purchase price now. I didn’t care much for the looks of the wagon.

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  7. Avatar photo Shilo

    Save it, drive it and have a lot of fun. Not for me but I bet lots of people would love the funny little car.

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  8. Avatar photo Jim-Bob

    The biggest problem I can see is that the valve cover is painted the wrong color. The sad thing though is just how bad a 70’s six cylinder AMC is on gas. You would be lucky to see 14 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway. I guess that’s why the gas crises of the 70’s were so traumatic.

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  9. Avatar photo Jesse Staff

    The seller just lowered the BIN to $1,500! Sounds like the seller is ready to move this one. There has to be someone in the area who wants it?

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  10. Avatar photo Don Andreina

    BF project car! Drop in a rotary.

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  11. Avatar photo Chris

    Given the less than stellar torque of the rotary engine ( chookcooker to us Aussies)
    a rotary Pacer is going to be a S-L-U-G.
    Mazda tried putting a rotary into a Holden Premier ( google Mazda Roadpacer)
    Gutless was being kind . Only 102 ft pounds of torque & 130 HP to move near 3500 lbs of car.
    I assume that was gross HP too, not SAE net or DIN.

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    • Avatar photo Jim-Bob

      They also tried putting them in buses and motorhomes. I imagine that they made the Toadracer look spry by comparison.

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  12. Avatar photo Rich Member

    Think of the chicks you could get with this car. No really, think of those chicks.

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    • Avatar photo Jim-Bob

      Is it that time of year again? I better head down to Tractor Supply and get some! In a few months I’ll have a good supply of eggs for breakfast. Good thing the Pacer is a wagon, otherwise I might have a hard time bringing home all the stuff I need to raise chickens.

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  13. Avatar photo Dave jacobus

    Had a factory 304 wagon. Put a 401-4 BBL. out of a matador in it the 727 tranny was a little tight and had to shorten the drive shaft but other than that it was a bolt in. It would incinerate the left rear tire thru all 3 gears what a sleeper. I loved that Car

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    • Avatar photo Dave jacobus

      oops right rear tire…sorry

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  14. Avatar photo Paul B

    My next door neighbor bought a brand new Pacer coupe/sedan with a six and automatic, the way most of them were built. I used to drive it quite frequently. I have to say the idea was interesting, but the execution terrible. AMC billed the Pacer as the first wide small car. And wide it was, to no advantage. There was huge wasted space on either side of the seats, which weren’t all that wide themselves. The rear seat was thin, the legroom limited. I discovered to my great surprise that for all its tubby girth and weight, the Pacer had no more actual useful room inside than the delightful-to-drive SAAB 96 I owned at the time. The doors were as heavy as those on a bank vault, very hard and annoying to use. The interior was hot even with AC due to all the glass. Because of all those rubber bushings, the ride was OK when the car was brand new, but things quickly deteriorated. With its odd short wide stance, soft shocks and undistinguished AMC suspension geometry, the car handled very badly indeed, especially after a few months’ use started to wear the components. The big six was quiet and smooth at first, if not providing much push, but within a year it had become a typical wheezing AMC six, and to be honest, it betrayed the buyer on what AMC always billed as its cars’ advantage: economy. I recall my neighbor being deeply disappointed by its lousy mileage. Overall, I was shocked at how quickly the Pacer deteriorated from new into a soft, rattling, badly performing, burdensome-to-drive car. Despite all the car’s shortcomings, I find I still like the styling of the first-year model with the straight-across grille. The Pacer evoked what stylists of the ’60s thought would be the “future car”. And so every time I drove it, I experienced a sense of tragedy. I used to think of how successful it could have been if it had been narrower, much lighter, powered by a spritely engine rather than that depressing boat anchor Rambler six, and endowed with a taut, competent suspension and a nice four-speed manual — in other words, if it had been a Mazda or Toyota or Fiat or Peugeot or Saab or Volkswagen hatchback. What a shame. AMC spent its last remaining cash on this car and really blew it. RIP.

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  15. Avatar photo Jesse Staff

    The auction ended with the best offer accepted. So it sold for something less than $1,500.

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    • Avatar photo jim s

      someone got a great deal. was it someone on this site? same seller has some other interesting cars and truck.

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  16. Avatar photo Grid

    We used to get a bazillion of these as 4-5-6 month leases when I was with Hertz, so the most time we’d have on them would be 6 months. However, in the summer, folks would rent them on the east coast for (if I remember) $129/week and drive to CA and back in 2 weeks to visit family. We tried to identify those drivers before we gave the same car to others who might be making the same trip. Early profiling, you might say. But, the Pacer was comfortable, got decent mileage for what it was, and wasn’t hard to find in a parking lot. I got a car as part of my salary, and often as not used a Pacer instead of “something decent.” Were you aware that “Pacer” spelled backwards is “recap”?

    Like 0

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