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The Wide One: 1977 AMC Pacer DL

030416 Barn Finds - 1977 AMC Pacer 1

I loved these cars as a kid, and I still do. I used to spend time drawing my favorite vehicles in a sketchpad when I probably should have been concentrating on my homework, and the Pacer was one car that kept coming up in my sketch pad. “The Wide One” was a pretty unusual car; actually, it still is. There have been a handful of AMC Pacer listings on Barn Finds in the last six months or so, including this one written up by Josh in late January. But, this blue car was so nice and the price was so good that I couldn’t help myself. This 1977 AMC Pacer DL found here on craigslist in Salem, Oregon looks like a bargain at $3,999 given its condition.

030416 Barn Finds - 1977 AMC Pacer 2

This car has an unusual two-tone color scheme and other than having an auto-dang-matic, it pretty much has all of my perfect oddball car qualities. In case you’ve forgotten just how wide this car was at the time, this old commercial on YouTube is a good refresher. The exterior looks like it’s in great shape, there is no mention of rust or bodywork, and the seller says that it’s a “Pretty much all original survivor” and that it “Runs and drives good”.

030416 Barn Finds - 1977 AMC Pacer 4

The interior also looks like it’s in good condition other than a little fading and a couple of issues with the front seat upholstery. That isn’t exactly a hard-to-find material or pattern so I have no doubt that these front seats could be repaired to look like new again. And, if a person is really ambitious, there are products to bring back the color of the faded plastics in there, or, to spray-paint them back to looking new again. Other than the speedometer “having a mind of its own” and a missing factory radio, there is no mention of anything else not working on this 114,000 mile car.

030416 Barn Finds - 1977 AMC Pacer 5

The unusual front-hinged hood arrangement is pretty cool, in my opinion. And, wasn’t it once touted as a safety feature on a variety of vehicles? I wonder why not too many new cars have this configuration anymore if it was supposed to be the way to go? The owner mentions that they would trade this car for one with a rotary which is coincidental because, as you probably all know, the Pacer was originally designed to house a rotary engine and at the last minute that plan was scrubbed so they had to scramble to shoehorn in a 6-cylinder instead. Being such a wide car, it would really have been something if they could have figured out how to put a transverse-mounted engine under that hood. Of course, that probably would have meant adding front-wheel-drive which would have added a wide variety of design and engineering issues.

030416 Barn Finds - 1977 AMC Pacer 6

For a 39-year old engine this one is about as clean as it gets. That makes me believe that this car has been taken care of. There is no mention as to whether this car has air-conditioning or not, but someone will know if any of those tangled-web of hoses are A/C-related or not. From what I’ve read, even with A/C these cars heated up because of the fishbowl-effect of all of that glass.

030416 Barn Finds - 1977 AMC Pacer 3

And, speaking of fishbowl-effect, there it is in all its glory. This is one nice-looking Pacer. Whether a person likes this design or thinks that it’s the most ridiculous thing of all time there is no arguing the fact that this one has been relatively well-preserved and in today’s market this is a good value. This would be a great way for a person with an open mind to get into an older vehicle for local car shows or just to have something unusual to drive around town in. Are there any other fans of these cars out there or are you all steering wide of this one?


  1. Avatar photo Chebby

    Gone already!

    Like 0
  2. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    Party on, Scotty. I too liked the Pacer, well, most AMC cars, but I knew people that had Pacers and wore them out. One friend wanted another, but sadly, all the other ones in Wisconsin looked just like his, pretty rusty, and he moved on. The Pacer had been the “butt” of all jokes for years. The French summed it up best with this ad.
    Can’t add much to the author’s description, except, you’ll be the talk of the show. Great find. Just amazing to see these turn up on occasion.

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    • Avatar photo Bobsmyuncle

      What a great ad!

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  3. Avatar photo Healeydays

    There you go. Put a hellcat drivetrain in it and have the ultimate sleeper. Show up on race day and after all the laughing is done, clean out everyone’s wallets…

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  4. Avatar photo Mike H

    Three pedals was an extremely unusual arrangement in a Pacer. Yes, they made them, but they weren’t common. Yes, the base models came with the 3-speed (column shifted, if I recall correctly) and a floor mounted 3+OD and 4-speed, but they were more commonly had with the automatic. The base-base models got the manuals, and those cars were driven hard and disposed of, like many other cars of the generation.

    It’s sad, really; the Pacer was pretty revolutionary when it came out and sold VERY well for its first two years. Sadly, everyone who wanted the hot new thing got it in the beginning and sales dropped off horribly, especially when you consider that it was a heavy pig (at approximately 3000 pounds) and was powered (initially) by a very weak 232 inline six. Later models saw greater power from the 258-6 and the 304 V-8, but all along the car got crappy fuel economy, and in the seventies that wouldn’t fly in a “small” car.

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  5. Avatar photo geezerglide85

    When I was about 19 I bought one of these “almost new” . It was being used by an AMC
    service rep. I had to wait until it had 4000 miles on it before they would sell it. It was a 1978 station wagon, 232 six cyl. and a 4 speed stick. Same color blue as this one.
    I used to get almost 30 mpg on the hiway, a really fun car, we could load all of our camping stuff in it, had a lot of room. We even went to florida in august in it with NO AIR!
    I put a set of Keystone Classics on it, a little strange looking but a great car, wish I had it back.

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  6. Avatar photo Chris

    Going on about 18 years or so, I moved to Durango CO, and ran into this guy who had a huge Quonset Hut (like 11,000 sq ft) full of cars, nicely displayed, and was marketing it towards Silverton train riders as a museum. It was, but 70 percent of the cars there were for sale LOL. He had a tribute display for Liberace`, and was a big fan of his. I also remember he had a very poor fitting hair piece too.
    Now all this is leading to the fact that he claimed to be one of the leads in the design team for the Pacer, Ambassador and Hornet.
    He had enough stories and tales that I do not think he made any of it up.
    He had a 6,000 mile Pacer there he wanted $9000 for, a rare 76 Mercury Cougar 427SC custom ordered wagon, with the digital tuned 8 track 4 channel unit, all in leather he bought from an old lady in Grand Junction, with all the paperwork, his own leather clad Matador, and a few more Studebaker, Henry, Hudson, Nash and AMC wonders that were all displayed, and I think Liberace’s own Caddy, but don’t hold me liable to that.
    Three years ago, I tried to go back and find the place on vacation. I have no clue where the stuff went, since they built condo’s where I though the place was.

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  7. Avatar photo Gary

    Is this the real life?
    Is this just fantasy?
    Caught in a landslide
    No escape from reality
    Open your eyes
    Look up to the skies and see
    I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy
    Because I’m easy come, easy go
    A little high, little low
    Anyway the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me

    Mama, just killed a man
    Put a gun against his head
    Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead
    Mama, life had just begun
    But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away
    Mama, ooo
    Didn’t mean to make you cry
    If I’m not back again this time tomorrow
    Carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters

    Too late, my time has come
    Sends shivers down my spine
    Body’s aching all the time
    Goodbye everybody I’ve got to go
    Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth
    Mama, ooo (anyway the wind blows)
    I don’t want to die
    I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all

    I see a little silhouetto of a man
    Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango
    Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me
    Gallileo, Gallileo,
    Gallileo, Gallileo,
    Gallileo Figaro – magnifico

    But I’m just a poor boy and nobody loves me
    He’s just a poor boy from a poor family
    Spare him his life from this monstrosity
    Easy come easy go will you let me go
    Bismillah! No we will not let you go – let him go
    Bismillah! We will not let you go – let him go
    Bismillah! We will not let you go let me go
    Will not let you go let me go (never)
    Never let you go let me go
    Never let me go ooo
    No, no, no, no, no, no, no
    Oh mama mia, mama mia, mama mia let me go
    Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
    For me
    For me

    So you think you can stop me and spit in my eye
    So you think you can love me and leave me to die
    Oh baby can’t do this to me baby
    Just gotta get out just gotta get right outta here

    Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
    Nothing really matters
    Anyone can see
    Nothing really matters nothing really matters to me

    Anyway the wind blows

    Like 0
  8. Avatar photo Bob Payne

    My mom had one. A real POS. No air, not good mileage, 2 broken trannies. YIKES!

    Like 0
  9. Avatar photo MDW66

    Party on Garth!

    Like 0
  10. Avatar photo RoughDiamond

    @Gary-you have way too much time on your hands and I’m glad you do.

    Like 0
  11. Avatar photo Charles

    When AMC introduced the Pacer GM’s offerings were the Vega and counterparts. Ford’s offering was the PInto and counterparts. To me the Pacer is the winner! This one looks very nice and well cared for.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Ed P

      The Pacer was weird looking for the times but it was a better car than Vega and Pinto.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Chris

        I dunno Ed, my Pinto survived 2 years of high school and 4 years of college with me behind the wheel! Says alot for being sturdy, to say the least!

        Like 0
  12. Avatar photo rangeroger

    Scotty G., I absolutely agree with you. This car has always needed tranverse engined front wheel drive. Get away from that monster driveline hump.

    Like 0
  13. Avatar photo Jack NWPA Member

    I always admired the fact that it was so different that even the passanger door was about an inch longer than the drivers door.

    Like 0
    • Avatar photo Mike H.

      It was actually (4) inches longer to facilitate rear seat entry.

      Like 0
  14. Avatar photo greg

    It was GM’s rotary that AMC was going to use. When GM gave up on the program, Amc was screwed. Having to make due with what they had, I think they did a wonderful job in the engine compartment. Almost bought one new when they first came out.

    Like 0
  15. Avatar photo AMC STEVE

    Hated them and hate them now. Strangest car I’ve ever driven, as it really was like driving in a giant fishbowl.

    Like 0
  16. Avatar photo DrinkinGasoline

    My Father purchased a ’75 Pacer DL in early ’77. Maroon with a red interior, 258 six automatic. (He lovingly called it the Fishbowl). It was a A/C car with crank windows and ’68 Mustang wheel covers. We were the talk of the neighborhood (still not sure if that was a good thing or….). After a few years, it blew a head gasket and Dad parked it in the garage, not having time to mess with it. When I came home from the service, Dad had moved it to My Grandmother’s garage for storage. I asked Dad what He wanted to do with it and He said take it and do want you want with it. I fixed the head gasket,drained and filled the tank and tuned it up with parts from the local auto parts store. The Pacer fired up and ran smooth after sitting for more than 7 years. For less than $50 and My labor, I had a car that I drove for about a year before I sold it to a guy who wanted to restore it.

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  17. Avatar photo Dennis M

    The Pacer was a great little car, especially compared to the competition. Besides the loss of the rotary engine, it was seriously damaged by two factors, one external.

    1. The car was heavy, which made for a nice quiet ride. Unfortunately the late 70’s gas crisis hit within a year of introduction and suddenly gas milage become uber important.

    2. A new solid state ignition created a “mystery” problem. On a hot day the car would just stop and not start. When towed into a dealer it was fine, no issues at all until the next time it happened! We finally figured out it was a heat issue with a control box in the electronic ignition! When it happened to one of us factory reps after we figured it out we would just find some ice and cool down the module until we could replace it. Damaged the car’s rep quite badly.

    Like 0

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