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Low Mileage Survivor! 1980 AMC Pacer Wagon

Before we launch into a review of AMC’s Pacer, let’s establish a modicum of credibility for a car that doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. First, Brigitte Bardot owned a Pacer, a wagon version complete with faux wood trim. She could own anything, but she loved her Pacer enough to feature in ads for AMC. Second, a blue ’76 Pacer nearly starred in Wayne’s World! I’ll stop there because Wayne’s World – can’t get any better than that. Well, unless you consider the Pacer’s sales in its first year, at 145,000. AMC was seeing salvation from its financial impoverishment. Alas, the Pacer didn’t save the failing company, but we can thank AMC for trying because now the enthusiast hobby has “the small wide car” in the category of affordable classic. For instance, here on facebook Marketplace is a very fine 1980 AMC Pacer wagon survivor, with an asking price of $12,500. The buyer may want to preserve the odometer’s 27,900-mile reading by trailering it home, but the car is perfectly capable of motoring to its new garage. Steve Hudson submitted this righteous ride to our tip page – thanks!

While the Pacer had a promising start, sales fell off dramatically after its launch in 1975. The last cars were made in 1979; fewer than 1800 were sold in 1980 as leftovers from the prior year. While the styling was … fresh, it was also controversial. The large rear window, accessories like air conditioning, and loads of standard safety features added to the car’s curb weight, diminishing performance despite its six-cylinder motor. The car was originally designed for a rotary engine, licensed from GM. But rotarys were thirsty and the gas crisis punctured their viability, so AMC went back to the drawing board, making room in the engine bay for its tried and true 232 and 258 sixes. Unfortunately, the suspension was not uprated for the heavier engines and early Pacers experienced steering failures. Later, the company managed to shoehorn its 304 V8 underhood. Speaking of underhood, our featured Pacer is just as fine as they come in that respect.

The interior is near-perfect. Clean up that heel mat and polish the sill plate – there isn’t much else to do. The headliner is pristine, and the back seats are wonderful. The courtesy lights even work. This car has a three-speed column-shift automatic. It is badged as a D/L – at first a luxury trim level but by 1978, the base offering.

The wagon is slightly more conventionally styled than the coupe with its fishbowl back glass. But Pacer oddities keep cropping up: the passenger’s door is some 4″ longer than the driver’s door, to facilitate loading; the greenhouse bucked the industry trend with its increased height; and to add a sensation of spaciousness, the windshield was pushed far forward of the front seats. Then there’s that width: the Pacer was almost half as wide as it was long. We could go on – you get the idea. The Pacer is a funky oddity with a dedicated fan base, and one of those fans will think this car is reasonably priced.


  1. Nevada1/2rack Nevada1/2rack Member

    Ah, the eclectic AMC Pacer, revered by….someone somewhere we’re told. You’re right, Michelle, the wagon does look a little better than the sedan but then the sedan is a profoundly strange design, though not as ugly as a, say…
    Let me get back to you on that. There have been attempts to improve its salability as in this episode of Wheeler Dealers- https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dgNMq4_iFpc

    But, as has been pointed out before, someone somewhere liked it enough to initially buy it-whether anyone else shares the vision is another matter.

    As an aside, the failed engineering designs that you and your team write about that address the issues of the subject machine is a big plus IMHO-thank you.

    Like 1
  2. Richard

    Where is it?

    Like 1
    • Greg B Greg B Member

      Boise, Idaho. I’m the current owner who has it for sale.

      (208) 412-9744

      Thank you Michelle for the outstanding write up, and Steve for finding it to have it shared here!

      Like 8
      • Michelle Rand Staff

        No problem. It’s a wonderful example and I hope it finds an appreciative home.

        Like 4
  3. Robert Proulx

    This one’s a beauty. The carpeting needs a good cleaning but the car is 43 years old afterall. Love the engine bay its super sano. Lucky it dont got a/c where would you put it. ;). . always loved amc for the fact its made up of Ford, GM and Chrysler parts and AMC made them all work together. Hope it fonds a nice home.

    Like 2
  4. Frank Chantry

    The more time passes, the less odd this car looks. Compared to a modern crossover, well… Put a modern driveline in this with all-wheel drive, like an Eagle, you might look at it differently.

    Like 3
    • Michelle Rand Staff

      Totally agree that now that it’s been around 40 years, the looks have grown on me. I think that’s because today’s cars – with precious few exceptions – are so bland that almost anything that’s different becomes more attractive only because it’s different.

      Like 6
  5. Driveinstile Member

    It is a nice really nice example. And there arent that many in ad nice of condition as this one.
    I agree with Robert. Before he wrote that I was thinking of the GM ignition switch and steering column and Chrysler transmissions etc. ( not sure what trans is in these) And they did indeed make it all work.
    Hope it goes to a good home and gets taken care of the way it has all these years.

    Like 3
  6. Greg B Greg B Member

    The AC works good and blows cold by the way. I put a new NOS front windshield in it and also found and put in new NOS wiper blades. I tuned it up and added new plug wires, spark plugs, and a new carburetor. I kept all the original parts though. I fell short not doing a good interior detail but it’s still very nice.

    Greg (seller)

    Boise, Idaho

    I have videos I can text serious buyers.

    Like 4
  7. Mark P

    Wow what a nice car. In the early 80s there were seven AMCs in the drive way of my parents and aunts duplex at any given time. I’d like to have this but it’s too nice to drive in New England year round. It would be destroyed by the salt and brine used in winter.

    Like 1

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