The AMC Pacer holds a special place in the hearts of Phillip and Sue Carey. They started their family with a 1977 Pacer wagon and drove it daily for eight years. Although reliability issues forced them to sell it, another Pacer wagon would find its way into the Carey family again.
Sue found a listing in 2004 for a 1978 AMC Pacer Wagon being sold by a movie prop company in Santa Rosa, California. Phillip and their son Aaron drove the car back to their house the next day.
The Pacer arrived with a tired 304 ci V8. Phillip considered rebuilding the V8 or swapping it for a 360 ci V8. However he settled on a GM E-Rod Connect & Cruise Powertrain kit. This included a 6.2 L LS3 V8 making 430 horsepower, 4L65E four-speed automatic transmission, and everything needed to comply with California emissions.
Phillip sent the wagon to Alan Draper and his company AD Fabrication in La Verne, California to complete the powertrain swap in his spare time. The 4L65E automatic sends power to the rear wheels through an AMC 20 rear end with Dutchman axles.
Although the powertrain was updated, Phillip and Sue wanted to keep the car as it would have been from the factory. The Pacer still retains AC, heater, power steering, power brakes, and analog speedometer.
Inside the cabin you find the original vinyl seats with new carpet and headliner. The plastic panels were repainted by Phillip. Freedom Custom Auto Body in La Habra, California reworked the body and covered it in a fresh coat of Golden Ginger (factory color) metallic paint.
The Pacer has won many awards since being completed. It was even featured on Jay Leno’s garage where it received his stamp of approval.
The 14-year journey had a lot of twists and turns but the final product was worth it. Phillip and Sue own a vehicle they will cherish for a long time.