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Kathy's 1978 Pacer Wagon

Kathy from San Diego shared these details about her 1978 Pacer wagon in April 2001.

Kathy's '78 Pacer wagon

My name is Kathy. I live in San Diego. I have a 1978 Pacer station wagon, automatic, which my father had bought in 1979 in Berkeley. He died in 1992, and this was my inheritance. Sadly, he had Alzheimer's, and I had to take the car from him in 1990; I've driven it since then. I'm a 53-year-old woman, more or less from a hippie background, and my previous vehicle was a 1972 VW pop-top camper. I saw the Pacer as a goofy car, suitable for an aging jazz piano player in the '70s (my father), but not for me. Until the first time I drove it, that is. I used to drive it a lot when we took trips together. I love the comfortable, wide leather seats, besides the nice smooth ride (or it was then, anyway). I love the heavy sturdiness of it. Plus the dimensions make it so nicely maneuverable. I can parallel park in the shortest spaces; but can't park easily in these maddeningly narrow spaces they make nowadays because of the big wide doors. I love the faux burl wood dash, too.

I think this car, the wagon anyway, came in bronze and silver that year. Mine is so-called bronze...though it's all funky and faded now. Unfortunately, it really looks like a wreck. It had been dented in here and there when my dad was driving it when he shouldn't have been; and since then, it's gotten all rusty on the top. (And now there are water leaks inside in the rain.) The taillight covers have been missing for a long time. I get red drafting film from the art store and make my own every year or so (the stuff eventually disintegrates). None of the door locks work, and the handles are broken off, so I have to open the doors from the outside. I have a limited income, or I would love to have body work and a paint job done. I don't like that it's an eyesore—looks like an old dented metal trash can. Even though a unique one. I always feel like people don't want me to park this wreck in front of their house. I keep thinking I really will make it a priority to get at least an Earl Scheib-type paint job done. Though I would feel bad not doing a more authentic restoration. If it didn't look like a wreck that the driver doesn't care about, I would be even more proud to drive it. As it is, I do get admiring comments from true aficionados.

I always wished this was a "real" Pacer, the ultra-cool bubble-car, not the station wagon. But I've come to appreciate that not only is it a quirky car, but it's a square quirky car, being the wagon. So square it's cool. I always liked the ones with the wood-grain sides, too. Within the last ten years, there used to be a few other Pacers in San Diego that I would see—including wagons—but I seem to be the only one now, in the central city area, anyway.

In the early-mid 90's I kept having to put money into repairs (maybe at about 60,000 miles?), but since then I've had relatively few problems, and it keeps passing the smog-test every two years, too. Certain kinds of financially-sensible people always think I'm foolish to put money in the Pacer, but I'm sorry—I love it. It's got 90,000 miles on it now. It's got a lot of clunky noises and such, but keeps on running nicely for me. Actually, I never take it out of town—just drive it around town (I only work 3 miles from home, etc.). Seems every time I'd try to go up to LA in it, something would happen, and being stranded on the freeway isn't my idea of a good time. So I rent a car when I go out of town. I do need a new reliable car, if I can ever manage it. But my sister in Bakersfield wants the Pacer when I give it up, running or not. I would be very sad to let this car go, so I hope we can keep it in the family.

In October last year, I was just going along happily doing my thing...and the Pacer got hit-and-run in front of my house! It could have been so much worse, but other than minor superficial scrapes and a punctured tire, it was only that the rear leaf-spring was broken and the wheel pushed forward. It ended up taking about six weeks to get one (from a junk yard in Colorado) but didn't cost that much to fix altogether. So I'm very happy that wasn't the end of the Pacer.

So that's my Pacer story, for now. I just love having a Pacer. The response is always fun when the subject comes up and I say I've got a '78 Pacer. I would feel really great about it if I can get a paint job. It's a very special car.

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