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Fun Pacer Memories and a Tragic End

Clark Bartram shared these fond but sorrowful Pacer memories on 2 May 2007.

Growing up in Canton, Ohio was a great time for me. We had a group of guys who were inseparable and we did everything from visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame (by sneaking in) to playing in the cemetery trying to scare the daylights out of each other. One of my fonder memories, however, is of Steve Rector and his burgundy Pacer. Actually, it was his parents' car, and they were quite strict on his usage of their fine automobile.

This is where the story gets fun. Each time we wanted to go somewhere he would have to beg his very strict father and offer all kinds of chores in return. You see, Steve was the only one with his license and access to a car -- he was 16 and we were all 14-15. When Steve would finally convince his dad to use the car the limitations were set. "Only 25 miles" was his fathers very direct command, "any more than that and I'll ground your ass and you and your buddies can walk as far as I'm concerned," and back he went to his Pabst Blue Ribbon on the Lazy Boy in front of his television.

The anticipation was tangible as we all knew we would be able to fly all over town and be the envy of the neighborhood as nobody else had access to such a fine vehicle. We would all fight for "shotgun" seat and the privilege of being let off last as he had to drop people off when the night came to an end. Canton, Ohio is a pretty small town -- at least our world was at the time -- so 25 miles went a pretty long way until you factored in driving by the house of the girl you has a crush on at least 20 times a night hoping she would come out so you could stop and say, "hi." The miles seemed to disappear as time went on -- 25 wasn't nearly enough, then we had an amazing discovery! In that particular car, I cannot recall the year, contrary to the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, if you drove in reverse the miles came off! We were in heaven! Well, instead of putting it on blocks Steve perfected the art of driving in reverse and it was 25 forward and 25 in reverse all the time listening to Peter Frampton Comes Alive, Heart, Foreigner and Kiss. It wasn't unusual to see Steve going past your house the wrong way in his travels to and fro.

Steve became an excellent driver as a result and his big goal was to make that Pacer into a hot rod. I can remember him explaining to me that he wanted to drop in a 350 engine, add some Cragar rims, air shocks and put a racing stripe down the front of the hood. He really loved that car and so did we... not for how it looked, but because it was our freedom!

I'll never forget the night it happened, I was fast asleep when another friend came barging into my bedroom at about 1am, freaking out because Steve had just had an accident and he was hurt pretty bad. My very first thought was, "there was no way Steve could crash; he was an excellent driver, and I'm sure he just broke a leg or something!" Well, we took off and raced to the emergency room where the first sight I saw was his "tough Dad" crying uncontrollably because he had just learned his son had died in that crash. Steve wasn't driving that night. Had he been, I'm sure my story would be ending differently, sadly enough. You see, Steve made a decision that night to go to a graduation party (that I couldn't attend because I was too young) and drive home with someone who had been drinking. I can remember my pain that evening as I lost a great friend and realizing I could have been with him if the situation was just a bit different.

When I came across this site a flood of awesome memories filled my mind and it made me realize how fortunate I am to be alive, how much I miss my friend and how I sometimes long for the simpler days when 25 miles seemed so far!