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Pacer Flambé


Phlowtey recounts the story of how his Pacer went up in flames.

I purchased a '78 Pacer not too long ago and was thrilled. I eventually got the whole history behind the particular car. A woman in her 70's bought it brand new and then died in 1981. The car only had 24,000 miles on it. It then sat in her garage until 1996. A man in the area found it and bought it and replaced all the dry rotted parts on the engine, belts, hoses, etc. He got it running perfectly and gave it to his daughter. When she graduated high school she went up north to Canada for college and wanted something with front wheel drive for the snow. So he sold the car to me. It only had 67,000 miles on it. I drove it around for a few months on a regular basis with no major problems other than new spark plugs and the occasional oil change.

The other night I went to my friends house to hang out. Later on, we wanted to get something to eat so we drove the ten miles to the restaraunt. Eight miles into the trip we smelled a pungent odor like something was burning and some light smoke in the car. When we got to the place and stopped there was quite a bit of smoke coming from under the hood. I'm no car genius, so I pulled out the manual and read it over while we ate to see if we could determine what in the wide, wide world of sports is going on with my car.

I found the section on the catalytic converter. It says there, "a pungent odor 'like something is burning' and maybe some light smoke in the car." I think that was when we figured out what was going on. So, I did something intelligent. I figured that I'd drive back to my friend's house and park it there until I can get a new converter. The smoke got pretty bad a mile from his house, and half a mile away there are hot coals falling off the bottom of the car. Then it stalled on the highway offramp. I popped the hood and found flames on the engine.

There was a policeman at the bottom of the ramp so I sent my friend down to get his fire extinguisher. Well, it didn't do the trick. Even when four more policeman showed up with their extinguishers they didn't put it out. I tried to pop the hood again for better access to the fire and the handle came right off in my hand, and that was when I knew that I should pay my last respects to the Pacer. I got all my stuff out including my hula doll which I pulled off of the dash so fast that I broke her feet off. Her feet and the small piece of ground that she was stand on are still in the car.

In the seven minutes between when the fire department was called and when they arrived, I, along with a couple of my friends and a herd of policemen, watched the Pacer as the flame decals that I put on the sides materialised and personified themselves into a being that, in the end, would consume its very maker in a 30-foot-high plume of pungent smelling flame and smoke. And so came the end of a hot summer that was made cool by the power of the Pacer.


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