After a ten year reign as the king of comeback cars that sparked the resurgence of hot rod, muscle and American: “Made in the USA” classic collectible cars, the last of Chrysler’s famed PT Cruisers rolls into the sunset tonight.
I personally sold many of the first PT’s in Las Vegas from 2000 ’til 2005, taking orders six months ahead of production and delivering them all over the state. The PT was the hottest casino slot pull, the ultimate mid-life crisis revelation and every man’s reminder of the Godfather’s famous black on black mobster ride. The original PT Cruisers weren’t available in black, had grey plastic bumpers and one engine; a 4 cyl. that was better test driven on the highway at 60 mph. Gas was $1.35 a gallon and nobody asked what it got for miles combined.
The unusual placement of the battery under the fender and the miniature prop-rod turned every delivery into a series of cautions on the unique nature of the car which was sure to bring a call when the owner needed a jump, or worse, punched the rod through the hood. (Many a PT wore a bullet hole patch as a badge of honor.) Those drop, fold and pull-out seats were as legendary as the picnic shelf I often referred to as a handy baby-changing table while the tv commercials demonstrated it’s space and versatility. We didn’t need hampsters and hip-hop to sell the PT, it had a personality that sold itself.
Over the years I enjoyed watching the PT charm all ages as Cruiser Clubs popped-up all over the country. Our local band of PT lovers surfaced at various bars and restaurants, weekend runs through Red Rock Canyonor Valley of Fire, sporting flames, dice, cue-ball shifters and every other possible accessory. I remember Mike and Joanne’s custom iridescent green to purple paint job with ghost flames and a single eye-ball on the back hatch and Ray’s hand-cut, hardwood removable floor, side panels and dash. Sue and Bill’s matching PT’s still travel the show car circuit while Mike and Jan treat Las Vegas Green Bay Packer fans to her own special fan-mobile every fall weekend at Jackson’s on Flamingo. I haven’t seen Mickie’s #215 Special Edition Gold Route 66 PT in awhile nor my first Tigger-mobile, artfully badged by Shelly B. Today my friend Connie called to tell me her original 2001 Silver PT was getting a ceremonial wash tomorrow in honor of the finale, just 15,000 on the odo, she’s planning a cruise down the Las Vegas Strip to mark the occassion.
Over the years I’ve heard every possible compliment and diss of the PT, but for all the naysayers, I can point to the number of lives saved by a totalled out PT Cruiser that did its job and protected the driver and passengers from life ending injuries another car would not have fielded as well.
Then there’s my good friends Barbara and Jon who I would never have met if it hadn’t been for the 2001 Deep Purple Limited Barbara bought just months after it’s introduction. That fateful afternoon, (as Barbara tells it to this day), she sent an internet request to the dealership on the “other side” of town, to which I answered her in minutes with music to her ears. I had the only Purple PT on the west coast, optioned exactly as she wanted. We bonded as only two women making a car deal can. Jon got his birthday surprise and we all share wonderful times to this day.
Turbos and convertibles, factory woodies and special editions have re-defined the PT and kept it alive through Chrysler’s own re-incarnation. Recently, PT used car values have risen as value-oriented car buyers and car collectors snatch them up over copy-cat HHR’s and too mini Mini’s. No matter what the latest best-seller or hot model is today, the PT CRUISER will always hold a special place in my heart.
My collectible PT Cruzer, circa 2003. This one has Workable Steering, Opening doors, Trunk, Adjustable front wheels and Independent spring suspension for wheels… 1:18 Scale. 0 mpg.
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Sarah Lee is an automotive executive with 20+ years of experience. She writes about Cars, and is a staunch consumer advocate on car related subjects. Her company: MY CARLADY is a car buyer’s service committed to getting you the best deal on your next new or pre-owned vehicle. You can reach her at CAR DEALS