Chrysler PT Cruiser: Iconic Retro Styling

Chrysler PT Cruiser: Iconic Retro Styling

Love it or hate it, the Chrysler PT Cruiser brought retro styling to the market. This styling, and some of its qualities, make the PT Cruiser an iconic car.

The late 1990s saw the Plymouth brand dwindling to the point of near extinction. To bring a bit of juice to this brand, Chrysler created the Prowler concept, which eventually made it to production. The PT Cruiser is based on the Prowler but brings a lot more practicality to the market, making it more useful.

Let’s learn a little more about this polarizing Chrysler vehicle.

It was a styling battle

Two concept cars became the foundation of what would become the production version of the PT Cruiser. The Plymouth Pronto and Pronto Cruizer were the two concepts that brought the styling themes to this car. Toss in a reworked Neon platform, and you’ve got the production version.

In a strange turn of events, this new car was classified as a truck by the EPA to help Chrysler’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFÉ) figures. This makes the PT Cruiser a tool to ensure Chrysler could continue to sell big V8-powered trucks without incurring a CAFÉ violation.

How much power did this Chrysler car offer?

When it first hit the market as a 2001 model year vehicle, the Chrysler PT Cruiser was powered by one engine in America. This was a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine that sent 150 horsepower to the front wheels through a five-speed manual transmission or four-speed automatic.

In many markets, this Chrysler car was offered with a 2.0-liter gas engine or a 2.2-liter turbocharged diesel engine, neither of which was part of this car in America.

Chrysler tried to push power through this car

The 2003 PT Cruiser brought the GT trim, which was powered by a 2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivered 215 horsepower. This trim was offered with both manual and automatic transmissions. The following year, another turbocharged engine was offered for the Touring and Limited models. This engine delivered 180 horsepower, giving these upper trims more power for the drive.

When did Chrysler update the styling?

The 2005 model year brought a convertible version of the Pt Cruiser, making it more interesting as drivers could now enjoy the wind blowing through their hair. The only other styling change happened for the 2006 model, which received:

  • New headlights
  • Shortened grille
  • Revised interior
  • GT models had more power at 230 horsepower

In addition to the only styling changes offered for this car, Chrysler brought several special edition models to the market. These special names and the styling of the PT Cruiser made this a popular car.

What was wrong with the PT Cruiser?

Although the Chrysler PT Cruiser delivered on the promise of retro styling, this car had its problems. Many owners complained about this car because the build quality was extremely poor, and the fuel economy figures weren’t good compared to other sedans.

The challenges faced by the PT Cruiser led to a steady decline in sales after 2006. This was also the year the Chevrolet HHR hit the market, the only direct competitor with similar styling as the PT Cruiser. The final year for the convertible version was 2008, and the final year for the PT Cruiser was 2010.

During its production time, 1.3 million PT Cruisers were sold worldwide.

The PT Cruiser almost didn’t happen

It probably wouldn’t have been a terrible tragedy for the Chrysler PT Cruiser never to have been made, but several Chrysler leaders were in favor of the project, and CEO Bob Eaton was opposed. Eventually, when Francois Castaing was promoted to EVP of international operations and pledged to take 50,000 units for export, the PT Cruiser received the green light and became a reality.

Can you buy a PT Cruiser for cheap today?

More than ten years have passed since the final PT Cruiser rolled off the production line. That means this car should be one of the cheapest models in the used car market. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one that’s been gently used by one owner, but that would be extremely rare. For now, this car is sold at low prices as a regular used car, but it won’t be long before the classic car mark has been reached for early models, giving this Chrysler a bit more value.

The best way to find a model that could eventually appreciate in value is to look for the GT models and any of the special editions that were only produced in small numbers. There might be a time when we look back on this car with fondness, but we aren’t there yet with the Chrysler PT Cruiser.

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