The curious case of the reappearing PT Cruiser

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, March 19, 2014 10:34 PM

In 2001, Chrysler introduced a retro-type car they called the PT Cruiser. It was kind of funky looking, with a big butt and a sleek front end. It seemed to lean forward slightly as if it was just dying to get wherever it was going. Chrysler made almost a million and half of these cars in their Toluca, Mexico plant and then stopped making them in 2010. I hadn’t seen very many of them in quite a while and they weren’t really a car I paid much attention to when they were new other than being mildly intrigued because of their look and thinking they might be fun to tool around in briefly. Work-friend Cynthia loved them; owning one was on her bucket list. But she moved to New York City for work and she and I lost touch. I doubt she had need for one in Manhattan. And I quickly forgot about them after the Maui debacle. But lately they’ve been everywhere, like African bees, and I’m curious as to why.

When we went to Maui in 2007, Justin has not yet started to drive. In fact, he had shown a curious lack of interest in even learning. I understand from a number of people parenting teens of driving age that many are like this. When I turned 15, I got my driver’s permit and took driver’s education, which was offered through the school (I don’t know about schools elsewhere but schools in Southern California don’t do that; you pay an independent firm). When I turned 16, I got my license, perhaps even that very day. I couldn’t wait for the freedom and I didn’t even have my own car.

Our trip to Maui, the summer after Justin’s sophomore year in high school, we rented a condo on the Kaanapoli side of Maui. We rented a PT Cruiser at the airport, a convertible. We thought it would be fun to tool around in. We all bought hats in Lahaina  A couple of mornings, while I was still sleeping, Kevin took Justin into town, into a parking lot where the stores had yet to open and had him drive a bit. Justin hated it. More than that, I think he resented it. We took the car on the road to Hana and then traveled down the backside of the island, the side we weren’t supposed to drive the rental car on because of the narrowness of the road, and the long-ago hardened lava.

It was not a good vacation for a lot of reasons, most of which involved our teenage monster-in-training. Unfairly, we also blamed the PT Cruiser. It was a car we wanted to like because of its retro-kitch look but we didn’t.

They were fairly successful for Chrysler. In the nearly 10 years of production, they made about 1.4 million cars worldwide. But they were uncomfortable and had trouble getting out of their own way. Evidently they were also not very safe, fairing poorly in front crash tests. The convertibles proved unpopular, and were only produced for two years. In the latter years of production, there weren’t enough people buying either the hard tops or the convertibles, so the company made several deals to dump them at rental car companies. Hence, the reason we were able to get one on Maui.

They seemed to largely disappear in the last few years. I put them out of my head. Then suddenly last week, I spotted two on Campbell, side by side, heading south toward the university. A red one and a black one. We were walking Cooper at the time. I made a comment to Kevin, something like, wow I never see cruisers anymore and there’s two of them, and then promptly forgot about them again. Except that I can’t because they’re everywhere. There was one parked in the parking lot the next morning and another one pulling out. There were two more going down Prince. Yesterday morning there was a gold one in the parking lot by Petra and then this morning, a navy blue one. A maroon one was at the daycare center across the street.

Several months ago, all I ever saw on the road were old-model Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs. On Campbell, on Prince, at the intersection of Sabino Canyon and Tanque Verde, in the parking lot around the corner, next to me at the grocery store. Those trucks have now been replaced by the retro stylings of the PT Cruiser. I’m not complaining; simply observing. I should probably stop because, just like only seeing the car you’re thinking about buying on every sidestreet and freeway, I’m seeing only the car I’ve recently noticed because it seems odd, out of place, old.

I wouldn’t mind seeing an old Ferrari 308 gts, though, the car affectionately known as the Magnum car. Having those pop up everywhere would be proof that there are a lot of people living it out loud. 


live out loud

Comments (6) -

3/20/2014 9:14:35 PM #

"Dying to get wherever it was going"
Too funny! They always reminded me of a hearse.
Smile..... Btw, I bought a  vehicle... Phone date?

Pam United States

3/21/2014 12:13:36 AM #

Yes! Name the day and time.

And what did you buy? I wondered about you with all of the snow and your poor little Honda. I just didn't see it climbing up to Deep Creek. Do tell.

Lorin United States

3/21/2014 8:44:30 AM #

I knew that would get you......
Not telling, unless in its a phone date. ;)
How about Sunday? Monday? Tuesday? Wednesday?.....

Pam United States

3/21/2014 8:48:34 AM #

It's in....
How'd that happen? Not a full cup of coffee yet.

Pam United States

3/22/2014 12:43:48 AM #

You're very bad. How about Monday?

Lorin United States

3/22/2014 10:08:52 AM #

Hahaha. Looking forward to it.

Pam United States

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