The Nightmare Neon: A Rundown On The History Of The Chrysler PT Cruiser


I have an Army friend who bought one of these things to daily drive. She absolutely and utterly adored the car, painted blue, named “Scooter”. Yeah, it was named. I once semi-jokingly threatened to tow it away with my rust-riddled yet plenty violent 1973 Chevelle and sent that picture to her while she was off on some kind of training event. A few years later, she asked if I was willing to help fix this thing. If you haven’t had the joy of working under the hood of a Chrysler PT Cruiser, I’ll spare you the pain: DON’T. A normal human being’s hand does not fit. Sasquatch’s hand damn sure doesn’t fit. Simple jobs start with “drop the cradle”, it seems.

But I can knock the car all I want for being a bitch to work on, or being so sappily cute it was dorky, or being a Neon with a fashion sense. Truth be told, Chrysler sold the hell out of these things. Originally supposed to be a Plymouth before that nameplate was shoved off of a cliff and into the sea, the PT Cruiser was one of a string of Chrysler concept cars that got majicked into production, hot on the heels of cars like the Viper and the Prowler, machines that were so jaw-droppingly different from the normal (and about as far away from a Dodge Aries as you could get) that the public ate them up. The PT Cruiser was the most practical and relatively affordable example, and was supposed to appeal to a youth demographic. Funny, every one I’ve seen driven seems to be owned by a walking, talking “Karen” meme with the tiny little hand-held dog.

You have to give Chrysler kudos for having the nuts to bring this car to market at all. Love or hate the little machine, it did look different from everything else out there, it did offer practicality, and it was loved by it’s fans. And you have to wonder, even with this car’s problems, how Chrysler managed to go from this to the Dart, the 200 and a 300 so emasculated from it’s original form that it’s almost unrecognizable.