Chrysler PT Cruiser

A Chrysler PT Cruiser in all its wood-paneled glory.

I was 15 years old when it happened. I had just gotten my learner’s permit and started working at my local grocery store. My parents were so proud of me that they offered to help me buy my first car. If I had any way of going back in time and saying no to their offer, I would. At the time, I had no way of knowing the suffering I would soon have to endure as a result of my decision.

My parents took me to the only used car dealership in town. They didn’t have much of a selection, just a couple of cars and pickup trucks that were mostly out of my price range. The dealer took us to the back of the lot to show us the cheapest vehicle that they had. I felt my stomach drop into a bottomless pit the second I laid eyes upon it, one of the worst-looking cars I had ever seen.

Launched by Chrysler in early 2000, the PT Cruiser is a five-door hatchback that hearkens back to a bygone era of hot rods. The retro styled compact automobile’s repulsive design can be credited to Bryan Nesbitt, an automobile designer who also styled the Chevrolet HHR.

The PT Cruiser created quite the buzz upon its initial debut and was even named the 2001 Motor Trend Car of the Year. After several years however, all hype surrounding the car had faded and people began to hate the design. The Cruiser became like a dog that was too old and sick to chase the ball its owner just threw, yet Chrysler still didn’t take it to the vet to have it put down. It wasn’t until years later in 2010 that it was discontinued.

The particular PT that I came to own was a white 2002 model complete with wood paneling and windows that the previous owner had taken the liberty of tinting completely black. The car dealership gave my parents an offer that they couldn’t refuse just so the vehicle would be taken off its lot.

My first two years of high school were living hell because of this car. People would often laugh at me as I pulled into the school parking lot. Getting a girlfriend became exponentially more difficult, borderline impossible. I had to take it to the mechanic every other month because of its numerous mechanical issues. I was even pulled over by a state trooper and informed that having black tint on your windows was illegal.

From my firsthand experience, the PT Cruiser is everything that is undesirable in a car. It was unreliable, uncomfortable, had horrible fuel economy, wide turning, blind spots and a terrible dashboard layout. Unlike the Ford Mustang or Dodge Challenger, it was the absolute wrong way of bringing back old styling elements of vehicles. The thing even lacked rear wheel drive despite the fact that Chrysler categorized it as a light truck.

After driving my wood-paneled beauty for two years, it was passed down to my younger sister when she got her learner’s permit. After upgrading to a used SUV, I realized just how much I had been missing out on in life. It felt as if a great weight had been lifted off of my shoulders and I had become a new person.

Fortunately for my sister, she only had to endure the hardships of driving the Cruiser for a year. On one fateful summer afternoon, a FedEx van put an end to her suffering by sideswiping the car while it was parked in the street. The damage was so extensive that neither of the driver’s side doors could open. To my sister’s delight, insurance informed us that buying another vehicle would be cheaper than getting both faux-wood doors replaced.

While a PT Cruiser no longer plagues my family, there are still thousands of people who still suffer daily. To this day many teens are still inheriting these awful vehicles from their grandparents. Let us have a moment of silence for those forced to drive these ugly, purple, wood-paneled beasts.

(10) comments

P.m. Stanton

I have had a PT Cruiser for 7 years and while it is a pretty mediocre and somewhat embarassing car, the idea that it is the worst car of all time, even as a joke, is ridiculous. In a world with Edsels, Gremlins, Novas, even Taurus Wagons it is not anywhere in the bad car discussion.

It fits into tights spaces, get 18-24 mpg despite bein g a brick on a Nova engine, and is kind of fun looking. It was very affordable, holds 4 and a lot of stuff comfortably and has not been expensive for upkeep even after being smashed by someone who ran a stop sign (while protecting us adequately).

I can certainly understand bein embarassed as a teem, but you could do a lot worse.

Webb Rowan

This is one of those times when you wished you did the research on how much should you spend on a car. Granted that the Cruiser was a gift from your parents, perhaps you could have bargained with them for something that cost a little bit more if you promised a little something in return - more helping out at home or with your siblings or doing better at school or something. But at the very least, looks like you've got memories for a lifetime to keep with that old clunker hey!

Amanda Baird

I have to assume that people didn’t like its styling. The “retro look” was trendy then, but a bit of an acquired taste, and centennial auto mechanic would say the PT Cruiser was the best of that lot. My sister and I have both had PT Cruisers, and we both liked them well enough… The upright driving posture makes it very easy to drive them for long periods of time, like a truck or SUV, but they’re relatively small and efficient.

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