The greatest thing about the Chrysler PT Cruiser is the fact that it represents everything that was wrong about early 2000s car design. The outer styling relies too heavily on throwbacks, every facet of the interior is round and bloated., and it even comes with an analog clock in the dash, because analog clocks mean “luxury.” Under the hood is the anemic Powertech four-cylinder that Chrysler put in everything around that time. These are all huge flaws, but in spite of them, or more likely because of them, the PT Cruiser is on its way to becoming a classic. To explain why, let’s dredge up an example from the past.
In the 1950s, tail fins were all the rage. The big three American automakers seemed to in some kind of strange arms race with each company releasing a car with more prominent fins than the last; this craze peaked with the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado. After the Caddie took the trend to its extreme, it quickly died off. By the early sixties, tail fins had all but vanished from automotive styling. In the 1970’s, these big chrome bruisers became unloved. Most traded hands as cheap, used cars, before eventually finding their way to the crusher. In 2018, they are a rare commodity, and you can easily expect pristine examples of the ‘59 Cadillac to fetch six figures at auction.
The Caddie took 1950’s styling too far, and similarly, the PT Cruiser took 2000’s styling way too far. Right now, the Chryslers are in their unloved phase. The majority of them are sold through Craigslist for a couple thousand dollars. Others sit parked in trailer park lawns, and more are towed off to the scrap heap each day. The Cruiser has become nothing more than a punchline to a sad joke, but nostalgia is a funny thing. Soon people will be asking why no one makes a car like the PT Cruiser, anymore.
The Cruiser also had several variations that are rare because no one bought them. Those few lucky buyers were able to option out their car with a convertible top, wood (plastic) panel doors, or the turbocharged engine from Dodge’s SRT-4. Investors would be wise to scoop these cars up while they’re cheap.
Honestly, the PT Cruiser probably won’t hit six figures anytime soon, but don’t be surprised when one rolls up onto the auction block, wearing “period” modifications like flame vinyls, fake chrome hubcaps, and a glued-on hood scoop.