July 14, 2010

Who Killed the PT Cruiser?

If your commute to work this week feels a little off, if the grass in the median looks a little browner, if your coffee or tea tastes watered down there’s an explanation: last Friday, (July 9th, 2010) the final Chrysler PT Cruiser rolled off the assembly line into what should have been a California sunset but was actually a Toluca, Mexico sunset because that’s where they were manufactured. Everyone knows the PT Cruiser because the first time we saw one we marveled at someone’s creativity for making such a unique custom car. The second time we saw one we thought, ‘Is that the same guy driving that funky car? I thought the first guy had a mullet.’ The third time we saw a PT Cruiser we thought, ‘Holy cow, is a car company actually mass producing those things?’

Chrysler was to blame and they’ll take that title of dishonor proudly because after ten years in production they sold 1.3 million Cruisers. That’s right, there are 1.3 million people out there who walked into a dealership and laid out at least $20,000 to drive off in the retro hatchback/identity crisis. Chrysler further enhanced the PT driving experience by offering models in burnt orange, metallic purple, and other colors that have never graced the side of a Crayon because let’s face it, if you’re driving a PT Cruiser you’re not exactly trying to blend in anyway.

And that’s why it’s sad to see the car go. Everyone needs to let their freak flag fly one way or another and for some driving an overstated theme car might just be their release. Besides, life would be pretty bland if all cars looked the same which is probably what motivated Chrysler to put out the PT in the first place. Or maybe a designer submitted the car’s concept as a prank on April Fool’s day. Some of the most successful ideas started as a ruse, like the Tea Party–shouldn’t all those people be home by now? But even if the PT Cruiser was meant to be a joke it did bring joy and inspiration to a large group of people. We’ll call them The PT Party. A google image search for “custom PT Cruiser” is proof of PT’s power as a muse, especially in the flame decals and mural paint job departments.

Unfortunately even an army of PT pimpin’ enthusiasts couldn’t save the car from extinction. This year less than six thousand have been sold and five thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine of them have vanity plates and are painted with starry landscapes featuring moonlit unicorns or howling wolves.

The best chance the PT cruiser had at immortality was a couple years ago when New York City tested an electric version of the car to join the yellow taxi fleet. The hybrid engine could not withstand the ten hour, hundred mile field test. An electric model of the car was also made for the United States military which explains our difficulty in the war because it’s pretty hard to sneak up on somebody in one of those things.

But imagine if the electric versions had worked. The PT Cruiser could have become an “it” car. The Toyota Prius has Leonardo DiCaprio, well, the PT Cruiser could have had Brian Austin Green. Parking lots at Whole Foods and yoga studios would be filled with e-PT’s (electric PT’s.) Detroit would be thriving. People would be saving money on gas and able to pay their mortgages. Sales of surfboards in Ohio would soar. A trip to Costco would feel like a drive down the Pacific Highway. Hair and toupees would blow in the breeze, bald spots would be tan, traffic would be tolerable and life as we know it would be better…Wouldn’t it be nice?

But timing is everything and unfortunately our electric car technology was just a little bit behind our nation’s desire to drive a pseudo surf wagon. It’s hard to keep pace with a dream. So goodbye PT Cruiser, and if you can, please take the Hummer with you.

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