Exclusive First Look: 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser
Hip new models breathe fresh life into the affordable street rod
It's no secret that America is fascinated with revisiting its past. Need evidence? Witness the frenzy over Volkswagen's New Beetle and ultra-cool concept Microbus; Ford's new/old Thunderbird; Dodge's Super 8 Hemi concept; and even the upcoming rebirth of the MINI Cooper. Oh yeah, let's not forget the current en vogue retro wagon, Chrysler's PT Cruiser. It's apparent that the key to future of our favorite autos lies in rediscovering the past, while trying to predict the future.
As Chrysler designers seek to broaden the appeal of the 1930's-style sedan -- and we've already seen many renderings of what could be in the future for the PT Cruiser -- the Chrysler at least admits to the following variations for 2002.
A certain addition is the Dream Cruiser Series, limited-edition models of factory-customized PT Cruisers released with numbered buildouts; the first model was announced recently at the Woodward Dream Cruise. Production of 7500 units is scheduled to begin in January 2002, with a suggested retail price of about $24,000. An especially striking feature is the Inca Gold paint, evolved from the color first shown on the Chrysler Pronto Cruizer concept introduced at the 1998 Salon de l'Automobile in Geneva, Switzerland. This color, exclusive to this series of PT Cruisers, is a chrome-yellow gold with a metallic sparkle. In addition to Inca Gold paint, the vehicle will feature a "Dream Cruiser, Series 1" chrome badge on the liftgate, as well as sporty 16-inch Mopar chrome wheels with customized gold center caps and bright PT Cruiser graphics.
More cosmetic additions to the PT lineup include the Woodie Edition and the factory flame option. Both utilize factory-applied vinyl appliqus to give the Cruiser a more customized look. However, unlike aftermarket accent applications, these vehicles have Chrysler's factory warranty.
For the Chrysler PT Cruiser "Woodie" edition, designers reached back to the brand's strong wood-body car heritage established in 1941 through 1950 with the Chrysler Town & Country series. A simple graphic of a linear medium oak woodgrain surrounded with light ash moldings appears on all four doors, the quarter panels, and liftgate. The Chrysler PT Cruiser "Woodie" option will be available on all 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser models including base, Touring, and Limited models with a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $895. Those who want to set their Cruiser on fire can order their 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser with subtle tone-on-tone flames rippling over the hood and front fenders. Coordinating flames are available in a variety of choices: fading orange-to-red flames are available for Inferno Red Tinted Pearl Coat PT Cruisers; fading blue to cranberry flames go with Deep Cranberry Pearl Coat vehicles; dark silver fades in to Bright Silver for Bright Silver Metallic vehicles; and Black PT Cruisers offer fading deep magenta to black flames highlighted with a blue border. The MSRP for the flame accents is $495.
One last highly anticipated model is the GT Cruiser. Chrysler built this muscular GT Cruiser concept for last year's annual Specialty Equipment Market Association's show in Las Vegas, where the assortment of PT modifications was extreme, to say the least. Enlarged fender flares, smoothed bumper gaps, dual exhaust, lowered stance, and 17-inch wheels were only part of the excitement. The most significant element shown at the time was the powertrain, where Chrysler bolted a turbocharger to the 2.4-liter engine, boosting output from a stock 150 horsepower up to approximately 200. Torque rose from 162 to 225 lb-ft, ensuring tire-smoking launches that simply aren't in the naturally aspirated car's repertoire. (Recent whispers say it is more likely to utilize the same supercharged engine found in the MINI Cooper S.) However, Chrysler has been vague since the concept debuted, making it anyone's guess whether we will ever actually see this one make it to production. We're betting on a 2003 model, with a debut at an upcoming auto show.
Chrysler is committed to keep the PT Cruiser in the spotlight with special models throughout its lifespan rekindling enthusiasm each model year.