July 9, 2009 – The last Chrysler PT Cruiser

Oh, the PT Cruiser. What an interesting and funky — car? Crossover? Van? Hatchback? Whatever you want to call this neoclassical ride, the last of them rolled off an assembly line on this day in 2009. But, as with all stories, to have an ending, you must first begin. The history of the PT Cruiser starts with a dying breed, Plymouth. With the release of the Plymouth Prowler, Chrysler Corp aimed to keep the ball rolling on the retro rides. The next product to fall into that category would have been the Plymouth PT Cruiser. Upon deciding to discontinue the Mayflower marque, Chrysler absorbed the model.

airflow and pt cruiser
Above: Chrysler PT Cruiser next to a 1937 Chrysler Airflow, the inspiration for its design. Top: 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT

Like the Prowler, development of the PT Cruiser came during a retro revolution in the auto industry. With queues taken from the Chrysler and DeSoto Airflow of the 1930s, its design by Bryan Nesbitt certainly kept it styling original, even in a crowded field of new-old releases. In the the late 1990s and early 2000s a myriad of nostalgia-inducing cars could be had. Among them, the new VW Beetle, Chevrolet SSR and HHR (also designed by Nesbitt), Ford Thunderbird and the revamped Mini Cooper. (Here’s the ones you should buy now!) While the Prowler hardly set any sales records, the new PT, or Personal Transport, Cruiser created some serious buzz upon its release for the 2001 model year. Whether that buzz was good or bad, depended on which hive you flew from: owners or critics.

How many Chrysler PT Cruisers were built?

Chrysler’s new sort-of wagon earned a cult like following early on, something that continues to this day. With a variety of trim levels, including a two-door convertible option and a “high-performance GT model, the PT Cruiser found itself to be accessible to a wide variety of buyers. By mid-March 2006 Chrysler built it’s one millionth model. When production came to an end on this day in 2009, global production topped more than 1.35 million. That’s certainly more than enough to build a PT Cruiser hot rod or two

custom PT Cruiser
Custom PT Cruiser. By Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA – CC BY 2.0,

Of course they exist! The car has become one of the most customized modern USA-designed vehicles. Whether cruising down the street or visiting your local show and shine, coming across a crazy PT Cruiser is not uncommon. For many, it’s fat fenders and sloping rear make it a great choice for building modern hot rods. Of course, it’s also a great car for the demolition derby.

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