2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser

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2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser
RCR Chrysler PT Cruiser Thumb.jpg
Car Details
Make Chrysler
Model PT Cruiser
Year 2004
Owner 'Phillip Hand'
Episode Details
Episode Link Watch
Season All Bets Are Off.
Air Date July 18, 2016
Credits u/lanator

We review the long-hated. Chrysler PT Cruiser. Why does car-culture hate the PT Cruiser so much? We dive into it. This is a long review but there's a lot to go over. Also there's a Joe Rogan shout out.


PT Cruiser. The official car of getting your nine-year-old son a balloon-tired mountain bike to make up for pawning his DS Lite in order to buy loose tobacco and Zig Zags.

Hey girl, what that Pl' Mouth do
'Cause when I pump inside you mou- that's right, this isn't a Plymouth.


Oh wow. PT Cruiser. Y'know, John Davis and his OUTSIDE VOICE INDOORS ALL THE TIME never shut up about this car. It's a finishing spooge, a globular load shot up to the ceiling fan in a final thrust to bring all of the excess and ass-kissing of the nineties to a head in one long hewn cry.

Production of the PT Cruiser lasted from 2000 until 2010. And if you need a moment, a landmark, a sidewalk chalk line on the macadam to mark the moment when Chrysler fell of the wagon? Here it is.

If jumping to conclusions were an Olympic sport, people who rag on PT drivers would be gold medalists a hundred times over. Granted, profiling drivers is what we do. But we also like to come at it from the perspective of why a car appeals to a certain type of driver and what the culture behind that car is. And there's many ways to do that with the PT Cruiser.

Cruisers don't have a culture. And a lot of PT drivers probably couldn't tell you why they love them, although we're gonna figure out that “why” for them. Many people will just make blanket judgements about the PT Cruiser. You look at it. You know, it looks like old money. It looks like it's driven by the sort of people who watch All in the Family because they agreed with Archie Bunker, not realizing his ignorance was the joke.

Is there now, or has there ever been, a car more unfairly maligned than the PT Cruiser? Kids use them as an excuse to hit each other during long road trips and adults don't appear to have much use for them at all. This car lasted for a decade but there is something here, something underneath its retro styling and its bullied reputation.

Enjoying a Cruiser depends largely on recognizing what you're getting. If you want a more robust engine you should probably just get a Mazda 3 and save yourself the time complaining on Edmunds. If you want something that privileges performance over aesthetic you can go right back to the Oldsmobile 442.

But the Cruiser... hm. PT Cruiser is the Sunday drive. It's the trip down the shore, the glow of the midday sun, the permission slip to seek out the warmth of foreign lands.

What is this car? Well, it's either a two-door convertible or a five-door hatchback. The PT Cruiser was front engine, front-wheel drive and it was gonna be a Plymouth first but then Plymouth went away so alright, Chrysler.

PT. Those who know, know, and those who don't: P. T. stands for “Personal Transport”. Whatever that means. It was Chrysler's attempt at a postmodern car but we're gonna get back to that in a moment. It integrated the styling of old panel vans from the 1930s alongside the more modern Tritec four-cylinder engines of the late '90s and mid 2000s.

And it drives fine! There's nothing wrong with the way a PT Cruiser drives, it's way ahead of it's time with upwards seating, good visibility... Dimensionally, it feels a lot like that white second-gen Scion xB I drove a few years ago. I didn't expect that to be fast and I don- didn't expect a PT Cruiser to be fast so nothing surprised me.

The driving characteristics of a PT are perfectly acceptable and perfectly ignorable. It's like a Ruby Tuesdays which shares a parking lot with the Howard Johnson where you're staying for the night. The food at Ruby Tuesdays: perfectly acceptable and ignorable. It's 9pm sustenance cooked from a bag and delivered as a plate of Hot Brown. I don't even know what I ordered and I don't care, just gimme some hot brown and a pint of Cold Yellow because I have a puddle jumper flight at 7am tomorrow.

Chrysler PT Cruiser. The car which belonged to your friend of a friend's parents. You rode in it once with them to Rita's Italian Ice and discovered that oh, some parents curse. A lot. PT Cruiser is a... is still a mess of a machine which regurgitates a mess of a father figure who leads his crying daughter into Dorney Park's main entrance. You stop it. We're here to have a GOOD time.

But here, we're getting down into the real meat of this review. See, PT Cruisers are driven these days, in 2016, by people who are trying to get their second or third chance in life. And here's why even non-enthusiasts know why the PT Cruiser is a “low” car, a “kick it while it's down” car.

When the PT Cruiser was new, it was attractive to aged parents and grandparents for the same reason that Scion xB was attractive. Hmm, high seat height and roofline and ease of entry and exit. Folks with AARP cards are gentle on their vehicles and the retro styling reminded them of Good Times and Great Oldies, 105.5 FM. So they kept up on maintenance because in preserving these cars they were preserving their youth. And as a result the PT Cruisers lived long and healthy lives.

And there's no reason to hate a PT Cruiser for that, you say. And I know, hold on. See, grandma can't drive anymore – or can't live anymore, whatever – so what are we gonna do with her car? Well, Steve and Mary don't want it, they have a 5-series and a Passat wagon, what would they want a PT Cruiser for? And Kevin, well, he just looked at it and laughed. He's got a Fiesta ST. Now Jennifer just got her license last year but she's got her eye on a Toyota Celica.

But oh, here's Francis. Yeah. Francis and Meredith have WIC cards and their son and daughter are on the free-and-reduced lunch program. Francis... he just has it so tough, y'know, he gave up the needle and Meredith, she gave up the bottle but gosh, it's just, just having such a rough time. And you know they were camping up in, uh, Wellsboro y'know, all last summer. Three months. Well that happened after Jerome decided that two hundred a month for two rooms in his Crums Mill farmhouse, well, that wasn't enough, so out they went. They're living in Temple now, by the mushroom plant, and their Craigslist 1997 Oldsmobile Bravada is really losing compression now. Y'know, the antifreeze and the oil and everything, steering bushings all cracked to nothing and even the scrape-and-slap inspection stations won't pass it.

But here's grandma's PT Cruiser and, y'know, Steve is the executor of grandma's estate and he just wants it gone. Five hundred bucks, just, y'know... just get rid of it. And here it is. A perfectly workable car! What a blessing. And Francis and Meredith are grateful, they- they're going to take care of this car as best they can.

But when you're in their kind of situation, oil changes, new tires, brakes, air filters, those things... those things become something you have to save up for. So PT Cruisers are, by economic forces, deteriorating on the roads right before us. And their sudden slide into dilapidation is something we're only seeing for the past few years as the cars pass from boomers who can afford preventative maintenance to young Gen Xers and older millennials who can't.

PT Cruisers have become a rolling reminder of the fragile nature of our own financial stability. And a surefire way to deal with that anxiety is to make jokes. To point and laugh. Ha haaa, look! Poor people. Yeah, yeah lo-loo- look, they're poor. I'm not poor. I'm not poor. They're poor. I'm not gonna be like them. Nope, nope! Ha ha!

We hate the PT Cruiser because we hate the idea that we are just two or three bad breaks away from buying one out of desperation. And that's unfair on the PT Cruiser because it's not a bad car. They made 1,350,000 of these things. And it's a five-door liftback. Really practical. I mean, look at the size of that hatch, it's- the entire back of the car opens up.

Whup, class dismissed, that's enough of the, uh, economics lesson for today. I see some of you guys on the class schedule, you'll be heading to, uh, Lytle 305 for, uh, literary theory so, have fun with that.

...Welcome back to literary theory. We're talking about Postmodernism ohohohohohohoHOHOHO here we go

In the tradition of Postmodernism the PT Cruiser is a meditated (sic: mediated) version of reality Chrysler wanted to present to us. A reality where the exploits of the past are equally as fascinating as the potential of the future, and the key word here is “equally” because Postmodernism – and if any of you are in AP classes start writing this stuff down, I'm giving you masters-level stuff here – Postmodernism rejects the idea that any text or product or media – and by text, product or media I mean anything written, anything photographed, media is anything you can hold and derive information from, from building blocks to GoPro accessories to this chair that's on the other side of the room, this shirt I have that says KUR Kutztown Radio, is media – any media is inherently more valuable than any other.

I'm gonna repeat that. Postmodernism rejects the idea that any text or product or media is inherently more valuable than any other. Culture is a snake eating its own tail. Everything old is new again. Everything deserves to be viewed as art. Everything deserves an audience to consume it. Whether it's this PT Cruiser, the new Ghostbusters, Golden Axe for the SEGA Genesis or even this review or this fart that's brewing. *real fart* Even that episode of Deep Space Nine where Sisko trips balls and imagines he's a science fiction writer in the 50s. Everything is worthy and anyone can lift Thor's hammer.

Joe Rogan. I'm talking directly to you.

In a number of your recent podcasts you talked about recreational outrage. “Me Too” culture. The kind of folks who seek out reasons to be offended. Anger at comedians. Aggressive hecklers. This tension that you're experiencing and that your guests are experiencing... what that is, is Modernism and Postmodernism battling it out. These are two completely congruent media theories from different stages in the 20th century.

Culture and eras take a long time to transition. The Modernist era of America began with the Civil War or thereabouts. It put an end to Romanticism. This is quite heavy stuff for a PT Cruiser car review but believe me, this is a good one. Modernism began around 1860, 1861 and ended the moment we exploded the first atomic bomb. That started Postmodernism.

Modernism, whether it has to do with visual art, music or literature, derives its meaning from this: “Truth derives from effort.” Remember that. Truth derives from effort. If you work at something hard enough, you will find truth. Whatever that truth is doesn't matter but you will reach some kind of enlightenment if you work hard enough.

Modernism... if you want Modernist architecture, go look at old New York. Look at the Empire State Building, that is a Modernist building. It starts almost a block wide from the bottom, tapers to a point. All modernist structures end with a point. All your work has a base and it builds and it builds and it builds and ahhh, up there is a spire. Up there is truth. Not sure what it is, but go up there and find it. And anybody can reach these truths. Work hard enough and there it is. That's the classic view of America.

Once we exploded the atomic bomb and realized that all – everything that Man has built – can be undone like that - *snap* - Why work hard? What's the point?

And the ripple effect from that made some people think, “Well, why even work hard for truth? Truth should be what is immediately evident.” That's why you have some of those alternative comedy rooms where people don't even prepare. They're just wingin'. Well sometimes it's good and sometimes it's bad but you're just supposed to experience it as it comes out. And whatever that is, doesn't matter whether you worked hard at it or not, that's truth.

Sounds unfair, does it? Especially for someone in the audience who has a physical job, who worked hard all the time, who has not yet reached any sort of truth or catharsis for themselves and from their perspective they see someone on stage who has to do nothing but talk and from their perspective there is no truth in that. Because from their perspective there is no hard labor or work in that. So what you're seeing is Postmodernism and Modernism trying to fight it out. But they're two irreconcilable views on the world.

I should be on Crash Course.

Once more. Modernism: you only get to truth and you only get to enlightenment and you only get to value through work. But with Postmodernism you don't have to do that at all. Everything is beautiful how it is. But if everything's beautiful, nothing's beautiful. And therein lies the snake eating its own tail. Postmodernism inevitably go 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round.

So. Chrysler PT Cruiser.

Chrysler wanted to put out a car that valued the past without compromising the values of more modern vehicles in the company line. In Chrysler's postmodern world, beginning for them in the 2000s, taste remained as subjective as ever. Because the lines between reality and the media we consume becomes blurred. It isn't that a Cruiser is objectionably better than any other car you might get, but for some people, there's just something about it.

Part of the bad rep the PT Cruiser gets is from sharing a bloodline with the Dodge Neon. It's a car that invented ridicule. And maybe you can cheer the SRT-4 for being its savior. The Dodge Neon wasn't really a bad car and, specifically we're talking about the second-gen Neon which is what the Chrysler PT Cruiser is based on, essentially it's the same car. PT Cruiser, second-gen Neon, same car. And the fuel economy wasn't any better.

But if you just focus on what you're getting, you might be surprised how well the PT Cruiser does it for you. It accelerates smoothly. It's not gonna be the type of ride you write home about but it's strangely calming, especially if your life is a mess. It's like the safety and familiarity of a Wawa at two in the morning. Because there are few things in the world more Pennsylvanian than Hoagiefest.

So for everybody who wants to make fun of the PT Cruiser, know that this machine comforts them in an angry world. It's like filling an eyedropper with the present, adding a few drops into the nostalgic waters of the past. It feels familiar in ways you might not recognize. The days before you close the Excel spreadsheet at work to check ESPN.com for the latest draft news. Back in the days when the Mixed Martial Arts VHS tapes were back in the porn selection. It's like seeing an old friend and saying, “There he is!” and then realizing you've become one of those people who says, “There he is!”. It's you're remembering all those things you forgot like calling 1-800-CALL-ATT...

You have a collect call from BANDPRACTICEISOVERPICKMEUP

...And it takes you back to SEGA Channel, Super Sizing or WWE's network 6-month commitment. The PT Cruiser is “here and now”, but it's also still “then”.

PT Cruiser, I know you've been 'round
But will you be my bag of brown tonight
I need a car that has no frills and no real thrills
And I need a car to get around
So will you be my bag of brown?
Will you be my bag of brown?
Will you be my bag of brow-own