By on September 18, 2017

2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo in California wrecking yard, RH view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The quantity of Chrysler PT Cruisers in the high-turnover self-service wrecking yards remained close to zero for the first decade after the car’s 2001 model year debut (while the Cruiser’s Neon cousins showed up in large quantities starting at about age five). For the first few years of our current decade, I’d see a sprinkling of discarded PT Cruisers… and then the floodgates burst in about 2014, with seemingly every U-Wrench-It yard in the country packed wall-to-wall with the things.

I have ignored them, but the minivan version of the SRT4 Neon seemed worth photographing.

Using the same running gear as the 2004 SRT4 Neon, the GT Turbo PT Cruiser packed an impressive 215-horsepower 2.4-liter turbocharged engine. Not many were sold, for obvious reasons.

2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo in California wrecking yard, engine - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
I’m surprised some Neon “tuner” type (of which there are many in the San Francisco Bay Area) hadn’t yanked the engine and suspension goodies from this car for an easy bolt-in swap to a Plymouth Neon Expresso with rattle-can yellow spray-painted dash panels and “ILLEST” stickers on the quarter-panels. Perhaps that happened after I left this yard.

2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo in California wrecking yard, gearshift lever - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Yeah, it’s an automatic. Of course it’s an automatic (though a higher percentage of junkyard PT Cruisers have manual transmsissions than do junkyard Neons; perhaps the manual was $19 cheaper).

2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo in California wrecking yard, tachometer - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
The special “2.4 Turbo” tachometer is cool-looking.

Chrysler PT Cruiser in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Speaking of the abundance of PT Cruisers in places like this, how about the one that was right next to the ’04 GT Turbo? I’m pretty sure this is a custom aftermarket paint job, but perhaps it’s a rare-but-not-so-valuable special edition.

The PT Cruiser Turbo was just the thing for those crazy youngsters and their flip phones.

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44 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT Turbo...”

  • avatar

    I remember seeing a PT on display at a local mall a few months after it came out. While I admired the retro exterior styling, I could not believe how much they cheaped out on the interior. It would not have cost terribly much to spiff that up by a bit, and it probably would have extended the appeal of the car after the novelty wore off; it seemed to go from fast sales, with ADM, waiting lists, etc. to “can’t move ’em” pretty darn quickly.

    • 0 avatar

      If they flipped around the Fiat 500L and called it a PT Cruiser those might actually start selling. Also, these 2.4T ones have to be one of the cheapest and most potential turbo cars around. One of these with enough boost to run 12’s would be a fun daily driver for a young car guy.

  • avatar

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…

    The styling on these attracts fans and scorn; that’s a matter of opinion and taste. Apparently Chrysler sold more than a million of these things so ’nuff sed.

    These certainly seemed to attract the “cool granny” market niche and I bet a lot of grandkids loved going for a ride in these things 10-15 years ago.

    Unfortunately, as the cars aged, so did the reflexes and driving abilities of their owners. Nowadays when these things are spotted in the wild, they are idling down perfectly straight, downhill freeway onramps, 20mph under the posted limit only to inexplicably tap their brakes near the very end. Or exhibiting similarly illogical motoring behavior, often in the left lane, and prejudicial to the fast, safe, and efficient flow of traffic… #amirite?

    • 0 avatar


      Where I live I see a fair number of these for sale as granny and gramps have hung up their car keys. The cars usually have low miles and they’ve usually been taken care. The gas mileage isn’t great, but if you’re looking for a cheap and roomy set of wheels you could do much worse.

  • avatar

    I recall seeing these everywhere 10 years ago, then seemingly overnight they all disappeared. Was it some mechanical design problem that made them more costly to repair than the cars were worth, like the 4.6 Cadillac? Or did people no longer want them after the ‘cool retro’ factor wore off?

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve heard a lot about front-end trouble on these; ball joints and such.

      I assume it’s a result of using the already-marginal Neon parts on a car that was ~500 lbs heavier.

      • 0 avatar

        The suspension is about the only serious problem we’ve had with our 2001 with 91,000 miles. Front struts were replaced at a little over 60 thousand. Currently it needs bushings on the rear sway bar. At this age I’ll probably have everything back there that’s rubber replaced.
        However, as someone else pointed out, the interior is “inexpensive”. The dash has cracked as well as the center stack surround and the drivers sun visor fell apart. I have replacements for both, might even get them installed someday.
        Oh, and it needs a respray. Clear coat has failed badly.

      • 0 avatar

        Front end parts are weak but fairly inexpensive. I looked at a bunch of these a while back many had never had a timing belt done and were in need, lots of older owners told me they got a quote and decided to sell (around $1,200 do to access issues) So I imagine timing belts did in a fair number.

        • 0 avatar

          Can confirm timing belts kill alot of these.
          We had a 2003 (bought from sisterinlaw @ 75k) in which the timing belt shedded at 115,000 but held together enough to get home. REplaced it- very very difficult access versus a Neon (previously had a 1995 Neon-glutton for punishment). Then 18 months later wife smacks it into an interstate barrier hydroplaning (too fast, standing water). Tweaked the front end out of square, bent steeting, popped air bags. In evaluating whether to remove the still great running engine/transmission and put it into another body, I encountered numerous other PT crusiers with dead engines from timing belt failures. We eventually gave up on the engine swap and sold the 2003 outright for someone else to do that.
          And I was finally rid of Chrysler/Dodge small cars for the first time since Nov.1994…

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      No Chrysler absolutely flogged these things.

      They came out under the “old” Chrysler, were updated sensibly by MB, and then the All-American Cerberus let them run down with no change (like all the other cars). By the time Fiat came around, they were out of date.

      Look at all the negative comments. There is a praise for terrible old dungers, but these were actually pretty good cars !

  • avatar

    Great move for Chrysler. They came up with a smooth Art Deco retro/rod look for an existing platform, and buying public loved it, mostly seniors.

    My parents were caught up in the early stampede, were looking for something cool and luckily asked for my take on it. I just informed them it was based on the sh!tty Neon. They bought a new Tacoma Pre Runner regular cab instead thankfully. Yikes that was close!

  • avatar

    One of my daughters had a 05 non turbo PT. What a mess that thing was. Nothing but problems with it! This is all before 60000 miles. ( Headgasket, 2 power steering pumps, several brakes – rotors, crankshaft sensors ) I am sure there was more. The wiring was the cheapest I had ever seen in a modern car. Finally while it was running with under 70000 miles on it, and a small dent in the back of it. I told my daughter to take it over to this small lot that buys cars to see what he would give for it before it broke down again! She called, and said dad he only wants to give me $2500.00 for it. I said take it! Take it! Never looked back! What a POS! Thats probably why after so many sold you don’t see many anymore. Talk about planned obsolescence!

  • avatar

    These things are cheap and everywhere down here in FLA, commanding prices on CL for usually well-under $3k. This makes them a staple at the local Wall-Mart and working class neighborhood driveways.

    I suppose one could do a lot worse if they just needed something that was dirt cheap and relatively reliable. I’ve heard they’re not too bad to live with.

    Great Review by Regular Car Reviews on YouTube worth checking out for some laughs.

  • avatar

    The Regular Car Reviews take on the PT Cruiser was dead on. People don’t hate this car because it was a bad car, they hate it because it quickly became synonymous with poor people. Hating on it provided an easy relative moral superiority of “I’m not poor! They’re poor!”

    A shame, because they were actually pretty nice, and definitely the crown of ’90’s Chrysler.’

  • avatar

    Perfect example of everything right (and wrong) with Chrysler at the time.

  • avatar

    Despite baked-in Chrysler maladies, a PT is still the best $2-4k car you can find for a lot of reasons. It’s also the perfect condo car for many snowbirds and permanent trailer park residents alike.

  • avatar

    My brother-in-law, who is really not a car guy, had one in the early 2000s – black with a stick – it was cool at the beginning – not so much as time wore on and he began to have problems with it.
    He traded it in for probably one of the first Velosters around.
    Going from the frying pan to the fire?

  • avatar

    I heard that in order to rush it to market, the 2.4 turbo was over-built to the point that they’re nearly indestructible unless you go to insane amounts of boost.. Which is why they could offer aftermarket parts to take it to 300 hp, etc.. (at least in the Neon).

  • avatar

    I still see plenty of PT Cruisers running around, in various states of repair (or disrepair).

  • avatar

    Looks like a whole row of PT Cruisers behind it.

  • avatar

    I own a 2003 PT GT 5 speed with a Hurst shifter and the Stage 1 upgrade. It also has a Ram air hood and dual exhaust. My late Dad fell in love with the car. I basically gave it to him and I ended up taking it back when he passed. It’s a fun car that appeals to senior citizens and creative types. Its got 62 cubes of space in the back with the seats folded down. I put Tokiko Shocks on it and Eibach sway bars.

    I disagree with the poverty association. Done up the right way, these cars look very nice. I think young people hate it because their Grandparents were driving one. It is a natural reaction.

    The way I look at it, the PT is proof that once upon a time, car companies were willing to take some serious chances with design. That is not the case today.

    The weak link with the PT is the automatic transmission. One it fails, it is not worth fixing.

    • 0 avatar

      When it came to “design” and style, Chrysler Corp had it down and untouchable through this era, starting with 94+ Dodge pickups, Viper to Neon. Especially the Intrepid, Sebring, Stratus, DHS, Nitro and others.

      They looked so darn good, you wanted to believe “this time” their quality/function/tech/reliability “under the skin” actually backed up what the eyes were seeing. Yes with a few exceptions most were stuck with the same ol’ junk, beside their “style” not aging well.

      Resale took a dump and buyers didn’t come back, no matter how good new/current ones looked.

      • 0 avatar

        I hear what you’re saying, but the corporation also changed hands three times in less than fifteen years. Even if the LH era products “were there” so to speak, this would have invariably changed later and wound up where it is now or worse.

  • avatar

    I remember when these first came out, dealers were asking for $2k over MSRP

    • 0 avatar

      I know people who paid more than that. They paid 5-6K over and they got their name on the sticker. I got mine for half of what it was worth in 2006. Like a true modern Chrysler, it’s resale value was poor.

  • avatar

    It is amazing how quickly these cars went from being something I could see myself buying into an abomination.

    It was a great idea by Chrysler, why not make a fun retro design on top of an economy car platform? Maybe the problem was there was just way too many of them or how cheap they were when you actually got up close, but the whole design quickly went sour. Had they also just put a little more into them and priced a bit higher I think it would have had a better following.

    I’ve heard they are an absolute nightmare to work on as a result for the front end being so cramped.

    • 0 avatar

      The PT Cruiser was the last design “frozen” by Chrysler before it was sold. The first two years featured nicer interiors and features. The early cars had heated, folding mirrors for example. They had rear sway bars. When Daimler took over, they steadily took content out of the the car. It became a Cheapo Special. The mid cycle refresh was a disaster, IMHO. Things became even worse.

      This is another case of a Chrysler that “Coulda Been A Contenda.” The PT Cruiser is actually the Last Plymouth. It was designed to be the new face of the Plymouth division. They had plans for a PT Coupe and a PT Roadster. All of that was scrapped when Daimler came on board.

      Chrysler had a shot at becoming a highly successful company in the late nineties. They had socked a lot of money away. However Kerkorian’s take over bid changed everything. Eventually Chrysler was merged with Daimler and it pretty much went downhill from there.

  • avatar

    Who knows why, but in the lands of sensible cars and drivers, PT Cruisers are a regular sight in Europe.

  • avatar

    I remember reading Chrysler counted these as a truck to offset the lousy corporate fuel economy of their actual trucks. Their fuel consumption was still lousy for a little car.

    The charm of the styling faded when these took over rental fleets and the only actual owners were white haired women.

    Considering how unreliable Neons were, I can only imagine the headaches of owning one. I’m sure they were better than a K-Car but that’s a pretty low standard.

    These also fail the Ghetto Test.

  • avatar

    Back in 2004, my stepdad bought my mom a brand new Honda S2000 as a surprise gift. On the way to the dealership to pick it up and do the surprise reveal, mom spotted a red PT Cruiser GT turbo – and made it clear this was the vehicle she wanted. Stepdad had to undo the S2000 deal.

    Of course it was nothing but trouble and they unloaded it for pennies about four years later. I still give her crap about that one.

  • avatar

    I loved these things before they came out. I expressed an interest to Chrysler, and they sent me some brochures and a PT Cruiser key fob.
    I worked in a dealership (not Chrysler) that fixed whatever came in the door, and I don’t remember any of these that didn’t need struts and lower control arms. So glad I didn’t buy one.
    The guy who designed it moved over the GM and he did the HHR, or Heritage High Roof.

  • avatar

    I remember when these came out that a lot of delivery (and other) places – flower shops, pizza places, cleaning services, etc. – were buying them as they provided a fair amount of interior space which worked well for their needs. One would have worked well for my needs at the time (still would actually) – lugging around PA/recording gear

  • avatar

    I stand by my earlier post knowing 3 people close to me that owned one. Not long after your purchase of one of these the hate begins. Not because of the practicality of the vehicle, but because of the quality. On my daughters – when the head gasket went @ less than 50,000 miles I should have known things were not going to go well.

    • 0 avatar

      Friend of mine bought one new – same guy who now owns a Tesla. It wasn’t unreliable (but he didn’t put many miles on it), but it basically fell apart from day 1. Trim bits raining down, paint issues, plastic crumbling, that sort of thing. Just a crappy cheaply built car.

      I used to tease him mercilessly about his “station wagon”, he would insist it was a minivan! He’s a little “different”.

      I actually like the way they look. A nice one still makes me smile, as they have 5000% more style than the blobby CUVs roaming the roads now.

  • avatar

    We bought one of these new in May 2000 for delivery in October. We were able to pay MSRP which at the time was a deal. For us it was a great car, we had it 13 years, many good road trips and brought all 3 of our kids home from the delivery room. Suspension components were an issue. Watts link and control arms clunking around 60k. Clutch failed at 115k. An engine mount failed at 125k which put a lot of stress on the transmission and caused a minor part in the tranny to fail. I had found a great mechanic working at home on Craig’s list and did the timing belt for $450, clutch for $300 and all that other stuff very affordably. Had I not had his help I probably would not have fixed everything. The car is still going strong at 160k miles, belongs to one of my coworkers and she still likes me. For a cheap car it treated us well. I think the interior that first year was quite nice. It had suede door and seat inserts. The leather wore well, and the door pulls were chromed metal with good heft. Nice touches in a cheap car. I think the manual transmission was $500 cheaper, and the chrome wheel delete Saved several hundred as well.

  • avatar

    I got to take a daylong test drive in a PT Cruiser GT. People forget, those things were FAST with the 2.4 turbo and manual transmission — 0-60 in 6.something. The interior was also an upgrade from the standard PT, with model-specific perforated leather and a slightly nicer dash plastic. I remember having two quibbles with the car: the hilariously bad turning circle, made worse by the enormous wheels on the GT, and the massive cliff in ratios between first and second gear. First gear was all unintentinded wheelspin and instant redline, and second gear felt like third. Frustrating in traffic. That was on a first-year model though, I hear they revised it later (no idea if that’s so).

    • 0 avatar

      I own a PT GT with 5 speed and the “Stage 1” upgrade package which adds about 20HP. It is very fast for its time period. It is a very underrated car in the performance department. The turning circle is horrendous and that is because of the 17 inch wheels that are on the car. The manual is a pretty stout Getrag transmission that was pulled from the Euro Diesel PT. I put a Hurst Shifter in it which shortened the throws. The car is an oddball that attracts outliers. However, I think the first 5 years were the best. The GT was only made 4 years.

  • avatar

    I know two older ladies who bought these because of the looks. One still has hers, despite the awful paint and paper mache interior. She says the worst thing is that it’s been mechanically quite reliable, so in her words, “they were perfectly capable of doing it right, but just didn’t”. The other got disgusted after a couple of years of interior bits turning to dust like a mummy in sunlight and bought a Scion XB, which has been awesome, and still looks great. She says the only thing she misses is the “cool retro styling” of the PT.

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