Junkyard Find: 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser, Purple Flamed Edition

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

While it seems that we have always been at war with Eurasia Eastasia and hated the PT Cruiser, the loathing for Chrysler’s retro-styled, Neon-based “truck” didn’t become widespread until well into the smartphone/social-media era of the late 2000s and early 2010s. That was the time when the PT started showing up in large numbers in the big self-service junkyards I haunt. Now I see so many discarded PT Cruisers that I can be picky about which ones I document, and this first-model-year example in Deep Cranberry Pearl paint and screaming flames qualifies for inclusion in my Junked PT Cruiser Hall of Fame.

Factory-applied flame decals for the PT Cruiser were available from Chrysler starting in the 2002 model year, and buyers of ’01s could get the decal kits from dealerships and have them installed. Many did.

On top of that, multiple aftermarket companies created PT Cruiser flame kits, apparently because demand was incredibly strong for a new car truck that made you feel cool while draggin’ the line. After way too much maddening research slogging through gibberish-laden online PT Cruiser forums, I gave up trying to figure out whether this car’s flames were genuine factory flames or semi-custom aftermarket flames.

While the PT Cruiser was just a tallish Neon with a rear hatch, Chrysler was able to work some regulatory magic to get this vehicle certified by the US government as a truck, legally speaking. That meant that fuel economy, emissions, and crash-safety requirements would be less strict than those applied to cars, with associated cost savings. PT Cruisers flew out of the showrooms for the first few years of production.

You could get a PT Cruiser with a turbocharged engine and/or a manual transmission, but this one has the ordinary 150-horsepower engine and an automatic, like about 98% of the ones I find in car graveyards.

There were plenty of special-edition PT Cruisers over its 2001-2010 sales run, including the Dream Cruiser in Aztec Gold paint and the Route 66 Edition with special badges. This one has just the slightly-better-than-El-Cheapo Limited Edition trim level.

This one looked pretty clean, but the resale value on even a nice PT Cruiser must be grim these days. Perhaps a “bustleback” body kit might have enhanced its value.

What’s that?

For links to 2000+ more of these Junkyard Finds, visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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3 of 34 comments
  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Oct 12, 2020

    Everyone complains that all cars today look alike. And then the same people complain that PT Cruiser does not look like other cars. I was not fan of PT Cruiser but my wife was. I like retro Pontiacs circa Late 50s early 60s.

    • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Oct 13, 2020

      For me there are only three sorts of vehicles. 1) Cars I like. 2) Cars I don't like. 3) Cars I'm not sure about. The PT Cruiser is a 3. I thought it was interesting to look at, would be useful, but then I recall an undercurrent of Chrysler's crap, avoid it. I wasn't as aware of vehicles then and am only marginally moreso now and have no first hand knowledge. My thoughts on music are similar. There are only 2 types. Music I like and music I don't like.

  • JimC2 JimC2 on Oct 15, 2020

    Echo the comments about what I call the "cool granny" demographic that bought these. Styling is always a matter of choice and we're all free to choose (or reject) cars based on our personal opinions of styling. My only time riding in one is with a small town taxicab company- they have a small fleet of these with manual transmissions(!). So there's a novelty angle to their business model. I agree that the interior is functional, and I thought that getting in and out of the things is as easy as any car on the road. Their cabs have fairly ordinary paint jobs with no flames, sorry to disappoint.

  • Analoggrotto Anyone seeking benchmark affluence will get the EV9 by Kia the most cutting edge electric vehicle on the market bar none.
  • Fahrvergnugen Any rollback would be inevitable if Agent Orange were elected anyhow.Next stop would be coal-powered ICE. Good clean American coal. Nice coal. The BEST coal.👿🐂💩
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh 10,000% the fault of deregulation, shareholders and trump.... good job luddites. *fear* progress and don't invest in any infrastructure and just keep taking profits.
  • Paul Pity. I think there's a market for these now that half ton pickups are so immense. A few more fumbles and GM could miss out.
  • Kcflyer So I get to continue to subsidize my neighbors new EV's. Bonus, I get to pay for they kids Gender Studies Diplomas.