FTLComm - Winnipeg, MB - April 23, 2000

It has been a very long time since any new vehicle has been introduced that has produced the interest and genuine "oooow" and "Aha" that Daimler Chryslers new PT Cruiser. In the 1950s we experience the annual hype as the auto makers brought forth each new model year's designs and for many years that involved totally new designs each year. A few of those cars would turn your head and people would go out of their way to look them over. The 52 Studabaker, the 57 Plymouth, the Edsel, Corvette, and the Mustang are some that I can remember their introduction. But in the past two decades new vehicle designs and even lines of vehicles have been somewhat ho-humm. Chrysler's trucks was one exception and perhaps the 86 Taurus but mostly we have just gone car
shopping as though they were
bacon and eggs.

Each year Detroit likes to put on display their futuristic test designs, the so-called "concept cars" which are in effect marketing research on a big scale. Last year Chrysler had this interesting car in their car show this year they have in the show rooms and in a short while they will be on the street.

The trend toward big and powerful has really grabbed hold of auto makers as the North American public has for more then a decade been buying big pickup trucks with accessories to make them cars, they have been buying Sport Utility vehicles which are big heavy four
wheel drive machines and they
have been buying mini vans of all makes since Chrysler first introduced the Caravan in the early 80s. The young design team at Daimler Chrysler set to work to make a vehicle that combined what the customer way buying in a single new concept vehicle and the result is the PT Cruiser.

Oddly enough the PT Cruiser is really a small vehicle with a mere 2.4 Litre engine and a wheel base just slightly less then Chrysler's "small car" the Neon. However, the essence of the SUV and the mini-van is what the PT Cruiser can do but the hook is style. Using the retro 30s look this car has fenders, almost a running board and the chopped off back of seventy years ago.

The pictures on this page show you one in a Winnipeg show room so the long view at the top of the page is less then what I would have liked to give you an idea of what this machine is truly The door handles are chrome and stick out and the hatchback latch on the right is also chrome. The car is assembled like a seamless moulded toy with fit and finish details that rival anything coming from the orient.
Mechanically it looks like a
basic car of this era with disks up front and drums at the back, coil spring suspension in the back and struts up front. Cast aluminum wheels and integrated bumpers.

The tiny 2.4 litre engine is completely appropriate for a vehicle this size and reports are that it has all the accelleration needed to give its driver a "sporty" driving experience. With that size of engine and this small a vehicle fuel economy is almost a certainty even though the car comes with air and all the extras.

The over riding theme of this product is its adaptability. This is a finely crafted and completely sensible swiss-army knife of transportation. Its function
is not lost with the highest
level of clever design work we have seen in a long time. One would have to go back to the basic idea behind the little original Volkswagen beetle to see simplicity as the primary goal of the design but at the same time unlike the nasty little bug this vehicle is a changeable, able to be used to get the groceries, provide taxi service to every member of the family and look great to take your wife out to dinner.

One car commentator said it was likely to become the first truly successful hatchback. Though practical the hatchback design seems to have never been embraced by the public in the mass market but the PT Cruiser and its
mini-van like back is going to
definitely be popular.

The small package and luggage area behind the back seats has the remarkable shelf that can be used to screen the contents or be used to divide up the layers of grocery bags from squashing one another.

The seats all fold or can be removed so that there is eight feet of stowage with the front passenger seat removed. Everything that comes out has handles and quick release systems to remove and replace.

We were unable to drive this showroom beauty as Winnipeg dealerships and those in Saskatchewan got their display models last week and they are taking orders. However, we did thoroughly go over the most important part of the car. (I am calling it a car even though it will be licensed as a truck in some jurisdictions)

Were you spend your time is in the seats in the inside and that to me is what a car is all about. When I buy a car I am buying a good seat with wheels. So, what about the seats. This show room model was fitted out with luxurious leather seats which would never be something I would select and I found the seats a bit on the firm side.

The office is really well laid out with simple basic and very readable instruments. The controls and knobs are big and easy to reach and the heater looks like it came right out of FTLComm's Windstar Van.

Despite the small size of the machine the seating space behind the wheel or in every passenger seat is more then big enough we tested them all and be you 300 pounds or a hundred the seats seem to be just right and most importantly the huge doors, like those on the Ford Focus and Toyota Echo are the kind you can get into without having to stick your head in first.
This picture of the simple
instrument panel clearly shows the attention to keeping the basic vehicle concept in mind and the sharp idea of putting a colour body panel on the dash is refreshing.

The chrome stirrup shaped door handles are in harmony with the design of the vehicle and the plastic panels everywhere fit and seem to be exactly what is needed.
Its a pity GM designers have
been unable to master the concept of getting the plastic to fit.

This picture taken from the back seat on the floor gives you a look at the centre console with the various ,controls, the automatic shifter, and hand brake. But amidst all this are four cup holders, a place for pencils and a pad, change and a place to put your sunglasses and whatever is needed to be kept at hand. Each door also has a stowage panel.

The two front bucket seats are firm, as I mentioned but roomy and well proportioned. In the back there is seating for three, perhaps that centre seat would be a little tight but there is plenty of leg room and you sit up nice and straight as the vehicle has lots of head room. It is a tall vehicle compared to cars of the recent past but compared to the Focus and Echo this is just right.

There is a certain utility feel to the car so that it gives you an impression of stylish and sporty but things are designed to be used and to be functional. It made me think of the design of the London cabs with the removable front seat for luggage and the large doors on the back. No doubt others will notice this as well and I would be surprised not to see PT Cruisers used as
taxis some time in the future.

The PT Cruiser is not an inexpensive car. This one which was bought by someone from Saskatchewan cost more then $30,000 and simple versions without the electric windows and leather seats are expected to be in the mid-twenties. It seems a lot for a small vehicle but then they probably is some R&D that has to be paid for out of these first models and right now the demand is very high. Folks how want to be noticed are lining up to get one of these.

The picture below shows the inside of the front passenger door and the looking from the front passenger seat back at the left back seat. Great tall head rests for four of the seats.

This picture of the storage area or trunk/hatchback area with its cargo net, handles to remove seats, and shelf rests. Though it is style and stunning appearance that catches your attention it will be utility and capability that will make this car a hit with its owners. Downsized for economy, expandable in use for the suburban dweller and just great for city traffic and tight parking space.

Clearly, we were impressed with this new vehicle and it will be interesting to see how it makes out as the show room models are replaced with street models.

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