The Chrysler California Cruiser concept, previewed at the 52nd Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2002. Photo credit: FCA
Chrysler hints that a two-door version of the PT Cruiser may be in the works with the preview of the Chrysler California Cruiser concept coupe on Aug. 19, 2002, in Pebble Beach, Calif.
The Chrysler California Cruiser was formally unveiled at the Paris auto show in late September 2002 and gave a glimpse of the future styling of the PT Cruiser.
The two-tone California Cruiser drew some design cues from the Chrysler Crossfire sports car, which went on sale in 2003.
The two-door version of the PT Cruiser would have been an inexpensive derivative of the PT Cruiser, whose 1930s-inspired styling made it a top-seller.
Chrysler Group’s first concept hinting at the Chrysler PT Cruiser was unveiled in the spring of 1998 at the Geneva auto show as the Pronto Cruizer. It was followed in 1999 by the company’s most short-lived concept car, the PT Cruiser, given that the production version was rolled out within five minutes at the Detroit auto show that year.
The Chrysler GT Cruiser and Panel Cruiser concepts made their world debuts in 2000, while in 2001 the Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible styling study made its debut at the New York auto show.
Chrysler launched the Chrysler PT Turbo, which featured a 215-hp engine, in late 2002 and a two-door PT Convertible went on sale in early 2004.
The PT Cruiser wasn’t the first retro-styled car to tap into America’s penchant for nostalgia. It followed Volkswagen’s New Beetle but rolled before the latest Ford Thunderbird, and the BMW Mini and Chevrolet SSR.
And the little five-door hatchback was a bona fide soldier, with more than 1.35 million sold worldwide — generating early waiting lists and fan clubs, spawning imitators in the Mini brand and Chevrolet HHR, and the subject of more special editions than any other vehicle in recent memory.
The PT Cruiser was the most profitable small car in Chrysler history, according to Bryan Nesbitt, who designed the original PT Cruiser for the old Chrysler Corp. Nesbitt is now a senior General Motors design executive.
Production of the PT Cruiser ended in July 2010 after one of the most successful recent runs for a new production model at a Detroit 3 automaker.
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