Some people swear by convertibles. I swear at them. There are few things more painful than trying to drive a car with a blazing sun frying your bald spot in the middle of a howling gale of humid air, and most of them are banned by The Geneva Convention. Now that autumn s here, I m feeling slightly more charitable toward the whole drop top shtick. The fortuitous arrival of a Chrysler PT Cruiser Convertible GT certainly helped elevate my genetically handicapped top-down tolerance levels. It s a feel good machine of Prozacian proportions.
Of course, there are some, myself included, who remain unmoved by the Cruiser s aesthetic appeal. While I m a huge fan of the car s De Soto-esque curvilinear prow, attaching it to a 40 s panel van makes about as much sense as putting Michelle Pfeiffer s mug on Rosie O Donnell s body. Slicing off the PT Cruiser s lid accentuates the chop shop dichotomy. The baby pram profile (left by the lid on the rear deck) and the St. Louis arch spanning the interior don t help matters. From most angles, with the top down, the PT Cruiser Convertible looks decidedly goofy.
As Walt Disney might say, one man s goofy is another man s pet (although the fact that Goofy s owner is a mouse confuses the proposition). There s no question that PT Convertiblarians are deeply smitten by their machines exterior; I heard one owner refer to her car as Bubala. Once you plop three best buds in Chrysler s top-down two-door, it s hard not to harmonize with the good vibrations. If you can find a convertible with a more spacious and comfortable rear compartment, ask Lee Iacocca to tap into his carrot-topped granddaughter s trust fund and buy it for you.
The Cruiser Convertible is a motorized Hawaiian shirt: funky, comfortable and easy-going. Well, maybe not so easy-going. Our GT holstered a 2.4-liter turbocharged four good for 230 horses. The majority of the herd live above 4000rpms, and it s best not to rile them. Once you do, the PT s front hooves skitter all over the place, while the car s body flexes disapprovingly. Cash-strapped convertiblistas are advised that the lower-spec, lesser-engined model offers more assiduous ambling. Chrysler is advised to put this bonkers motor into something small and nimble as soon as possible.
Anyway, the cruising thing is not about driving dynamics. It s about the radio. Unfortunately, Chrysler is still working its way through the three million radios it made in 1972. The PT s head unit has all the class of Walter Murphy & the Big Apple Band ("A Fifth of Beethoven"). On the positive side, you can crank the Infinity system without worrying about the treble neutering Labradors as you pass. While the rest of the cockpit is suffused with rental car grade switchgear, the PT has got to be one of the best-built [ostensibly] American cars made. If only you could sit in the driver s seat rather than on it
Never mind. The PT Cruiser Convertible has everything in needs to kill, crush and destroy the idea that GM s PT-wannabe is going to steal sales from the Dark Lords of DCX. (A convertibilized HHR? Bring it on.) Other than its bisexual sheet metal and over-zealous powerplant, the only nits that can be picked from the PT Convertible GT are its small gas tank and the fact it offers vertically challenged drivers less rearwards visibility than a combine harvester.
If you re looking for low-cost fresh air motoring, wait til the snow blows and make your play for a PT Cruiser Convertible. It s America s most commodious, best-value motorized solar radiation torture chamber. [by Robert Farago]