By now, you've probably seen the video where I use a Hummer to crush a Chrysler PT Cruiser. If you haven't, then boy, that was a hell of a spoiler.
In the video, it looks easy: one minute I'm driving around in a gorgeous PT Cruiser (colors: White over Kermit the Frog), and the next minute I'm crushing it like we're at the running of the bulls in Pamplona and the PT Cruiser is a thrill-seeking New York investment banker who isn't especially light on his feet.
But in reality, the process of crushing a car is far from easy. It requires hours of planning, and hard work, and logistics, and a junkyard guy named "Little Chris" who doesn't answer his phone and drives around in an Acura with mismatched wheels. So, in case you were curious, here's exactly how I managed to crush a Chrysler PT Cruiser with a Hummer.
When my friends began floating this idea about a month ago, I quickly became adamant that I didn't want to crush just any car. After all: anyone can crush a Lumina, or a Grand Am, or a Saturn L-Series wagon. In fact, there are junkyard guys who make their living on crushing these cars alone. "So what do YOU do?" people say to them at parties. "Oh, I crush Luminas." Then they both take a swig of Bud Light.
Instead, I wanted to crush something special; something exciting; something memorable. I didn't want to just crush a car. I wanted to crush a something.
So I took to Craigslist and I quickly discovered the perfect vehicle: a 1980s Mercedes-Benz E-Class, complete with a bad transmission, rust issues, and 250,000 miles, listed for five hundred bucks. If that didn't work, I found another car that was just as good: a worn out Volvo 240 at the end of its life for about the same price. Who wouldn't want to see an old Benz get crushed?! Or an old Volvo?!
As it turns out, a lot of people. When I pitched this idea to my friends, they quickly reminded me that I write for Jalopnik, where the readers love their old Volvos and Mercedes, and if I crushed one – no matter how tattered and awful – I would be considered the automotive writer equivalent to your first-grade friend who would come over to your house, eat your food, and destroy your video game controller in a fit of rage when he ran off the track on Rainbow Road.
So we started brainstorming a car that wouldn't offend anyone. A car that nobody would care if we crushed. A car that everyone hates.
The next day, I made a to-do list. In the morning, I would work. And in the afternoon, I would drive out to Camden, New Jersey (motto: Get down!), to purchase a used Chrysler PT Cruiser.
And what a transaction it was. When we arrived, we discovered that the car had a few drawbacks. For starters: there were Betty Boop floormats and a Betty Boop steering wheel cover. There was an exhaust leak, and some fairly obvious issues with the front suspension. Prior accident damage had been repaired poorly, and the rear hatch wouldn't stay raised. The engine would shut off randomly unless you gave it some coaxing, and the gauge cluster occasionally threw a few warning lights. It had an expired inspection sticker and an illegal temporary license plate. And the guy selling it was the third shady dealer in a row who had reassigned the title without registering it.
In other words: it was perfect. I bought it on the spot.
Believe it or not, the hardest part of crushing a car isn't the actual crushing process. It isn't locating a car, or buying a car, or positioning the car properly. Instead, it's the simple act of finding a place to crush a car.
Allow me to explain. Since I only planned to own the PT Cruiser for a couple of days, I didn't bother to register it and pay all the fees and taxes. That meant doing the crush in public was out. Imagine, if you will, a police officer rolling up to find a guy in a Hummer crushing a PT Cruiser with someone else's name on the title. I had visions of going in front of a judge and explaining why I, a model, upstanding citizen with a townhouse and a color printer, was arrested on a public street in broad daylight destroying someone else's PT Cruiser.
So we had to do the crush on private property. At this point, a few friends suggested doing it in a field and abandoning the PT Cruiser afterwards. Imagine that. Weeks from now, some old farmer is just going through a part of his property that he rarely visits, and he runs across a PT Cruiser that looks like it got in Paul Bunyan's way. I decided against that idea.
And then there was another logistical problem we had to overcome: after watching a series of videos on the topic, all created by men who had consumed approximately six Busch Lights, it became very clear that crushing just one vehicle simply wouldn't work. If we went up with only one wheel, the Hummer would roll over. With two wheels, the Hummer would get stuck on top of the PT Cruiser. In order to give the whole thing some balance, we needed a second crushable car to be on the other side of the PT Cruiser.
In other words: we needed a place to crush the car and another car to crush. Fortunately, my friend Sean had a contact in the Philadelphia auto body world who recommended just the guy: "Little Chris," a West Philly junkyard operator who – we were assured – would have both a car and a place to run it over.
Allow me to explain our first interaction with Little Chris. Five days before scheduled crush day, we called him. His phone was off. A few hours later, we called him again. His phone was on, but he didn't answer. We left a message. He called us back the next day. We described our plan; he laughed and told us that he had a place for us to crush the cars. We asked him to send the address of the place via text message. "No problem," said Little Chris. "I'll do it right after we get off the phone."
The address came nine hours later.
So we were a little bit wary of Little Chris, and we decided a face-to-face meeting was necessary before the actual crush itself. We agreed to 1 p.m. on Thursday at his scrapyard. By 1:30, Little Chris still hadn't arrived.
We called him. His phone was off.
Eventually, Little Chris did arrive, driving a clapped-out Acura 3.5RL with the passenger side mirror hanging by a couple of wires. We explained our plan to him, and he laughed. He was into it. He was excited. He was eager to make it happen. This was our guy. Then we told him we'd need a second car to crush; some junk car that was destined for the crusher anyway, just so we could lift the Hummer's tires off the ground.
"I've got a Saturn," he said.
The deal was done. The plans were in place. We had the PT Cruiser, the junkyard, and the other car. Everything was coming together! As Little Chris drove away in his Acura, I ran his license plate number through the Carfax app. It returned to a Chevy Trailblazer with a salvage title.
On crush day – Saturday, February 28 – we were set to arrive at the junkyard at 1 p.m. By the time I showed up in a convoy with the Hummer, the PT Cruiser, and my SUV, a few friends and Jalopnik readers were already there to witness the event. So was the auto body shop owner who had introduced us to Little Chris. But Little Chris? He was nowhere to be found. This didn't worry us. We knew he'd be late. But by God we hoped he'd be late with a Saturn.
About 20 minutes later, Little Chris arrived, driving the same Acura from yesterday. There was no tow truck. There was no Saturn. There was no tow truck carrying a Saturn. He walked up to me.
"I don't have the Saturn," he said. "The woman didn't take my offer."
It turns out that Little Chris didn't actually own the Saturn he had told us about earlier in the week. He merely knew of it. Apparently, his plan was to purchase the Saturn on the way to the crush event – a plan that failed when the woman selling the Saturn declined his offer. So then he showed up anyway, Saturnless, to a group of about 10 people who were thirsty for PT Cruiser blood.
Eventually, Little Chris suggested that we use a car that had already been crushed. Seeing no other alternative, I told him it would be OK – but I was worried about the height difference between the PT Cruiser and the crushed car. There was already a 10-inch difference between the PT and a Saturn – and a crushed car would be even lower, which would only exacerbate the problem. If the difference was too great, the Hummer might roll over.
As we discussed our concerns, Little Chris walked up to me.
"I'll be right back," he said. "Two minutes."
And like that, he was gone. Back in the RL. Leaving the junkyard.
Thirty minutes later, Little Chris still hadn't returned. We hadn't heard from him. It was beginning to look like he had actually abandoned us at this junkyard, with no vehicle to crush and no plans to return. So we called him.
His phone was off.
And then, a miracle: the Acura RL drove up, with Little Chris inside. Following behind, a huge tow truck. And on the back of the tow truck… a bright blue Saturn SC. Well, not exactly bright blue. The paint had been worn by years of sitting outside. All of the tires were flat. There was no license plate. It didn't start, drive, or run.
It was perfect.
As you saw in the video, the actual crush went off without a hitch. Although we really wanted to traverse the entire length of the PT Cruiser, we knew its rear height made this impossible. If the Hummer went off the back of the PT Cruiser, it would crash to the ground and cause some serious damage – and I wasn't about to call my insurance company and tell them that I damaged my Hummer while I was driving over my PT Cruiser.
After the crush, I paid Little Chris for the Saturn – we pooled the cash of everyone who had come to watch, totaling $323 – and he hauled off both cars to a different junkyard, where he will undoubtedly harvest them for as many parts as possible.
I just hope he remembers to save the Betty Boop floormats.
And now, if you're interested in a video about the "making of" the PT Cruiser crush – complete with a cameo by Little Chris – please check it out here:
Top art: Sam Woolley
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn't work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.