Ever since childhood I've been passionate about cars and their design. I think it was a small-town precursor of my interest in architecture and visual arts, a bit of engineering and sculpture rolled into a practical everyday package.
My tastes usually tend to be a bit vintage, as seen in the 1984 BMW I own know as well as my first car, a '65 Ford Mustang. But I'm also a perfect target for the newer generation of retro-styled cars, such as the VW Beetle and Mini Cooper.
However, perhaps the most consistently popular retro-looking car is the one that I find unabashedly hideous: the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Or, as I call it, the "P-U Loser".
Inspired by the modified surfing vans made in the 1960s as that sport hit its apex of popularity, the PT Cruiser is kind of like a mini-van disguised as something more bold. Unlike other popular retro cars, it has plenty of room for the whole family. As a result, its sales are still going strong seven years after it was introduced, while Beetles and Mini Coopers sell only a fraction of what their well-hyped introductions brought in.
Taste is a subjective thing, of course. Obviously there are millions of people who find the PT Cruiser delightfully styled. It's unique looking yet harkens back to a time of Baby-Boomer youth. That's their right.
But I've got to say that I find this the absolutely most wretched-looking excuse for an automobile ever thrust upon us by Detroit. It's got these riduculous wheel wells that flare out from the car's body, and the combination of grill and headlights is downright goulish to me. It looks like someone with thin, beady little eyes but a huge jaw and nose. This car could scare young children!
Worse yet, there's a PT cruiser in my neighborhood (the one pictured) that has fake wood panelling. This is another allusion to the old '60s jalopies, but the faux aspect of it makes my skin crawl. Wood panelling? What's the matter with people?
I've tried to figure out why the Beetle and Mini appeal to me so much while the PT Cruiser makes my skin crawl. I think it's partially related to the fact that the original Beetle and the Mini aspired to be aerodynamic, forward-thinking cars. But the old vans that surfers converted for holding their boards were pieces of shit. The surfers just had fun with them. But how do you recall the beauty of something whose beauty wasn't really visual? The surfer rigs were cool because they belonged to surfers. And as a result, the retro design that comes up later is a tribute to something that was never good in the first place.
Then again, maybe that's just a convenient intellectual justification for my highly subjective tastes. Either way, I'd rather look at Dom Deloise applying oinment to his delicate areas than stare at one of these atrocities. (Well, maybe I'm exaggerating just slightly.) Thank God Mercedes finally cut Chrysler loose from their tainted portfolio of otherwise gorgeous sedans.