The New Retro

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There was once a time when I found the idea of the PT Cruiser to be exciting. In my defense, this was a time before it was released and also before I had seen pictures or knew any details. I had heard that Chrysler was making a retro sedan, one made to look like it was from the 1930s, and I liked the sound of that. After all, Chrysler had given us the Atlantic concept, so they clearly knew what retro was all about.


I've always been a fan of Morgan, and I was eager to see some of that styling spread to other brands. Morgan might be more frozen in time than retro, but that wasn't the biggest difference between the Morgan 4 Seater and the PT Cruiser, the biggest difference was that the Morgan was done properly and the PT Cruiser was anything but. The PT Cruiser really didn't need a wooden frame like a Morgan, but half of the cylinders were missing, the power was going to the wrong wheels, it was too small and the styling stopped just short of being bold enough.

Chrysler had been a bit bolder a few years prior with the Prowler, although they still hadn't quite gotten it right and it was never what you'd call a big seller. GM followed the exact same pattern a few years later with the SSR and then the HHR following the Buick Blackhawk concept. Some retro touches did actually sell quite a few cars for both companies, but I still felt let down by the whole trend. I should have seen it coming when Volkswagen put the engine in the wrong end of their New Beetle but even so, I continued to be let down by other brands.

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I was still saddened the first time I saw a new MINI parked next to an original and realized exactly how much bigger it really was. One could make a case for Ford based on the Thunderbird and Mustang, but what Ford really deserves credit for is the GT. This was the car that started us in a new direction with retro. The GT really was made in the spirit of the original and it really did deliver everything it promised. It seems we've entered a new phase in the retro car niche, one with more Dodge Challengers and fewer PT Cruisers, and where retro is no longer considered synonymous with cute.

Europe is showing some promise in this area too, with both the Fiat 500 and the supremely badass Audi Quattro concept. The new Lancia Stratos might not be a volume seller, but it does reflect the trend of really putting in the effort to get retro cars right. It's true that there isn't anything out there that will take sales away from Morgan, but the world only needs one company that takes things to those kinds of extremes. I'll be happy if retro cars simply continue with the current trend, and I encourage Chrysler to try again with the 1930s sedan. I'd suggest the 1937 Imperial, just do it right this time.

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