Chrysler’s PT Cruiser was designed to reflect 1930s-era automobile styling. I can’t speak on the vehicle’s performance or reliability; but I do like its retro look. And of course, my easily-excited imagination had me wondering if I could make it even more retro by further hot-rodding it out.
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After drafting the base model over a high-resolution photo, the first step was to angle the body to give the Bruiser a more aggressive stance. It would have been easy — far too easy — to rotate the entire body. Instead, I left the engine compartment alone, and used the top end of the front door line as a pivot point about which to rotate the rest of the car. I initially tried a 5° rotation, but that was stunningly excessive. I then tried a more subtle 2° rotation; this gave me the “hot rod” rake I was looking for, without it appearing too cartoonish.
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As I said, I chopped the roof; however in this comparison image the rotated body retains the original roof geometry because it more clearly shows the effect of the rotation. (I had considered drawing the Bruiser’s running boards (yes, real running boards) horizontally, but that would “hide” the rake, so those too are rotated.)
I easily dismissed the notion of an exposed engine because I wanted to retain the distinctive look of the PT’s engine compartment. A more traditional closer-fitting fender, a bumper to replace the molded skirt, classic side vents and a few other details gave me the look I wanted.
Since I kept the closed engine compartment, I decided a scoop would give me additional “hot rod flair”. But I also wanted to avoid the typical squarish design; rather, I wanted something that would seem more “organic” to the Bruiser’s retro look. So I copied the PT’s hoodline, scaled it down and built the rest of the scoop around it.
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Not being an automotive engineer, I have no idea whether a scoop designed this way would actually work (or if the front support/mounting flange is necessary, for that matter). But that’s one of the fun things about having a wild imagination: I only have to make something that looks good; it’s up to the Howard Wolowitzeses of the world to actually make the thing function.
(Full disclosure: As I was putting this post together, I realised that the opening in the hood is far too small to be able to raise the hood with the scoop attached. Oops.)
Modification to the rear of the vehicle was simple, with replacement of the bumper and redrawing of the fender being fairly straightforward. However, while the simple round headlight was sufficient for the front fender, I wanted something more stylish for the taillight array. After doing an online image search for 1950s-style taillights for inspiration, I came up with a design which gives the nostalgic feel I was looking for.
Note that the minor body rotation also gave me more than enough room to add a larger, more “hot rod appropriate” rear tire.
I used the top end of the middle line of the B-pillar as a basepoint (or perhaps “target” is more accurate) to place a copy of the combined roof and windows, to determine if this gave a satisfactory look. It did, giving me about 3.6″ of chop to the roofline.
However, as the profile of the roof structure is roughly trapezoidal, the dropped copy was several inches too short front-to-back. I was initially going to stretch it along the horizontal axis, but I was hesitant. If you use CAD software, you too have probably had the experience of trying to stretch a group of selected objects which includes one or more curved objects, and getting quite useless results.
The Holy Spirit advised me to cut the drop into three sections, and then slide the front and rear sections separately along a line paralleling the new, rotated window baseline. This worked remarkably well, and allowed the rebuilding of the roof and window geometries to be relatively simple.
To the modified roof I added a fixed softtop, a design element often seen on 1930s vehicles which I find very attractive. It’s also reminiscent of childhood favorites such as Hot Wheels‘ ’32 Ford Vicky.
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Finally, I added a visor to further draw out the new roofline, and to add that one more extra touch of “classic hot rod” vibe.
I look forward to your comments and questions about the PT Bruiser.
(Teaser: My next customization project will have you seeing stars. Or at least, it will have your head in the clouds.)