On a quiet country road early on a recent morning, on my way to my retirement office, the odometer on my 2002 PT Cruiser turned to 100,000 miles.
These days, I guess that's not such a big deal. My daughter had a 1990-something Chevrolet Cavalier that had more than 260,000 miles before it was traded last winter. With the advances made in automotive technology in recent decades, 300,000 miles is the new 100,000 miles.
This isn't the first car I've owned when it turned 100,000 miles. Thirty years ago I had a 1975 Cadillac Fleetwood that hit that milestone as I was pulling up to a local tavern. Coincidentally, the tavern was the same one that I once backed into with the Caddy as I was parallel parking . . . the sidewalk was very narrow and the Cadillac was very long. I'll mention that I hit the bar as I was going in, rather than coming out.
I had not owned the Fleetwood for all of its life, however. I bought it when it was 10 years old and had something like 60,000 miles on it. I don't remember how long I owned the Caddy after hitting 100,000 miles. I believe I sold it or traded it in in 1986 when I bought the first of a succession of custom vans.
The Cruiser, on the other hand, I have been the sole owner of these past 13+ years. I personally was behind the wheel for virtually all of its 100,000 miles.
I was an early fan of the PT Cruiser when it was introduced in 2001. I liked it's retro styling (my younger brother called it a "baby hearse"). In fact, my current Cruiser was the second I'd owned. In the car's inaugural year I bought a basic black example. Surprisingly, my wife suggested we should have 1950's style hot rod flames added; it really dressed up the car. My own personal touch was the addition of a decal of the Harvey Comics cartoon devil "Hot Stuff" on the rear hatch.
We had the black PT until late 2009 when we traded it in on a Dodge soccer-mom van more conducive to long-distance travel we were making by then between out seasonal homes in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The dealership immediately stripped off the flame decals before putting it on the lot. You can't account for taste.
By the summer of 2002 I was one year into recovery and rehabilitation of a devastating staph infection that had ravaged my right ankle. At the time I was still working and my daily driver was another 10-year-old Cadillac, a 1992 four-door Seville.
I required a walker to get from my parking space to the office, where I used an electric wheelchair to get around. Getting in and, especially out, of the Seville was a serious challenge due to the low seat height. The PT Cruiser, on the other hand, has a seat height that was quite accommodating to my decreased flexibility.
Once again my wife was the agent of change. She came home one day in August and told me she'd seen a gold PT Cruiser on the lot of the nearby Mopar dealer. The next day we were in the showroom signing the papers on a 2002 Dream Cruiser, a limited edition of 1,500 with exclusive "Inca Gold" paint color.
To create something of a matched pair, I took the gold Cruiser to the same auto detailing shop that had applied the flames to the black car. They still had the template for the flames used on my black 2001, so I had them added to the new car. In place of the Hot Stuff decal on back, I had them add the figure of "Sparky," the mascot of the Arizona State Sun Devils, at the time one of my favorite college football teams.
Unfortunately, as it turned out, the decal material that was applied to my gold Cruiser was of inferior quality. Within six or eight years the flames had faded so badly I had them removed. Doubly unfortunate was that all areas of the flames that had been dark red had some sort of bad interaction with the Inca Gold paint and their removal left very striking bleached areas on the car. I had to have the hood, front fenders and both doors repainted to the tune of about $800 to restore the original finish.
I've been meticulous about maintenance of my Cruiser -- with the exception that I no longer buy into Big Oil's big lie that you should change oil every 3,000 miles.
I wouldn't be surprised if I'm still behind the wheel when my gold PT Cruiser turns 200,000 miles. I have not found many newer cars that have the seat height I like and the pedal clearance I need to accommodate the oversize boot I have to wear on my deformed right foot.
My only major complaint with this car after 13 years and 100,000 miles is the gas mileage. For a relatively small auto, the gas consumption seems excessive; typically 22-25 mpg per tank in basically suburban driving,
For some years now, a photo of my gold PT Cruiser has been my icon on several of the hobby forums in which I participate. On the Collector's Universe forum, my user name is "AUPT". I don't expect t have to change those identifiers for some time to come.