Check Out This HEMI®-Powered Chrysler PT Cruiser

Michigan-Based Shop Makes A Rear-Wheel Drive HEMI® Powered PT Cruiser...

First impressions can be an unwavering force. Take, for instance, the Chrysler PT Cruiser—a vehicle that rolled off factory floors between 2000 and 2010 to the tune of over 1.3 million units. Despite its impressive sales figures, the PT Cruiser could never quite escape the clutches of its initial reputation, often associated with a quirky and less-than-cool image. However, the seemingly impossible task of injecting a dose of coolness into this retro American runabout has been taken up by none other than the American Gasser Hot Rod Shop, situated in the heart of Saginaw, Michigan.

2002 Chrysler PT “HEMI” Cruiser. (American Gasser Hot Rod Shop).

Determined to shatter the stereotypes that have clung to the PT Cruiser like a persistent shadow, the American Gasser Hot Rod Shop has accomplished a feat that few would have thought possible. The unsuspecting canvas for this automotive masterpiece was a 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser four-door, a model known for its unimpressive 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine and lackluster four-speed Ultradrive transmission, infamous for its unfortunate habit of self-destructing just as the factory warranty expired. While a complete body-off-frame restoration was not in the cards due to the PT Cruiser’s unibody construction, the team at American Gasser spared no effort in their mission to transform this unassuming vehicle into something truly remarkable.

Before the metamorphosis began, the car was stripped down to its bare essentials, making way for a custom transmission tunnel and firewall that would soon house the heart of this beastly transformation—a 5.7-liter (345 cubic-inch) HEMI® V8 engine, a powerhouse more commonly associated with sports cars and pickup trucks. This robust engine found its perfect companion in a Chrysler 45RFE automatic transmission, a union that promised exhilarating performance and a thrilling driving experience.

2002 Chrysler PT “HEMI” Cruiser. (American Gasser Hot Rod Shop).

But the transformation didn’t stop at the engine bay. Recognizing the PT Cruiser’s less-than-stellar reputation for handling, American Gasser took matters into their own hands, meticulously replacing the stock suspension with a cutting-edge triangulated quad-link setup at the rear, while up front, a custom suspension inspired by the Ford Mustang II platform from Heidts Automotive was artfully integrated. The finishing touch came in the form of coilover suspension from Viking Performance, positioned at all four corners and artfully complemented by Rocket Racing Injector wheels, whose clean design seamlessly blends with the car’s new aesthetic.

A Ford nine-inch rear end was enlisted underneath the mean exterior to ensure seamless power delivery and unparalleled performance. Aesthetics were not sacrificed for performance, as evidenced by the slick color-matching engine cover trim piece that elegantly conceals the HEMI powerplant. The striking dark green paint job adds an air of aggression to the vehicle’s appearance, a testament to the sheer dedication and passion poured into this remarkable transformation.

2002 Chrysler PT “HEMI” Cruiser. (American Gasser Hot Rod Shop).

Perhaps one of the most entertaining paradoxes of this revitalized PT Cruiser lies within its interior. Step inside, and you’ll find yourself greeted by an entirely stock grey cloth interior, a humorous juxtaposition against the audacious exterior. There’s an undeniable charm to the early 2000s Chrysler plastic that adorns the cabin, evoking a sense of nostalgia and eliciting lighthearted chuckles from passengers and onlookers alike.

In the end, the American Gasser Hot Rod Shop’s audacious venture into redefining the PT Cruiser has proven that preconceived notions and first impressions can indeed be shattered. What was once dismissed as a dorky and lackluster ride has been reborn as a bona fide head-turner—a harmonious blend of power, style, and individuality. 

2002 Chrysler PT “HEMI” Cruiser Image Gallery:

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Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only the Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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The Brazilian-built 2024 Ram Rampage compact pickup is potentially coming to the North America in 2025. The Rampage doesn’t compromise on the opulent features typical of full-size trucks. This compact pickup shares its underlying architecture with the Jeep® Compass and Commander, blending functionality with capability. We showed you a photo of a new Big Horn … (read full article...)


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It’s encouraging to see Ram testing what appears to be a quality product that is desperately needed in North America. What is the problem tapping into a Brazilian developed truck for North America? Why have a Stellantis facility of this level of sophistication if their best efforts are not considered in a market where it is desperately needed and at a very reasonable cost to tweak it for US Standards.
This Rampage is a no brainer if Ram engineers can go over every inch with a fine tooth comb. Time to act.

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Make it so Number 1

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Picture this: Ford is Lucy, the Football is the Ford Maverick, and the Consumer is Charlie Brown. Good grief!

I hope Ram would offer a base trim with the Pacifica plugin hybrid system. A simple front driver like what the Ford Maverick alleged to offer.

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