New York Auto Show Special Report

Click here for the PT Cruiser Convertible concept car!

At 10 am today, Chrysler design chief Trevor Creed unveiled the PT Cruiser convertible. While it is only a design study for now - he said it took only eight days to design - it is fully functional, and not simply a Cruiser with the roof torn off. To accomodate the Chrysler Sebring's convertible top (which he opened and closed several times), the windshield had to be lowered by about an inch. In addition, the entire vehicle was lowered by one and a half inches, converted from four doors to two - the doors are longer than usual - and nineteen inch tires were fitted. A cue-ball shifter knob is on the concept's automatic transmission shifter, one change which may make it into production (along with a tether strap for the gas cap, someday).

Trevor Creed said that they would probably start to build PT Cruiser variants around 2003 or 2004, depending on when supply starts to equal demand.

Other concept cars on display include the Crossfire and Powerbox, both on rotating pedestals. A 2003 Viper sits on a tall platform, and a 2002 Ram is set up behind steel bars (click for picture/info). The Viper looks good and impressive, but does not exude power as much as the first generation. The Ram cannot honestly be called an improvement in looks on the outside, but the inside gains an elegant instrument panel reminiscent of the Chrysler 300M, with whiteface gauges ringed by chrome and shiny woodgrain trim. (We don't know if that is part of an option package, or the standard appearance).

The Jeep Liberty is on display, and anyone can get in and out. On the inside, it looks and feels more like a new Stratus sedan than a Jeep, which is not necessarily a bad thing for most people. It seems a little smaller inside than the Cherokee, but more comfortable.

The Powerbox looks much better in person than in photos. We caught it from a different angle and it's not so bad - take a look.

Also introduced at this event was GEM electric car, a four-seater with flexible doors (also available as a two-seat utility vehicle) designed for neighborhood cruising. This low-cost vehicle is expected to be sold through Chrysler dealers in states where it's legal.

The Crossfire and Super 8 (the latter did not seem to be on display) appear to be regrettable cases of Chrysler chasing the retro trend a little too far. However, a large variety of uniformly ugly General Motors concepts made them look positively attractive by comparison. Lincoln stole the day with its MK 9, which has lines similar to the new Thunderbird.

More photos from the Auto Show: