Think PT Cruisers are for Losers? This 5.7 HEMI-Swap Wants a Word With You

2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap 12 photos
Photo: American Gasser
2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap2002 PT Cruiser HEMI Swap
 It's almost impossible to break down pre-conceived notions about a certain car once first impressions are already in the rearview mirror. Want a classic case in point? Just look at the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Over 1.3 million of these retro American runabouts rolled off factory floors between 2000 and 2010. Sales triumphs aside, this didn't stop PT Cruisers from exuding a dorky, limp-wristed mystique that lingers with the name even today. But it isn't impossible to make a PT Cruiser cool. Just ask the American Gasser Hot Rod Shop in Saginaw, Michigan.
Thanks to all the hard work at this plucky little restomod shop, we know for a fact the PT Cruiser can act as a loving home for a 5.7-liter, all-American HEMI V8 engine typically found in sports cars and pickup trucks. The base for their creation is a 2002 PT Cruiser four-door hardtop that typically sports an anemic 2.4-liter, four-pot, and four-speed Ultradrive transmission, mostly known for turning its insides into soup as soon as the factory warranty had just expired. Being a unibody platform, a total body-off-frame restoration wasn't exactly possible. But this didn't stop nearly every nut and bolt from under the hood and inside the cabin of this car from being removed in preparation for the beastly V8 set to replace it all.

Once the car was stripped and a custom transmission tunnel and firewall were fabricated, its new 5.7-liter HEMI was lovingly paired with a Chrysler 45RFE automatic transmission before its fitment under the hood of America's most laughed-at automotive moniker. PT Cruisers were never known for their handling prowess on the best of days. So American Gasser took the liberty of throwing all the stock suspension on this build away and replacing it with a triangulated quad-link setup at the rear and a custom front suspension meant for the Ford Mustang II platform from Heidts Automotive.

The suspension is topped off by a coilover suspension from Viking Performance at all four corners and made to look mean as heck with Rocket Racing Injector wheels that almost look OEM when added to the finished build with how clean they look. It's all made to work harmoniously thanks to a Ford nine-inch rear end because no self-respecting restomod would be caught dead with any other rear axle. But don't think this build is all substance with no style. With a slick color-matching engine cover trim piece and killer-looking dark green paint, it's clear a lot of love and passion went into making this PT Cruiser look as mean as it accelerates.

That said, the juxtaposition of an entirely-stock grey cloth interior is pretty gosh-darn funny once you get a good look at the exterior. There's something oddly endearing about tik-tak container-grade plastic in early 2000s Chrysler vehicles that makes for endless laughs. Congrats to the American Gasser team for what might just be the coolest restomod project this month.
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