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Car craze captures Kitsapers

It’s hard to tell if members of the local PT Cruisers club have more fun with their cars or with each other.  On a recent Saturday, in the Kitsap Mall parking lot, local PT Cruiser aficionados gathered before taking a sojourn through Kitsap County in their jaunty little cars.  From left: Sharon Scioli, Sandi Hardisty, and Mary Newsom.  For more photos and a story, see Page A2 inside. - Photo by Jesse Beals
It’s hard to tell if members of the local PT Cruisers club have more fun with their cars or with each other. On a recent Saturday, in the Kitsap Mall parking lot, local PT Cruiser aficionados gathered before taking a sojourn through Kitsap County in their jaunty little cars. From left: Sharon Scioli, Sandi Hardisty, and Mary Newsom. For more photos and a story, see Page A2 inside.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Ask a PT Cruiser owner when they got their car (really a truck) and they’ll tell you when driving became fun again.

Don Allen, of Silverdale bought his Cruiser Sept. 5, 2001. It was manufactured the month before.

“I drove it. I liked it. I bought it. It’s just a great car,” Allen said.

Allen is one of several Kitsap County Cruiser enthusiasts who meet each month at Round Table Pizza in Silverdale. The Kitsap Cruisers met Wednesday, March 12 to discuss upcoming events — and their cars of course.

The club’s founding member Mary Newsom of Port Orchard said she’s never had a new car until she got her Cruiser. The lackluster automobiles of the 1980s and 90s didn’t inspire her to purchase one.

But when the Cruiser rolled out, it caught her fancy.

You’re either taken by the cars immediately or think the owners are “a bunch of crazies” said her husband Leonard Newsom.

“It’s the nostalgia factor more than anything,” Leonard said when asked why so many people are captivated by the Cruiser.

The PT Cruiser seems to get attention wherever it goes, which is part of its allure. The PT stands for “personal cruiser” according to an industry Web site.

“It feels good. It is strictly an ego trip,” Allen said about driving one..

Since its introduction to the U.S. market in March 2000, the PT Cruiser has been extremely popular.

Fan clubs have sprouted up across the nation and Kitsap was no exception.

The Kitsap Cruisers held its first “meet and greet” at the A&W restaurant in Port Orchard on Oct. 6, 2002.

Member Gary Jones of Poulsbo said he purchased the first PT Cruiser in the state. He got it March 27, 2000 but his fascination with the car began before then.

Jones, who also serves as Northwest Regional Director for the PT Cruiser Club nationally had been following the car’s production since it was a concept car. He got to help choose the first year’s exterior paint colors .

He saw it and said “I’ve got to have one of those.”

The design of the vehicle he said looks like a 1939 roadster and has hit the nostalgia button for many of its owners.

“The design of it is just awesome,” Jones said.

For many owners, the PT Cruiser’s design is a blank canvas on which to display their individuality. From grills to trailers the car comes with countless opportunities to customize it.

“Chrome. Lots of chrome,” Mary said when asked what sets her car apart from the crowd. There’s a rack on the back a chrome strip on the side of their Patriot Blue Chrysler-made chariot.

“Nobody has that,” she said.

Allen has personalized his PT Cruiser with side skirts and wheels. It also has a spoiler on the back and wood paneling on the side.

Greg Tyree lives two doors down from Allen and last month became a PT Cruiser owner himself with the 2003 Turbo. He was having the wood paneling installed this week.

“I saw Don had one in his driveway,” Tyree said. The design caught his eye.

“It’s a gorgeous car,” he said.

Debbie and Bill Cook of Port Orchard have owned their Cruiser since July.

“We were looking at them and I said ‘I want that one,’” Debbie said of the Cruiser.

“It’s just fun a lot of fun. It turns a lot of heads,” she said.

And when two PT Cruisers meet on the street there is the customary greeting.

“You have to wave, blink the lights,” Debbie said.

As for the club she said “It’s fun to get together.”

Besides participating in local and Regional Cruiser cruises, the fledgling group is also planning special events.

On Flag Day the group plans to take baked goods to the Retsil Veterans home and do a car show there. On April 6, a meet and greet is scheduled at the A&W in Port Orchard.

“It’s a way to meet people and to make new friends,” Debbie said.

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