Without a doubt, the last decade has been one of the best in history for Chrysler fans. New models of both cars and trucks have debuted, spectacular offerings like the crate-motor Hemi have been introduced by Mopar Performance Parts, and the Pentastar name has again become synonymous with racing excellence on a variety of fronts. Now with DaimlerChrysler leading the charge as the new century opens, excitement continues as Dodges will be back in NASCAR, a new version of the Hemi is rocking in Pro Stock, and concept car possibilities push the limits of design and excellence.

The Chrysler PT Cruiser is a great example of what has been happening. Based around a four-door design, it has handsome styling, an open interior, and import-car pep. However, from a performance standpoint, the 2.4-liter (that's 148 inches for you older guys) four-cylinder leaves a little bit to be desired. With 9.5:1 compression pistons and a 16-valve overhead-cam cylinder head, the little beastie is good for 150 horses in stock form, which is more than one net horsepower per cubic inch. That might be great if it is just you in the car, but add a couple of buddies or any kind of load in the cargo area, and you quickly realize that it has only four holes under the bonnet.

It was in this environment that Larry Weiner and his Performance West Group began to do the development work on building the car you see here, aptly called the PT Bruizer. Larry, who builds concept vehicles along these lines for several auto manufacturers, decided that the Cruiser offered a great deal of potential to take on the burgeoning import performance market. In other words, this might prove to the guys accustomed to Honda Acuras that there is something domestic to play with.

Weiner took an early production example of the PT Cruiser and got a group of well-known aftermarket companies to create enhancements to the base platform. Part of what Performance West Group does is give these manufacturers a chance to begin developing aftermarket parts before the rest of the industry. As a result, these companies come forward with never-tried technical products that will often end up becoming available off the shelf. More then a "theme car," or idea mule, the PT Bruizer could serve as a base template for your own modifications. This one-off example was built by RaceTruck Trends of San Dimas, California.

The first act was to get that quad-rod motor up to speed. Literally leading off the charge was a new-design Kenne-Belle "SuperScrew" twin-screw supercharger (referred to as a "positive displacement" and lacking the power-robbing drag found in Roots-style designs). This is coupled with a K-B Optimizer computer, air-to-air intercooler and ram air setup. According to the tests, the low-profile unit takes about as much horsepower to run as the air-conditioning compressor, and an added 40-horsepower boost comes from a ZEX nitrous oxide system. Using the bone-stock bottom end, this combination pegged the dyno needle at 325 horses, which was a 115-percent enhancement over stock. Behind the crank is a Centerforce clutch outfit to keep the power moving through the five-speed transaxle, and a Dynomax exhaust system gives the Bruiser a boulevard rumble.

Of course, part of the import tuning market involves handling in addition to horsepower. Eibach provided specially-calibrated springs to give the Bruiser the proper ride height, and the stock wheels were replaced with BBS RW II modular alloy wheels shod in Continental General low profile 255/35ZR18 radials. The end result is a mini-missile that will both turn heads and turn corners.