A tale of two loves
A caboose with the flashing lights and gates to protect drivers is on the hatch of the Cruizer.
When Richard Hoey of Bethlehem bought a limited edition PT Cruiser in 2001, he was considering it as a show car. It was pin-striped and decorated with depictions of Goofy. The limited-edition cars in that particular year had all of the extras that could be added. But by the following year of production, add-ons had to be purchased separately for all Cruisers.
Hoey said he ordered his car in November, 2000, and was told it would take eight months until he would receive it because of the backlog of orders.
"But I got it in five months," he said happily.
The color is called marine aqua and that first year of production is the only one with that color because it was later retired.
"Depending on the light it looks blue or greenish," said Hoey.
Two years ago, he combined the Cruiser with his love of trains and now his show car is 'The Choo Choo Cruizer,' changing the 's' in Cruiser to a 'z.' When he wanted to change the Cruiser to a Choo Choo theme, he searched for an artist that could do airbrushing and came up with Fritz Yoos of Air Flare in Upper Black Eddy.
"He feathered it so well you don't feel the edge of the paint," Hoey said. Yoos is now painting a cloth with a mountain scene and the words "Please don't touch" that will wrap around the bottom of the model train in the hatch. At one show a teen picked up the train and broke it. The replacement was hard to find and expensive ($50). He said young children are typically good about not touching.
The model train, a Z-gauge, is operational. It is part of a Sleepy Hollow Village display built into the car. All the buildings and scenery were handmade. There is a church and both a freight and passenger station among other buildings. The scenery is the orange and gold of autumn.
He and his brother Ed received their first train when Richard was 5. Now they have a large layout in the basement. He said at that time model trains were a cheap hobby, but now some are extremely expensive. He also heard train stories from two uncles who were engineers on the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New England out of Bethlehem Steel.
Hoey is working on a T-gauge train - with tracks one-quarter inch apart - a size so small that train shops don't handle the equipment. He is looking for a train architect to help him with the T-gauge.
Basement walls are shelved to hold model trains, and two of those trains, a Pennsylvania Reading and a Western Railway train, were used as models for the design of east meeting west on the hood of the Cruiser. The layout covers the four seasons.
He pulls aside the curtains under the train table and says the boxes are filled with N-gauge trains. Hoey can tell you the circumstances around the acquisition of the train engines and cars. He is a member of the Train Collectors Association and the Lehigh Valley Cruisers - a small club which has only 19 members at this time. He is vice president of the club, which fundraises for Camelot House for Children.
The Eastern train is a coal burner and the Western burned wood - the materials available in those sections of the country. Both are steam engines. East comes down the passenger side of the hood and West comes on the drivers side. The headlights meet in the front center. A moon and stars fill in the horseshoe-shape ahead of the windshield.
Hoey said when the car is out at night it seems like the embers are still burning as frequently happened with full-scale steam engines.
On the sides he wanted an eagle. Both sides have basically the same design. A train is coming out of a tunnel, the track follows the bottom of the car doors, crosses a stream and loops into an uphill trestle that is connected to the hood trains by ever-narrowing track. It gets to the point where the connection is only in the eye of the beholder at the edge of the door. Snowcapped mountains are in the distance.
On the "rocks" over the tunnel is an engineer on the driver's side and a conductor on the passenger side.
On the rear of the hatch is a caboose with Goofy hanging off the right side and Hoey's dog Smokey, a shih tzu, on the left. Yoos asked if he liked the way he had spelled Cruizers, and was told "Yes." It attracts attention, Hoey said. On the bottom left is Hoey's car just entering the scene and on the right is Debbie Kenny's purple Cruiser. She is a member of the Lehigh Valley Cruisers.
Kenny, a graphic artist, designed the new logo for the club.
The car is taken to parades with other club members. Hoey's car has lights in the wheel wells, dash, undercarriage, grill, and with strobes in the headlamps and tail lights. He said the lights can produce 500 variations. He has a recording of train songs and the lights flash in tune with the music. At a parade, the window will be open and the music is played loudly. Of course, for ordinary driving the lights have to be turned off.
He has earned nine trophies since May including the National Chrysler meet at Carlisle.
The car has never seen snow. When winter weather is clear he takes it out for a run.
Hoey and his brother will be going to the Lehigh Valley train show, one of the bigger ones, and to an American Flyer show in Gilbertsville. They look for original cars.
"People enjoy it," Hoey said of the PT Cruizer.