ROYAL OAK, MI – Chrysler Group has been producing its PT Cruiser for six years, and in that timeframe the auto maker has spun off five variants of the unique retro-wagon in honor of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, which passes through this Detroit suburb on Saturday.

Those models – sporting unique paint and trim and, in 2004, a drop top – have added about 10,000 units to PT Cruiser sales since it went on sale in April 2000, the auto maker says.

Overall deliveries since then have totaled 1,062,827 units, Chrysler says.

The latest Dream Cruise variant is the ’07 Chrysler PT Street Cruiser Pacific Coast Highway Edition, sporting ocean blue paint, chrome grille, stylish 17-in. platinum-clad 15-spoke wheels and other brightwork.

Regular production versions of the PT Cruiser come available in two other shades of blue – one lighter, one darker.

Chrysler unveils the new model Tuesday at an eatery here to coincide with this Saturday’s massive Woodward Dream Cruise, which already is kicking into high gear.

While the Chrysler event was getting under way, cruise spectators already were setting up canopies and lawn chairs on the curb nearby for a weekday of classic-car watching.

In the first year of production, an “Inca gold” PT Cruiser was offered that proved to be the most desirable among the variants, selling about 5,500 units, says Larry Lyons, Chrysler vice president-front-wheel-drive product team.

In subsequent years, Chrysler says it sold 2,200 “tangerine” Dream Cruiser Series 2 models, 1,125 “two-tone” Dream Cruiser Series 3 variants and 767 convertible Dream Cruiser Series 4 models.

The bright yellow Street Cruiser Route 66 edition that went on sale last August sold about 1,300 units, the company says.

Each model remained available for sale only for one model year.

Freshening existing product with ground effects, new interior appointments and eye-catching shades fits neatly in the auto industry’s recent push to capitalize on low-volume niche vehicles.

For the PT Cruiser, the business model adds little to the standard price tag. Chrysler prices the Pacific Coast Highway Edition at $20,735 with a manual transaxle and $21,570 with an automatic, destination charges included.

The latest model is the first to do without the PT Cruiser’s signature bodyside color on the instrument panel.

On the Pacific Coast Highway Edition, the dashboard is gray plastic, matching the center stack. Ocean blue, however, graces the gauges and seats.

Lyons is tightlipped when asked if the next-generation PT Cruiser will keep with tradition by offering multiple variants.

He also declines to say if the company has decided whether to base the next-generation PT Cruiser (expected around 2008) on the new C-segment Dodge Caliber platform or the slightly larger D-segment architecture that underpins the Dodge Stratus and Chrysler Sebring midsize cars.

A decision is likely by year’s end.

Meanwhile, Chrysler steps up its “Ask Dr. Z” marketing campaign, starring DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche, by announcing the Dream Car Sweepstakes, which runs from Aug. 15 to Sept. 4.

Consumers visiting Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep showrooms can enter to win one of nine new vehicles to be given away: three ’07 Sebrings, three ’07 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon models and three ’08 Dodge Challengers.

The auto maker confirmed last month it will produce a new version of the Challenger after a 35-year hiatus.

Winners will have to wait to take delivery of most of these vehicles. Sales begin in late September for the Wrangler, in November for the Sebring and in 2008 for the Challenger.

tmurphy@wardsauto.com