This 1991 Pontiac Trans Sport had seen better days. It had a cracked windshield, not all of the doors could be opened and an orange rope was holding down the hood. “It has recently been in a wreck,” said Korin Petersen, 20, of Canton. “Clearly, it’s not road worthy.” But Petersen cashed in Friday at Mike Miller’s Auto Park and received a $3,500 rebate for the gas guzzler thanks to the government’s “cash for clunkers” program.

This 1991 Pontiac Trans Sport had seen better days. It had a cracked windshield, not all of the doors could be opened and an orange rope was holding down the hood.

“It has recently been in a wreck,” said Korin Petersen, 20, of Canton. “Clearly, it’s not road worthy.”

But there’s good news for Petersen. The van was drivable and gets 18 miles to the gallon, qualifying it for the government’s “cash for clunkers” program.

Petersen cashed in Friday at Mike Miller’s Auto Park during the program’s launch and received a $3,500 rebate for the gas guzzler. If the van were to be junked, it would be worth $100, at best, she said. With the rebate, Petersen put it toward the purchase of a 2010 Kia Soul, which gets 26 mpg.

The goal of the $1 billion Car Allowance Rebate System is to allow consumers to buy or lease more fuel-efficient cars from participating dealers when they trade in their gas guzzler, according to U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Approved last month, it’s meant to boost auto sales and put more fuel-efficient vehicles on the roads.

“There’s been a huge response,” said Mike Miller, owner of the auto park, adding people have been expressing interest for the past two weeks. “I think it will stimulate some business.”

Drivers either receive a $3,500 or $4,500 rebate, depending on the gas mileage increase from their old vehicle to their new purchase. The dealers are are required to dispose the vehicle.

“They’re not trying to take those gas guzzlers that are sitting in people’s backyards and are broken down,” Miller said. “They’re trying to take in ones that are running 12 miles per gallon driving on the road.”

Kevin Alleman, an employee at Mike Miller, was taking advantage of the rebate program and got the full $4,500 for his ’91 Ford Explorer. He almost sold it for $400 last year, he said.

At 10 mpg, Alleman was spending about $100 on gas each week driving to work from Morton. He used the rebate to purchase the same model car as Petersen.

“Anybody who doesn’t take advantage of that is a fool,” he said.

Miller said they’re still working out the fine details of the disposal of the vehicles. He added he expects the company to see 40 to 50 “clunkers” by the end of August.

Many local dealers are promoting this program. Peoria Toyota Scion said it is working out the fine details, too. Mike Melton, general sales manager, sees the program as more than just good for business.

“You’ve got more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road,” Melton said.

Stephanie Gomes can be reached at (309) 686-3194 or sgomes@pjstar.com.