I picked up an Electra Rat Rod cruiser a few months back to use as a utility and commuting bicycle in Anchorage. I suspect there are better choices out there, but I liked the heavy steel frame and the old school looks of it. I've done some work upgrading it.
Firstly, I got rid of the steel seatpost and replaced it with an off-the-shelf alloy one. The steel post bends very easily if you extend it much. If the alloy doesn't hold I'll go with a Thompson, but so far the alloy is doing well. That cost be about $20. Next, I swapped out the existing tubes with extra heavy ones. I then added a back rack and a front basket.
That did fine for awhile, but after about 35 miles on it the back rim bent suddenly while riding down a wet road. There's no real reason for it, other than it wasn't a very solid rim. On the assumption it would keep happening, I replaced it with an extra wide Sun Ringle rim, which is supposed to be bullet-proof. That ran me $145 or so including labor.
So far, so good. It's a three speed which limits climbing, but it's quite nice over mild climbs if you let it go at its own pace up the hill. I learned early on it's not a bike you can push too fast. It weighs near fifty pounds with a load in the basket and rack. But on the plus side it's very stable and a real pleasure on the streets.
I'm thinking of replacing the handle bars with somewhat higher ones. I get a loss of blood in my right arm using these for some reason.