CC Capsule: Dodge Vans; Short And Long

Time warps labels and perceptions. When minivans first appeared, they were decidedly smaller than their full-sized kin. Now, this Dodge Caravan is a full two feet longer than that Dodge Ram Van. Admittedly, that’s the short wheelbase (109.6″) version. But get this: even the full-sized 127″ wb van was still eight inches shorter than this Caravan. And the extended-length Maxiwagon (first version) was a mere ten inches longer (overall) than the Caravan. Things change. Let’s take a closer look at one of them. Which one? Did you have to ask?

When the Big Three’s new vans came out in 1970 or so, the short versions still played an important role. Increasingly less so, as the decades rolled on. Eventually both Ford and Chevy dropped theirs, leaving Dodge as the only entrant in that shrinking market. But Dodge did seem to mop up the airport shuttle market, at least initially, when there were once a gazillion Super-Shuttle shorty Dodges plying the Bay Area.

Cheap, roomy, the slant six (until 1987), then the 3.9 V6, both hooked to whatever the current Chrysler automatic was: undoubtedly the most cost effective solution to haul more-than-a-taxicab loads and luggage to and from the airport.

This one, as well as the Caravan behind it, are set up for hand controls. That’s another market both these vans have long been dominant in; long and short.