CC Outtake: Dodge Caravan and Datsun 280 ZX 2+2 – What Once Graced A Suburban Driveway In 1987?

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When I saw these two old and somewhat tired survivors in front of a student apartment building, I couldn’t help but imagine this pair sitting side by side in a nice suburban driveway in 1987 or so. Dad had to buy a 2+2 version of the ZX so he could haul the kids when they were little. And as they got bigger, and after number three arrived, a spanking new Grand Caravan was bought for Mom. And are they now being driven at school by those same kids?

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Pure speculation, of course. To tell the truth, these are unusually old cars for today’s students to be driving. It’s a sea of 5-15 year old cars and CUVs around campus, and it’s getting harder and harder to find interesting cars over there.

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I see this ZX has California plates, which strongly suggest it belongs to one of the so many out of state CA students we have here, and that are helping to pay for our dear university with their out of state tuition. We’ve had a huge influx of CA students in the past decade because of funding issues in their home state system. But that will likely change, now that CA has finally come to grips with its fiscal situation.

It’s probably a good thing this is a CA ZX, as these cars are prone to nasty structural rot.

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I’m not going to try to peg the exact year of this Caravan, but probably it has the Mitsubishi 3.0 V6 and the good old three-speed A670 TorqueFlite. I once drove a 1990 with the new 3.3 and Ultradrive on a school field trip, and it sure drove nicely. That was the most advanced automatic I had ever driven at that time, with such smooth and intelligent shifting. It’s what convinced me to buy a new 1992 GC, and that was a mighty nice van, except of course for going through four(!) transmissions, as well as numerous high-pressure ABS pumps (permanent life-time warranty!). I’m guessing Chrysler’s heft profit margin when I bought it was eaten up by all those replacement trannys and pumps. Boo-hoo!