As seasoned CCers will know, I have a soft spot for the often much-hated minivan. The 1990s were high times for the minivan, and industry-leader Chrysler kept buyers interested with an endless array of configurability and customization. More modestly equipped models comprised the bulk of sales, which always makes finding a high-trimmed Caravan or Voyager a bit of a feat (at least for me).
Plymouth distinguished their high-end Voyager and Grand Voyager LEs with either the classic woodgrain or a more modern two-tone color scheme, with lower gray paint for the “cladded” look that was popular at the time. Inside, LEs were given upgraded seats with premium cloth (with leather optional), greater contouring, and adjustable headrests, as well as standard power windows and added storage compartments below the console. A premium Infinity sound system was also available. As stated, these premium Voyagers were not huge sellers.
For the third generation “NS” minivans, Chrysler eliminated Voyager LEs in the U.S. in favor of a similarly equipped, but greater marked-up “entry-level” trim for the Town & Country, further diminishing Chrysler’s premium status and giving Plymouth even less to sell.
CC Capsule: 1991 Plymouth Grand Voyager LE AWD
Curbside Classic: 1994 Dodge Grand Caravan
My folks had a 1995 Voyager Family Value Package in Poppy Red which is a wee brighter than this shade and it was a good Minivan. No gingerbread at all and the indents on the bumper covers where chrome should go were left empty.
I have a 95 Voyager SE Sport Wagon and absolutely love it. It hauls stuff all day long (including my lawn tractor) without complaint. SUVs can only dream of this practicality.
I had a ’95 Plymouth Voyager Sport SWB w/3.3. engine. Just the perfect size! Full instrumentation, power rear vent windows (loved this), etc. A few electrical gremlins over the years but the pluses far outnumbered any negatives. Wish it had a left side slider door too. Wish I could find another just like it.
I owned several Chrysler minivans – an 87 voyager, a 99, then a 2001 Caravan. Versatile, did many family vacations over long distances, never let me down. The white 01 is the photo attached. Taking the seats out of the 87 was a challenge due to their weight, but it was easier with the 01. They needed the V6 for adequate power, I recall the 87s came with a 2.5 l four banger plus an optional turbocharger.
I agree since my 03 Caravan SE has the 150 HP four cylinder and it is alright with two people, but less so with more. It does not have beefy leaf springs like my 95 Voyager did so I can feel and see the effects of hauling cargo, even just a hundred or so pounds of stuff by the tailgate is noticeable.
There was an uppermost-tier “LX” trim of the Voyager available for a few years (equivalent to Dodge’s “ES”)…it didn’t last long. If you’re going to find leather anywhere near a Plymouth product, it’s going to be on one of those.
It may be fashionable to fart on minivans these days, but I remember the Chrysler vans of the 1980s and early 1990s fondly…they were fun vehicles to take trips in, with great views out the windows, lots of seating positions to choose, and acres of space. That said, I wonder how good their performance and dynamics really were…
You make a good point about their being comfortable to travel in. While my parents never owned a minivan, I had a *lot* of time as a passenger in them. My grandfather, my best grade-school friend’s mother, and a couple of parents of fellow boy scouts all had 1st-gen Chrysler minivans, and my best middle-school friend’s father had an early 2nd-gen Caravan. You’re right, good visibility, comfortable seats, and room to spread out (except when full of scouts headed out on a camping trip).
I had my two nieces in this weekend; tried to rent a minivan but they were out so I grabbed a Buick Enclave. The 3 rows were good for the five of us to spread out (three teens!!?!), although the minivan would have held more luggage etc behind the 3rd row.
Where I live (the southwest) this is the vehicle of choice for older women. Except this example is far too nice. It needs to be missing all the hubcaps and the paint needs to be peeled far past the clearcoat haha
An interesting observation. I always thought older single dudes liked minivans, as well. It makes sense since a lot of those old guys just don’t give a shit what anyone thinks and will drive a minivan simply because it’s ‘still’ the most practical conveyance for day-to-day use and need to occasionally do any kind of modest hauling without worry of weather conditions (and who doesn’t?).
Hopefully, the next generation Chrysler Town and Country (due out sometime next year as a 2017) will rekindle interest with rumored features like Open ‘n Go (foot-operated sliding doors) and a plug-in hybrid (finally), not to mention an AWD system to match the Sienna, and an onboard vacuum to match the Odyssey.
Where I live (Midwest), if in bad shape, these old school Mopar minivans are the vehicle of choice for morbidly obese white-trashy people. The back and the dash will be full of trash and if the windows are open, a distinct stench of cheap cigarettes and generic filth will assault your nostrils.
I had a 1992 V6 Ford Ranger that i used for years to work as a courier. One day I decided to try a minivan and traded the Ranger for a 1994 Mercury Villager. Why haven’t I done this before? A lot more comfortable and all I have to do was take off one of those back seats to have a lot of room.
It’s so good to have a closed “cargo area” free of rain and snow and even can be locked.
I put that little van to work like a horse and carry as much weight as I did with the Ranger.
After that I also have a soft spot for minivans.
What’s with the A606 license plate-wasn’t that the designation for the infamous Chrysler Ultradrive transmission that had a long history of self-destructing. I once owned a ’95 Voyager, it was a pretty reliable vehicle until I hit 100K and then everything started failing-fuel pump, a/c, transmission and peeling paint. And this despite the fact I was very careful in maintenance on it.
It put me off Chrysler vehicles forever.
That’s a funny coincidence! The plates on this one are Veteran ones, obtained if you were a war veteran. For whatever reason the front is just the basic design, but the rear plate has the badge of the specific war. Massachusetts has a lot of specialty plates.
They used to give these cars to Tupperware managers, beautiful cars
We had a 1992 Grand Caravan LE, but in a dark red shade. Kept it 15 years (as we almost always do), and the fourth Ultramatic was finally a keeper. I only had to pay 1/3 of the last one, at 88k miles. The others were on Chrysler.
And the weird electric ABS/PB accumulator pump kept breaking every 3-5 years. But Chrysler had to put a lifetime warranty on it, for safety reasons, so it was always free.
Other than that, it was a mostly terrific van.
We bought and owned a used 2003 short wheel base model…kids loved it, my wife and I loved it! Drove it all over the place…we wore it out…so impressed with it, had it for so long. Never any trouble that was major. (Except so many “knowledgeable”mechanics thought the loud humming noise coming from the engine was everything from worn out engine to power steering rack…until a utube video showed the world it was a stupid plastic filter in the power steering fluid reservoir… To think we almost paid for a new rack when all I did was change the fluid, and punch the filter with a screwdriver a few times to render it useless…which is what is was… Who the hell puts a permanent plastic filter hidden in the fluid reservoir? …..anyway… We so loved our mini van,.. when done with it we bought a brand new 2010 GRANDcaravan…3.3…with small calipers, pads and rotors. It was a big mistake. We learned shortly after purchase, this thing was a tank…couldn’t get out of its own way, and blowed the brakes off it every 8,000. We were so disappointed. Traded it in with only 60,000. The dodge dealer treated us poorly during our brief ownership…so we went with a Kia Soul and not looking at dodge ever again….unless the insurance for a hellcat comes in under $500.00 a year???……hmmmm….yea right, never again dodge!
I’m honestly not sure why anybody would have bought the 3.3 in 2010 after a 5 minute test drive. It was weak and outclassed in my 2005, purely a penny-pinching choice and nothing more. Much better choices were available, and it was gone by 2011. Brakes have not just been a Chrysler issue, most minivans have had undersized brakes through the years. Even so, 8000 miles is not typical at all, something else was going on there. In late 2012 Chrysler made the heavy-duty brakes standard which are among the best, as far as longevity goes, ever put in a minivan.
Good ‘ole Daimler strikes again. You have to wonder what kind of impact the woefully inadequate, dinky brakes up to the early 2012 Chrysler minivans had on sales. They might have increased the size and fixed the issue by late 2012, but it would seem the damage had already have been done by then. Having to have the brakes repaired (we’re talking about both the pads and rotors here) every 8k miles does sound excessive, but the internet abounds with similar stories of Chrysler minivan brakes that need attention in intervals much shorter than the norm.
In fact, is it possible that, somehow, the brake issue correlates with the innovative Stow ‘n Go seating, which became widespread on a big majority of Chrysler minivans at the same time? Maybe SnG not only increases weight beyond the threshold of the brakes’ capacity, but also the lowering of the center of gravity when the seats are folded into the floor has something to do with it.
Regardless of the cause, the undersized brake issue, combined with the lame 3.3L engine and the cancellation of the ‘right-sized’ SWB version in 2008 (the theory is that anyone wanting a ‘real’ minivan, sized like the original, would buy a Journey), it’s no wonder Chrysler has been losing ground in the minivan market to both Toyota and Honda ever since. Like GM and Ford, Chrysler throwing all their minivan eggs into the SUV basket seems like a very short-sighted strategy.
You will will also find stories of brake problems in the Honda and Toyota forums. Not to mention transmission and power door issues. Even today Honda’s cylinder deactivation system is troublesome. Nobody, and I mean nobody builds a truly great van.
It’s also rather ridiculous to claim that the 3.3 and lack of a short version are the reason they have lost ground. The reason is simply that they are outdated and this is largely due to the failure of the ’08 redesign that was done under Daimler. It was mediocre from the start. Then there was the subsequent bankruptcy and sell off to Fiat which delayed the replacement. Even so, they are still the dominant player in the segment holding 50% of the market last I checked. That may be less now this year as production dropped while retooling the Windsor plant for the next model.
The 2017 model, arriving in December or January, will be a complete revamp. Rumor is AWD will also make a return. If the rumors hold true it should place it back on top. Far from ignoring minivans in favor of CUVs, Chrysler is in fact delaying the Dodge CUV that is to be based on the new van as they are concerned the plant won’t have the capacity to do both.
The small brake problem had been going on for a few years at Mopar in their PU’s. I bought an ’80 3\4 ton after owning a ’67 3\4 ton. The ’80 which had front disks and ’67 drums all around. The ’80 wouldn’t stop nearly as well as the ’67 loaded with a 10′ overhead camper, in fact not as well as the ’67 with the camper and 21′ boat being towed behind. Sold the ’80 and bought a ’71 with drums all around.
I had a ’92 Voyager, but it was the base model with an actual clutch. Ran fine and got great mpg with 1 or 2 people, but if I loaded it up with people or cargo, I had to beat it like a rented mule and the mpgs went into the toilet.
Great van with the 3.0 V6
The mini-van was a greatest hit for Chrysler, perhaps the greatest of the great. Don’t know if this was Lido’s idea (of course he took credit for it), but whoever came up with it is an automotive genius. Someone who senses a market that doesn’t yet exist then makes the perfect product to create and fill it. Kind of like Steve Jobs and all the Apple products. Has there ever been a better packaged, useful and more thoughtfully designed vehicle that utilized space so efficiently?
These were large kid and cargo haulers that also drove like a car, non-intimidating to suburban women who drove many of them. Perhaps this was the seed of its downfall, as now minivans are not viewed as masculine and tough, being largely replaced by far less efficient, and more expensive, SUV’s.
Don’t know if this was Lido’s idea (of course he took credit for it),
Reportedly, Lido brought several other people over from Ford, and this concept was something they had been working on that HFII had given thumbs down to.
How significant was the first Mopar minivan? The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn has one in it’s presentation of innovative, groundbreaking vehicles.
I think a large part of the reason they continue to fall out of favor to CUVs is that they are so dang ugly these days. Odyssey, Sienna, T&C, Quest, they all look absolutely dreadful. The Odyssey would look good if the styling from the C-pillar forward continued all the way around and they hid the door track under the window. The Sienna is a blobby mess of incoherent design. The Chryslers are perhaps the most coherent design but resemble a breadbox and are outdated. The Sedona is the best looking right now IMO but they sacrifice rear visibility and seat space to accomplish that.
Style matters, even in family cars. Always has, always will. For better and worse.
Come on, all vans are ugly-I don’t care what you do to them. That being said, the Chrysler Town and Country is certainly the best looking of the bunch, having a good number of similarities to the 300 doesn’t hurt it either. I don’t think it helps the 300 any of course, but ymmv.
That’s why I went with a 300-a big sedan is way classier than a van will ever be. If we need a car with more seats some day, I’m going back to a big SUV.
In keeping with the family history of buying cars that became orphans (Studebaker, Rambler/AMC) we had a gaggle of Plymouths as well, including this 94 Grand Voyager LE. Sold when it was 15, with only 94K on the clock. Never had any tranny trouble while my Aunt owned it, for which I give credit to the fact it had the trailering package. Never a moment’s grief from the Mitsu 3.8 V6 either. The Infinity sound system and the moon roof didn’t get much use, but it’s hauling capacity did. Neat thing that Plymouth did was provide attachment points for the longer 3rd row seat that were farther forward than the usual position, but farther back than the second row seat’s position. The short second row seat spent it’s entire life in my Aunt’s basement, with the third row seat in that alternate position, which provided gangs of leg room, and cargo room behind.
The paint was just starting to peel in the rain gutters when a coworker of mine bought it. Within months, both the tranny and engine failed. Then the wheelcovers started breaking.
Very nice! It looks exactly like the one featured in the 1994 and 1995 brochure! Never did see to many high-trimmed versions, especially the 1994-1995 models.
Very nice! It looks exactly like the one featured in the 1994 and 1995 brochure!
My Aunt picked it off the showroom floor. It originally had alloy wheels and captain’s chairs in the second row, which she didn’t want, so the dealer swapped the steelies and second row bench.
I took these pix when I sold it for her in 2009.
Love that the right taillight is stock Voyager, but he left one is from a Dodge Caravan. Had a ’93, sad to see it go when the the transmission went at 220k.
I just noticed something about the red one in the OP: it still has the trim piece above the license plate.
When my Aunt bought her 94, she had noticed how many of these vans had that trim piece missing. There was no actual handle to pull the tailgate open. Apparently people were grabbing that trim piece above the license to open the tailgate, and breaking the trim piece off in the process. Fortunately, there was enough room between the bottom of the tailgate and the top of the bumper to grab the edge of the tailgate, so that is how we always pulled it open.
I thought that trim piece was the handle. In the nearly 18 years my family owned our 95 Voyager we never had any issues with the handle coming off. Because the Voyager lived in the Southern Tier the bottom of the tailgate developed rust so we started grabbing the tailgate near the taillight on certain cold snowy days if the tailgate did not want to open.
I thought that trim piece was the handle.
They may have screwed the piece on better on the mid 90s generation. When my Aunt bought hers, most of the vans on the street were the previous generation, which had a slightly squarer front end, and a lot of them had that piece broken off. She pointed it out to me when she noticed and indeed, I saw a lot of vans with the trim gone and the black steel license plate bracket showing.
Brendan mentioned the nice seats in an LE in his post. These were indeed very comfortable.
We had one of these just before my wife gave birth to our first kid. It was a great car. We put 250,000 miles on it. Ours was a white woody version. It was the first of a line of Chrysler minivans. We are on our third, a 2004 that has 240,000 miles on it. It runs great and a recent checkup revealed that it only needed a new oil pan gasket. Typical things have been replaced like the rack & pinion, the headliner (we live in FL), the water pump, and the timing belt, but other than that, it runs like a clock. I just wish we could get the turbo diesel that they could get in Europe.
“For the third generation “NS” minivans, Chrysler eliminated Voyager LEs in the U.S. in favor of a similarly equipped, but greater marked-up “entry-level” trim for the Town & Country, further diminishing Chrysler’s premium status and giving Plymouth even less to sell.”
Was this the fault of the dealership networks? It always struck me odd that all three Mopar brands (Plymouth, Dodge, Chrysler) needed to offer a minivan which was practically the same thing and between which trim levels overlapped each other quite a bit. Or that most of the GMs (Chevy, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick) did the same with the Uplander variants. Or both Ford and Mercury vans. Why?
It would seem to me that its a bad idea to drag your near-luxury brands down just so the dealerships can get those couple penalty box and van sales they might not otherwise get had their brands not lowered themselves so.
I would think it would have made sense to just have, say, Plymouth, Chevy and Ford make all the vans and penalty boxes.
That said, I’m glad Chrysler made minivans because I have one of their crystal looking hood ornaments to put on my 300. Probably won’t, but its in the glove box. 😉
I love the dodge minivans had 4 in my taxi business
I like the whitewalls. 🙂
Is the 1992 Plymouth Voyager pictured an SE or an LE