The fall of 2000 found us living in Baltimore and thinking about expanding our family. After doing some research and test driving a couple of different models (Honda Odyssey, Toyota Sienna & Dodge Caravan) we decided that the Dodge Caravan was our best choice. It was the only one that both my wife and I could comfortably drive.
We decided that we wanted power sliding doors and a power liftgate which meant we were looking for a Grand Caravan. I couldn’t find one in stock locally with those options and had resigned myself to ordering one.
At the time I was working as a flight instructor at Carroll County Airport in Westminster, MD and flying the local Baltimore traffic reporter, Detour Dave Sandler for both traffic reporting and aerial photography. One day in late November I decided to come home from work via Reisterstown Road and drove past Len Stoler Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram. They had a lot of minivans on their lot (at least 200). They had 30 or so parked on the street between their main lot and their used car lot. In that collection they had 5 identical Town & Country LXi’s (in Patriot Blue) that had the power sliding doors and power liftgate as well as about $2000 in options (leather seats, premium audio system etc.) that I hadn’t been planning to order. Like my Talon ESi, the LXi was not the top trim, but was also not the base trim either.
At the time there was an inventory tax so they were motivated to sell those minivans. After getting agreement from my wife to buy a Chrysler (instead of the badge twin Dodge) I downloaded a dealer invoice report from Consumer Reports and went back to the dealership. Traditionally Chrysler badged vehicles have more standard features than their badge twinned counterparts so before the additional options this was a more fully featured vehicle than the Dodge that I was looking at ordering.
The sales manager was a private pilot who had an older Cessna 172 (from the late 1950’s IIRC) that he kept at Clearview Airpark (2W2), a grass field a little bit northwest of BWI airport and two years later I performed a flight review for him (I guess technically that was part of my purchase price). After talking about flying for a few minutes we compared invoices.
The dealer’s invoice was within $10 of the Consumer Reports invoice. We dealt down from there. As I’m sure that most (if not all) of the readers of this site are aware there is a concept called “dealer holdback”. These are funds that the dealer will receive from the manufacturer if they meet their quarterly sales goal. For this Chrysler that hold back was $750. He offered to split that hold back with me which meant my price would be $375 below the invoice price. This was about $3000 less than it would have cost me to order a Dodge Grand Caravan with the options I wanted, so basically to me the extra options were free.
The following October our twins were born and we were really happy to have the extra space and convenience of the minivan. Over the next five and a half years (until we moved back to Houston in July 2006) we made several trips a year to my in-laws in Stamford, CT and an annual trip to their summer place in Maine. With a 20 cu ft car topper (bought from Sears) we never lacked for space.
Over the years Chrysler products have had a reputation for poor reliability. When I started this writeup I could only recall a couple of significant issues. for the first four years the van was rock solid and just required routine maintenance (oil changes, wiper blades etc.). I looked through my maintenance history file and see that shortly after the start of my fourth year of ownership both the drivers side and passenger side power window regulators failed. Those were followed by multiple transmission repairs, two power steering pumps, an A/C Blower and a fuel pump issue.
Before those issues cropped up I bought two more used Chrysler products, a 1999 Intrepid (chapter 14) and a 2001 Chrysler Voyager (chapter 15, in the same Patriot Blue). After those issues I bought three more Chrysler products including the 2013 Dodge Dart (chapter 18) that I traded this minivan in on. I still own the last one, a 2001 Cherokee (chapter 19, in the same Patriot Blue). That’s an AMC design. The one major issue I’ve had with the Cherokee was a Chrysler design change. I don’t recall Patriot Blue being a popular color in 2001 but some how I ended up with three vehicles that were that color and have recently seen several late Cherokees (1997 or newer) that are Patriot Blue.
As near as I can tell I traded this van in when I bought my 2013 Dart. It still looks good in the last picture that I have of it.
2001 Town & Country – May 2012
I had a 2001 Town & Country, pretty much the same trim level as yours except mine had AWD and was a deep ruby metalic color. It was by far the most luxuriously-appointed car we’d ever purchased. It was also pretty trouble free for the first 3 years or so, and then proceeded to have a number of annoying issues such as failing power sliding doors and window regulators, transmission problems, and something (I’ve forgotten exactly what) that made a horrible rattling noise under the hood and that actually took us off the road during a trip up the east coast (overnight stay at a Chrysler/Dodge dealer was required). We had this van during the most hectic years of kid-raising and in retrospect it’s hard to recall most things from those years.
We traded ours in late 2006 and were happy to see it go…along with a period of life where small children could ONLY be trusted to trash the interior of a car like a pack of wild raccoons. The next vehicle (the one we traded the T&C in for), we still have. All that said, that van got the job done for 6 years, and yes, we were never lacking for space.
Thanks also for the memory about negotiating for a new car. I too was a fan of the Consumer Reports price thing and working like the dickens with the sales person to shave down things like dealer holdback and such. I don’t know if people still buy vehicles by negotiating like that. But I did, and actually kind enjoyed the process.
I remember when these things were literally everywhere. But even now, I still run across one every now and then – most recently on Thursday on a trip out of town when I stopped for lunch and saw a 3d gen (96-00) and a 4th gen (01-07) parked next to each other. I wish I still lived in a world where I could go into a dealership and buy a new one.
I remember that shade of blue, and really liked it – then and now. It is a pity that yours suffered from those niggling failures after a few years. I have come to think of that as US Car Disease. A really solid basic package let down by penny pinching on components and a slow stream of mid-dollar repair bills that eventually wears you down.
I live in a region where road salt is used heavily in winter. And this generation of Chrysler van was one of the few vehicles of the last 25 years or so, to later consistently show evidence of serious rust on their exteriors. Rocker panel and lower quarter panel rust, was a sight often seen in their final years. A throwback to the malaise era, in this regard.
Never owned a mini-van, but intrigued that you worked at CC Airport! I grew up in Riderwood (N of Baltimore) and went to college in Westminster in 1968, married a fellow student, and we lived in Carroll County until 1999. it was really farm country back then and I remember when the airport was just a grassy field with a small collection of wooden buildings. It was later named Jack Pogue field after a local guy crashed his stunt plane, I recall that sad incident vividly. One of the Psych Profs was ex-Air Force and he gave students rides in a Cessna (152? 172?) for gas money. Later it expanded greatly as part of the development of the industrial park across the road. I miss Carroll County and it’s bucolic low rolling hills. Now we live outside Binghamton NY, a nice area but much more hilly.
What caught my attention was the gushing fire hydrant and the cap hanging. Just yesterday a retired Santa Cruz fir fighter was telling some of us Hornet volunteers that there is a big rash of stolen caps off the hydrants in San Jose and starting in Santa Cruz. Caps are brass for obvious reasons and can be melted down.
The city pulled the cap to flush the line and my kids decided to take advantage of it. In 16 years I’ve seen them flush the lines twice.