(first posted 8/1/2013) There’s nothing truly original in the car business. Everyone begs, steals and borrows from everyone else. Sometimes, the same (and usually obvious) idea ferments for years in various heads or throughout companies before suddenly appearing, in the same format and at the same time, in totally different places. Consider the modern FWD mini-van: The concept first bubbled up within two totally different branches of Chrysler, sat there for years and then suddenly sprang forth in both the U.S. and France at the same time. Coincidence? Or does every idea simply have its day in the sun? That day came in 1983 for the minivan, as the French Espace and American Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager.
We’ll return later to the Renault Espace, whose history is convoluted but less historically contested than that of the Chrysler minivans. Lee Iaccoca and Hal Sperlich, who left Ford for Chrysler in 1978, will tell you they conceived the “garageable van” (Ford Carousel) project at Ford in the ’70s and pitched it to Hank II, who turned them down.
Chrysler historians have plenty of evidence of working on a similar project during the early ’70s, something essentially a cross between traditional wagons and contemporary large vans.
Hal Sperlich was particularly enthusiastic about the concept, although it’s unclear whether that came from his stint at Ford or what he saw later at Chrysler. In any case, development began in earnest in 1978. Customer input dictated the program: mandatories included enough room between the rear wheels for a 4×8 sheet of plywood, removable and flexible seating for up to seven, a sliding door and front bucket seats to allow Mommy to attend to the bawling kids in the back. Now the idea needed a donor platform.
By this time, FWD had been deemed essential, as the slant-six-with-RWD layout of early prototypes intruded excessively into the passenger compartment. Chrysler’s Simca-based Horizon/Omni offered the first opportunity, but Sperlich wisely decided to wait a couple of years for the larger K-car platform. Additional delays (mostly due to competing demands and Sperlich’s desire to get it right the first time) delayed the final product until the fall of 1983, when it was introduced to a highly receptive market.
The timing was excellent: the second energy crisis was still just winding down, so efficiency was still big on everyone’s mind. With a body shorter than the K-car sedans and four-cylinder engines only, the Chrysler T-115 vans had efficiency covered pretty well. Also, countless baby boomers were hitting the reproductive phase of life and more than willing to try something different than Ye Olde Country Squire they’d thrown up in. Indeed, these minivans were born under an auspicious sign.
Before we get into the guts of the so-called Magic Vans, lets quickly pick up the story of that other 1984 minivan pioneer, the Renault Espace, which also started out under a Chrysler roof, this one in England. Before becoming senior design manager at Jaguar, Europe UK (formerly Rootes) designer Fergus Pollock had developed a van project at around the same time as Giorgetto Giugiario’s highly influential 1978 Lancia Megagamma concept.
While Pollock’s design focused on the one-box approach, the Megagamma retained the vestigial hood that would appear on the Caravan. Of course, one can likely find numerous earlier designs, and even production designs, to be thrown at this argument, but the Megagamma’s FWD layout, package and lines are unmistakably apparent in the Voyager/Caravan and, to some extent, in the Espace. Let’s not forget the title of this article, nor that the Megagamma’s first offshoot saw the light of day as Nissan’s 1981 Prairie/Stanza Wagon, which was one of our first Curbside Classics and predates both “pioneering” minivans by at least three years.
To wrap up the Espace story, Chrysler sold its European ops to Peugeot in 1978, where the Espace, as well as Simcas, was to be rebadged as a Talbot. As Matra was doing the lead work on its development, Peugeot chickened out; Matra then took the project to Renault, which bit. But the first-gen Espace still was full of Chrysler/Talbot parts. You will be tested on this tomorrow.
Enough of the fuzzy early history of the Chrysler Bobsey-twins. What actually and finally appeared in dealer showrooms on January 1984 was a remarkably innovative car, at least for conservative Americans. The first few years of production were strictly short-wheelbase versions, whose seven-passenger seating was a bit iffy all the way around. And lest I forget, there was also an eight-passenger version, with a bench seat(!) in front (1985 only). Try finding one of those now–it’s getting iffier just to find any early version at all.
The one I found here is a five-passenger, which was not merely a seven-passenger version minus one row of seats. The back seat is full-width, and is placed further back than the middle seat in the three-row version.
There was also an available bench front seat (1984-1986), which allowed up to eight passenger seating, or six, in a two row configuration. In any case, the five/six-seater had a very decent rear cargo area, while the seven had next to nothing. It was a painful compromise, as was painfully short legroom that led to the much happier long-wheelbase Grand versions in 1987.
Power? What power? These early vans were rather pathetically lacking in that respect, with the standard 2.2-liter Chrysler four belching out all of 84 hp while the optional “Silent Shaft” 2.6-liter Mitsubishi four had 104 hp, more or less, depending on the year. This one has a floor-mounted stick, which was fairly rare, and preferable for adding a bit of zest versus the three-speed Torque-Flite transaxle. At least it was reliable, unlike its self-destructing (but smoother-shifting) A-604 Ultra-Masochistamatic that darkened our skies in 1989.
The little vans that could were a runaway hit for Chrysler, and not just at the beginning. They were still selling at or close to list price into the early ’90s; I know that from personal experience, having written a check for $22,000 for a mid-line Grand Caravan in 1992. That’s solidly over $35K in today’s money. Well, live and learn. And at Chrysler, it was build and earn–by the billions (of dollars). The minivans were the cash cow that made Chrysler into the highly profitable company it once was.
It didn’t hurt that both GM and Ford bungled their minivan competitors royally–in fact, to the point of finally throwing in their respective towels, which alone is one of the stranger stories in recent automotive history. Instead, it would be Honda and Toyota that took on the Caravan/Voyager and finally destroyed Chrysler’s hegemony in the minivan market. Who could have imagined that in 1984?
The long-wheelbase versions were a big improvement; eventually the short version went bye-bye, to be replaced by vehicles such as today’s Kia Rondo and Mazda5. Along with the extra length, Chrysler finally threw in a V6 engine, even if it was Mitsubishi’s. It would be several more years before Chrysler’s rugged 3.3-liter V6 appeared, and in the meantime the company resorted to some creative moves to satisfy the now power-hungry Mommies.
Since Mitsubishi could deliver only so many V6s, Chrysler drafted a turbo 2.5-liter four for minivan duty, creating a rather unlikely combination (CC here). And contrary to those that claim otherwise, some turbos also found its way into the Grand (lwb) versions; unfortunately, some friends of mine had one. With its turbo-hole and modest low-end torque, it was an improvised stopgap solution that desperate buyers were willing to stomach, if only briefly.
A world without Chrysler minivans is hard to imagine now. They just HAD to happen, as did videotape, the internet, iPods and smartphones. And in each of those cases, the story of their invention wasn’t exactly as simple as Sony, Al Gore and Apple. But in these times of fuzzy history and denial of evolution, Chrysler duly deserves to join their company as the inventor of the minivan. Amen.
At last… a CC on the 1984 Caravan!
It’s no secret that I’m one of the Chrysler minivans’ biggest fans (at least the 1984-2000 versions). I really thought they were among the coolest cars when I was a kid. I loved the 1991-1995s and was truly enamored by the “cab forward” 1996-2000s. I still find those 3rd generations really attractive today. As I’ve said before, I think they are the best example of the minivan ever, and represent the high point of the minivan in the U.S
I can’t even begin to count how many people I’ve known who have owned a Mopar minivan of any year, make, or body style. I’ve ridden in multiple versions of every generation, with the exception of the 1st generation, featured here.
Maybe it’s because the original 1984-1990 generation was before my time, and thus outdated by my childhood, but I remember finding the ’84-’90 ugly when I was young. Of course everything comes full circle and I truly appreciate their design now. It’s funny how the ’84-’86 Caravans used a grille similar to the ones Plymouth would use several years later, while the Voyager used a totally different style.
Have you ever driven one?
These were immensely practical, generally well-made units…that did what they were supposed to but were an utter LACK of pleasure to drive.
I had two of them drift through my life…the later 1996-onward models not only looked more stylish, they gave the driver a better seat and much, MUCH better feel in operations.
Agreed…I rented one for a business trip.
The engine was like a screaming child when you tried to maintain highway speed. Gas mileage fair at best. It rode alright.
Automotive purgatory indeed.
Doubtful. My mother got her first and only speeding ticket in one of these in the 80s. She was no speed demon (Puritanical, actually) and was going 10 over on the highway (she never, ever speeds). There’s no way in hell (for us non-papal folks [wink, wink]) any vehicle of hers would have been screaming down the highway. Wood-grained goodness.
No sadly I haven’t. I’d actually like to pick up a cheap 1996-2000 one as a commuter. I only work part time but my round trip commute is about 45 minutes on back roads. It’d be especially useful in the winter, as they handle well in the snow. And I wouldn’t have to worry about it being garage-kept or getting a scratch here and there.
I routinely scour the web for info on the 84 voyager and often look for parts as well because I still have my 1984 LE model and I try to keep it in great condition.
I can recall when I first drove it and all the looks we got from others on the road. It did not have great power but it was very useful and we had fun with it.
It is a classic for sure!
I’m pretty jealous, my first Dodge Caravan was a 1985 with a full front seat and a factory bed conversion in the back, no third seat as I remember; I had that seat recovered for my 1988 Grand Caravan, I believe; had that done for two cars from the original because I never could order another. I’ve had Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler vans; currently have a 2011 Chrysler T&C base and a 2014 T&C S. Love my vans
Funny you say you re-used that converta bed bench seat! I still have mine and even though it is still in the original fabric of the 1986 model and I could use it as it would fit in the 2 1985 models I still have, I wish it would fit in the 2014! That would be cool. Yes, that front bench was a rare option. I love my 2014 I just got a couple of months ago, enough that I am about to buy the bumper to bumper lifetime warranty that Chrysler has, like my other two, I plan to keep it as they plan to make the drastic changes in 2015 for the 2016 models.
Still have mine. In great shape. I would post photos if you wish. Just tell me how to do it for this site.
Can you send me some pics of your 84?
I still have my first 1985 Dodge caravan LE and another Caravan LE I had later on. Currently also have a 2013 Chrysler Town and Country, had so many, actually 25 others in between.
I still got mine too. My cousin had one too that got hit when a Ram ran a light. He’s looking for an 85 to buy
Would you have any pics on how to hook up the foot feed and carb linkage for the 84 2.6 with Mikuni carb? It has cruise control also, bu teven the service manuals dont’ do a good jobs of showing how to adjust. Thanks
My 1984 and my 1989 Caravans were both manual transmission. The economy and handling were incredible. The turning radius was better than any sedan I’d driven. Both cars were sold at 200,000 miles in five years each. The ’84 got 35+ miles per gallon and the ’89 32+. Not sure what types of vehicles some of these others have driven, but obviously the don’t get out much. Those originals would get amazing mileage at high speed. I cover six states as a rep and can testify that they would get in the high 20s at 100 mph average.
I’ve owned a Mercedes 300SEB which is an exceptional car but high cost of maint., one of the first BMWs brought into the states, a 2500, which when driving in Europe would cruise around 120 mph and still get remarkable mileage. Had a Jag XKE 62′ fun, but couldn’t take a high speed curve w/o a lot of gymnastics.
All of this to say, after owning an 84′, 89′, 94′,97′,2001, and a ‘2005’ and driven all over 200,000 miles, all have been tested at up to 115 mph, but of course, not as a standard long distance speed. Their emergency handling is the best. As a testimony to the above my insurance co in used to publish what the tested standards in collisions for each car/category insured, as well as, the results of actual crashes…the safest car of all? The Chrysler minivans in their various forms. They handle better and get better mileage on the road with fewer mechanical problems….
I’d probably still own one if I could get one with a manual transmission!!!
This might be way too deep for this early in the morning but…
Isn’t it funny how every generation has its “I will never own one of those” cars.
My parents “never own one” was the station wagon, mine is the minivan, and I can only assume that my children’s will be the SUV.
I respect them for what they are, but there will never ever ever be a minivan parked in my driveway!
Bingo. For me, no minivans, no Subarus, no Volvo wagons, sorry Tom! Nothing wrong with any of them except childhood overexposure.
Our Fusion family-hauler is actually an unorthodox choice around here, which I imagine would surprise a bazillion old-school Ford owners.
I grew up in a Volvo 240 and I actually want one of the damn things as a simple old classic. Go figure!
An unorthodox family hauler in greater Seattle is anything that is not a crossover SUV, a Subaru, or a Prius. The other day, I saw a blonde woman driving an E63 AMG sedan with two car seats in the back (one rear facing). Those kids ride in style.
It’s interesting – around the time of launch, Chrysler distributed them to the custom-van companies (the vannin’ ’70s hadn’t yet fully ended) and held an exhibition of what they came up with, but by that time the mom-mobile version was such a hot item that it didn’t go much further and by the time sales slipped it was too late, the minivan was firmly fixed in the public mind as a lifestage rather than lifestyle vehicle.
And it’s not like the writing wasn’t on the wall – the Baby Boomers who were the first, best customers had already set the trend towards smaller families later in life, and by the time the “peak minivan” ’96-00s were out the birthrate had peaked (in 1990) and continues to decline.
Even if the economy and gas prices now looked like they did in 1998, we’d still see more small cars and fewer 3-row family haulers than back then because the two biggest generations – Boomers and Millenials, parents of- and school-age kids in the mid-late 90s, are now empty nesters and childless young adults.
Gotta answer this, Phil…and I hope it doesn’t mean we come to blows. ‘Tain’t worth it.
But…never is a long time. And needs change; sometimes gradually; sometimes quickly. So, too, do products change – the Gen3 ChryCo minivans just blew me away. Outstanding cars, even allowing for their height and size.
Cars are needed for different things for different people. Transportation, the all provide…but, for whom? For what? To where? In my life, I’ve gotten by with a scooter; a motorcycle; a Beetle; a whole slew of four-seat compacts…two pickup trucks; and an open Jeep.
The better of the pickups I bought when I purchased a fixer-upper home in the snow belt southwest of Buffalo. One wild storm showed me I NEEDED 4WD. I bought.
One run-in with an addled carpetbagger manager, after we were reorganized, showed me my future wasn’t secure enough to own a home. Sell the home; and the truck – which wouldn’t fit in the underground garage in my new apartment compound – had to go.
When there’s kids and gear and home-repair supplies, variously, to move…to not consider something as spot-on as a minivan with removable seats…doesn’t add up.
Right on brother. I can agree with all of that reasoning completely.
Its only the “people get old and…” stuff that makes me kind of sad. Age is a number, doesn’t need to mean that you’re waiting to die.
I think you need to take that money you planned on spending on a new Yaris, keep your current Yaris and buy youself and old classic (beat up) pickup like Paul’s just to live a little.
So funny you say that. I totally agree. My mother absolutely refused to drive a wagon, though it would have made sense for 3 kids (I used to beg her to consider a wagon and would describe the merits of Custom Cruisers, Vista Cruisers, etc. as “enjoyed” by so many of my friends’ moms). As a parent, even though I know they are the most practical choice for families, I just can’t bring myself to consider a minivan. My wife is even less likely to drive one–she hates them! Whenever she gets dreamy and talks about wanting another baby, I tease her that with the arrival of a 3rd child I’d get her a toast-colored minivan. We’re the SUV suckers–I know it is harder to justify, but to me they just feel slightly more stylish/versatile and you get the higher seating position. However, SUVs are now also mostly mommy-mobiles and will probably not be desirable to my kids either. I am intrigued by the continued growth of “cute utes” as a segment, which seems to be blending the style of an SUV with a more rational size/fuel economy benefit. They seem quite popular today with kids and young families. My daughter, who recently turned 14 and is already dreaming of getting her first car, seems to have a hankering for this type of vehicle (actually, a Wrangler is at the top of her wish list, but reality will be different).
Chrysler didn’t invent the minivan. They invented the modern, FWD minivan.
My father bought a 1984 Plymouth Voyager brand new for our growing family. It had the stick on the floor and we got rid of it when the engine went. I’m not sure if it was a blown head gasket or what. I loved that van. We were probably the coolest family on the block and the only one to have a Voyager at the time.
Who did? Or at least the name/genre. Nobody used that term before the Chrysler minivans.
The VW bus was a very different vehicle; it was a European “Van”, (meaning full size). The original Econoline was sized to compete against it, as were the first Dodge and Chevy vans. The VW bus was considerably larger inside than the Chrysler minivans.
I still think that the Chrysler minivan might not have been so quick to be adopted without the decades of VW Buses before it. Americans are a convential bunch and when someone offered something similar in a familiar layout and drove like a normal car unlike the forward control VW (and it’s American competitors)
But that’s just my opinion. What do I know, I drive a VW Bus but I the Chrysler minivans had already been introduced when I was born.
The VW bus never enjoyed the broad mainstream acceptance in the US that the Chrysler minivans did, and by a huge margin, at that. It was always relegated to outside status, with some exceptions. It required certain compromises that mainstream Americans that had grown up with big American cars weren’t ready to make. Heater??? Performance?? Automatics (yes, but late in the game, and made them even slower). Air conditioning: same thing. Driving position? Many juts couldn’t get cozy with sitting up there like a bus driver. I could go on…
It’s interesting that so many of my peers are anti-minivan. But really… What says “Boring Mom Mobile” more than a crossover?
The real killer wasn’t what the vehicle said about itself, it was the implied statement about the driver. “I’m nothing more than a mother, and have no life whatsoever outside of my kids.” Or so all these mothers convinced themselves. And it wasn’t a message that carried well in the we’re-seeing-some-practical-results-from-all-that-feminism 80’s.
Bingo. It’s all about image; and images change quickly.
When these minivans came out the suburban moms were all OVER them. Until they saw other suburban moms all driving them. I guess they all think their colleagues are frumps, because that’s when the Lara Croft wannabees started buying SUVs and CUVs.
A friend of mine was a Dodge salesman for fifteen years, all through the rise and fall of the Minivan as the Suburban Magic Carpet.
In his last years pushing cars, he said, the single biggest demographic for the minivan – this was about 2008 – was older men. I believe it – I fell in that demographic; I found the minivan as useful as those customers saw it; and I did in fact like that era’s Chrysler offering that I bought a new T&C. And brother, was it EVER useful.
I think the problems suburban moms had was just that there were to many other soccer moms driving them – heavens, no, I’m not like THOSE gals. My thunder-thighs and love handles are DIFFERENT!!
Every “next best thing” is cool until it reaches the saturation point. Minivans (at least in this configuration, not the bloat they have become) are eminently useful vehicles, and I appreciate them. That doesn’t mean I have to like them. That is why my wife drives the aforementioned Mazda 5.
You mention bloat. That’s what I thought of the Chrysler Gen3s – until I actually drove one. It may be heavier than what it replaced – although I don’t think much heavier. It had a bigger engine – but that was desperately needed. The automatic, of some type, was obligatory – but almost nobody ordered these things with a manual gearbox. But the driving experience had been completely redone.
I think this is what happens when Bob Lutz and a cadre of enthusiasts are let loose on an automotive appliance. Very, very, good things happen – a shame something similar wasn’t done on the truck line.
Just talking size, actually starting with Gen 4. My mother-in-law’s ’05 Caravan barely fits in my driveway.
Minivans are not particularly mini these days.
My 99 Town & Country weighed nearly 4500 pounds.
No, today’s Chrysler minivans are not as mini as the original, as you see my 2014 compared to my 1985. I think that is why for the 2016 year versions, the Dodge Caravan is going to be nothing like the Chrysler Town and Country and will be of a smaller scale. They have just grown over the years and I do sit and look at my newrer ones and wonder how we lived with the smaller versions of the 1980’s.
All this image nonsense conflicts me. What greater role will you ever have than successful parent?
It doesn’t mean your life and dreams end when you have kids. But don’t deny yourself the best tools to do the job.
Successful parent = minivan?
My parents only had 2 doors until my sister and I were over 12. I’d like to think they were successful parents.
You go ahead and justify the purchase of your minivans to yourself by saying it made you a better parent.
Not quite the correct correlation.
Minivan –> parent.
Parent –> ugh. In some minds, of course.
The minivan was a badge; sort of an image pigeonhole. And women who in fact WERE parents apparently disliked reminders and signals that they were.
Non-parent minivan customers, parents of grown, all that…we didn’t seem to mind a bit.
“It’s interesting that so many of my peers are anti-minivan. But really… What says “Boring Mom Mobile” more than a crossover?”
It’s their insipid advertising. Who wants to be a PERSON like those on Subaru commercials? And if you are not like them, why would you like a Subaru?
This is the vehicle that cemented my Mopar love. This and my moms talking 1983 Town and Country wagon. Our 1987 Voyager had over 300,000 miles before it passed on. Even then the body was in perfect shape. My business currently uses a 1998 and a 1997 Town and Country and Caravan as delivery vehicles as well as a 2003 Ram van and 2001 Neon. Both minivans have over 200,000 miles and other than routine maintenance.
Excellent historical piece, Paul. Hal Sperlich doesn’t usually get the credit he deserves in the epilogue of Mini-Vandom. Of course, when Lee was in the room, it was hard to see- or hear- anyone else.
My ex used to tell tales of her boring beige first-gen Voyager. It was slow, but at least she could shift her own gears in it. I remember her insisting when I went minivan shopping for our growing family many years later that I could get one with a manual transmission. Not in 1999, baby, not in 1999.
When I first heard that these were coming out, I gave a big yawn. Gee, what’s the point, Dodge already made a short wheelbase van and nobody bought them. How wrong I was.
Here is the other thing about these that amazed me – these vans made Chrysler a mainstream company. All my life, Chrysler vehicles had been oddballs. There was this small, dedicated group of Mopar buyers, then there was everyone else, who wouldn’t touch one with a long stick. When these hit, suddenly here was a piece of Chrysler sales literature you didn’t have to carry around in a brown paper bag. These became normal, socially acceptable cars, and they were everywhere. One of my cousins rolled his eyes whenever I mentioned Mopars. Then in the late 80s, he bought one of these. And loved it.
I never spent time in one of these until I bought a 3rd gen a few years ago. It was then that I understood what all the fuss was about. Chrysler really paid attention to the details on these, and gave you stuff you never knew you wanted. Great writeup on one of the most important vehicles of the last 30 years.
I snickered a little when you mentioned that the intro of the Chrysler minivan was delayed to “get it right”. If you ask one of my cousins, they still didn’t.
Years ago, he was involved in fixing-up a 1984 Chrysler minivan, either at a bodyshop he was working at or for one of his friends. I don’t recall the specifics, if it was in an accident or had just lived a hard life up to that point.
He complained bitterly to me that nothing interchanged between this and any later model year. He went to the wreckers to buy parts (I assume grille, headlight surrounds, taillights, possibly front fenders or doors, that kind of thing). He would try to install them, and everything would be just a little different and not line-up.
He wound-up scouring the wrecking yards specifically for 1984 models with the parts he was looking for.
BigOldChryslers…..funny your cousin said that as the 1984 to 1986 body wise were identical….the 1987 to 1990 were 99% the same as the 1984 to 1986. The 1987 diff were the grille, headlamps and that’s all. In-fact you could make the 1987 to 1990 headlamps and grille fit the 1984 to 1986 if you changed the rad support as well. The 1991 to 1995 were a diff bread and the body’s were diff, looked liked the first gen, but all new panels.
My parents instead bought a Toyota Van LE (5MT) in the summer of 1984. I’m thankful they did. I still have it and cherish it. Chances are slim caravan would have made it that long.
When it came time to shop for a van for my own family last fall, Honda and Toyota (and to a lesser extent Mazda) were the only ones we considered.
Definitely have respect for all minivans, though. RESPECT THE VAN!
Pity your preconceptions possibly kept you from buying one hell of a good van. At a significant cost savings, too.
We had a Caravan and Town & Country rental within the previous year (both 3-4 day rentals). They’re fine vans, but I honestly wasn’t blown away and couldn’t think of a compelling reason to buy one. Had I been shopping purely on price, then yes, a base Caravan is damn hard to beat. We targeted a mid-range model and found prices to be very similar between Dodge/Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, and Nissan. I even looked at the Routan. After incentives and doing our best to compare apples-to-apples, the price difference was not material.
The final call between Honda + Toyota was based on my wife’s preference in driving them. We went with the Honda…despite my strong desire to have a “father/son” Toyota van combo in the garage 🙂
Funny cause I still have the first one I had, the 1985 Dodge Caravan LE, same engine and tranny and its got 335,000 on the clock. Runs just fine!
Back in the fall of 1984, with my then-wife and I completely immersed in the Society for Creative Anachronism, and annual attendees at the Pennsic War (going on now outside of Butler, PA), AND constrained by my wife’s idea of roughing it medievally being the equivalent of Henry VIII’s digs at the Field of the Cloth of Gold (catch any medieval movie, look at the king’s tent, you’ll get the idea) . . . . . well, a Dodge Caravan C/V was inevitable.
It’s amazing what one of those thing can hold. Like a modular floor for an 8×16′ medieval pavilion, all the furnishings (dining table, chairs, rope bed, dry sink) and a clothing rack for enough women’s clothing for a minimum of twice-a-day changes over the course of a week. Plus a full harness of 15th century plate armor and my clothing (once a day changes). Of course, this meant removing the passenger seat, so Sally followed me out there in her car, equally loaded down.
We had one of the 2.2 with automatic (column shifter, I seem to remember); and it was sent out for a complete finishing of the interior (the custom van places hadn’t quite died out yet, if anything the Voyager/Caravan extended their business lives). It was reliable, not bad on gas, and the only disappointment was the aftermarket interior work. Knowing what I’d be hauling on the annual Pennsic trip, I had specified carpet on the floor and sidewalls, with the lighter gauge covering on the roof. What the shop could handle was the lighter gauge stuff on both walls and roof, carpet on the floor only. It worked, although it made me spend a lot of time loading gingerly.
Interesting how old station wagons have earned their place as classic, collectible cars and minivans have been forgotten about.
Like has been mentioned, everyone has a story about one. My family didnt have one when I grew up nor do I have one now for my kids but I cant count how many I know of that have gone over 200,000 miles.
They are great vehicles, and if any one single nameplate saved Chrysler, this was it but not exactly the kind of car that gets a kid excited.
The “Ram Van” cargo version is pretty cool though. Too bad the sliding door still had a window in it. I still see one every once in awhile.
Not all of them did. My first minivan was the Mini-Ram Van without the window in the door.
It was a little tough in terms of visibility; but for what I was doing with it I wanted the cargo-area privacy. I can see why most customers did want the glassed door.
I did not know that some of them had a solid slider: very interesting!
Here’s a brochure:
The Holy Grail of these is to find one with twin van-style swing-open doors on the rear! They’re out there; the local rural phone company in Ohio had several of them in a fleet; and I’d seen them elsewhere as well. Were they aftermarket? Who knows?
Ram Cargo Van, the most fuel efficient way to unload your private jet full of cocaine!
When I owned the Ram Cargo Van…I was in the Navy; in California; home was Ohio. I can’t TELL you the thrills I had crossing Missouri in a panel-van with California tags; a very-short haircut and a deep tan which might have made me look South-Of-The-Border at a distance.
Let it suffice that I got stopped three, count ’em, THREE times…the third time involving a request to search, invocation of Constitutional law, and a three-hour slow-walk for a warrant. Today, of course, they wouldn’t bother; I’d be tased into a coma and they’d have just gotten on with taking my van apart.
But let it suffice I’m not a big booster of Missouri today. The Show-Me State…aptly named.
I have driven an Econoline without a window in the door in heavy city traffic and it is not easy. I agree that most people would want the window.
My Dad bought one brand new in 86-87, gray cargo with no window in the slider, and a 5 speed. Commuted in it for years, it was rear-ended the day the last payment was being mailed off. It was a true cargo van, in that it only came with a drivers seat, no matter as he installed custom front seats. If he had owned it much longer it would have gotten a window in the sliding door. After that van he went to a regular passenger Caravan, that also had a 5 speed.
Mine didn’t have one in it, either. After a couple of near-misses at intersections, we had one added when the interior was done.
I think it’s still too soon. The tipping point often seems to be whether you still commonly see them on the road (although I suppose some exceptions need to be made for places like L.A. — I think there are more ’65-’66 Mustangs in daily use than some late model domestics). If you grew up with a vehicle or type of vehicle and battered, unwashed survivors still ply the streets, coughing blue smoke, it’s hard to develop a lot of nostalgic affection for the thing. (Around here, there are a lot of used minivans still clearly serving family car duty for their second or possibly third family.)
By contrast, the big domestic wagons of the ’70s and ’80s have mostly departed, so they’re no longer a familiar sight. Since their styling themes are now wildly out of step with current fashion, if you do see one, it stands out, and if you happen to see one that has all four wheelcovers and a fresh coat of paint (or at least signs of semi-regular bathing), it trips the Interesting Old Car radar even if you’re not particularly disposed to wagons or latter-day domestic cars.
Like with any product (auto or otherwise), overexposure does play a role in whether a product obtains nostalgia value after it’s days of general usage are over. Nostalgists often (though not completely exclusively) focus on items that were unique and or capture a feeling at a moment in time when something came together, even if it was fleeting. Usually because they bring out the individualist in a person or evoke a feeling from a particular time. Mass market stuff of general interest usually doesn’t do that, simply because they recall mundane ordinary times.
Minivans were and are utterly functional. They were purchased not because they were stylish, had any performance pretensions, or were associated with any sort of “fun” time in one’s life. While children’s memories are always cherished, the basic necessities usually aren’t. While minivans, specifically the first generation of Chryslers were revolutionary and a milestone in automotive product development, seeing any at anything other than an occasional AACA meet, would be noteworthy. That is also why you will likely see few imports and few sedan-like vehicles at car shows even 20 years from now. No one wants to pay money to go look at cars they had to buy, they rather go look at cars they had that they wanted, wish they still had, or plan to get.
Paul, are you sure about that bench front seat option? No brochure has ever shown it.
I was quite sure. Allpar’s article does mention seating up to eight, but no pictures or details. I’m heading to the airport soon, but I will try to pin this down. I don’t think it was a brain fart, but it’s possible.
From wikipedia: An 8-passenger model with a bench front seat accommodating a middle front passenger was offered in the SE trim level in 1985 only, and was not repeated due to poor sales.
Not that they’re the final word on everything, but I remember the bench front seat, having seen one or two myself.
Wow. I will keep my eyes peeled for one that my favorite hangout. That would be so cool to see.
I have a 1986 Plymouth Brochure that has pictures of it. If you give me a bit to scan it and upload it, I’ll make it a proper CC Follow Up.
I’ve seen ONE over the past almost thirty years. Guess that’s how popular they were.
I have seen several with the front bench, infact they still had it as an option I want to say up to 1988. My neighbor had a 85 with the bench and I know I looked at a 1987 or 1988 with a bench in the front. I’ll go home tonight and look for the pics I took of the front bench seat in that 87 or 88.
Found a couple
I own a ’04 Sienna myself, but commend Chrysler’s boldness in creating this category of vehicles.
Perhaps discussion of styling is a non-sequitur, but I think the best-looking vans are the ones which are the boxiest: I have a “crush” on the Sprinter & Transit Connect, which are boxy yet way better looking than most overstyled family vans today (including the latest Sienna). The current Caravan looks OK though.
When I first saw one, it looked so normal and obvious, it fit American families with the same level of perfection as suburbia does. My brother with three kids, ended up with two of them and through all their imperfections, powerlessness, transmission problems, wouldn’t have had any other vehicles in his driveway for family usage.
Young families don’t mind puttering around town in a vehicle without power, responsiveness and handling. With infants, toddlers, pre-schoolers, kindergarteners, puppies, diaper bags, sippy cups, strollers, pack-n-plays and toys, parents had other things on their minds. So while the minivan became the family vehicle, their practicality over performance became a given. Even after thirty years, minivans are sold as family vehicles meaning Chrysler is not telling you about the 0-60 time, or how quickly their Voyagers do the quarter mile.
Minivans had a direct effect on all family vehicles. Trucks went from trucks to SUVs to CUVs because what became expected and desired in a truck was often based on what buyers liked in their minivans. What a SUV has that a minivan does not have is an image of strength, freedom, power and independance. Minivans are not photographed sitting on the edge of canyon walls they scaled with 4WD. SUVs offered unstoppable freedom plus minivan comforts and this became more attractive to families after 1995.
Boomers keep thinking they are the big dogs in the population debate, but fact is – 2007 was the biggest year for births in the US – ever. Until the Crash of 2008, US families were making babies. Our neighborhood is jammed packed with 4-12 year olds, right now. I got four of them and my buddies’ offspring totals another 20 in the same age group. That doesn’t even count up my coworkers’ – which would be 14. In 2007 alone, my coworkers and I, had five babies among the five of us – my wife and I had two. Schools are jammed around here and CUV, SUVs and Japanese minivans are lined up every morning like a quarter mile long train, dropping our little ones off.
When the economy is growing and families sense a brighter future, biology blesses us. Since 2009 the birth rate has collapsed and the guys I hang with no longer go bareback or their wives are on the pill, and we are all looking for another ray of economic hope, which has not yet come.
The minivan is a natural extention of what we are. It was the product of auto engineering refective of it’s time as stations wagons were the reflection of theirs, or CUVs are today. We can only buy what is offered to be sold. Without GM or Ford minivans, the choice is Chrysler, a Japanese, or a South Korean model. With prices in the mid-30s, a lot of us family guys don’t want to spend that kind of money for a vehicle our kids poop in, ruin or trash. When my minivan is finished, I don’t want another one – but hey, if VanillaWife tells me we’re having another, I may have to change my mind, especially if we have twins again.
There wre indeed front bench seat versions of the Voyager/Caravan. I have seen them! They had a low-back seat with no headrests — the vans were considered “trucks” and were not required to have headrests. I believee they were available only on the lowest trim versions.
In 1984 to 1986 the base and SE versions had the low back bucket seats in front, mid 1987 they started putting in the high back seats in the SE and then onward, The bench was a rare one, I have seen maybe 20 in person in my life!
We wanted a nice, SWB bright red one. We never bought one, though. Things were a bit on the lean side when these came out, and we just made do with our 1981 Reliant and various used vehicles for years.
Later, in the nineties, when we could afford one, we stuck with cars.
For years, though, I rode in enough of them and had a LWB rental in 1993 on a business trip to Springfield, Massachusetts. Sure was a nice, comfortable ride to Boston one evening!
Sorry to contribute to the fuzzy history and denial: I believe car models evolve, society evolves, but mankind (and everything else) evolving from single cell organisms? Not so sure about that.
I cannot get past the preconceptions of fragile transmissions and 60k mitsubishi engines. Borrowed my daughters plymouth minivan for a job once and loved it. If my truck were to crater I think I would prefer a minivan with seats to most anything else on the market. The preconceptions rule and I don’t make the leap.
Btw I don’t think Ford or Chevy has made one worth considering. I think I know that there are sweet spots in the Chrysler units. I think the 3.3 is one and don’t know about the transmission. Any input on what could last as long and dependably as the 4.3/700r4 I’m driving now? I’m used to driving one 300k before I junk it. Might have this one a long time because of the broken odometer.
The real winning combo is one of the early 3rd Gen short wheelbase version with a 3.3 and a 3 speed auto. The 3.3 will go down as possibly the most durable V6 ever made and is an easy 300K mile engine. The LWB vans all came with the 4 speed auto. Cared for, the 4 speed trannys will last awhile (unlike the Hondas) and when they do let go, they are fairly cheap to rebuild or replace. The 3 speeds are very durable.
The 3.3L was a great engine, and the trans was hit and miss. With plenty of rebuilts available they’re not too expensive or hard to install for an above average weekend mechanic. The 3.8L was a pretty dependable piece as well and I’ve seen many high mileage examples that run great.
My neighbor has a 2001 Grand Caravan that he uses daily for construction work. Beat to hell and always loaded to the max, it’s very reliable still @ 220,000 miles.
I do get tired of so called ‘hipsters’ ripping on vans. So what if someone drives one and if they have kids?
But every generation of young adults has to claim “We are better then our parents…”.
Don’t worry, I’m sure the hipsters will be grabbing onto the older mini-vans in the near future for the irony of it.
Unless of course we a have different definition of what a hipster is.
Mine was a Plymouth, ’92 – the second-to-last year you could get a stickshift MoPar van in the US. The 2.5 5-speed combo was fairly brisk, with just a driver in the van. I wouldn’t want to try it with 7 people, though – probably need to replace the clutch every 2 years from slipping it to get moving.
I lived in that van during my divorce. That was tough times.
As pointed out, it seems like an amazing number of people have had a Mopar mini in their possession at some point. Mine was a ’99 Town and Country LX, well optioned, big six (may have been standard) decent stereo. I said to my wife as we backed away from the dealership and our ’89 T-Bird “we just bought a bus.”
It’s primary fault was a lack of sound insulation, but otherwise it was a competent and practical vehicle. But, we never could get very excited about it.
Christmas 2001 we rented a 2002 Durango over the Christmas holiday. I was pretty smitten, a lumbering vehicle with a V-8 and three decent rows of seats. By February 2002, a Durango replaced the jelly bean, creating the only really short term relationship I’ve ever had with a new car. The Durango, happily, is still in the family fleet, mostly retired from boat towing duty, something the T&C was not prepared for.
I think every living American has had at least one ride in a Chrysler minivan.
We never had a Chrysler Minivan but all of my extended family did, first to fourth generation in fact. I always liked the third gen styling but I never liked riding in any of them. I just utterly hate flat floors with bench seats, as it feels like I’m riding in a bus. Although, as an only child I was spoiled by my family’s minivan. I think my Dad justified getting it because we had a large breed dog that we brought along on long road trips every summer and/or spring break, and within a day of our ownership, the center row seat came out for the dog’s cage to go, leaving almost limo like space for me in the back.
Still, I way preferred my Mom’s 5 speed 85 Jetta(as did she) she had before we got the Villager in 97. All of us are the exception to the rule. Both of my parents are boomers, and only begrudgingly accepted the minivan(and now resent it) and outright rejected SUVs, while I, who experienced only 3 box cars until I was 10 years old, still exclusively prefer 3 box cars to this day.
I thought I was the only person who is an only child whose parents bought a minivan! Minivan fever was so rampant in our neighborhood that it even convinced my dad to pony up for a 1990 T&C — that first and rare one-year-only version. I loved that van and thought we were SO cool for having it (I was about 7 at the time). Leather seats, an Infinity stereo with the joystick equalizer, white pained rims? What luxury!
We didn’t even have a dog to carry around! Just me. Though my dad did use it for many Home Depot runs, and my mom often volunteered to be the driver on field trips. So it definitely served its purpose — just not all the time.
The 1990 is very very rare and still see one every now and then, I plan on buying if I can find a nice kept one to add to my 10 car fleet. I do have a grille off of one sitting in the garage as they are so rare I was offered 300.00 for it and I paid 50 bucks at the boneyard. If anyone knows where a 1990 Town and Country is I would love to know, even if not for sale as money talks!!! I had a thought when I ordered up my 2014 here a couple of months ago, to actually have some wood-grain installed, they do actually have kits for the 2008 on up models….but didn’t do it. Still might….even get the wheels powdercoated white for that retro look. the company had done that photoshop of what they had on my 2014 to show me. Doesn’t look too bad……
The original Town and Country minivan
Depending on what you consider to be “luxury” or a “minivan”, the 1988 Ford Aerostar Eddie Bauer would actually be the first luxury minivan.
I actually like the 84-95 Boxy mini vans. I have driven a 84 with the manual for a few weeks in the winter of 2000 and it was a interesting experience. I hated the place where the shifter was located and could not get used to it. The clutch had a good grab point but the shifter let the whole thing down. This is one of those rare cars I will say that the 3sp auto made the vehicle so much better to drive. 88hp is 88hp even with a stick it be nothing to write about and the fact it was with a carb was worse.
Paul you found a rare Caravan, as it has the metal strip over the rear license plate. On the 84-90 version those fell off just by looking hard at them
And they had used the same handle assembly on the K-Car wagons from ’81, I’m sure they had known it was an issue by ’84.
The Chrysler minivans were the company’s biggest success story since they came out in 1984. The post 1987 Grand models with the 3.0 Mitsubishi and 3.3 Mopar V6s are an improvement over the early stacked headlight models with the wussy carbureted 4 bangers. The biggest customers for those minivans were baby boomer soccer moms. Chrysler had the lion’s share of the minivan market until the aughts when improved versions of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna with fold down third seats hit the market. The Toyota and Honda were more reliable as well.
I can’t speak to the Toyota, but Honda minivan reliability is (over the long haul) a myth. After the 2nd gen came out in 1999, Honda created a lot of unhappy customers who expected Honda reliability but didn’t get it. The 05 redesign wasn’t that much better. The Honda forums are full of disgruntled owners who claim to have sworn off of Odysseys. Most of it is really, really expensive (and unfixable) transmissions, but there have been numerous other issues with them too. Honda minivans are leaving the roads in droves, while the old Chryslers (at least the good ones) are still chugging along.
Since the guys at work and I all had kids at the same time, we all ended up buying minivans, thanks to our ladies. Two 2005 Odysseys, three Town & Countries, and a Saturn Relay 3. (I was liberally heckled as an idiot when my wife fell in love with the Relay and cried until I relented to buy it under the strict promise from Saturn to bail me out if it was a lemon.)
The Odysseys cost $35,000 and $36,000. The T&C cost $33,000. I got the Relay for $23,000. (NO ONE wanted a Relay and the window sticker of $32,000 was a pipe dream.)
Today, the Odysseys are still around have had three transmissions between the two of them. They were about $4000 to fix each time. One T&C was traded in and the other is going well, but full of electrical glitches, the doors no longer close automatically.
The Relay had the transmission replaced this year for $1999. No other problems at all. Just took it on a long trip. Loaded it up, added a huge roof carrier, and didn’t have a lick of problems. I’m just starting to think it wasn’t a bad vehicle purchase.
So don’t tell me about Honda Odyssey goodness. I don’t know about Toyota since my experience didn’t include one, but considering how much the guys paid for those Odysseys, how much they paid for those transmissions, and what they thought they were getting when they sunk an additional $10,000 over the Relay, (or any other GM van that year, probably), they got screwed. Those Honda minivans might get a better resale than other vans, but they are not worth the extra costs, based on my experiences and the experiences of the rest of the guys here.
“Chrysler had the lion’s share of the minivan market until the aughts when improved versions of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna with fold down third seats hit the market. The Toyota and Honda were more reliable as well.”
Not the Hondas with their horrific transmission, an expensive fix but one without which the vehicle is useless. Many transmission shops have taken to IMPORTING Honda transmissions from Japan, because when they blow up, it is difficult or impossible to get the correct parts for them, or a properly rebuilt one.
An innovative, well-executed, perfectly timed product. It was like the Mustang I and II all rolled into one for Mr. Iacocca, he must have felt great.
The first generation had some issues with body structure and there were plenty of rattles and quivers by 30,000 miles. The third generation was fantastic for everything. I’ll never forget the first time I drove one, super solid, quiet and powerful and that ratcheting cup holder was amazing. They really did look Grand on the outside.
Great article Paul.
I will agree with you on the 3G version. A friend had an 04 Odyssey with under 100K on it, and I had a 99 T&C with over 200K on it. The Chrysler felt heavier and more solid in every way, from the sound of the doors shutting to the tight structure. The Honda was not really all that stiff of a structure, and quivered over bad pavement. Not the Chrysler.
Yes, every generation of the Chrysler minivan was a success. The third generation especially made an impression on me as a kid – I probably rode in 15 of them, and I actually remember building a plastic model of one!
I’m a car modeler and have a taste for the unusual subjects (ie. everything that’s not a musclecar)
I tend to snap up every Lindberg Grand Caravan I come across for sale.
Supposedly in 1989-1990 they offered a turbo Caravan with a stick
That would have been an interesting van to drive.
It was very interesting….I had owned two of them, amazing how I could make an 80s Mustang 5.0 owner crap his pants cause I smoked him and left him, in what, my Dodge Caravan LE woody with the 2.5ltr turbo 4 cyl!
Here is a good documentary on the Chrysler minivans. It is 45+ minutes long but a good video.
The minivans did take the industry by surprise, most in Detroit, including many that I knew from Chrysler, did not expect the success that it became. At the time, most thought such a car-like vehicle, especially one with only a 4 cylinder, would only sell in limited quantities. At the time, most full size van buyers used them for more serious work duties and drove them less on an everyday basis. The average minivan, including those RWD offerings from GM and Ford, were driven more per year than the traditional full size models. Sometimes vehicles are introduced that play to a specific target audience and find success just as intended. Others, like the Chrysler minivans, not only are hits with the core group they expected, but draw in all sorts of other customers not originally perceived. The Chrysler minivans were and are utterly conventional both in their design, styling, and execution. It is no wonder they have dominated sales from Day 1 and no wonder that everyone else tried all sorts of different designs over the years, but until they followed the basic architecture laid out by Chrysler, then they met with some success.
On a side note, my Imperial and the minivans share a common linkage. The J/Y cars were the last executed traditional RWD product new design introduced by the “old Chrysler” built in Windsor Canada, while the minivans were one of the first designs of the “new Chrysler” also built in Windsor Canada. In a way the irony is not readily apparent. The 81-83 Imperials were the last gasp of the old Chrysler formula of combining a leap of engineering prowess they were often noted for plus understated opulence that characterized most Imperials (as opposed to the Las Vegas glam that characterized Cadillac and the fashionista Lincolns) – while the minivans took the engineering prowess in a leap of a different kind. While (at least until the T&C came out) minivans were never mistaken for luxury vehicles, they did offer a level of comfort and civility previously unknown to full size van drivers who, at least with factory versions, were far more utilitarian.
Grew up with the 1st (80s) and 2nd (early 90s) generations. In the mid-late 80s it seemed younger families either had these or the holdover Panther/B-Body wagons (except my parents, Paul Fussell’s “X-People”, who resolutely drove little Hondas). SUVs weren’t in yet, models like the Cherokee seemed to be reserved solely for moms whose husband drove a Jag, Benz, or Bimmer, or people who wanted to give the impression they could afford such cars. I liked the ?’88 on front-end refresh, one of the few cars on which I have preferred the composite headlights to the quads.
All of a sudden, about 1992 or so, the big wagons disappeared from driveways and from then on it was Caravans and Ford Explorers/Jeep Cherokees hauling families all through high school (c. 1998), when SUVs got really big and minivans seemed to be getting less popular and were lampooned in commercials (my parents, remaining steadfastly prudent Yankees and out of the mainstream, bought a ’97-’01 generation Camry. With stick shift.). I remember about that time there was some commercial for an SUV that started with the department store paging the person with the “tan minivan”. The owner tries to avoid being noticed, the implication that it was embarrassing and uncool to own a minivan by then. I guess the reign of the mini was really only ’85-’95 or so, before the stock market picked up and everyone lusted after a Ford Excursion.
I really love minivans this size. Even the SWB Gen II was right-sized.
My previous car purchase boiled down to the Nissan Quest and the Trooper – very similarly sized all around except for height. I went back and forth internally for months and finally bought the Trooper because of RWD, road height, and the amount of trail biking I was doing.
I was hoping something similar sized would be available this last go around but there really isn’t much besides the Mazda5. Not a bad vehicle at all but it needs more amenities like power seats etc.
Designed by Hal, driven by Hal from malcolm in the middle, hehe.
I’ve known a number of people who’ve owned all generations of the Mopar Minivan. Up until the latest generation came out, the first was my favorite. (FWIW, the latest one is great, but farkin’ huge. I guess that’s what a minivan is these days.)(and get off my lawn, too!)
My in laws had the seven passenger version with the 2.2 and autobox 20+ years ago; it was a third car for them, but a great second car for my wife and I. Sometimes we’d take the little overburdened beast into the North Georgia mountains and visit places like Helen, or Ellijay, GA. We werent getting there fast, but we did eventually get there. Since I had virtually unlimited use of the van, I never really needed or wanted to buy one. That, and my Lancer Turbo had the hatchback that took care of most our cargo hauling needs.
There was a time that these things were de-regiuer for the up and coming family. At least in this neck of the woods, that duty seems to fall on gray or silver Honda Oddys. It’s almost like work clothing. The upper middle class folks wear the Oddy like a business suit of sorts. The Grand Caravan is kind of an alternate, ‘casual Friday’ look, while middle middle class and lower middle class families go to work in blue jeans and either have a used Gd Caravan or a new Hyundai or Kia minivan. Me? I have the minvan’s eccentric uncle, the Pontiac Aztek.
Working in the local youth soccer league, I see gazillions of these things on game day. One of the parents of my kids in special-needs soccer broke the mold by buying a Gd Caravan. He loves it, but it’s been in the shop a few times. I don’t know what the guy’s level of pain is, but apparently it’s not enough for him to abandon the GdCaravan.
A post further up the chain was about how these cars are used, and then used up. I was visiting with some friends recently. We hadn’t seen each other in some time, and my, how his kids had grown. OTOH, my, how NASTY the interior of his pride and joy Odyssey had become! I think he got it four or five years ago and it looks way beyond it’s age. I didn’t get into mundane topics like how well the family truckster was holding up, but wow, it sure looked awful.
A friend of mine in the car selling biz always refers to minivans as “rolling biohazards”. Now I know why…
I had started a few facebook pages about or for those with or had in the past, Chrysler made minivans….. I have several pics and discussions. As I stated in an earlier post, my new 2014 Chrysler Town and Country is my 30th Chrysler made minivan I have owned. I traded the 2012 Limited for this and this one is a Limited as well, with every option, I even had the dealer add the 30th anniversary badging for it (that goes to the anniversary edition lower trim than Limited) as it is well the 30th I had as well as the anniversary year. Only seemed proper. I plan on keeping this one and today am adding the Lifetime bumper to bumper so I can keep it for a long time and enjoy it. Check out the facebook page if you are on facebook…. https://www.facebook.com/groups/Chryslerminivans/
Did the ’84 minivan have a swivel front passenger seat?
I HAVE A 1984 DODGE CARAVAN ORGINAL SOLID CLEAN WITH 20K..ANYONE KNOW WHO WOULD WANT IT AND HOW MUCH ITS WORTH?
Mike, Can you tell me more? Do you have pics? Do you have facebook and we could chat? Dodn’t really want to give my number out on here.
Mike, email me at damoncaravanman (at) hotmail (dot) com
My facebook page has grown that I started on the Chrysler built minivans! Still have some great examples of the first gen original out there! https://www.facebook.com/groups/Chryslerminivans/
The grand caravans never came turbo and all the turbo vans came with the 2.5 TurboI motor. They never came with the 2.2T. It takes very very little research to find these FACTS on the web.
Tell that to the friends of ours that had a LWB Caravan with turbo. I saw it a number of times.
I realize wikipedia isn’t infallible, but they show a 2.5 liter turbo, not a 2.2 turbo, at least in the minivans
Agreed. It was the 2.5 turbo. But even allpar admits that some turbos found their way into a few lwb minivans.
Hello ! Greetings from Hungary !
My car : 1986 Dodge Caravan SE 2.6L 3 speed automataic
My first car,i love it,family members
Nickname the car : Wile E.Coyote
no corrosion,all parameters very good,10.000mile/year run,
emission parameter excellent,
countinous repaired daily driving car,
Fuel Economy :
long distance: 10L/ 100km,28 MPG
urban : 13L/100km 22MPG
very rare cars in the country,only 5-10 pieces run
Sorry i’m very wrong speaking english
Beautiful car ! I guess they are popular everywhere. By the way, we had an automotive journalist of (I think) Hungarian descent. Csaba Csere, I believe. Forgive me if I misspelled his name. He wrote for Car &Driver magazine.
Your English is just fine! And your Caravan is a beauty. I always really liked the look of the original front end / “face”.
My neighbour across the street got an ’84 Caravan when they first came out. It was excellent, it had the 2.2 L engine in it, and no snowstorm could get him stuck. I wanted to get one bad to haul our young family around, and a buddy wanted to sell me his 1987 Caravan, but for way too much money. Finally in 1989, I got a 1987 Voyager SE, with a 3.0 L engine, 7 passenger. The sales guy was flogging a 2.2 with a turbo (or maybe a 2.6), but no thanks.
I loved that ’87. It was my wife’s DD, and we used it for long distance trips, day to day kids hauling, and sometimes commuting to and from work when I didn’t take my car. When we had occasion to haul cargo, I would remove the seats (yes they were deadweight heavy to lift out the back, well the rearmost seat was anyway), and I could fill the cargo area with what seemed like an endless quantity of banker’s boxes. I bought an aftermarket centre console for a cupholder, and a location to store my remote CD player that plugged in to the cassette deck.
The tranny gave out eventually, but I replaced the ’87 with a short wheelbase 1999 Voyager. Altogether I had over 21 years of Chrysler Minivan ownership.
I always liked the name that countless Packard fans have applied to their similarly named and equally cursed ’55 and ’56 automatic transmissions: Ultratraumatic…oh, so true.
I think every car lover has a Caravan story. They are ubiquitous in Canada. There is even a Caravan version with “Canada Value Pack.” They sell loads of them here and why not? It is really big, can move a lot of people or stuff and it goes on the road, taxes paid, for less than C$25,000. That is cheap-ola for car of this size and capability. No wonder FCA has just kept churning them out.
Even I had one, a well worn 1989, purchased for $700 right after I returned from working abroad. It schlepped stuff really well for a few months while we settled in our new home, after which I sold it for $600.
My first minivan was a 1995 Plymouth Voyager; I really liked the vehicle it was great for transporting my dogs to dog show and other events. I drove it for 81/2 years. My big complaint about minivans is now they have gotten huge-they are hardly “mini” any more. I’d like to see a manufacturer bring out one about the size of the original 1984 Chrysler vans, I think there would be a market for them. They would certainly be a lot more manueverable.
I had a 1984, 1989, 1996 Mini Ram Vans – all did 250 km highway with little problems.
Liked the 96 Best – Big Windows – Nice interior – Good power.
All the Chrysler problem is little trim items always falling off.
We got a new puppy, and the next day, we bought our ’85 Caravan. Huge mistake, as the puppy basically ate the Caravan’s interior. The dog we had for 14+ great years. I miss him the most of any of my dogs I’ve had over the last 60+ years. The Caravan we had for 3 years and it wasn’t missed for a second. Sure, it was comfortable, and it had plenty of space for 2 people and our 3 dogs, but it was agonizingly slow with the Mitsubishi 2.6, and it had the trailing throttle oversteer that was kind of scary. A trip through the Smoky Mountains made me decide to say goodbye to it. It’s unending A/C issues, even though they always fixed it for free, was another reason I didn’t miss it. I don’t have a pic of it, but I have dozens of pics of Gus, master chewer. Owner of “finger amputatin’ teeth:
And now I’m misty-eyed for Gus, the very good boy I never met.
Chrysler minivans of this vintage & up to 1995 are quickly becoming scarce if not already non-existent in my area, as are Ford Aerostars & early Windstars. Chevy Astros & GMC Safaris, however, are still fairly common, particularly the cargo van models. A few of the pre-’95 versions are still out here too. And some even still pull trailers as well, one of their original intended purposes when first introduced in 1985. Several XJ Cherokees still come out every so often too, and it doesn’t take long to spot any of the Ford Rangers & similar-vintage Explorers. When certain vehicles continue maintaining a strong fanbase, it’ll be quite a while before they come anywhere close to disappearing.
Ford and GM generally get laid into for going with far more truck-like RWD inital minivan competitors, but they definitely have their merits, and, I dare say, longevity is one of them. The Chrysler products were more user-friendly and popular but they got used up then tossed pretty readily (build quality was never a Chrysler long suit), while the more conventional Astro/Safari would last longer.
And, for some applications (like towing), the stouter RWD minvians were much more preferrable.
I had over fifteen years of ownership between a SWB 90 Caravan bought new, and a ’97 Town and Country, bought five years old. This was during my prime young family time. Best vehicles for this period in my life. They were so versatile and comfortable. A great family road trip machine. My ’90 had the Mitsu 3.0 V6 and was a real runner. I remember that my Wife and I took two of our couples friends to S.F. a hundred plus mile round trip, to watch the Phantom of the Opera. First stop, the six of us went to dinner. We only had to manage one vehicle through all the traffic and pay for one parking spot. Conversation was easy with all of us together, kind of like a little party on wheels. Made a lot of sense.
If I compare my vans to my ’96 four door Explorer I think it loses a bit of convenience in that the rear seat of my vans didn’t fold down to a long level floor, and removing the bench seats was a real pain. However when they were out, there was a huge amount of cargo space. The later stow and go set up would seem to be the optimum arrangement. I had the expected trouble with my ’97’s four speed automatic. This really turned me off to Chrysler products.
I chose my ’97 T/C in a color that I really liked. It was an LXI which was totally loaded. I really liked driving that van and was never embarrassed to be seen in it.
I never completely understood the cult of the Chrysler minivan until I bought my 99 T&C. Even as a cheap old one with nearly 200k on the odo it was a wonderful thing in the way it drove and its utility. I fell in love with it.