(first posted 12/9/2014) Most of us have likely known or heard of instances of odd or unusual family relationships due to marriages. One that always intrigued me is when siblings marry siblings, such as two brothers getting hitched to two sisters. When this happens, I have always wondered about their children – are they cousins or are they something else since they are all drinking from the same gene pool?
The 1980s saw a lot of familial relations at Chrysler Corporation. Soon after Papa Lee and Mother Mopar consummated their relationship, a whole lot of babies started to appear. Papa and Mother were quite the fertile pair, with babies appearing quicker than mold on cheese; among their brood was the Caravelle.
Maybe specifics are needed as to which Caravelle I refer. Sometimes in large families a name gets duplicated and the Caravelle name, inspired by Portuguese caravel ships, was a busy little guy for a brief while. This name does have a subtle tie-in to Plymouth as a caravel was the Plymouth mascot upon its introduction in the 1930s. Interestingly, the Caravelle name was suggested by a secretary at Chrysler Canada.
The first Caravelle, introduced in 1978, was birthed by Mother Mopar in a previous relationship she no longer cared to talk about. This Caravelle was the M-body based Plymouth Caravelle sold in Canada. While the Caravelle started off in the U.S. market Dodge Diplomat idiom, by the early 1980s its market had evolved into public service efforts as opposed to its original private sector focus. The Caravelle would serve and be loved by police fleets in Ontario and Manitoba as much as their counterparts loved the sibling Plymouth Gran Fury in Ohio and Minnesota. The difference between the rear-drive Caravelle and Gran Fury sisters was little else than the name tag glued to the fenders and trunk lid; most parents tend to avoid giving their twins the same name.
As we all know, familial relationships are quite complicated at times, and the offspring from Mother Mopar and Papa Lee were no exception.
For 1983, the M-Body Caravelle was rechristened as the Caravelle Salon to make way for a new baby in the house, the front-drive Caravelle. This Caravelle was only for Canada; the United States would have to wait. The Dodge 600 shared the developmental womb with the Caravelle as did the Chrysler E-Class and New Yorker (CC here). Despite differing levels of makeup and markup, these cars were as related as Walt Disney’s Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
The beauty about automotive families, particular when there are multiples in the litter, is that births can be offset at will. The birth of the Plymouth Caravelle in the United States was postponed until 1985. The Chrysler E-Class died at the end of 1984. With the Chrysler going to the family cemetery, the Plymouth Caravelle was introduced as a market pacifier.
Plymouth’s Caravelle was presented as a mid-sized car, a car intended to battle the Ford with its Taurus and GM with its A-body clan. There was only one drawback – where the Taurus and A-body had six bullets in the piston chambers, the Caravelle only had four. One could get themselves a more potent four pot by choosing the optional 2.2 liter turbocharged engine, but it wasn’t a widely used option, despite it being the first turbocharged Plymouth.
Genetics are a funny thing. Sometimes family members will look nothing alike when other times the resemblance will be frightening. Looking at the Caravelle it is as obvious as sunshine that it is related to the famous first-born of the Papa Lee and Mother Mopar marriage – the almighty K-Car. Thus we arrive back to my original intrigue about the children of siblings who married siblings. The Caravelle was not a Plymouth having a resemblance to another product; no, as most of us know, it was sitting on a Reliant chassis sporting a wheelbase that had been stretched three inches. Not only did it share the same basic platform, it shared power trains and many interior components. It was partaking from the very same gene pool as the Reliant, only it had received a few growth hormones during its gestation. Despite being advertised as an E-body, we all know every family has their dirty little secrets.
Speaking of dirty little secrets, I will confess to having a streak of fondness for the Caravelle. To these eyes, it is one of the most visually balanced amongst the brood of K-car derived sedans; it has neither the blunt edges of the Reliant / Aries twins nor the chrome and vinyl doodads of the Chrysler branded cars. What’s even better about the Caravelle is that it rivaled older half-sibling Gran Fury in nearly every dimension while looking more contemporary and consuming less fuel. It’s a shame Plymouth only sold 34,000 of these for 1986 – this car deserved better.
One huge, fundamental difference between one’s family and an automotive family is that few people think twice about a car company taking one of their offspring out behind the woodshed and killing it. This was certainly the case with the Caravelle as it was terminated in the midst of the 1988 model year, making way for the Plymouth Acclaim.
Genealogy is a common interest in most families. While the Caravelle is but one branch on the Chrysler family tree, it has managed to grow some unusual offshoots. To make it even better, these offshoots are residing in an assortment of other countries. Not every ordinary family sedan from this time period can lay such a claim.
In Mexico there is the Chrysler Dart Europa. This helped propel the Caravelle into covering the three largest countries in North America and can likely be found in Central America. It shared pretty much all body panels with the Caravelle.
There was also the Dart Volaré Europa. Yes, you read that right; the Volaré name was used in Mexico well into the 1980s. The primary difference was the Volaré Europa used the header panel from a Plymouth Reliant on the Caravelle body. Building all your cars on the same chassis family does allow for rapid permutations.
As an aside, I distinctly remember seeing the tail of one of these in Arizona in 1988, as the Volaré name plate almost jumped at me. It’s only taken twenty-six years to figure out what it was!
When production of the Plymouth Caravelle / Dodge 600 was winding down in 1987, Mother Mopar was willing to forego infanticide for an adoptive parent. She found an interested party in First Auto Works, owner of Chinese brand Hongqi.
Hongqi had purchased the tooling for Chrysler’s 2.2 liter engine in late 1987. As they were also seeking a new luxury sedan, they explored possibilities by making alterations to two Dodge 600 / Plymouth Caravelle sedans like this, to be branded as the Hongqi CA750F. There was an effort to determine interest in purchasing the entire Plymouth Caravelle production line.
There was one wrinkle. At about this same time, Hongqi had started producing Audi 100 based automobiles in a joint venture with Volkswagen. VW did not want another car line, so the CA750F was scuttled.
The related Hongqi CA760F limousine was also abandoned.
In a twist, Hongqi did go on to produce Audi 100 based cars powered by their version of the Chrysler 2.2 liter engine. How’s that for expanding the gene pool?
At first blush, it would appear our subject Caravelle was yet another forgettable 1980s K-car derivative. This once again proves what parents frequently say about how one should never judge anybody or anything by outward appearances.
For looking so meek, the Plymouth Caravelle was certainly a world traveler, able to adapt to local customs and needs. For being an afterthought of the humble K-car, this is a rather admirable feat.
Excellent article! I knew the Dart/Volare names continued in Mexico, along with the Magnum, but I’d never seen that Caravelle with the Reliant clip and I’d never heard about those aborted Chinese Ks!
Also, I absolutely agree about these being the better-balanced design. The Chrysler E-Class was a sharp looker and I’m always puzzled as to why it was axed so quickly, but the dorky LeBaron and New Yorker retained.
Your point about the Caravelle being so similarly sized to the Gran Fury makes me think… A lot of us do look back fondly at cars like the 1980s GM G-Bodies and the Gran Fury/Fifth Avenue because of their classic style and rear-wheel-drive, V8 layouts but would we honestly have thought of them as fondly in the day? Would we all really have bought a brand new Monte Carlo or Diplomat with a sluggish V8 instead of checking out a better-packaged, new, FWD Celebrity or Dynasty? Without knowing about reliability issues down the line, wouldn’t a Celebrity with a spacious interior, a gutsy V6 and several hundred pounds less curb weight have seemed so much more exciting than a Malibu? I feel like maybe we idolize certain RWD relics, especially the Crown Vic.
My Dad’s attitude refutes the old line of Americans giving up their rwd V-8s with reluctance. Dad was ever the statistician with his cars, always keeping complete gas mileage records for the life of them. He had bought a stately green 1977 M-body LeBaron sedan with the 318 as his last rwd Mopar. We all liked its comfort and cruiseability, and the slightly Seville-like body proportions and trim, even though the relationship started off on the rocks. Early on, the car received a new short block due to a production quality glitch. Howwever I doubt that had anything to do with his never owning another new car with that drivetrain: years of driving as a bag packaging salesperson in fleet vehicles made him just so into gas mileage and traction that he was eager for a fwd, 4-cyl. package as soon as they went mainstream. Even though Dad loved to root for Mopar V-8s in Nascar races, I never once heard him speak nostalgically about them as superior everyday vehicles compared to the succeeding layout. He’s 89 now, and yesterday, he related excitedly a story about a 3,000+mile trip back East from Denver in a new Reliant-K on which he averaged 31mpg.
PS: Dad has only a half-hearted interest in Nascar now. In his day, you rooted first for the brand, second for the company, and third for the team. The driver came last. When Dodge pulled out of racing just as they were winning the mfg’r’s cup, the sport lost most of its appeal for him.
If Nascar still worked the way it did when your dad was into it, then I might actually be interested in it too. I haven’t watched a Nascar race in at least a decade.
Yeah I’m just old enough to agree. Dad took us to the “Yankee 300” in 1961. The only Nascar grand National race ever held in New England before Loudon. I rooted Mopars with him because of Lee Petty and Buck Baker.
My father was born during WWII and he used to prefer RWD but not only V8s. When he was commuting to work he used to buy Volvos. Because they were safe and easy to work on. In the 2000s he switched to Toyota Camry’s and Avalons because they are reliable. Myself? I had an opportunity to buy his good used Camry for next to nothing, but I passed it up to buy a RWD V8 Magnum RT. Love that car!
From my time as a teenager in the later half of the ’80s, I distinctly remember a certain group of people who were weary of front-wheel drive and four-cylinder engines. The primary concern wasn’t space utilization or fuel economy so much as durability of front-wheel drive on gravel roads, the ability of a four-cylinder to pull hills with the a/c on, shorter life span of the engine from being revved up driving down the road, etc. As a point of reference, many of these folks were born well prior to WWII, so cars such as this were quite outside their familiarity.
For myself, I remember my parents swapping off their ’85 Crown Vic in mid-1990. They had boiled their candidates down to a ’90 Grand Marquis or a just arrived ’91 Dynasty. They purchased the Dynasty and I remember being pleasantly surprised with the amount of rear-seat room.
Incidentally, this was one of about three Dynasty’s that never had an ounce of trouble from its Ultradrive in 135,000 miles.
My father bought two half baked 4 cylinder cars by Holden a J Camira and a Sunbird/Opel Ascona then went back to 6s his next foray into the 4 bangers was a Toyota, even though he ran a GM concern most of his life he never looked back. He was born 1924.
My Dad (born New Year’s Eve 1954) went from a 1978 Monte Carlo (V8, RWD) to a 1982 Chevy Celebrity (4 cyl FWD) purchased used in 1985. After several years with the Iron Puke and disliking the lack of power and the engine rebuild at 100,000 miles, he swore “4 cyl? NEVER again!”
He has not owned a 4cyl vehicle since. 307 V8, 3800 V6, 4.3 V6, and 3400 V6 in that order. Now you and I all know that 4 cyl engines have improved leaps and bounds since 1982 but it is quite firmly fixed in his mind.
Its the quality of the 4cyl that matters. If he had bought a Toyota in ’85, he would probably still be driving 4 cyls.
My dad bought a 1984 Cutlass Ciera A-body back in 1987 with 74K miles from his best friend who bought in new. It had the Iron Duke. It was the most reliable car we had up to that point and it had nearly 130K on the odometer with original engine and trans axle after about 5 years of use. We put that car up for sale and within two days it sold to a middle aged guy that also owned a Grand Am with the Iron Duke and 280K miles with the original factory engine and trans axle. He said our Ciera was like buying a new car as dad and I kept it in tip top shape and running order. It was never a powerhouse but was able to keep pace with fast moving traffic well enough and got over 30 MPG on the highway with a 3 speed automatic which was pretty good at the time. But it by no means soured him to 4 cylinders. The folks are currently considering a 2.5 Malibu as there next car to replace the 2008 Impala.
That’s not possible, don’t you read TTAC? Don’t you know that every GM car made during that period exploded the minute you drove it off the lot? Roger Smith personally would remove the bolts from the car and replace them with cat turds, I read it there.
Nice try GM fanboi….
Engine rebuild at 100,000 miles? And you were unhappy? For that era, even, that was pretty amazing. Only Volvos and Honda/Nissan/Toyotas that avoided rusting apart got over 100,000 miles usually.
I have an 1982 Chevy with the HO 60 degree V6 in my garage. 157,000 miles. I am just now replacing the original water pump.
I’d say my dad’s biggest priorities in a vehicle have always been it be relatively easy to repair since he does almost all mechanical repairs himself, and that at least one vehicle in the household have good towing capabilities. Those are two strikes against FWD and 4-cylinder engines. The only vehicles that were foreign marques, FWD or 4-cylinder engines that ever lived at my parents’ house were VW diesels owned by myself and my brother.
I think Plymouth used this name first on these “E” cars in the US? In Canada, I think it had been used on the two previous generations of RWD Dodge Diplomat twins. Or am I confused? I remember that the father of a close friend of my sister had one “E” based Carvelle like the featured car. He was a radiologist but didn’t own extravagant cars. I remember him driving a Fox-body Ford Granada (or was it a LTD II?) before that car and a Chevrolet Celebrity Eurosport wagon after it…
Time to get some coffee now!
When I was in elementary school, my school bus driver had the previous generation RWD Plymouth Caravelle clone of the Dodge Diplomat.
Wow I never knew there were E-body Darts and Volarés. I think the Caravelle and its siblings were decent cars for the time, but as you mentioned, the abundance of name plates, their K-car interiors, and lack of V6 limited their success.
It’s funny to note that pre-facelift 1985 “E-Class” Caravelles had true quad headlights, something that Mercedes would do with its “E-Class” from 1996-2013.
To make things more confusing, there was also a K-body Caravelle coupe in Canada.
The number of permutations of the K-car is mind-numbing – and that is just in the U.S. Having been researching all these permutations, I have concluded Chrysler was brilliant at marketing and playing the shell game during this period. The hardest part is not figuring out what they did so much as trying to explain it in a coherent manner!
Off-hand, I can count at least five different variations of LeBaron between 1980 and 1988. Oldsmobile was bad about using the Cutlass name, but it was at least followed by “Supreme”, “Ciera”, or “Calais”.
And it could have been worse. Up until the last minute, the Chrysler E-Class was to be named the Gran LeBaron.
But to be fair to Chrysler, Oldsmobile spread the Cutlass name further. In 1988, both names peaked in their spread across their respective lines. Chrysler had 3 LeBarons, the sedan and wagon (K body), the coupe/convertible (J body) and the GTS hatchback (H body). But Olds had 4 distinct Cutlasses, the Calais (N body), the Ciera (A body), the Supreme (W body) and the Supreme Classic (G body). I have to admit though that Cutlass Supreme Classic Brougham is quite an impressive name for a car.
I can imagine all this name sharing would get frustrating when it came time to buy repair parts, especially if you owned a Caravelle in Canada.
“The number of permutations of the K-car is mind-numbing – and that is just in the U.S.”
So true. One of the things I remember most about the K-car program is how Chrysler used it to introduce the term “platform-sharing” to the public. Of course that had been going on for decades but I never remember it being bragged about the way Iacocca did. It was a brilliant way to increase sales / revenue / profit without a lot of investment. He wanted people to know that and it worked.
I just LOVE oddball Canadian variations such as this! A fancy compact Plymouth coupe? Well, they sold this from 1983 – 1986. Love the hood ornament, opera windows and white walls! Here’s a photo of a 1986 model.
Curious, none of the FWD Caravelle’s siblings had an optional V6 engine.
To me, this type of car should have taken up the role of the Fury in the Plymouth line-up…just a few years sooner than when this car would hit the American market.
The “K cars” may have saved Chrysler, but the company’s
marketing division looks like it tried very hard to “sink the ship” with their muddled planning.
I see what you mean about the styling — if it had flush headlights, it wouldn’t look half bad, although I think it’s marred a bit by the sharp corners of the front windows’ leading edges and the tacked-on chrome drip rails, which look odd on top of the chrome window reveals.
This was always one of my favorite K variants. I wonder how things might have gone if the 3.3 V6 had come out a few years earlier, say 1987 or so. These probably would have sold a lot better.
Had no idea the Dart and Volare names were ever applies to these. I saw my first M body Caravelle in Canada in 1979. I was really into Mopars but had no idea that the Canadian Caravelle even existed up to that point.
Nothing wrong with these that calling them Reliant wouldn’t have fixed. Seriously, these should have become the bread-and-butter K car by 85-86. Adding more variants wouldn’t have seemed so odd if they didn’t keep making the old ones.
The Lancer/Lebaron GTS were very similar in size to this, but far better looking in every way. It made a forward sloping wedge shape, while this one almost looks like it’s dragging ass by comparison. The Dynasty was far more of a replacement for this car than for the Lancer.
The problem I saw with the Lancer/Lebaron GTS was that they were hatchbacks, and marketed as more deluxe or premium hatchbacks. That was a pretty weak market here in the US. Here hatchbacks were seen as cheap entry level cars and more expensive cars had a “proper trunk”. I would have considered 1 when new but could not afford it.
Of course that all went out the window with the current trend towards crossovers/SUVs.
Great write up! I think the white Caravelle is a good looking car, especially for the time period. Maybe it’s the hubcaps.
All of the K car variants are gone around here. Maybe I’ll see a Sundance every once in a while but that’s it.
This car, and it’s Chrysler E-Class and Dodge 600 cousins came to mind the other day when the ode to the original K car was being made. The original K was pretty short, and had a cramped back seat. It was short enough that it’s proportions always seemed a little off, and a little blocky. I recall reading way back when that the K was actually shortened just a bit to ensure a certain number would fit on rail or truck transports – resulting in car that was a bit stubby.
This car seemed to correct the K’s, err, shortcomings. The proportions are better, the back seat more useable, and possibly a slightly roomier (taller) trunk. The dad of a girl I knew in my college years had the E-Class that I drove a few times. The experience was a lot like a scaled down GM B-body – which is pretty high compliment for a car designed with economy in mind.
Looking back, I’m also surprised it didn’t sell better, but its very conservative looks could easily have been introduced in 1977 right along with the GM B-body. And, by 1983, the economy and fuel prices had improved enough that the GM-B body and Ford Panthers were experiencing a renewal in popularity that continued through the ’80s.
For conservative buyers, it was go big or go home. GM’s new FWD A bodies seemed more modern for people wanting something smaller and more economical, and the ’86 Taurus assured that this car was yesterday’s news.
The Caravelle is the K-car I’d want.
There was a Chinese-made Audi 100 with a Chrysler 2.2 engine and this thing displaced what would have been a Chinese Caravelle? No wonder Lee hated potato cars so much. He probably took those Taurus clinic results over to China and gave Hongji the same locker room talk he gave Lutz only they were smart enough not to believe it and put it in a book.
After the presentation of the Taurus clinic scores I’m sure it went something like this…
Chinese execs (slapping their knees then rolling on the floor) : “HAHAHA you expect us to believe the Dynasty is better looking than the Taurus?!”
Iacocca: “Well no but you have to admit it was a pretty good try. I’m tired of making K-cars and we need the cash.”
Chinese execs: “Yeah, nice job, but even we know you don’t just look at the mean. Besides it’s a JV with VW and they are calling the shots.”
Iacocca: “I gotta couple bottles of Chivas back at the hotel, whaddya say we blow this joint and talk about the Germans?”
Chinese execs: “We thought you’d never ask! Will you tell us stories about the Mustang?”
Iacocca: “Sure, and I got some new ones for you too.”
My best friend’s sister had several crappy cars in the late 80’s. They were constantly breaking down and were basically pieces of crap. In 1990 her dad found her a mint condition, low mileage 1986 Caravelle. It was light blue with matching velour interior. I remember her calling it “the old fart’s car” when he brought it home. But she soon respected that car, realizing it was a very comfortable and reliable car, and she ended up loving it. She unfortunately got rear-ended and the Caravalle was totalled. It only had about 50,000 miles on it. I remember seeing it smashed and feeling bad for that car. To this day, she often mentions that Caravelle and what a nice car it was.
This is probably the best K car derivative besides the first generation Caravan. I like it better then the sister 600 due to the grill differences. While i have always liked the looks of the Aries/Reliant/TC station wagon, the sedans looked a bit odd with the short stubby look they gave off. The 600/Caravelle looked much better due to it having correct proportions.
I am surprised that Plymouth did not offer the car in 1987 and 1988 with a V6 as one was offered in the Caravan starting in 1987.
I always did think these E-bodies were far better proportioned than the “short” K-cars that they were based on. Sure, they’re narrow, but the extra length works better overall, and both the sharp-edged and the rounded-corner styling seem to work well with this body size. I see a white Caravelle not unlike the featured car around Richmond from time to time.
These really did seem like a “coulda been a contender” car with a V6…I guess some folks were just scared of turbo? There seemed to be a pretty decent amount of LeBarons taken with the turbo motor though. Maybe those sold to a different market segment.
Also, were these actually replaced by the Acclaim? Maybe it’s a case of eyes deceiving me, but I always saw these cars as predecessors of the Dynasty.
That Gran Fury-lookin’ thing may have been the first *Plymouth* Caravelle, but the ORIGINAL Caravelle is from Renault.
Yeah a little rear engined sports car, but arent the bones of these K cars also from Renault?
Incidentally, there was some Chrysler / Renault overlap though, just not on the K-based cars: after Chrysler bought AMC in 1987, they sold the Dodge Monaco and Eagle Premier for several years, which were lightly massaged versions of the Renault 25. In turn, the same architecture was used as the basis for the subsequent LH platform cars of 1993 (Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde, Eagle Vision. Chrysler’s reasoning appears to have been that since they already had access to a reasonably modern FWD architecture, why not start there rather than spend the money on a clean sheet “new” K car? MY1993 was pretty much the end of the line for all the K-based stuff, though the minivans held on until the 1996 redesign.
To me the Caravelle was a truly forgettable car. So forgettable that I had forgotten about it till I saw this. I wish someone would do something on the Aspen/Volare, which I do remember very well. RWD, and available as a 2 door.
If you use the search function and type in “Aspen” or “Volare”, you’ll find that these have been featured in several articles, such as this one:
These probably would have sold better if they hadn’t just discontinued the poorly-named E-Class and then suddenly have it reappear as the Caravelle, with a new grille and taillights, in the same dealership. It was hard to fool even the non-observant with that very weak shell game.
Of all the varieties of K-cars, these Caravelles and the Dodge 600 are almost never seen any more. Of course, the Chrysler E-class would be even more rare. I like the proportions and I like it in white.
While the M body was from “a relationship Ma Mopar doesn’t like to talk about”, it did manage to remain for sale at least 10 some years after Lido took over. He got some use from it, in fact it helped pay down loans. 🙂
Undoubtedly, especially the Chrysler Fifth Avenue variety.
To add, my aunt needed a new car in winter ’86, and looked at K cars, but were too small. C-P dealer had an ’85 Caravelle demo that was just right, i think. But then a neighbor who worked at Buick store got her a deal on a brand new Century, and the hook was “It’s a Buick for a little bit more”.
She also kept saying ‘What’s a Cara-whatever?’ Caravelle sounds like a candy bar or a Chevy.
Always liked the Caravelles. Such a nice, well-balanced, refreshingly no-nonsense design. I used to own a ’87 Reliant and the Caravelle always seemed like a nice incremental step up. When my Reliant was wrecked, I considered finding a Caravelle to replace it. Unfortunately, I was talked into buying a certain rather conveniently available Colt Vista instead, and forever after regretted THAT unfortunate expediency.
One that always intrigued me is when siblings marry siblings, such as two brothers getting hitched to two sisters.
“Double cousins” is the correct term for their related offspring.
I once knew a family where this happened, in a little country town. When I arrived on the scene after fifty-odd years, Mr. C. was living in a nice house on one side of town, Mrs. C in a little unit on the other. They both explained it to me in case I got the wrong idea: two brothers had married two sisters. He’d lost his wife (who’d been Mrs. C.’s sister), and she’d lost her husband (Mr. C.’s brother).
Any children either family had had had left the district long before – but I bet that would have been confusing at school!
(I didn’t set out to write a sentence with three ‘hads’!) 🙂
I remember our neighbor owned the same kind of car in a dark blue metallic color and he would let my mother drive it when he was at work and I remember it being a good car, I don’t get why they’ve never offered these cars with a V6 engine like they did with its competition (Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable), (Chevrolet Celebrity/Pontiac 6000), I always feel a V6 engine would give this car a sub-10 second mark in the 0-60mph run.
I just can’t find any room in my heart for any of the K cars…except the game changing Voyager. I know Lee’s baby saved their bacon for awhile, but the sheer blandness and badge engineering is just too much for me. They may be rare in 50 years, but they will never be valuable.
These Plymouth Caravelle’s looked awesome with the dealer installed faux convertible top. Or even better with vinyl landau top that covered the small c pillar window. Don’t forget the illuminated opera lamps !! Just kidding. The unadorned room is what made this car look good.
When I was running a utility billing office and meter reading department years ago, I bought one that looked just like the white one here. It proved to be reliable, comfortable and a fairly pleasant vehicle all around. I never had a complaint from any of the meter reading crew about it.
The Plymouth mascot of the 30s and 40s was a stylized version of the “Mayflower”, the ship that took the Pilgrim Fathers to America in 1620. The Mayflower was a Galleon, not a caravel.The galleon had three or more masts with square sails on all except the last mast , and a caravel generally had three masts with triangular or “lateen” sails on all the masts.The caravel was practically extinct in the late 16th century, but Arabic shipbuilders incorporated the design of the caravel into their ships that are called “Dhows”. Some are still in existance today.I have a Plymouth Mayflower mascot in my emblem collection, a nicely done art deco design in color with a clear top. As far as the car is concerned, the only one I ever saw was a neighbors. Maybe I wasn`t looking hard enough.
When I was in middle school circa 1991, the principal’s secretary had this very same car–color and everything. So the Caravelle will always remind me of Mrs. Bertram. 🙂
A friend of mine bought a maroon ’83(?) Caravelle as his first new car. We gave him no end of crap over it, as he was probably the youngest buyer at 25 of one anywhere, or close to it. It spent a lot of time at the dealer for many many issues. About 6 months along, it got towed to the dealer when the battery went dead again, and was never seen again. It was taken by some kids and trashed to the point it was a write off, and the dealer called and told him, and he had to admit, he was happy it was gone. We were shocked, to put it mildly when he turned up with a blue ’84 Dodge 600 as it’s replacement! We thought he had lost his mind, and maybe he had, as the 600 was even worse than the Caravelle. The 600 soured my friend on Chrysler built vehicles for about 20 years, until he bought his ’05 Caravan, that he still has with 200K plus miles on it.
The Plymouth lineup in Canada was very confusing by 1983. We had THREE different cars named Caravelle at the same time: the original rear-drive M-body sedan, now renamed Caravelle Salon (Gran Fury in the U.S.), the new FWD stretched K-car (i.e. Chrysler E-Class / Dodge 600), AND a dressed-up K-car 2-door (i.e. LeBaron / Dodge 400/600 coupe). Yes – just imagine trying to buy the right items at a parts counter then!
Almost bought one exactly like this year and color here 5 years ago. Advertised at $1500 at 67,000 miles and it drove fine. Kind of a lark to add to my collection. Problem for the owner is that it wouldn’t pass smog after being repaired twice and failing twice. I offered to take it off his hands at $1000 and deal with the repairs myself which dealt with the very leaky throttle body. I knew of an NOS body. He declined and continued to bring it in for repairs costing him money every time. Oh, well…
It would have been nice to see one of these on the side of the highway, hood open, back on the day, instead of the more common “K” variants. Nice to have something different to count while on a long road trip. Did these have the “Blue Smoke” as standard or was it an option?
Think the blue smoke was a Mitsubishi patent.
> Hongqi did go on to produce Audi 100 based cars powered by their version of the Chrysler 2.2 liter engine. How’s that for expanding the gene pool?
Since this writeup was originally posted, 23AndMe For Cars has become available exposing these distant relations. Who knows, the Caravelle may be fourth cousins with the Ferrari 250 GT…
These looked exactly like the fox ltd/marquis and very similar to the Fairmont, but more graceful.
Chrysler didn’t have enough money to develop a v6 in the early 80s and also everyone thought gas would be $4 a gallon by 1984. The 4 and turbo 4 really were adequate for this size and weight of car; by today’s standards, and the previous generations standards, the k was extraordinarily lightweight. BUT cutting all that weight made it feel a little tinny, partly, and insubstantial. A good k car was at best adequate and never really a willing performer. There were well sorted out versions of the a car, and the a cars could be equipped to be stylish and luxurious, but the k never really got much fancier than this. The new yorker was the top.of the line but there weren’t a lot of midrange cars like for the a car.
Yes. A rwd caprice had a totally different feel and dynamic with lots of creamy torque, happier suspension and driving dynamics, and a more coordinated feel than any k or any fwd 80s car.
These cars look like the kind of anonymous car used in adverts when they need a car but don´t want to show a particular brand. A few Japanese cars of the same period reached this kind of characterlessness which comes from an indistinct profile and somewhat fussy detailing that acts like noise to make the car seem “blurry”. It is astonishing to think someone felt this stodge was the best way to make use of investment resources.
I’d happily drive one of these K-Caravelles with one simple change. Pull out the 2.2 and replace it with the 2.5. My 1989 LeBaron Coupe with the 2.5 (no turbo) while no hot rod was a very pleasant car to drive and excellent gas mileage. Had no problem going up long hills with the A/C on.
In 1986, Honda had its Accord, Toyota had its Camry, and Ford had its new Taurus. So no way would I have selected this big K Car over any of those. Chrysler needed to present an entirely new car, and this was the best they could do, sadly.
Sure it is a decent little car, but in 1986, the market wanted new, not this.
My Dad’s last Mopar (his first car was a ’56 Plymouth Plaza he bought new) was a new ’86 Dodge 600…interestingly, his prior car was also a Dodge (he had an ’81 Omni) then he went on to get a trio of Sables (’89, ’94, and ’96) followed by another pair of Impalas (’01 and ’06…which my Mother still owns as he has since departed.
I didn’t shop for the car with him (maybe too busy?) but I did go up to Georgetown Tx when he picked it up at a small dealer. Now there are just mega-dealers, but back then we got it from a family dealership. I think he bought the ’86 partly so he could deduct sales tax on his federal taxes (think this was last year you could do that) and also because the Omni, bought up in Vermont, didn’t have air conditioning, and after several years in Central Texas, I’m sure he was tired of the heat (though back then traffic jams were rare, and you could keep reasonably cool with windows down).
He didn’t have the 600 long, not because he didn’t like it, but in ’89 my middle sister borrowed it when her car was being worked on, and totalled it in an accident…she was hurt a little, but my Dad had to get another car, he decided on the first of 3 Mercury Sables, We also stopped buying wagons around this time (partly because the manufacturers stopped making them, and partly because only my youngest sister was still at home, so didn’t need the space so much, from then on till he passed, that’s all he bought. Not sure what caused him not to buy Dodge (or Plymouth) in 1989..