CC Capsule: 1982 Nissan Caravan (E23) SGL – Wassup, Homy?

The name Century has been attached to two very different things on either end of the Pacific. Likewise, Caravan can refer to both Mopar minivans and the Nissan not-so-mini van we have here. But whereas the Dodge one was pretty groundbreaking and heralded, alongside its Plymouth and Chrysler brethren (and the unrelated Renault Espace), the people-carrier craze of the ‘80s / ‘90s, Nissan’s Caravan was far more conservative. But guess which one is still being made today?

The Nissan, of course. And it’s way older, which perhaps explains why it’s so old-school. Cab-over, 4-cyl. engine, RWD, leaf-sprung live axle – a ‘60s van for the ‘80s. No wonder they sold these as the Datsun Urvan in certain markets.

This is the second generation (1980-86) Nissan Caravan, distributed via the Nissan Bluebird sales network. As per many JDM Nissan products of this era, it had a twin brother called the Homy (sold through the Nissan Prince Stores), which was the actual origin of the lineage.

When the Nissan-Prince merger took place in the late ‘60s, the 1st gen Homy (1965-70, above) was deemed a better vehicle than Nissan’s own Caball, silly names notwithstanding. So the Prince vehicle became the basis for Nissan’s larger vans.

Nissan Caravan coach / minibus 1983 brochure excerpt


Broadly speaking, the Caravan/Homy range was divided in two: the cargo van and the passenger coach / minibus. Within those categories, there were a lot of trim levels and layouts available, as well as a high roof. In mid-1983 came a pretty thorough facelift, complete with quad headlights and a redesigned grille, as can be seen above.

This one is an earlier model though, with the 1980-83 front end. Just as well, as the quads make the Caravans look a little less distinctive. It’s a near top-of-the-line SGL 7-seater coach; the most luxurious one in this era was dubbed “SGL Silk Road” – they really milked this Caravan thing.

Nissan retired the Homy nameplate in 1999, but kept the Caravan on the order books through to today. The current iteration, the E26, is the fifth generation, launched back in 2012 and given a thorough facelift last year. As shown above, today’s fully-optioned Caravan is the Autech version. There are a lot more toys in this one and it’s quite a bit longer than the E23, but it’s still rear-wheel-driven, leaf-sprung and live-axled. Hey, if it ain’t broken…

Jumping back into the early ‘80s and straight into a velour-upholstered world of browns and beiges. Deluxe variants such as this SGL were routinely ordered with the 3-speed automatic, which usually entails a 2-litre petrol 4-cyl. (i.e. the most powerful engine available) – originally the H20, but changed to the 105hp Z20 for 1982.

Base models and vans were more likely to be fitted with a middle seat and a 5-speed on the column, either with the 2.2 / 2.3 litre Diesel or the 1.6 / 1.8 litre petrol 4-cyl. – the engines grew a bit over the course of this generation. Not sure why there is a Homy emblem on the tailgate here. Some sort of Homyage, perhaps?

Gotta love that little porthole on the passenger side door. The amount of glass area compared to the 21st Century Caravan is impressive. This is one minibus that gives its passengers something to look out of.


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Curbside Outtake: 1973 – 80 Nissan Caravan (E20) – The Box the Toaster Came In, by Jim Brophy