- 1984 Dodge Caravan- Credit: Hagerty

      Why We Should Appreciate the Original Minivan

      No I have not lost my marbles. This car was so important for the fate of some of the modern cars we love today so we should show some respect for it.

      I know, I can hear all you petrolheads screaming and see you sending me hateful threats in the comments right now just by looking at this title and you think I've lost my marbles. I promise you I haven't. Please let me explain my reasoning.

      To start off with, I'm not saying that I like the minivan because I most certainly do not. I hate them. They are dull, slow, and just the furthest thing from cool unless you have a 1,000+bhp Bisimoto tuned Honda Odyssey. That said I have to admit that they are good vehicles for any normal non petrolhead family which is sadly very common and the original Chrysler minivans (Dodge Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country/ Plymouth Voyager) are so vital to why some of the cars we love today exist.

      Let me put this into context for you. Before late 1983, American families didn't have any good mode of transportation. Safety and emission standards forced American automakers to go smaller with everything. Smaller engines, and small compact designs were ruining the practicality of most cars. The most practical car for American families before the minivan was the Station wagon. The new station wagons were either to small, or if they were big enough to fit your family and luggage, they were not very fuel efficient and not easy to drive. Vans and mini buses could be a hassle to drive because of their lager size and poor fuel economy. People were looking for a vehicle that had the practicality of a station wagon and the drivability of a car.

      Now let's talk about Chrysler who brought the incredible minivan into the world. In the late 70s and early 80s, they were in financial ruin, and about to go out of business. Lee Iacocca had taken over and started some turnaround after a 1979 government bailout and the success of the gutless K-Platform cars. Even with the success of the K-Cars it would still take years for Chrysler to pay back the government loans but Lee Iacocca had one more trick up sleeve. Thus came the minivan. It was built in late 1983 for the 1984 model year. It was cheap with enough room to fit the family. It had the fuel economy and drivability of a car and because it was built on the K-Platform, it stayed relatively small. It wasn't very good looking, or very good performance wise, but most of the world isn't full of car enthusiasts like me us. Most importantly, it single handedly brought Chrysler out of debt 7 years sooner than expected.

      So how in the world does this affect some of the most popular cars today? The answer is simple really. Look at the poor financial situation Chrysler was in. The government had to bail them out. This put Chrysler in debt because they had to loan a large amount of money. If the minivan never came along, we might not have cars like the Dodge Hellcats, or the Challenger Demon. The Dodge Viper may have never been made. There is no doubt that the minivan isn't exciting in any way shape or form, but if it was never created, Chrysler products might still be as boring as they were 35 years ago.

      Join In

      Comments (11)

      • Whoa. Chrysler didn't "invent" the mini-van. I wouldn't say it was the first to produce one for the consumer market in the US, either. If I remember correctly the design concept of the Chrysler K based minivan originated at Ford.

        So, in a twisted way, a design that originated at Ford saved Chrysler, along with a lot of government money. Add Daimler and finally Fiat. That's a lot of saving.

        The problem now is minivans are NOT mini. They're as big as the old "prairie schooner" station wagons. The last mini minivan in the states was the Mazda5. I happen to like small minivans and "wagons". They just have a stigma in the states.

          1 year ago
        • Lee Iacocca was the one who pitched the idea to Ford but they shot the idea down. Same with the K-Car actually so while the ideas were pitched to Ford, the inventor of the minivan did it at Chrysler after Ford fires him so that’s why I said...

          Read more
            1 year ago
        • I do agree that minivans are no longer mini either.

            1 year ago
      • My mom had a 1987 with the 4 cylinder. Called it the powerless wonder.....lol

          1 year ago
      • E63 AMG wagon. I rest my case.

          1 year ago
        • Not really. Bisimoto Honda Odyssey, Mercedes R63 AMG, Vauxhall Zafira VXR and Toyota Sienna R-Tuned. I rest my case.

            1 year ago
        • Ones a tuner, one looks like a drunk pug and the others aren’t available in the US.

            1 year ago
      • Loved my Chrysler Town & Country, but I needed something with more towing capacity so I had to let it go. If they could make a minivan that can haul a 4x8 sheet of plywood inside and can tow more than 3500lbs and was 4 wheel drive with a low range transfer case I would be happy.

        I think station wagons have a place if they would make one that was in between a 1990’s Ford Escort wagon and the old giant Ford Country Squire that wasn’t as low as the Dodge Magnum.

          1 year ago
      • My great grand parents had a blue town and country I remember well. I love these but I can’t help but have a bad taste in my mouth since they helped kill the wagon. The station wagon, I believe, is still the answer to almost everybody’s vehicular needs.

          1 year ago
        • I disagree. The minivan does everything a station wagon does but better. Everything is easier to access thanks to the sliding doors and no seats need to be folded down to get to the last row. Getting to the back seats in a station wagon or can be a...

          Read more
            1 year ago


      Watch: Richard Hammond takes his dog for a walk in the new Defender
      You pushed James May too far...
      This 1980's Audi Quattro would make the perfect retro daily driver
      The fastest-selling watch on Thanksgiving day