Chrysler minivans (S)

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Chrysler minivans (S)
1985 Voyager LE.jpg
Manufacturer Chrysler Corporation
Also called Dodge Caravan
Plymouth Voyager
Chrysler Voyager (Europe)
Chrysler Town & Country
Dodge Grand Caravan (LWB)
Plymouth Grand Voyager (LWB)
Chrysler Grand Voyager (LWB, Europe)
Production November 2, 1983[1] – 1990
Model years 1984–1990
Assembly Windsor Assembly, Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Designer Bob Hubbach (1980)[2][3][4]
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door minivan
Layout Transverse front-engine, front-wheel drive
Platform Chrysler S platform
Engine 2.2 L K I4
2.5 L K I4
2.5 L Turbo I4 TURBO
2.6 L Mitsubishi G54B I4
3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6
3.3 L EGA V6
Transmission 4-speed A460 manual
5-speed manual
3-speed A413 automatic
3-speed A470 automatic
3-speed A670 automatic
4-speed A604 automatic
Wheelbase 1984–1988 SWB: 112.1 in (2,847 mm)
LWB: 119.1 in (3,025 mm)
1989–1990 SWB & C/V: 112 in (2,844.8 mm)
Length SWB & C/V: 175.9 in (4,468 mm)
LWB: 190.5 in (4,839 mm)
1989–1990 LE SWB: 177.3 in (4,503 mm)
1989–1990 LWB LE: 191.9 in (4,874 mm)
C/V Extended: 190.6 in (4,841 mm)
Width 1984–1988: 69.5 in (1,765 mm)
1989–1990: 72 in (1,829 mm)
Height 1984–1988 SWB: 64.4 in (1,636 mm)
1987–1988 LWB: 65 in (1,651 mm)
C/V: 64.2 in (1,631 mm)
1989–1990 SWB: 64.6 in (1,641 mm)
1989–1990 LWB : 64.8 in (1,646 mm)
Successor Chrysler minivans (AS)

The first-generation Chrysler minivans are a series of minivans produced and marketed by the Chrysler Corporation in North American and Europe from 1984 to 1990. Sold in both passenger and cargo configurations, the series is the first of six generations of Chrysler minivans.

At its November 1983 launch, Chrysler introduced the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, with the extended-length Grand Caravan and Grand Voyager introduced in 1987. For 1990, the minivan was added to the Chrysler brand, adopting the Chrysler Town & Country nameplate. For export, Chrysler sold the Chrysler Voyager/Grand Voyager, competing against the Renault Espace (which began life as a Talbot, part of the former Chrysler Europe[5])

Though mechanically similar to the Chrysler K-Cars, the first-generation minivans are based on a distinct body architecture, designated the Chrysler S platform, after beginning life as the T-115 project during their development.[6]

Launched ahead of chief competitors Chevrolet Astro/GMC Safari and Ford Aerostar, the first-generation Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager effectively created the modern minivan segment in North America, with many later North American minivans adopting a similar body configuration.

Background and development[edit]

A 1986 Dodge Caravan at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

The development of what became the Chrysler minivans began life in the early 1970s, as both Ford Motor Company and the truck division of Dodge began separate projects on "garageable vans". Intended as a more powerful, safer-handling alternative to the Volkswagen Microbus, both companies sought to create vehicles capable as a second car.[6] The Dodge project ended with the creation of a clay model; Ford would create the 1972 Ford Carousel protoype, based on the Ford Econoline. Supported by both Lee Iaccoca and Henry Ford II, the Carousel prototype did not reach production, facing internal opposition from other Ford executives.

At the end of 1977, development of Chrysler minivans restarted with four main goals, with a planned 1982 model year launch.[6]

  1. The ability to park in a standard-size garage
  2. Car-like NVH
  3. Low, flat load floor
  4. Removable rear seats (ability to carry 4x8 sheet of building material on floor)

Although both the front-wheel drive K-Cars and L-body (Omni/Horizon) were being considered as donor platforms, Chrysler also allowed consideration of rear-wheel drive. Ultimately, the L-body was ruled out, as it was considered too light-duty for either the size of the vehicle or its planned six-cylinder engine.[6]

In 1978, both Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich were fired from Ford Motor Company, joining Chrysler Corporation. The same year, the truck engineering division of Dodge was merged within its car counterpart of Chrysler.[6] During 1978, Chrysler began research across the United States, seeking what features customers desired in a potential minivan, finding agreement in its planned goals.[6] Though potential customers found concept sketches "ugly", Chrysler still found a potential market of nearly 1 million vehicles per year, with Chrysler selling 215,000 of them.[6]

By 1979, Chrysler chose front-wheel drive for the minivan project, codenamed "T-115".[6] Though the van would share its transverse engine and transmission with the K-cars, it would be based on a separate body structure.[6] Approved by Lee Iaccoca at the end of 1979, the T-115 project would cost $500 million to produce, funded as part of the $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees given to Chrysler.

From their 1979 approval to their 1984 launch, the Chrysler S-chassis minivans would undergo several major redesigns. Originally intended to use 4 sedan-style doors (similar to a station wagon), Chrysler changed to two sliding doors, claiming better parking-lot access. The design was later changed to a single sliding door, as Chrysler wanted to market the van to commercial buyers; while engineers wanted to make the left-side door an option, the tooling complexity was claimed to be too expensive.[6] During development, the configuration of the rear door was also contentious, with a liftgate winning out over a station wagon-style tailgate.[6] On the exterior, in 1981, the side windows were redesigned to become flush with the body; while requiring a major redesign of components and tooling, the design change allowed for a reduction of wind noise and drag.[6] To further reduce costs, a number of visible interior components were shared with the Dodge Aries/Plymouth Reliant, including the instrument panel, interior controls, radio, and various trim items.


Initially, the Chrysler minivans were sold by Chrysler's Plymouth and Dodge divisions as the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan, respectively, in one short-wheelbase, three door minivan bodystyle. Both the Voyager and Caravan were offered in three trim levels: an unnamed base model, mid-grade SE, and high-end LE, the latter bearing simulated woodgrain paneling.

Base vans came equipped for five passengers in two rows of seating. The LE came with seven passengers standard in three rows of seating. The base van had two bucket seats with attached armrests and open floor space between them in the front, a three-person bench seat in the second row. The seven-passenger came with two bucket seats with attached armrests and open floor space between them in the front, a two-person bench seat in the second row, and a three-person bench seat in the back row. The two bench seats in the rear were independently removable, and the large three-person bench could also be installed in the second row location via a second set of attachment points on the van's floor, ordinarily hidden with snap-in plastic covers. This configuration allowed for conventional five person seating with a sizable cargo area in the rear. The latching mechanisms for the benches were easy to operate though removing and replacing the seats typically required two adults. A front low-back 60/40 split bench, accommodating a third front passenger in the middle, was offered in the SE trim level in 1985 only, allowing for a maximum of eight passengers. This configuration was subsequently dropped. On base models, the front buckets were low-back items, upholstered with plain cloth or vinyl. On SEs, the buyer could choose between low-back buckets with deluxe cloth or high-back buckets in upgraded vinyl. LEs came standard with high-back front buckets, upholstered in either luxury cloth or luxury vinyl. In 1985 and 1986, there was also a five-passenger version with a back seat that could be folded flat with the pull of a handle into a bed that filled the rear compartment from the back of the front seats to the rear. This option was known as the Magic Camper. The Magic Camper back seat had an extra rear-facing cushion that formed the back-most section of the bed when folded flat and the seat, though very heavy, was removable. The Magic Camper option included a tent that attached magnetically to the side of the vehicle allowing access in and out of the sliding side door.

Access to the rear rows of seating was by a large passenger-side sliding door enabling easy access in confined situations, e.g., parking. Because only one sliding door was offered, the smaller 2nd row bench seat was shifted to the driver's side of the van, facilitating passenger access to the 3rd row seat. To facilitate variable cargo storage behind the rear seat, the seat could be adjusted forward in two increments, the first of which removed roughly 6 inches (150 mm) of legroom from the back row passengers, and the second of which would push the bench all the way to the back of the 2nd row, making the seats unusable. The seat back of the rear bench could also be folded forward, providing a flat cargo shelf. The smaller 2nd row bench was not adjustable, nor foldable; it could only be removed entirely.

Cargo access to the rear was via a hatchback, similar to the one on the K platform station wagons. The hatch was hinged at the top and held open by gas struts.

Safety features consisted of 3-point seat belts for the front two passengers, with simple lap belts for the rear five. Seats on base models and cloth-trimmed SEs had no headrests, which were not mandated due to the van's "light truck" legal status. However, the two front seats were equipped with non-adjustable headrests on the LE model and in conjunction with vinyl upholstery on the SE. Side-impact reinforcements were mandated, and were at all seating positions front and rear.[6]

A cargo version of the Caravan, called the Mini Ram Van, was also introduced in 1984, renamed the Caravan C/V for 1989 and discontinued after 1995. It was available either with the short- or long-wheelbase models. Unique to the Caravan C/V was the option of either having the traditional hatch door in the back or the optional swing-out bi-parting doors (with or without windows), similar to those of more traditional cargo vans. These doors were made of fiberglass and required the C/V vans to be "drop shipped", as these doors were custom installed by another vendor.[citation needed] Also based on the Mini Ram and C/V were aftermarket conversion vans sold through official Chrysler dealers and from the conversion companies themselves.

1989 Dodge Grand Caravan
European Chrysler Voyager

The vans were updated for 1987, receiving new headlamps, a new grille and new taillamps, with some minor interior revisions and a new optional V6 engine. Seating arrangements were now limited to seating for five standard and for seven optional on the base and SE, and seating for seven with high-back front buckets standard on the SE and LE. Deluxe cloth upholstery was now standard on base and all SE models, with the luxury vinyl optional on SEs. On LEs, luxury cloth came standard and for the first time, leather seats were available on the LE models. In May 1987, the vans became available in a long wheelbase variant, marketed as the Grand Voyager and Grand Caravan, which allowed more cargo space behind the rear seat. The Grand Caravan was available in all trim levels, while the Grand Voyager was only available in SE and LE trims. Later in 1987, for the 1988 model year, the Chrysler began exporting the minivans to Europe, where it was sold as the Chrysler Voyager. Despite the name, the European Voyager was a rebranded Dodge Caravan, with all the Caravan's trim and styling features, that was adopted to meet European safety and emissions standards. The European Voyager had all the same options and equipment as the Caravan, though the V6 engine was not available as it didn't meet European emission standards[citation needed].

1990 Chrysler Town & Country

In 1989, the Caravan and Voyager received new front and rear bumpers, as well as new top-of-the-line trims of ES and LX, respectively. Additionally, a luxury Chrysler Town & Country model was launched. Originally intended to be a 1989 model,[7] the Chrysler Town & Country minivan was ultimately introduced as a 1990 model in the spring of 1989. The S-platform Town & Country was the first 1990 model year Chrysler minivan as the Dodge and Plymouth counterparts produced alongside the Town & Country continued under the previous model year until June 1989. Sharing the body of the long-wheelbase (LWB) Grand Voyager/Grand Caravan's Chrysler S platform, the Town & Country was externally distinguished by its chrome waterfall grille, crystal pentastar hood ornament, standard woodgrain applique, grooved lower body cladding (a stretched version of that found on the Caravan ES), and 15" lace-spoke aluminum wheels.[8] Additionally, Town & Country was only available in two exterior colors. Initially, it was available exclusively in Bright White Clearcoat; Black Clearcoat was added in June 1989, coinciding with the release of the 1990 Caravans and Voyagers.[9] As the Chrysler Corporation's most luxurious minivan, the Town & Country came standard with nearly every feature available on Plymouth and Dodge minivans in addition to some exclusive amenities of its own. This included unique gathered leather seating surfaces and door trim panels, front and rear air conditioning, power windows, power locks, an Infinity sound system, seven-passenger seating, luggage rack, and an electronically controlled four-speed automatic transmission.[10] Early vehicles were equipped with 3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6 engines, while those produced from June 1989 onward received an upgrade to Chrysler's in-house 3.3 L EGA V6. As all vehicles equipped with the 3.0 L engine were produced alongside 1989 Dodge and Plymouth models, the United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies such vans as 1989 models rather than 1990s, despite the VINs indicating otherwise.[11] Total S-platform Town & Country production was 1,789 units in 1989 and 3,615 in 1990, making this model of the Town & Country as the most obscure of all the Chrysler minivans.[12]


For the first three years of production, two engines were offered – both inline-4 engines with two barrel carburetors. The base 2.2L was borrowed from the Chrysler K-cars, and produced 96 hp (72 kW) horsepower. The higher performance fuel-injected version of the 2.2L engine later offered in the K-cars was never offered in the Caravan, and the 2-bbl version would remain the base power plant until mid-1987. Alongside the 2.2L, an optional Mitsubishi 2.6L engine was available, producing 104 hp (78 kW) horsepower.

In mid-1987, the base 2.2L I4 was replaced with a fuel-injected 2.5L I4, which produced a respectable 100 hp (75 kW), while the Mitsubishi G54B I4 was replaced with the new fuel-injected 3.0L Mitsubishi V-6 producing 136 hp (101 kW) in March of that year.

Fender badge originally used on V6 equipped minivans

Shortly thereafter in model year 1989, a more powerful engine became optional, with a turbocharged version of the base 2.5L producing 150 hp (112 kW). Revisions to the Mitsubishi V-6 upped its output to 142 hp (106 kW) that same year, and in 1990 a new 150 hp (110 kW) 3.3 L V-6 was added to the option list. The V6 engines became popular as sales of the 2.5 turbo dwindled and it was dropped at the end of the year.

None of the V6 engines, nor the turbocharged 2.5L were available on the European Chrysler Voyager. The Chrysler Town & Country was only available with one engine option, the Mitsubishi 3.0L V6 until June 1989, when it was replaced by the newly introduced 3.3L V6.

  • 1984–1987 2.2 L K I4, 96 hp (72 kW), 119 lb⋅ft (161 N⋅m)
  • 1984–1987 2.6 L Mitsubishi G54B I4, 104 hp (78 kW), 142 lb⋅ft (193 N⋅m)
  • 1987½–1990 2.5 L K I4, 100 hp (75 kW), 135 lb⋅ft (183 N⋅m)
  • 1987½–1988 3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6, 136 hp (101 kW), 168 lb⋅ft (228 N⋅m)
  • 1989–1990 2.5 L Turbo I4, 150 hp (110 kW), 180 lb⋅ft (240 N⋅m)
  • 1989–1990 3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6, 142 hp (106 kW), 173 lb⋅ft (235 N⋅m)
  • 1990 3.3 L EGA V6, 150 hp (110 kW), 180 lb⋅ft (240 N⋅m)


Both a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission and a five-speed manual were available with most inline-4 engines, including the turbocharged 2.5 L (this was a rare combination). Manual transmissions were not available on 2.6L Mitsubishi 4-cylinder models, V6 models of the passenger Caravan, but were an option on the Mini Ram Van and Caravan C/V's long wheelbase models with a 3.0 L V6[citation needed].

V-6 engines were only offered with the venerable fully hydraulically operated TorqueFlite, until the computer controlled Ultradrive 4-speed automatic became available in 1989. The Ultradrive offered much better fuel economy and responsiveness, particularly when paired with the inline-4 engine. However, it suffered from reliability problems, usually stemming from what is known as "gear hunt" or "shift busyness", resulting in premature wear of the internal clutches. It also required an uncommon type of automatic transmission fluid and is not clearly labeled as such, leading many owners to use the more common Dexron II rather than the specified "Mopar ATF+3", resulting in transmission damage and eventual failure.

The Ultradrive received numerous design changes in subsequent model years to improve reliability,[original research?] and many early model transmissions would eventually be retrofitted or replaced with the updated versions by dealers, under warranty. These efforts were mostly successful, and most first-generation Caravans eventually got an updated transmission.[original research?]


Original commercials for the 1984 Voyager featured magician Doug Henning[13] as a spokesperson to promote the Voyager "Magic Wagon's" versatility, cargo space, low step-in height, passenger volume, and maneuverability. Later commercials in 1989 featured rock singer Tina Turner.[14] Canadian commercials in 1990 featured pop singer Celine Dion.[15]


  1. ^ Hyde, Charles K. (2003). Riding the Roller Coaster: a history of the Chrysler Corporation. Wayne State University Press. p. 267. ISBN 978-0-8143-3091-3. Retrieved March 4, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Bob Hubbach". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2015-10-06. 
  3. ^ "YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2016-03-14. 
  4. ^ "United States Patent: D286865". November 25, 1986. Archived from the original on October 18, 2015. Retrieved 2015-10-06. 
  5. ^ Sorth, Lennart. "The Matra/Renault Espace". Retrieved 2017-10-10. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "A Brief History of the Chrysler Minivan". Allpar. Retrieved May 11, 2014. 
  7. ^ Early sales material for the model referring to it as a 1989 model, retrieved on 2014-12-13.
  8. ^ "1990 Chrysler Showroom Brochure" pg. 20-21, retrieved on 2011–06–18.
  9. ^ "1990 Chrysler Showroom Brochure" pg. 30, retrieved on 2011–06–18.
  10. ^ Chrysler Sales Material "1990 Chrysler Sales Brochure", published by the Chrysler Motors Corporation
  11. ^ "Fuel Economy of the 1989 Chrysler Town and Country", retrieved on 2015-04-17.
  12. ^ Wilson, Gerard (June 2013). "Chrysler Cars and Production Numbers, United States". Allpar. Retrieved March 6, 2016. 
  13. ^ "1984 plymouth voyager commercial", retrieved on 2010–08–25.
  14. ^ "1989 Tina Turner Plymouth Voyager Commercial", retrieved on 2010–08–25.
  15. ^ "Celine Dion : 1990 Dodge Caravan & Plymouth Voyager", retrieved on 2010–08–25.

External links[edit]