Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich had conceived their idea for this type of vehicle during their earlier tenure at Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford II rejected the idea (a...More »
Lee Iacocca and Hal Sperlich had conceived their idea for this type of vehicle during their earlier tenure at Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford II rejected the idea (and a prototype) of a minivan in 1974. Iaccoca followed Sperlich to Chrysler, and together they created what was internally designated the T-115 minivan - a prototype that was to become the Caravan and Voyager, known in initial marketing as the Magic-wagons. Chrysler introduced the Dodge Caravan and the Plymouth Voyager in November 1983 for the 1984 model year, using the Chrysler S platform, an extended derivative of the Chrysler K platform. The Renault Espace launched in Europe the same year, and Chrysler began selling the Chrysler Voyager in Europe four years later.
The long wheelbase (LWB) Grand Caravan was introduced in 1987.
Beginning with model year 1987, all trim levels were also available in a long wheelbase variant, marketed as the Grand Caravan, which allowed more cargo space behind the rear seat. Interior trim, controls, and instrumentation were borrowed from the Chrysler K platform|, and coupled with the lower floor enabled by the front-wheel-drive, the Caravan featured car-like ease of entry. There were three trim levels: base, SE, and LE.
Base vans came equipped for five passengers in two rows of seating. The LE came with 7 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 3-person bench seat in the second row. The 7 passenger came with two bucket seats with attached armrests and open floor space between them in the front, a 2-person bench seat in the second row, and a 3-person bench seat in the back row. The two bench seats in the rear were independently removable, and the large 3 person bench could also be installed in the 2nd 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 2 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 8 passengers.This configuration was subsequently dropped.
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. Neither airbags nor anti-lock braking systems were available.
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 drivers 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 2 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.
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. Also based on the Mini Ram and C/V were aftermarket conversion vans sold through official Chrysler dealers and from the conversion companies themselves.
Both a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission and a five-speed manual were available with all inline-4 engines, including the turbocharged 2.5 L (this was a rare combination). The Plymouth Voyager, which was a rebadged version of the Caravan, was also available with a manual transmission. The Chrysler Town & Country, which was a more luxurious repackaged version of the Caravan, had no manual transmission option. Manual transmissions were not available on V6 or long wheelbase models of the passenger Caravan, but was an option on the Mini Ram Van and Caravan C/V's long wheelbase models with a 3.0 L V6.
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, 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.
For the first three years of production, two engines were offered in the Caravan - both inline-4 engines with 2 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 Chrysler 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).
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. In these years, the ES model debuted (short wheelbase only) to highlight the new engines, the turbo 2.5 in particular. The ES was introduced to the long wheelbase Grand Caravan for 1991 and continued throughout 2003, before it was discontinued and replaced with the SXT.
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)
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