When Chrysler introduced the front drive minivans in 1984 it changed what America and eventually the world thought of as a family transportation vehicle. It was a nice vehicle with lots of storage room but it could still seat a family comfortably. It was an amazing inspiration that worked out to change the world’s transportation industry forever.
Except for the rear suspension, which for packaging load-carrying and packaging reasons used leaf springs to hold up its solid axle instead of coil springs, the first Chrysler minivans which were sold as the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager were almost purely K-Car underneath. That meant that MacPherson struts held up the front end, a rack-and-pinion system did the steering while discs in the front and drums in the back did the stopping, and the two available four cylinder engines were crosswise in the nose and were driving the front wheels through either a three speed automatic or a five speed manual transmission. A four speed manual was offered only in the cargo version of the Caravan. It was a plain vehicle that stretched out 175.9 inches overall, rode on a 112.1 inch wheelbase, was 69.5 inches wide, and was only 64.4 inches tall.
The first caravans didn’t have much power. The standard engine was a 2.2 or 2.6 liter, eight-valve, four cylinder engine that had to breathe through a two barrel carburetor and only had 101 horsepower. You couldn’t go very fast in it with the less capable engine.
Even Chrysler must have been thought that the incredible reception that greeted the minivans was surprising. Virtually overnight the definition of family transportation shifted in the US. Chrysler sold a stupefying 209,895 minivans during their first year. And suddenly the Chrysler Corporation itself seemed almost hearty.
There weren’t any major changes in the 1984 to 1990 Caravans. But in 1991, Chrysler made some changes based on consumers’ suggestions. They expanded the wheelbases by .3 inches on the Caravans,...