Find one with a 5-speed. They did make them!
I know I've officially lost it when I am looking at 20+ year-old minivans
But for some reason (maybe all those Cal Worthington commercials I watched as a child), I have a liking for the short wheelbase, original Dodge Caravan / Plymouth Voyager (1984-1990)
Sitting behind one in traffic reminds me that it truly is a minivan, and not an SUV-sized vehicle misnomered as such.
These can now be picked up for grocery money. Obviously a Turbo would not be easy to find nor affordable, but one of the carb'd 4-cylinders or 6-cyl Mitsubishi-powered Vans (per WikiPedia) might make a good runabout for me, as the 99 coupe is not very practical for CostCo / veterinary shuttling runs.
Apparently the Transmissions are a weak point. I am sure there are many in junkyards, so parts should be plentiful.
According to this TCL thread, they are the "forgotton sportscar"
Last edited by Troike; 10-10-2012 at 11:19 PM. Reason: bad hotlinks
The 3-speed automatic transmissions in this gen aren't particularly weak. Manual transmissions are fine too (again if you can find one). It's the 4-speed autos in the next generation that failed constantly.
If you don't have your heart set on a turbo or stick, find the nicest 2.5 fuel injected automatic and buy that. Should give good service for a while.
We bought one for a pittance for our move from Minnesota back to Arizona. It did a fantastic job even though it was over loaded and pulling a UHaul double-axle trailer that was WAY too big for it. It wouldn't go over 60 without getting the shakes(because of the load), but it didn't complain at all. Sold it for twice what we paid when we got here.
all i know is i had a black matchbox one WITH A SLIDING DOOR. i thought that was pretty cool...then of course i smashed it years later.
My mom bought an '87 Voyager SE brand new. It had the Mitsubishi V6...I believe '87 was the first year for that. Constant problems with the EFI system, and at 50K miles it was burning enough oil for visible smoke. So, I wouldn't call that the greatest engine.
On the other hand, one of these vans holds my record for the highest mileage I've seen on an odometer in the junkyard. It was either 376K or 367K, I forget. That one was a 4-cylinder though.
Yeah, i was just going to say that anyone on the market for most '80s-'90s mitsu/chrysler products should have someone follow behind on the test drive to see not if it smokes, but how much. They do seem to keep on going forever if you keep feeding them oil though.and at 50K miles it was burning enough oil for visible smoke.
'86 Jaguar xj-s 5.3HE coupe, cobalt blue metallic/blue
'08 Hyundai Accent SE hatch, ice blue/gray
Bisixually disposed, lucas charged and coventry clothed
Your best bet for reliability and serviceability is going to be a Chrysler 2.2/2.5L powered van. Avoid the 2.6L Mitsubishi from the early vans as well.
That said, if it hasn't been apart in a long time, expect to do a headgasket. Once changed properly and everything is surfaced, it'll never need it again. (on an NA car).
I grew up in an '84 Caravan and eventually that's what I learned to drive in. I don't know what kind of problems my parents had with it in the ~14 years that they owned it but it moved the family and our friends back and forth to soccer practice pretty well.
Lately I have been testing "tip-in events". Just the tip-in. Just to see how it feels. Response time is typically on the order of 2-3 seconds. Sometimes the injection timing is a little off...
BTW: this was never an issue on the 2.2/2.5 engine.
Having said all that, go for a turbo if you can find one. Until you do, you have no idea how hysterical this can be:
Sales Consultant at Doug Smith Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep/Ram/Subaru/Kia/used (800) 553-3099
My fleet: 91 Miata, 98 Wrangler Sport, 12 Soul +, 89 Voyager turbo, 06 Mustang GT, 01 Suburban 2500 8.1L
the 1st gen Caravans are neat ... but personally I like the older Chevy Astros. The 4.3 vortex was a decent motor, and if you needed more power, a smallblock swap was quite easy. That, and rear wheel drive made for something that could be modded to be a lot of fun
my 2 cents
I had a couple of refreshed ones. The first was my favorite. A 1994 Chrysler T&C. It was white with the gold package and those sweet fluffy leather seats, a digital dash and a towing package. I bought it for $350 needing a master cylinder and I drove it all over the place. In town, it only got about 17 mpg, but on the highway I could nail down a regular 25. I sold it with 177k miles on it and found it about 2 years later on CL needing a transmission with 225k.
My second was a 95 Caravan sport with the 3.3 litre. That engine felt taxed and got worse fuel economy than the 3.8. It had 280k miles on it when I sold it, and the guy I sold it to (just over 3 years ago) is using it to haul lawn mowers for his summer business. It has well over 350k on it. I paid something like $200 for it, and I sold it for $650. Great vans. They look great, run great and have a ton of room in them for a relatively small footprint. Oh, and they are absolute animals in the snow.
| 2012 Nissan Leaf | 1995 Jeep Wrangler |
| 2007 Toyota Prius | 1999 Plymouth Voyager |
What specifically is bad about them, other than burning oil?
Never been a big fan of the Astro, perhaps because I drove a beater one at work once and had multiple friends who drove Astros we lovingly referred to as the "ghetto van."
The 2nd-Gen is OK, I prefer the styling and size of the original though. If I were going to get a newer Van it would be a Ram 1500, tint it out + throw some beefy tires on it
The motor also just isn't that robust as others. By 1994 or so I forget how many miles the van had on it, but the motor was so worn and weak that a highway grade (think I-8 east of San Diego county or I-15 between Barstow and Vegas) would relegate you to being screaming along in 2nd gear at 45mph just to keep up to not be run over by a semi.
Carburetors I think I heard are rather difficult to tune as well. The aforementioned Barstow to Vegas grade killed our '85...due to having to rev so hard just to keep 45mph, it overheated and blew a head gasket. After the rebuild (my parents should have just scrapped that car right then and there), the mechanic could never quite get the carb right and the car would stall when warm (tended to run too lean).
Expect the interior to be thrashed; it just doesn't hold up. Ours lived in SoCal and by the time it was 5 years old, the headliner was falling down (glue for the fabric didn't last) and the front seats looked like a cat used them for a scratching post. My '93 Eurovan by comparison lived for 17 years in NM and AZ heat and sun and has a nearly pristine interior by comparison.
Last edited by gti_matt; 10-11-2012 at 03:54 PM.