Chrysler Minivans Turning Twenty Five

In the early 1980s Chrysler was fresh off a government bailout and thought to be starved for product. That’s when it released the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans, and completely changed family transportation.

Detroit’s perennial underdog once again finds itself waiting on federal loans and scrambling to get out new product, but it is pausing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its humble minivan.

The Chrysler Grand Voyager 25th anniversary edition will debut at the Paris motor show featuring premium interior and exterior trim, along with unique slate gray paint and 17-inch wheels. The special model will also introduce improved suspension and steering tuning as well as a more efficient version of its Europe-only common-rail turbo-diesel engine.

Development on what Chrysler termed the “magic wagon” actually began in the late seventies. The company anticipated that as baby boomers started families, they would want something more efficient and less stodgy than the station wagons of generations past. Using $660 million of its government loans, Chrysler built a van off of its K-car platform. The front-wheel-drive layout allowed for low ride height and a flat load floor. The first Caravans and Voyagers rolled off the assembly line early in November of 1983 and met with near-instant success. Since then the Chrysler minivan has gone through four redesigns and spawned many imitators.

These days Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna provide stiff competition, and sales have declined due to higher gas prices and a consumer shift to SUVs and crossovers. However, Chrysler still sells more minivans than anyone else, and says it is committed to the segment. Earlier this week, it showed a range-extended Chrysler Town & Country prototype capable of going 40 miles on battery power alone and then another 400 miles on eight gallons of gasoline. If it makes it to production, the Chrysler minivan might once again revolutionize the market.