In spring 2018, the Historic Vehicle Association placed a series of five notable vehicles in a glass case on the National Mall in Washington, DC. One of those vehicles was a 1984 Plymouth Voyager Limited Edition minivan—highly original, and with a mere 12,000 miles.
“The Magic Wagon.”
Few eighties vehicles changed the world as much as the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager twins—because few automobiles essentially create a new market segment. The essential glory of K-platform minivans was their splitting of the packaging differences between traditional station wagons and full-size vans, along with their utilization of front-wheel-drive. Astoundingly, Allpar writes that Chrysler had been working on the same basic idea since around 1972. A reason given that those early designs were not brought to market was that General Motors and Ford had not released their own versions. It took Lee Iaccoca’s arrival in late 1978 to finally get upper management support for the T-115 concept.
The Voyager’s standard powertrain was an 84 bhp 2.2 liter/135 ci inline four with a two-barrel carburetor paired with a five-speed manual. Powertrain options included a $439 three-speed automatic and a $259 105 bhp 2.6 liter/156 ci inline four with a two-barrel carburetor (which required the automatic).
For a mainstream vehicle in 1984, the Voyager came respectably equipped. Standard exterior and mechanical equipment ($8,290 or about $20,200 in today’s dollars) included tinted glass for all windows, a right hand sliding door with a vented window, quad halogen headlamps, power rack and pinion steering, and P185/75R14 blackwall tires on 14-inch wheels with bright wheel covers. Inside, a left hand remote control mirror, two-speed windshield wipers, cloth low back front bucket seats, a three-passenger rear seat, full-floor carpeting, and an AM ETR radio with a digital clock were included.
Moving up to the S.E./Special Edition package ($227) added black exterior window trim, black lower body paint, road styled wheels with bright centers and trim rings, and Deluxe cloth low back front bucket seats.
The top-of-the-line L.E./Limited Edition package ($815) included everything from the S.E. package and added woodgrain exterior vinyl bodyside panels, dual horns, a Luxury steering wheel, and Luxury cloth high back front bucket seats with recliners.
Individual options included premium wheel covers ($203), a 20-gallon fuel tank ($43), air conditioning ($737), automatic speed control ($179), a rear window defroster ($143), power door locks ($176), and an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player ($389). A Seven-Passenger Seating Package ($336) was available with either the S.E. or the L.E.—that was Chrysler’s nomenclature for adding a third row seat.
Of course, the Chrysler minivan twins were a huge success, with 209,895 sold in their initial model year. They also received good to great reviews from the automotive press—Car and Driver included them in their 1985 10Best Cars.
Ford and General Motors had notable trouble in responding. Both had competitors (Chevrolet Astro, Ford Aerostar, GMC Safari) in place by the 1986 model year, but the market found them wanting—in part because they were rear-wheel-drive. The first real competition for Chrysler did not come until the mid-nineties when Honda debuted the front-wheel-drive Odyssey.
Despite their importance, just a few folks out there collect these minivans—though I did spot one at a car show several years ago. Chrysler minivans of this era rarely show up for sale in the Hemmings Motor News classifieds and on eBay Motors—in fact, they now are seldom for sale anywhere.
Make mine Gunmetal Blue Pearl Coat, please.