5 Proto-minivans before the Plymouth Voyager


According to legend, the first real “minivan” broke ground in 1984 when Lee Iacocca and his band of wizards at Chrysler conjured up the Plymouth Voyager. It looked like a van but drove like a car. What sorcery was this? Gone were the days when your van shared a massive V-8 with Dad’s emissions-strangled Chevy Nova. From then on, the minivan dominated the scene as the go-to vehicle for anyone wanting to fit a large amount of people or things in a small space.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/06/29/5-proto-minivans-before-the-plymouth-voyager


I started out with a '68 VW picture window bus, coming from a '63 Dodge Dart. Most impressive was that I could fill my grocery cart with goodies, and then put in the bus with gobs of room left over. For a trip to San Diego from our home in Redondo, the Dart was filled to the brim with car seat for the baby, play pen, suitcases, food, and all the other paraphenalia for a trip, leaving only room enough for the two adults and the baby. With the bus, we all had breathing room and extra room to share. After 16 years with the '68, we purchased an '84 Vanagon, water cooled. Hauled a tent trailer to Alaska, and going through Seattle, came a “knockin” from the rear. Turns out the CV joints weren’t lubed well, and wound up being filled with grease (VW grease) on the Meziaden Highway outside of Prince George BC. Also had problems with the heads and case. Magnesium case would be eaten where the head/“gasket” (read overpriced O-ring) came together, resulting in coolant leaking out while on the road. Very annoying. This was traded in on a Dodge Caravan in 2005, which I had been lusting over for several years, before I needed to repair the case/head problem again for the third time.
Was very happy with the Caravan although after 13 years, it was showing some wear with little things like the headliner fabric separating in a couple of places, and wear on the driver’s seat. The Stow-and-Go feature was the reason for buying this car, and it was still in perfect condition, as were the seats and the carpet. I traded it in October last year on a Chrysler Pacifica, as the Caravan and Town & Country models have been discontinued. Have been pleased with the Pacifica, but compared to the Caravan, it has so much more tech stuff and percieved power, that I’m still getting used to it. Being up a bit higher than other cars, with good visibility sure gets a person into the “minivan” state of mind, and other cars pale in comparison.


The Dodge A-100 compact van was no “adorable” lightweight. It used a lot of full-size pickup components but no Dart parts. And from 1965 on you could get one with a 318 V8. They even made a one ton version.
… Gary V.


The lack of inclusion of the VW bus makes this article seem rather ridiculous. In addition, if you are going to have the Ford and Dodge box vans, then it would only make sense to include the Chev/GMC that had the Sportsman short and long wheelbase box vans that included 3 rows of seats. Many more of these were sold than the Corvair vans. My own had a straight six and manual.
I also owned a very rare '89 Grand Voyager that had a 4 cylinder and 5 speed manual, and still have my '98 Grand Caravan LE with AWD, something you can’t get anymore. Great in snow.


Back in the late 80’s I had a friend who drove one of the A-100 vans pretty regularly. One weekend he invited me to ride out to a lonely country junkyard that he had found a few hours from home. He wouldn’t drive it on the interstate highway and I quickly found out why - - - he steering box was so worn out that we were merely SUGGESTING where the van was headed at any given time. He then stated that “If we get into an accident, our legs and feet will be the first ones on the scene, and I don’t want that…”. I don’t remember much about the junkyard, but do remember being GLAD to be back at home in one piece!