Dodge Caravan: The greatest vehicle of the 1980s


As Classic Car Appreciation Day (July 13) approaches, we’ll be counting down each day with the greatest vehicle of each decade, from the earliest days of the automobile to the present. It’s by no means a final, definitive, for-all-time list, so please weigh in—respectfully—in the Forums with your comments, endorsements, and disagreements. Today: the 1980s.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/07/09/dodge-caravan-the-greatest-vehicle-of-the-1980s


Though GM and Ford reliability in the 80’s wasn’t much better than Dodge/Chrysler, I can’t forgive you for choosing the Caravan as the greatest vehicle of the 80’s (greatest? C’mon!) as this VAN was as likely to drop it’s transmission in your driveway as it was to get your kids off to soccer practice. Iconic? Maybe. But me thinks you choose a car from either group A - reliable, or group B - exciting. The Caravan was neither of these because it was group C - cheap. Don’t tell me you’ve already chosen the Pinto as the greatest car of the 70’s.


Don’t tell me you’ve already chosen the Pinto as the greatest car of the 70’s.

@livemeyer since you probably aren’t following the series, the countach was the pick for the 70s https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/07/08/lamborghini-countach-the-greatest-car-of-1970s

I would have to say that the Caravan is the most sou-less box on wheels ever made, that said I’d challenge you to present a vehicle from that decade that has had more influence on transportation going forward…

While there were far better cars like the GNX, F40, etc. I think their reasoning is solid.


I’m surprised you didn’t consider the 1984 Jeep Cherokee XJ. Although not as practical as the minivan, the Cherokee kick-started the mainstreaming of SUVs and it’s impact over time has been much greater than the minivan. Plus, unlike the minivan, it has a serious collector following today.


Most significant, perhaps, as representative of the K-car line, but by no means greatest, and I had an '89 Caravan SE turbo. It was a great vehicle; wish I still had it. But I think I would prefer to give the nod to the Porsche 944.


I feel that the Dodge Caravan is the official welfare vehicle typically seen going to McDonalds with a bunch of unhealthy over weight children along with their cigarette smoking parent.


I’m half-heartedly following the series, yes. While the Lambo was the defacto poster for any red-blooded American boy, the soulless Caravan wasn’t even poster material. There were plenty of emissions-choked American V-8s out there to choose from as well, but none were groundbreaking and typical for the age, anemic. A better choice for car of the decade would be the Honda Civic, which was engineered with a revvy, if underpowered, cvcc 4-cylinder and a slick-shifting 5-speed so you could wring as much oomh out of it as possible. Not only did it come if age in the 80’s, it reset the playing field for what a reliable car should be. Not only that, it also came in many body permutations - sedan, coupe, 3-door hatch.

Other considerstions:

The quirky but entirely unique mid-engined Fiero

The awesome Toyota Supra

The car that made BMW, the 3-series

The Buick Grand National GNX, the fastest 80’s car in street clothes

The Camaro IROC

The vanilla but Swiss-watch reliable Toyota Camry

Anything, anything but the Caravan


I disagree with the Civic as a better choice for the 80s. They were FAR more noteworthy and innovative in the 90s.

All of your suggestions are solid but I don’t think there is a single one which has made greater lasting waves in the auto industry. Which is the argument they made. I think their justification is solid. On the same basis you could make the same case for the Prius in the 2000s.


You make an excellent point, as Honda’s terrific V-TEC motor in the 90’s is a great case in point. And I do concede that the Caravan created a new market segment, which I think is the only real reason it was selected. At the same time Chrysler also designed the K-car, which saved the company, but it would never be a contender for “greatest” of anything. Meanwhile, yes, I would think a Prius would be a top nominee for the 2000s, as the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf would be for the 2010s.