By on May 15, 2017

1993 Plymouth Voyager in Colorado wrecking yard , LH front view, © 2017 Murilee Martin

The original K-platform-based Chrysler minivans, built for the 1984 through 1995 model years, sold like mad, helped kill the station wagon, and forced the competition to get serious about selling minivans in the United States. Buyers could get the 1984-95 four-cylinder Caravan, Voyager, or Town & Country with a five-speed manual transmission, though few did.

Here’s the first 5-speed second-generation Chrysler minivan I have ever found in a wrecking yard.

Five-speed Chrysler minivan at 24 Hours of Lemons, © Murilee Martin

This isn’t the only second-gen Chrysler minivan I’ve seen with a manual transmission, however; Team Van Gogh races a 1993 Caravan with a five-speed and turbocharged 2.5 engine swap in West Coast 24 Hours of LeMons races. It’s quick.

1993 Plymouth Voyager in Colorado wrecking yard , gearshift, © 2017 Murilee Martin

By the middle 1990s, automatic transmissions and air conditioning had become all-but-required equipment in US-market vehicles that weren’t penny-in-the-vise miserable econoboxes. This Voyager has AC, but the El Cheapo™ interior and crank windows suggest that the original purchaser may have been a motivated miser. Was the automatic Voyager more expensive than the manual in 1993?

1993 Plymouth Voyager in Colorado wrecking yard , pedals, © 2017 Murilee Martin

I’m tempted to go buy the pedal set out of this van, because I know some LeMons team is going to need it for a manual-transmission conversion in a hooptie Town & Country. These parts may be shared with the not-so-rare 5=five-speed Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Sundance, though.

1993 Plymouth Voyager in Colorado wrecking yard , engine, © 2017 Murilee Martin

Under the hood, we see the produced-by-the-octillion Chrysler 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Voyager buyers in 1993 could opt for Chrysler 3.3 or Mitsubishi 3.0 V6s, generating 150 and 142 horsepower, respectively. While you could get a Dodge Daytona with the Mitsubishi V6 and five-speed in 1993, Chrysler’s V6 minivans were automatic only.

1993 Plymouth Voyager in Colorado wrecking yard , dealership badge, © 2017 Murilee Martin

Sold in Colorado, will be crushed in Colorado.

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46 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1993 Plymouth Voyager with Five-Speed Manual...”


  • avatar
    Halftruth

    The V6’s were quick. I was spanked by a mom in a V6 who had cut me off. I tried to catch her in my V8 to give her a what-for.. Newp.. she took off like a rocket. I was laughing so hard after that I nearly wiped out.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    What’s with the Day-Glo orange paint on the engine? I would have said “C4C Victim”, but I would have thought those would have long since been turned into washing machines.

    • 0 avatar
      autojim

      I’d imagine a few lingered hither and yon after getting their sodium silicate enemas. My guess is someone at the dealer figured they had a unicorn with the manual trans and were hoping to pull parts before scrapping, tucked it out back somewhere out of the way, and promptly forgot about it (or moved on to another job) and one of those periodic “clean all the cruft out” sweeps caught up with it finally.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      When I saw the orange spray paint, I assumed it was C4C. Maybe we could tell for sure, if we got a better look at the markings spray painted on the windshield. Most C4C cars I’ve seen had C4C on the windshield.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    This engine-transmission-vehicle was more “Euro” sport than any of the so-named GM products. Buzzing around at Colorado elevations, that engine probably made about 80hp and it must have been quite the hoot.

    @Halftruth- I agree, the 3.3 had a lot of “get up and go” in its day in anything Chrysler put it in.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    My most vivid memory of this second gen van was when my family went minivan shopping in the mid 90s. Our local Mopar dealer had a lightly used one for $8000 as I recall. Driving it back to back with the alternative (’89 Mazda MPV with 90k that a neighbor was selling for $5k) was all it took to go running back to the Mazda. The MPV had a much tighter and better put together interior, and drove in a more refined manner as well. Just a much higher quality feeling vehicle all around (that’s still in the family to this day with 240k miles, original transmission, original balljoints amazingly enough, engine needed a reman head at 170k miles after my brother overheated it).

  • avatar
    jh26036

    That front wheel drive trim piece is pretty sweet. I’d stick that on the outside.

  • avatar
    Highway27

    My parents still have their first-gen ’87 Plymouth Grand Voyager with the 5-speed manual. That was the car I learned to drive manuals on, including the PA Turnpike in a brand new van after having only about a week of exposure to it. It had that silly ‘Fuel Minder’ shift light that came on at about 2500 RPM, and if you actually shifted there, it would hopelessly bog down.

    • 0 avatar

      Fuel Minder, aka scam upshift light. Car makers used to get to do the EPA test with shift points as per the manual. They quickly figured out that 1800 rpm shifts were OK on the rollers but may not work in the real world…but that no one shifts per the owners manual, so you had cars with very, very low RPM shift points.

      EPA got wind of this. The response was to tag the low RPM the “upshift light” or, in GM speak, a forced 1-4 shift. Supposedly the car makers were able to justify it to EPA that a significant percentage of people followed the light. My Saab had one, and you couldn’t easily pull it, so we used black tape.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Doesn’t look all used up yet, I wonder why it’s not a Gardener’s or Painter’s Work Van .
    .
    Maybe the engine died causing it to be scrapped ? that would explain the “no start” on the backlight and orange engine paint .
    .
    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Add Lightness

      Head gaskets were a weakness.
      After 5 head gasket jobs on 4 different 2.2/2.5’s I got the job down to 2 3/4 hours.
      A friend told me that he’s done them in 30 minutes by prying the head up and slipping the old one out and new one in……

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        my dad had a Spirit R/T with the 2.2 Turbo III, which was a notorious head gasket and timing belt eater. it was leaking again (externally) when it came time to sell it off. The OE head gasket was nowhere to be found, and the only replacement I could locate was a Cometic multi-layer-steel (MLS) like for modern engines.

        I joked that this head gasket will probably outlast the car.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Thanx ! .
        .
        -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        And you wonder why they had such a rep for bad head gaskets? The early 2.2/2.5 sure did, but that was mostly history by the late 80’s. I had the early gasket eater (1981) and it blew the head gasket for me twice. My 87 went over a quarter million miles before the head gasket blew. Part of what made the reputation linger for so long is mechanics, and dealers for that matter, also did the “pry up” repair which basically guaranteed a repeat failure in the near future. You had to mill the head, use a premium aftermarket gasket, and replace the torque-to-yield bolts for a lasting repair.

        • 0 avatar
          blppt

          I agree…I had three cars with the “slant 4”. Two were the 2.2L and one the 2.5 (basically all 3 almost the exact same engine), and only one of them ever had a HG go in their lifetimes. The Reliant (88, 2.5L) went over 250K before it was hit by a delivery truck, not a single problem other than the A/C compressor, which was common in just about every Chrysler product. Never bothered to fix it.

          The 2.2s I had were in my first car, an 87 Horizon 5spd, only had it about 2 years (about 30K miles) before selling it, but never had a HG problem.

          The one that DID blow a HG was the 94 Shadow 2.2, amusingly enough, very late in that motor’s manufacturing lifetime. And it happened early IIRC, under 30K miles. But after that, it never had a HG problem while I owned it.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    In ’93 we were minivan shopping. We were retiring the ’87 Olds Custom Cruiser for the long journeys we took from Virginia to New Hampshire a couple times a year.

    We were looking at all the domestic vans. We drove a Chevy Astro and were really eyeballing a maroon long-wheel-base Ford Aerostar Sport. They also had a SWB in teal, which would have been my choice were it LWB. We never took a Chrysler van out because when we stopped by to look at them and saw the sticker prices, we immediately hopped in the car and left. They seemed overpriced compared to what else was out there. Of course, we looked at the LWB T&Cs which were top of the line.
    We also looked at a full size SWB GMC conversion van – but without the roof bubble. The sales guy actually told us that they made a killing on selling those because they were overpriced.

    My stepdad was being wishy washy, as he was notoriously thrifty when it came to cars. We took a used maroon over maroon Chevy Lumina APV out for a test drive and he seemed to want to get it. I made sure to let him know I wasn’t so sure about it.

    A few days later we stopped by the Pontiac, Olds, Buick, GMC dealer we bought the wagon from and they had a brand new LWB GMC Safari in a dark teal. It was loaded up and apparently had just been dropped off the truck. He and I both thought it was perfect and a few days later he and my mom signed the lease paperwork and brought it home.

    It was the first car I drove once I got my learner’s permit and I really enjoyed it. It was a comfortable way to go on our long road trips and a fantastic change of pace. I really liked it and was sad to see it go when the lease was up. The updated gold replacement they got in ’96 wasn’t as nice.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      In the early 90’s the minivan was Chrysler’s cash cow. I was selling cars back then, no one really had a good competitor. The used ones were expensive and the new ones were outrageous, IMO.

      But, one must make hay while the sun shines…

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      I purchased a 1992 Dodge Grand Caravan ES new. At that time, I believe but may be incorrect the T&C was not sold in Canada and the Grand ES which was the ‘top line’; trim/model might have been the most expensive non-truck vehicle sold by Chrysler Co in Canada.

      The ES edition at that time came in only 2 colours, white with all white ‘trimwork’ and wheel covers, or teal. The white version came with the ‘boudoir’ red interior, 2nd row ‘Captains seats’ , separate rear passenger AC/heating, and an overhead ‘computer’ console with thermometer, compass, mileage, etc, all fairly ‘high end’ at the time. The Caravan being raced in the picture might be an ES.

      We cross shopped the available mini-vans from other manufacturers and actually preferred the ride, interior and functionality of the Dodge/Chrysler.

      When it ran, it was actually quite a nice ‘grand tourer’. Quiet, comfortable, stable in winds, good in snow and with quite good sound quality from its ‘stereo’. However in 4 years it used 3 transmissions, the ABS required constant attention and the plastic in the back started cracking around the 12 month period.

      For some reason, I then got a 1993 Caravan as our 2nd auto. Traded in a Honda ‘Realtime 4wd’, Wagovan for it. This Caravan was a shortbox ‘stripped’ model. It had manual windows and locks and the Mitsu engine and 3-speed auto. However it was some dealer ‘special order’ for as well as A/C and an upgraded sound system, it had power side mirrors and built in ‘child seats’ in the 2nd row. We later ‘gifted’ it to my sister-in-law and it soldiered on with minimal maintenance for just over a decade until it was ‘wrecked’ and written off.

      For my money, these 2nd edition Chrysler vans are the best looking. The 3rd generation of which we also had 2, had some impaired sight lines, due to their ‘lozenge’ styling.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I’m just glad Toyota decided to give me a manual mode on the 8 speed on our Sienna SE. One thing I disliked about our Odyssey was no manual control. Just “L” and the “D4” button which locked out 5th and 6th gears. No doubt done by Honda to improve the lifespan of their transmission. Considering the operation of the Odysseys transmission was something I never cared for (and neither does TTAC’s Tim Cain) the Toyota is a vast improvement already.

    We bought the top of the line Grand Touring when we bought our Mazda 5, so no manual there. It was only available on the base Sport. But the 5 speed auto works really well and has a manual mode. It certainly won’t win any races, but it’s way more interesting to drive and wring all you can out of it.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    I don’t think there we ever any T&C minivans that were 4 cylinders. IIRC they were all V6.

    You are correct, you should snag that pedal box and prolly the shift linkage, too. The first thing I thought of when you mentioned a manual minivan was LeMons…

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    I drove a rental Dodge Caravan around the French Riviera in late 1999. Five-speed manual diesel. It had plenty of grunt and was miserly with the fuel. It also trail-braked very nicely when I almost missed my turn on a roundabout. My coworkers didn’t let me drive after that.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    back when I wrenched, we had a customer who had one like this but from a few model years prior. I worked on it several times (mostly maintenance) and I dimly remember having to test drive it a couple of times.

    Anyone who claims any modern car is “slow” or “underpowered” should be sentenced to drive a 2.2/5 speed minivan like this one for at least a week. Followed immediately by an Iron Duke Camaro.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      That’s tough but fair.

    • 0 avatar
      eManual

      I can attest to this statement, it’s slow on the Interstate ramps. We purchased a used 1992 Voyager 5MT minivan in 1995. It was previously driven by an IBM / Compac employee, with ~36,000 miles after 3 years, for about 1/2 the original MSRP. As described in the OP link on the 2.5L engine, the biggest problem in the first few years was drivabilty, and “mechanics” replaced 2 Oxygen Sensors and a computer. Somehow, when it reached about 70,000 miles, it started to run fine. Still have it at 160,000 miles, but this summer we are scraping or donating it, because it has rusted out, and is being replaced by a 2010 Town & Country.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      A friend had one of these until recently and I borrowed it many times. I didn’t find it slower then a typical 4cy compact pickup or compact car as I usually drove. If anything I thought it was reasonably torquey on the low end, easy to drive in city traffic, and stable and calm on the highway. To me it drove like a midsized sedan. Heavy understeer though. Throw it a curve too fast and the front tires would howl in protest.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      2.2 with the notoriously moody Holley 2bbl carb—when it was working perfectly, it was fine, but sometimes (i think due to weather conditions) it would even make my lightweight Horizon (2300lbs) feel slow with the 5 speed. I shudder to think what the mid 80s Chrysler vans felt like with the carbed 2.2 and a 3 speed auto in a 3000+lb van

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My best friend in high school has access to the family Plymouth Voyager with the 2.5L. As rambunctious teenagers, it was a real letdown compared to the ’68 Cadillac he used to drive. Showing up at the high school dance wasn’t as fun as it used to be.

  • avatar
    skor

    I’ve never seen a Mopar mini-van with a manual from the factory, but I have seen factory turbo minivans.

    BTW, that picture from the LeMons race showing a Pinto and Mustang II is interesting. The Pinto, and Pinto derived Mustang, sucked in call kinds of ways, but interestingly they were some of the better handling American cars of the malaise era.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My 71, 76, and 80 Pinto/Bobcats were good handlers, although solid axle wheelhop sometimes added to the entertainment.

      • 0 avatar
        la834

        Lol you had THREE of them?

        • 0 avatar
          SCE to AUX

          Yep – they were simple, cheap, reliable transportation for late high school, college, and early marriage. Admittedly, I cut my teeth on car repair with these vehicles.

          I had the 76 and 80 at the same time, but I/we grew to hate the 80 Bobcat. It always ran, but it ate gas like the space shuttle despite my best efforts.

          All were fitted with the plastic blast shield on the gas tank. :)

          • 0 avatar
            geozinger

            Gslippy – that’s not a strange phenomenon with your 1980 Bobcat, my 1979 Pinto ESS was the same way.

            I knew a bunch of people with earlier Pintos and really got to like them. I managed to score a super clean 79 ESS with a 4 speed (in the Sharon, PA area). But I was sorely disappointed in the fuel mileage, especially when I wasn’t hooning the thing.

            I eventually gave up on the car and bought another 5.0L Mercury Capri.

  • avatar
    Add Lightness

    The MT was not available in the first year of the 2nd gen in 1991.
    I know because we bought a 91 2.5 and the best we could do from the dealer was that they would convert it for $700 + parts. Ours stayed auto.
    Later on I converted a panel van version with Shelby Daytona drivetrain. Biggest problem was finding the correct jackshft for the right halfshaft and wiring. It was pretty quick with the boost turned up but not much bottom end torque so had to keep it on full boil when wanting to go fast.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I think the yard mis-labeled this one. In 1992, the windshield squirters were on the hood. For ’93, they switched to “wet arm” wipers.

    I had a ’92 Plymouth Voyager with the 5-speed. Bought it in 2001 from some random dude on the Internet. Took a Greyhound from Michigan to BFE Illinois to buy it. Paid $850, drove it 2 years, sold it for $500.

    Fun fact: MoPar sold 176,000 minivans in 1992. Of that number, a mere 3000 had manual transmissions.

  • avatar
    wesf

    Been reading this column for quite a while, but I had to register just to comment on this one…

    I’ve got a 92 Caravan SE that I bought used in late 97 with 84k miles. I learned to drive in a full size 79 Ford van, and when I went car shopping, I couldn’t stand any of the little cars that I could afford. Then I stumbled across a Dodge Caravan and ended up with the 92. It has the 3.0 v6 and 3 speed automatic. Transmission finally gave out at 204k in 2009. Wrote it off, bought a used 02 Voyager, and put it up for sale. After a year with no bites and my longing to drive it again, we rearranged vehicles, sold our 94 Isuzu Trooper (still have our 02), wife took the Voyager and I fixed up the 92. I still just love the old thing. Transmission got rebuilt in 2010, engine needed some internal work at 208k in 2011, and it got a paint job about three years ago. Yes, I’m crazy…but I love the old van! It has had its share of issues, but overall has been very reliable. Up to 231k miles now. Certainly not the fastest van on the road, but very responsive, and nice low end torque. Transmission shift points seem to match it very nicely. Always felt like it was at the top of its torque curve, whereas the 3.3/4-speed in the 02 was struggling to catch up.

    Looks like this example was definitely a budget model. Basic dash panel, no cruise control, rubber front door panels, etc. No one has pointed out that it is also a 5-seater with just one bench seat in the back that takes up the full width. I’ve not seen one of those before.

    Eggsalad mentions wet wiper arms…my 92 has those. They made changes for the 94/95 model years and one of the changes was to put the windshield squirters in the hood…not sure about earlier years. 91 was basically the same, but the roof rack and door handles were smaller and chrome like the 1st gen vans. 91-93 also has vinyl padded armrests, as seen in the photos. 94/95’s have hard rubber type arm rests like were in our 02 Voyager.

    My van is blue in and out…glad to see the interior is grey or I might be wanting to make a trip out west just to get some replacement interior parts! Doing my best to patch it up a bit as some items are a little worn…but still not bad for 25 years old. Kinda nice to have something different than all the other vehicles on the road…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    IMO the 2.2 was better than the 2.5, and both the 3.3 and 3.8 were excellent V6s. I had the 2.2 (non-turbo) in an 85 LeBaron GTS, and the 3.3 and 3.8 in a 96 GV and 98 GC, respectively.

    The Mitsubishi 3.0 was one of the worst engines ever, right up there with the Chrysler 2.7. Each had a 50k mile lifespan. You were particularly cursed if you had the 3-speed auto behind your 3.0 Mitsubishi engine.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      “The Mitsubishi 3.0 was one of the worst engines ever, right up there with the Chrysler 2.7. Each had a 50k mile lifespan.”

      Utter nonsense IMO. Yeah they liked to start burning oil (and leaking it from the top end) early on, but they are nothing like the disaster that is the 2.7 Chrysler motor.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Yeah, the 3.0 loved to burn oil through the valve seals, but that doesn’t really limit the life of the engine or keep it from starting and running. They did have a ridiculously strong bottom end, just one of those automotive history footnotes.

      • 0 avatar
        blppt

        “Utter nonsense IMO. Yeah they liked to start burning oil (and leaking it from the top end) early on, but they are nothing like the disaster that is the 2.7 Chrysler motor.”

        The 2.7 was on “worst engine designs of all time” lists, lol.

        The 3.0 also had the timing belt/interference design, but thats not really its fault—lots of OHC engines of that era had similar setups. So, if you were unlucky enough to mate it up with the legendary 604, thats a lot of stuff to worry about.

    • 0 avatar
      wesf

      What?!? I got 176k out of my 92’s 3.0 before it blew a head gasket, 208 before it burned a valve. Odometer is at 231k now…that’s a lot of miles for such a crappy engine!

      Not sure why you think the 3-speed is so bad, assuming nothing had happened to it before I bought it at 84k, I got 204k out of mine before a rebuild…even if it had been rebuilt the day before I bought it, that’s 120k, which sounds like a lot more than most people were getting out of the 4-speeds of that era.

      I think the 3.0 got a bad rap for smoking, but I understand that was resolved by the 92 model year. JimC2 notes the strong bottom end – from what I have read, it’s the same bottom that is in the Mitsubishi GT3000’s 3.0 twin turbo…a shame that whole engine can’t be transplanted into a Chrysler minivan…someone said it supposedly rotates the opposite direction.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        No, the rotation is the same, but the drivetrain is flipped 180 degrees so that the transmission is on the right side where Mitsubishi liked to put it.

    • 0 avatar
      blppt

      2.2 revved better, but the 2.5 was smoother (had balance shafts IIRC) and better for low-end grunt, which for a van that was already going to feel underpowered—it needed every little boost it could get.

      The 3.0 could have some worries reliability-wise, but for its time it felt pretty peppy for the SWB Voy/TC/CV. Problem with the 3.3 is that you could only get it with the also-horrendous A604 4spd automatic in the vans. So while you were dodging one bullet by getting the more reliable engine, you now were forced to have a grenade in the different part of the car. The 3.0 you could, at one time, get with the 3 speed auto, which was simpler and generally far more reliable.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I love the LeMons photo with the Mustang II and the Pinto. Putting them on the track still seems more like performance art than racing, but it is cool to see such unlikely cars at speed.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I had one like this a couple years ago, it had something like 400000 km on the clock. It had the acceleration of a glacier, but could cruise comfortably all day, and got about 8.5 liters per 100 km (28 mpg). It was a sad day when I had to scrap it.


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