The Truth About Cars » dodge caravan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 20 Oct 2014 11:27:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » dodge caravan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Chrysler Vans Sitting Idle As Oil Boom Robs Rail Capacity http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/chrysler-vans-sitting-idle-as-oil-boom-robs-rail-capacity/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/chrysler-vans-sitting-idle-as-oil-boom-robs-rail-capacity/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 19:17:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=809450 Several hundred Chrysler minivans are stuck indefinitely on a piece of prime Detroit real estate, unable to be transported across America. The reason? The fossil fuel boom in Canada and the United States is hogging much of the available rail capacity needed to transport the vans. Citing a report by the Associated Press, the Windsor […]

The post Chrysler Vans Sitting Idle As Oil Boom Robs Rail Capacity appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Back-440x350

Several hundred Chrysler minivans are stuck indefinitely on a piece of prime Detroit real estate, unable to be transported across America. The reason? The fossil fuel boom in Canada and the United States is hogging much of the available rail capacity needed to transport the vans.

Citing a report by the Associated Press, the Windsor Star reports that railway capacity – which is normally transport new vehicles – is being eaten up by deliveries of oil from both the Alberta Oil Sands and the Bakken shale formation in the United States. According to the AP, just 9,500 railway carloads of crude were being transported in 2008, but that number exploded to 434,032 in 2013. In addition, ethanol shipments have exploded nearly fivefold since 2005, with up to 325,000 carloads being shipped last year.

One of the biggest players in energy shipments is CP Rail, a Canadian railway company that is also the major player in the Windsor, Ontario region, where Chrysler’s minivan plant is located. Aside from capacity issues, a CP spokesman told the Star that the extreme weather has created supply chain issues that still linger at CP’s Chicago hub.

A Chrysler spokesman told the Star

“We have experienced delays of delivery of our finished vehicles due to rail car shortages…We are using alternative modes of transport and alternative routes where possible to move around the biggest problem areas.”

Inventories of the two vans have fallen sharply in the last month. As of April 1st, Chrysler had 50 days worth of Town & Country vans, and 37 days worth of Caravans, down from 75 days and 50 days respectively on March 1st.

The post Chrysler Vans Sitting Idle As Oil Boom Robs Rail Capacity appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/chrysler-vans-sitting-idle-as-oil-boom-robs-rail-capacity/feed/ 111
Chrysler Changes Product Plans Again, Extends “Sell-By Date” Of Avenger, Caravan, Wrangler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/chrysler-changes-product-plans-again-extends-sell-by-date-of-avenger-caravan-wrangler/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/chrysler-changes-product-plans-again-extends-sell-by-date-of-avenger-caravan-wrangler/#comments Thu, 25 Jul 2013 12:46:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496995 Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne may not be fond of changing up his outfits, but he certainly has no problem mixing up product plans. The latest news out of Auburn Hills suggests that Chrysler will be extending the lifespan of some key products for up to another 5 years. Under the new regime, the Dodge Avenger, […]

The post Chrysler Changes Product Plans Again, Extends “Sell-By Date” Of Avenger, Caravan, Wrangler appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Jeep_Wrangler_X_--_10-06-2010

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne may not be fond of changing up his outfits, but he certainly has no problem mixing up product plans. The latest news out of Auburn Hills suggests that Chrysler will be extending the lifespan of some key products for up to another 5 years.

Under the new regime, the Dodge Avenger, one of Chrysler’s main fleet queens and the key cannibalizer of Dart sales, gets a stay of execution until 2015. The Dodge Grand Caravan will run until 2017, an extension of two years past its planned replacement date, while the Jeep Wrangler, which is said to be undergoing a radical redesign, will stay on the market in its current form until 2018.

Chrysler has good reasons to keep all three vehicles going. The Avenger’s platform-twin, the Chrysler 200, will be replaced next year in a major redesign, and by keeping the Avenger around, Chrysler will have a cheap sedan to sell to fleets (and presumably, less-than-qualified buyers).

The Grand Caravan can also fill that role in minivan form, while a redesigned Chrysler Town & Country will apparently be introduced to consolidate Chrysler’s minivan position. But the popularity of the Grand Caravan among fleet buyers and in the Canadian market has been said to give Chrysler pause about killing it off entirely. For some time, plans have called for one brand to get a minivan and one brand to get two crossovers. Automotive News seems to think that Chrysler will get the van and presumably Dodge will have a redesigned Journey – and a Grand Caravan too.

The decision to keep the Wrangler kicking around is seemingly more transparent. By extending its lifespan another two years, Jeep can get more capacity at its Toledo, Ohio plant, which is said to be running flat-out. In addition to a whole bunch of brand new features like aluminum body panels and an air suspension, the Wrangler will apparently get a diesel engine and a pickup variant. Right now, Jeep is selling Wranglers, particularly the 4-door Unlimited model, as fast as they can, with special edition variants not lasting long on dealer lots. Presumably, Chrysler will keep pumping them out for another few years to keep Jeep buyers satiated.

 

The post Chrysler Changes Product Plans Again, Extends “Sell-By Date” Of Avenger, Caravan, Wrangler appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/chrysler-changes-product-plans-again-extends-sell-by-date-of-avenger-caravan-wrangler/feed/ 44
Trackday Diaries: You should buy a minivan. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/trackday-diaries-you-should-buy-a-minivan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/trackday-diaries-you-should-buy-a-minivan/#comments Fri, 15 Feb 2013 11:20:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477631 Chrysler’s Pentastar-powered minivan is, truly, madly, deeply, one of my favorite vehicles. My first meeting was with the high-buck Town and Country, followed by a very long drive in a Caravan SXT. Great vehicles, both of them, and worth the money. Unfortunately for Chrysler’s profit margins, however, the economic outlook in this country for actual […]

The post Trackday Diaries: You should buy a minivan. appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Chrysler’s Pentastar-powered minivan is, truly, madly, deeply, one of my favorite vehicles. My first meeting was with the high-buck Town and Country, followed by a very long drive in a Caravan SXT. Great vehicles, both of them, and worth the money.

Unfortunately for Chrysler’s profit margins, however, the economic outlook in this country for actual working people continues to nose-dive. The company’s fighting back with a $20,000 (after incentives and discounts) “America Value Package” Caravan. That’s right: for the price of a Honda Civic EX, there’s a 283-horsepower, seven-seater van with keyless entry available. To get a sense of whether such a proposition holds any interest for those of us without five children and a slim budget, I rented a 2012 Caravan with slightly less equipment than what you’d find in the 2013 Value Package, and took a little thousand-mile Tennessee excursion.

My long-time readers know that any mention of the Volunteer State in my writing is usually accompanied by some lurid tale regarding a highly dramatic hairdresser in her very early thirties, but I am pleased to announce that we are killing her character off. Let’s do that right now, and since you guys all think I make this stuff up anyway I’m going to make it up the way I wanted it to happen rather than the slightly annoying way it actually happened. Plus, you can skip it if you like.

It was near midnight in the Hyatt Place down the street from the Mercedes-Benz dealer. Drama lay across the ottoman in a physically improbable but very sexy position and twirled her hair in her left index finger as I strummed the final chord of “Heartbreak Warfare” on my Martin D-41.

“It’s never going to happen, is it?” she cried. “You don’t want me enough.”

“I’m a father,” I said, “I won’t leave my son to be with you in Nashville. Still, the thought of you letting that fedora-wearing douchebag of a deadbeat dad you’re currently dating move in with you makes me want to projectile-vomit the outstanding steak I just had all the way across this room.”

“It’s okay, Jack. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m dying of a rare blood disease. In fact, by tomorrow morning I’ll be dead and you’ll never have to think of me again.”

“That’s very convenient for me.”

“Just promise me you’ll visit my grave every December 7th, to commemorate our grand romantic adventure at the Omphoy Resort in Palm Beach.”

“How about I visit your old roommate instead?”

FINIS

Whew! Glad that’s over. Let’s get back to the Caravan. As with the American Value Package version, my rental base model had power locks, power windows, air conditioning, a CD player with 1/8″ auxiliary input, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, all that stuff. What don’t you get? Well, there are no LCD screens to be found. The instrument panel won’t tell you how many miles per gallon you’re getting. There is no power assistance for the sliding doors or rear liftgate. The seats are finished in a hardy-looking but non-luxurious cloth and the only “memory” function they have will reside within your own cerebrum.

In other words, the equipment’s about what you would get on a top-of-the-line minivan from 1990. So no bitching allowed.

The central excellence of the Caravan in all its forms comes down to this: it’s easy, pleasant, and effective to drive. The Pentastar makes it fast enough to handle anything from short freeway merges to cut-and-slice traffic. The transmission likes to swap between fifth and sixth a lot on the freeway but the payback is real-world fuel mileage in the 26-30mpg range over longer trips. Visibility is excellent with just a slice of bonnet visible for parking confidence. The wind noise is acceptable and it’s no worse than what you get in the current crop of mid-size sedans despite the resonance effect of the big interior space.

Even with the cheapo tires fitted to non-R/T Caravans, it’s possible to double most on-ramp speed limits and fast lane changes happen without too much roll or difficulty. I suspect that most of the driving dynamics are considerably less pleasant with seven passengers on board, but guess what? The same thing can be said of a Gallardo Superleggera.

I’ve come to believe that most car companies have a core product where their experiences, customer clinics, and engineering ability are most effectively utilized. With Ford, it’s the trucks and the Mustang. With GM, it’s the Corvette. With Toyota, it’s the Prius. For Chrysler, it’s the minivan. Intellectually, I know that the Sienna and Odyssey are of equal utility and are possibly more durable, but when I actually sit in the things it’s obvious that the competition just doesn’t understand minivans as well as Chrysler does. Everything in the Caravan works. Everything makes sense. The sole quibble I have about this vehicle, really, is that the power outlets are located at the bottom of the console. That works for most people but for those of us who want to slap our navigation-capable smartphones on the windshield it makes for a long cable run and a resultant high load on the Micro-USB connector.

Finished in basic white, the Caravan was invisible to cops and in the raise-the-black-flag-and-start-slitting-throats mood which characterized my entire run from Nashville back to Ohio I skated by the highway patrol at least twice in excess of 90mph. When a couple of inbred lot-lizard-collectors decided to race their semi-trucks up a long Kentucky hill at fifty miles per hour and block most of the freeway, I forced the Caravan into the kind of highly offensive high-speed run down the far-right lane I used to pull in my Phaetons all the time. It responded with alacrity to both the request for acceleration and the full-tilt braking I needed to sneak back in line when the lane ran out.

Having made the same trip in an Altima just four days previously, I tried to determine which vehicle I’d rather make the run in should my client decide I needed to visit Nashville once a week for the rest of my life. Although the Altima was comfortable and competent, it literally didn’t do a single useful thing any better than the Caravan did.

Acceleration? The Caravan beats it.
Braking? Equal.
Handling? About the same in most circumstances.
Comfort? The Caravan is less fatiguing.
Economy? About the same.
Cargo capacity? Come on.
Features? They were equal, once you consider that the 2013 Caravan has keyless entry standard.

If you price out 2013 models, you’ll find that the Caravan has a slight advantage over the four-cylinder Altima, Accord, and even the Camry. For the same kind of money, you get a bigger engine and a bigger box to carry your stuff. While it’s hard to argue against the resale value of the Japanese-brand midsizers, nor would you be wise to discount what a family-carrying minivan will be worth used as the middle class continues its flyover-country vanishing act.

And yet, a lot of people will crunch all the numbers, do all the test drives, and still walk away from the Caravan. They’ll do it because they’ve been burned before by minivans foreign or domestic, particularly with regards to transmission durability. They’ll do it because they don’t need the extra capacity and it feels wasteful to have it even if there’s no penalty. But mostly they’ll do it because they don’t want to be seen in a minivan. Minivans are what station wagons used to be: deeply and terminally uncool. Driving a minivan feels like an abject surrender to all the things our increasingly schizophrenic society despises. Family. Commitment. Modest income. Church. Soccer teams. The old American dream, that stupid knuckle-dragging Ozzie and Harriet crap that was supposed to vanish in a single bright bicoastal flash of Chris Brown, Slow Food, and Hannah Horvath. Who wants to be associated with it?

And yet there’s freedom in that groove. Rolling up Interstate 65, listening to the Ronald Isley and Burt Bacharach album I bought ironically a few years ago and have been listening to with sincerity ever since, I saw some dumb-ass in a matte-white GT-R swerving through traffic in the most unnecessarily race-y way humanly possible. I studied his trajectory, made a few predictions, and managed to put the big white Dodge right in his windshield as he went for a fast-and-furious pass on a tractor-trailer. He backed off and tried a few lanes over, only to find me in front of him again. Five times he full-throttled his way back and forth across 65’s considerable girth, and each time somehow I just happened to be in his way. Took maybe twenty minutes. I judged the excellence of my ricer-retarding work by how much I could increase the gap between us and an Impala that had remained in the same lane for the whole time. When we started, the GT-R was about to pass the Impala; when I finished, we could barely see the Chevy’s generic chrome trunk strip ahead.

Finally I gave up the game and this time he sped up next to me, hit the brakes, and waved his heavily tattooed arms at me widly, swearing in a language I couldn’t hear but guessed to be Russian. I waved back and smiled in utterly guileless fashion. He threw his hands up. I could guess what he was thinking Stupid old bastard. All over the road. Doesn’t know what he’s doing. The big Nissan gathered speed and shrank to a distant dot ahead. I waved again. Not the brilliant hero of my own imagination. Not the cold-hearted, bloodlessly manipulative monster of Drama’s nightmares. Just a harmless guy in a minivan. Going nowhere fast. Like everyone else.

The post Trackday Diaries: You should buy a minivan. appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/trackday-diaries-you-should-buy-a-minivan/feed/ 125
Report: CAW Will Target Chrysler For Strike http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/report-caw-will-target-chrysler-for-strike/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/report-caw-will-target-chrysler-for-strike/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 14:22:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457214 The Canadian Auto Workers union is expected to target Chrysler in the event of a strike, but will reportedly wait until Labor Day before taking action. CTV News reports that Tony Faria, an automotive expert at the University of Windsor, predicted Chrysler will be chosen because it has the largest Canadian footprint of the Detroit […]

The post Report: CAW Will Target Chrysler For Strike appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

The Canadian Auto Workers union is expected to target Chrysler in the event of a strike, but will reportedly wait until Labor Day before taking action.

CTV News reports that

Tony Faria, an automotive expert at the University of Windsor, predicted Chrysler will be chosen because it has the largest Canadian footprint of the Detroit Three and therefore has the most at stake. “They can least afford a shutdown of operations in Canada, so they’re the most vulnerable in terms of a strike threat,” Faria said Wednesday. “But even though Chrysler is not pushing for two-tiered wages, Chrysler is going to push hard for lower starting wages.”

Canada is home to the plants that build some of Chrysler’s key products, including the Chrysler/Dodge minivans, the Chrysler 300/Dodge Charger and the Dodge Challenger. Canadian sales would be especially impacted in the event of a strike, since Canada is a key market for the Dodge Caravan.

CTV News quotes Faria as saying that Chrysler will probably ask for a further reduction in the starting wage, and an increase in the time it takes workers to reach the maximum wage (from six years to eight years).

The post Report: CAW Will Target Chrysler For Strike appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/report-caw-will-target-chrysler-for-strike/feed/ 18
Can 187,586 Buyers Be Wrong? Consumer Reports Thinks So http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/can-187586-buyers-be-wrong-consumer-reports-thinks-so/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/can-187586-buyers-be-wrong-consumer-reports-thinks-so/#comments Fri, 10 Aug 2012 17:58:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456115   “Just because a car generates a lot of buzz or is a best seller doesn’t mean that it’s a good choice for you. The five models here may be on a lot of buyers’ shopping lists, but we suggest you steer clear…” So says Consumer Reports with respect to their list of “Five popular […]

The post Can 187,586 Buyers Be Wrong? Consumer Reports Thinks So appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

 

“Just because a car generates a lot of buzz or is a best seller doesn’t mean that it’s a good choice for you. The five models here may be on a lot of buyers’ shopping lists, but we suggest you steer clear…”

So says Consumer Reports with respect to their list of “Five popular cars to avoid”. CR says that the vehicles “…didn’t perform well in our testing or they suffer from subpar reliability,” and that’s reason enough to stay away. I’m not entirely convinced.

We at TTAC respect the hell out of Consumer Reports. Unlike other parties in the buff book business, we never crack appliance-related jokes about their testing methods or dismiss them as lab coated slide-ruler jockeys. When they have something to say, we take it seriously.

Whipping boy number one is, of course, the 2012 Honda Civic. There are elements within TTAC who don’t like the car, for valid reasons. But as I explored in a previous column, it does have enough merit that it’s worth buying. And it’s been vetted by my Grandma. CR even recommends the Subaru Impreza over the Honda Civic; make no mistake, it’s a nice car, but there’s no way that they can criticize the Civic’s “mediocre interior” while ignoring the Impreza.

CR also lists the Dodge Grand Caravan, Toyota Prius c, Ford Edge V6 and Jeep Liberty as vehicles to stay away from. Having had inadequate seat time in them, I can’t say in good faith how accurate these picks are. Feel free to let me know in the comments.

The post Can 187,586 Buyers Be Wrong? Consumer Reports Thinks So appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/can-187586-buyers-be-wrong-consumer-reports-thinks-so/feed/ 236
Piston Slap: Come and Dance with…who??? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/piston-slap-come-and-dance-with-who/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/piston-slap-come-and-dance-with-who/#comments Tue, 06 Dec 2011 18:51:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=421349 Chris writes: Dear Sajeev, Love the website and love your reading your column. My question is I am looking to get a minivan within the next 6 months to a year. I am only looking to spend around 8 grand on one. I am leaning heavily towards Chrysler’s vans, and found some really great deals […]

The post Piston Slap: Come and Dance with…who??? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Chris writes:

Dear Sajeev,

Love the website and love your reading your column. My question is I am looking to get a minivan within the next 6 months to a year. I am only looking to spend around 8 grand on one. I am leaning heavily towards Chrysler’s vans, and found some really great deals on older ones with low miles. But then I read your article about how it’s not always good to go with older, low mile automobiles. So would I be better to get say, a 2002 model Town and Country, with a little over 100 hundred thousand miles? Or should I not even bother with Chrysler at all? I was leaning towards a Windstar as well, but then there’s that whole rear axle breaking thing, and I quite enjoy living. In your personal opinion what is the best minivan for my budget.

Sajeev Answers:

I’m gonna try something different: give reasonably decent advice in the beginning, then let out my crazy.  Because there’s more variety to your minivan choices than what you see: multiple opportunities to dance before dating in the Homecoming Dance of Minivan Life, as it were. So let’s do this thing.

That said, buying a used minivan is a tough nut to crack.  Usually a higher mile vehicle with ample service records is the way to go, but perhaps their Achilles’ heel (transaxles not worthy of such a large machine) will fail much sooner on a high mile rig versus a low mile creampuff.  After all, new tires/belts/hoses/brakes on a 30,000 mile rig is much more palatable than a new gearbox after 110,000 miles. Speaking purely in generalities, ‘natch.

Chrysler’s hit or miss quality control with transmissions is almost legendary.  Rebuilt units are just as troublesome, depending on the Pentastar-savviness of the shop involved. Windstars were recalled for rusty axles, and perhaps the replacements should also be coated in 90-weight gear oil to keep the problem from resurfacing, so to speak.

That said, 90-weight oil does smell like a gigantic ass, so perhaps not. But this isn’t the point.

Look at what’s in your budget, I suspect the recall free (fuel system aside) Ford Freestar is up your alley…they definitely trade under your budget in the auctions, so why not find a desperate seller ready to take a low ball bid? And with the “big block” 4.2L motor, they are rather quick too. I kinda like them, in a bizarre CUV-hating kinda way. Then again, you might find plenty of clean Chrysler vans with ample service paperwork and a clean transmission dipstick. How am I to know what you will find first?

Even though the last gen GM minivans are uglier than sin, they are also a worthy choice. Especially the Buick of Minivans, the Terraza. And maybe you’ll get a sweetheart deal on a Toyota/Honda minivan from a friend who could care less about their price premium on the market. So what’s my advice?

Let the service history, transmission fluid condition, and status of normal wear items (interior, brakes, paint, power-operated gizmos, tires, etc) be your guide.  Or be nuts like me, and hold out until you find a fully loaded Mercury Monterey and tune the hell outta that big block 4.2L for maximum minivan hotrod goodness.

Mercury lives: come and dance with me!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

 

The post Piston Slap: Come and Dance with…who??? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/piston-slap-come-and-dance-with-who/feed/ 71
And the Real Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-real-winner-is-23/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-real-winner-is-23/#comments Mon, 24 Oct 2011 05:53:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415724 It is not possible for a Chrysler minivan to finish in the top third of a weekend-long race on the car-killing turns and hils of Infineon Raceway, which is proof that this weekend’s race never happened. That means that the performance of the Team Soccer Moms’ Caravan must have been the product of mass hallucination. […]

The post And the Real Winner Is… appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
It is not possible for a Chrysler minivan to finish in the top third of a weekend-long race on the car-killing turns and hils of Infineon Raceway, which is proof that this weekend’s race never happened. That means that the performance of the Team Soccer Moms’ Caravan must have been the product of mass hallucination.
This factory-5-speed-equipped Dodge family hauler finished ahead of more than 100 competitors, while remaining nearly black-flag- and breakdown-free all weekend.
The Soccer Moms battled a Colt, a GLC, a Fire Arrow, and an Escort wagon for IOE honors. In the end, even a Fire Arrow couldn’t match the sheer inappropriateness of a K-car-based minivan as a race car. Congratulations, Soccer Moms!

LSPF11-Winner-IOE-1 LSPF11-Winner-IOE-2 LSPF11-Winner-IOE-3 LSPF11-Winner-IOE-4 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

The post And the Real Winner Is… appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/and-the-real-winner-is-23/feed/ 27
1972 Ford Carousel: The Chrysler Minivan’s True Father? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/1972-ford-carousel-the-chrysler-minivans-true-father/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/1972-ford-carousel-the-chrysler-minivans-true-father/#comments Wed, 31 Mar 2010 17:28:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=350855 Why the endless questions and arguments about the origins of the Chrysler minivans? It’s the old story: “success has a thousand fathers”. You don’t see designers and execs fighting about the paternity of the Aztek. We stepped on some toes regarding the origins of the Espace, and heard from its father. And we took a […]

The post 1972 Ford Carousel: The Chrysler Minivan’s True Father? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Why the endless questions and arguments about the origins of the Chrysler minivans? It’s the old story: “success has a thousand fathers”. You don’t see designers and execs fighting about the paternity of the Aztek. We stepped on some toes regarding the origins of the Espace, and heard from its father. And we took a wild (and disputed) stab at finding the maternal lineage of European minivans, but the American minivan paternity wars go on. Its origins clearly go back to the early seventies, when both Chrysler and Ford developers claim to have been working on “garageable vans”. Meanwhile, the commonly held story is that Hal Sperlich and Lee Iaccocca’s Minimax concept was spurned by Henry Ford II, and they took it with them to bring to fruition at Chrysler. And as usual, its not quite as simple as that. 

Before we jump into the Ford side of the story, lets quickly recap Chrysler’s. In an article at Allpar, Burton Bouwkamp, Chrysler’s Director of product Planning at the time makes the claim that Chrysler was working on a RWD “garageable van” in the early and mid seventies, but were unable to get the funding to take it beyond the clay model and seating buck stage. It wasn’t until Hal Sperlich and Lee Iaccoca arrived from Ford, that the general idea was put on the front burner again, but this time in a more compact FWD package that eventually became the production Chrysler minivan.

But the story that is generally circulated is that Sperlich’s idea for a small van at Ford was rebuffed by Henry Ford II, implying that Ford blew the opportunity to develop the first small van. But like most stories of the kind, it wasn’t nearly that simple. Hank II strongly endorsed a “garageable van”, and the Carousel concept was built in 1972 and almost production ready. And although it’s RWD and larger than Chrysler’s original minivans, it appears to be very similar in size and configuration as today’s un-minivans and especially Ford’s own Flex.

A thread at fomoconews.com on the origins of the American minivan brought the designer of the above pictured Ford Carousel concept, and some very enlightening facts about it and the Minimax, which this is not. Dick Nesbitt was a designer at Ford in the early 1970s, and in his words he describes the circumstances:

… when I was assigned to the Light Truck and Tractor studio, we received a product planning directive to develop a derivative of the upcoming new Ford Econoline Van, code named “Nantucket” and due for release in 1975. The derivative was code named “Carousel” and was intended to attract station wagon buyers with more car-like styling combined with the added appeal of van utility.

From hundreds of concept sketches created by staff designers in this studio during 1972, one of mine was selected by Hal Sperlich, Director of Product Planning, and Lee Iacocca as the approved design direction. I directed the construction of a full-size clay model, and the vehicle received a great deal of interest from Henry Ford II. Unfortunately, the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 halted further development after a drivable, fabricated metal prototype (top) had been built.

The Carousel was specifically designed as a “Garagable Family Van” alternative to the traditional station wagon market segment. This concept later became one of the most successful and enduring product innovations ever created when Hal Sperlich and Lee Iacocca launched the Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Caravan in 1984. (from automotivechronicles.com)

Nesbitt goes to clarify that the “Garagable Family Van” and the Minimax were not at all one and the same, but that the Minimax (of which there are no pictures) was a very compact four-seater FWD boxy car designed for congested urban settings:

The Carrousel significantly influenced the Chrysler Minivan success story,  Hal Sperlich and Lee Iacocca have often referred to the MiniMax as being the inspiration for the Voyager/Caravan although it was a very small urban vehicle created as a possible solution to overcrowded city traffic problems. The MiniMax concept was a four passenger front wheel drive commuter vehicle with almost no luggage storage capacity and no real future. The significance of the Carrousel proposal was that it offered a dramatically improved alternative to the typical interior-space-restricted station wagons of the 1970’s. The key “Nantucket Family Van” variation design and marketing directive was to create a lower “garagable” overall height compared to the Econoline van range from which it was derived ,combined with more automotive-like styling.

The non-garagable height and truck-like styling of the Econoline Club Wagon series were seen as major obstacles to any kind of high volume sales characteristic of contemporary station wagons–but the interior room available in a van had obvious advantages. The Carrousel Family Van was intended to represent the best of both worlds,and was seen by Ford as a major marketing breakthrough opportunity. Chrysler’s Minivans were and are not really “Mini” at all–and achieved monumental success as a more space efficient “Family Van” alternative to contemporary station wagons combined with “garagable” height and automotive-like styling as a direct extension of the original Carrousel idea back in 1972.

This account clarifies that the Ford Garagable Van and Minimax concepts were two totally different vehicles, at polar opposite ends of what could be considered a minivan, even given its loosely defined parameters. And it also makes it quite clear that what was developed at Chrysler was something quite in the middle of the two, which was clearly a more pragmatic solution in response to both the energy crisis and the availability of the K-car platform. It also makes it clear that Ford took the “garageable van” concept much closer to production than Chrysler’s early clays of theirs. So now we just need a picture of the Minimax to make that family tree, and close the door on this subject.

(hat tip to Robert Walter)

The post 1972 Ford Carousel: The Chrysler Minivan’s True Father? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/1972-ford-carousel-the-chrysler-minivans-true-father/feed/ 33
Minivan Design Origins Disputed: The Designer Of The Espace Fires Back At TTAC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/minivan-design-origins-disputed-the-designer-of-the-espace-fires-back-at-ttac/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/minivan-design-origins-disputed-the-designer-of-the-espace-fires-back-at-ttac/#comments Mon, 29 Mar 2010 18:42:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=350662 In our recent 1984 Dodge Caravan Curbside Classic, we explored the origins of the minivan. The question as to who first penned the modern FWD people mover is a bit of thorny one, and one which has been argued endlessly. In that CC, I gave credit to Rootes (later Chrysler Europe) designer Fergus Pollock  for […]

The post Minivan Design Origins Disputed: The Designer Of The Espace Fires Back At TTAC appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

In our recent 1984 Dodge Caravan Curbside Classic, we explored the origins of the minivan. The question as to who first penned the modern FWD people mover is a bit of thorny one, and one which has been argued endlessly. In that CC, I gave credit to Rootes (later Chrysler Europe) designer Fergus Pollock  for his work in developing a van project that eventually ended up at Renault as the 1984 Espace. I thought I made it pretty clear that his work was specifically on a one-box approach, and that I had given him due credit for that, whereas Ital Design’s Megagamma had the vestigial hood that ended up on the 1981 Nssan Prairie/Stanza Wagon and the Chrysler minivans. But designers are (rightfully) a sensitive and protective bunch, and I got a rather terse e-mail from Mr. Pollock setting the record (somewhat) straight(er).

Here’s what I said:

“Before we get into the guts of the so-called Magic Vans, lets quickly pick up the story of that other 1984 mini-van pioneer, the Espace, because it also got its start under Chrysler’s roof, but in England. Europe UK (formerly Rootes) designer Fergus Pollock, who later was senior design manager at Jaguar, developed a van project in the seventies, about the same time as Giorgetto Giugiario’s highly influential 1978 Megagamma concept for Lancia.  Pollock’s design focused on the one-box approach, whereas the Megagamma retained the vestigial hood that the Caravan also appeared with. Of course one can likely find numerous earlier designs, even production ones, that will be thrown at this argument, but the Megagamma’s FWD layout, package and lines are unmistakably apparent in the Voyager/Caravan, and to some extent in the Espace.” (emphasis added)

Pollock wants to set the record straight, in no uncertain terms:

Hello Paul, I read with some interest your article on the Dodge minivan and Espace. However, just to put the record straight I can tell you the Megagamma had absolutely no influence on the design of the Espace. The Espace was conceived in 1976 as a skunk project – it was not part of any cycle plan, but became a live programme after I presented the idea to Dick Macadam around the Spring of 1977. The whole point of Espace was that it was a one box volume. It was not only completed months before Megagamma was announced, but was light years ahead in design terms. This was carried through virtually unchanged into production – the Megagamma by comparison,was perceived as traditional and lacklustre, but became in the Prairie a visual bag of shit,clunky and old in the extreme. Get it right next time.

I like to be corrected, although I’m not exactly sure of my transgression. Regardless, you heard it from the horse’s mouth. Anyway, the key line in that article was this, at the very begining: “There’s nothing truly original in the car business. Everyone begs, steals and borrows from everyone else. Or sometimes, the same (and usually obvious) idea ferments for years in various heads or companies, and then suddenly appears in the same format at the same time in totally different places. How about the modern FWD mini-van?”

If Mr. Pollock thinks that he truly designed the first FWD one-box minivan, I encourage him to check back later today at TTAC, for another take on this subject. And I’d feel even more convinced about the similarities of the “lines” on the sides of both the Megagamma and the Espace, if Mr. Pollock could show us some early photos of his Espace, before it ended up for final development at Matra and Renault. Because it’s still very possible that they were added later. Can we take a look, Mr. Pollock?

The post Minivan Design Origins Disputed: The Designer Of The Espace Fires Back At TTAC appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/minivan-design-origins-disputed-the-designer-of-the-espace-fires-back-at-ttac/feed/ 40