By on March 27, 2017

1987 Plymouth Caravelle in California junkyard, RH RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

As recently as five years ago, you could get a good sense of the width and height of the Chrysler K-Car family tree by just walking the rows of a big American self-service wrecking yard. You would see at least one early Aries or Reliant and probably a few late-K-family New Yorkers or Acclaim/Spirits. Not any more. The Crusher has eaten and digested most of the K Family, so I felt that this rare Plymouth Caravelle sighting in a San Francisco Bay Area yard was noteworthy.

1987 Plymouth Caravelle in California junkyard, RH valve cover - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The 2.2 Turbo engine in this car was rated at 146 horsepower, which was quite a bit for a 2,596-pound car in 1987. That’s more than a thousand pounds lighter than the 2017 Chrysler 200, which was axed in part due to its unacceptable-to-American-car-shoppers small size. In fact, the Fiat 500 is just a bit lighter than this Caravelle.

1987 Plymouth Caravelle in California junkyard, RH registration

Sometimes you can learn a bit about a junkyard car from the detritus found inside. For example, I know this Plymouth’s final owner lived about two miles from the car’s final parking space.

1987 Plymouth Caravelle in California junkyard, RH satellite view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I was able to find the car on Google Earth.


The parking ticket under the Caravelle’s wiper indicates that the most likely cause for the car’s demise was an accumulation of unpaid fines and an involuntary tow-truck ride. These clues mean the car probably ran fine prior to its series of unfortunate events.

1987 Plymouth Caravelle in California junkyard, RH door pull strap - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Chrysler was King of the Whorehouse Red Car Interiors during this period, though Nissan was at least the Duke of Bordello Red Car Interiors.

1987 Plymouth Caravelle in California junkyard, RH Little Tree air freshener - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

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49 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1987 Plymouth Caravelle Turbo SE Sedan...”

  • avatar

    Girl I used to know had one of these in light blue, the turbo long since having given up the ghost. My God, was it slow with that non-functioning turbo—made my 2.5 Reliant seem almost peppy.

    Based on personal experience with the non-intercooled 2.2T in the 80s, I’d say you were lucky if you drove one with a functioning turbo after say, 5 years. It was more like 1 in 5 with a working turbocharger IME.

  • avatar

    I had an Acclaim as a company car. (Chrysler sales call. Mound Road Engine was a huge customer for me.)

    It was a decent car. Roomy inside. Compact outside. fast. Good std Stereo.

  • avatar

    Getting this back on the road and tuning the engine to 200 to 250HP range, decent brakes and leaving the exterior that horrible wonderful anonymous beige appeals to me. I’m so wrong.

  • avatar

    Plate o’ shrimp.

  • avatar

    Hella miserably crammed neighborhood. Just add grandkids and guns.

    What’s with the inboard headlights? Sweeping for curbside roadkill?

    • 0 avatar

      That right high beam lamp certainly is crooked. I didn’t notice it at first. Good catch!

      I don’t think you could adjust them THAT far to the side; I think it’s probably damage or rust.

      • 0 avatar

        most likely a broken headlight adjuster, my 70s barge had a few turn loose and the lights take on weird angles, either great at lighting the road about 3 feet in front of the car, or lighting the curb and sidewalk really well.

      • 0 avatar

        Re: the comment about the broken headlight: it’s got to be a broken plastic part. There is absolutely No Rust in this part of the world. For people who live in a rust region (I know from experience) this seems impossible. But believe me it’s true. No rust anywhere out west except for cars living their life in the block or two facing the ocean (salty air and high winds) in the Avenues at the west edge of San Francisco. This car probably is in running condition. This country needlessly junks soooo many good cars. Sad. So sad.

    • 0 avatar

      Weird that they’re pretty symmetrically skewed here.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    One insanely overbuilt Mitsubishi turbo away from greatness!

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    That is one hellaciously clean junkyard. The carpet remnants under each car are a nice touch of class.

  • avatar


    Born of desperation but a harbinger of things to come.

    • 0 avatar

      “Born of desperation but a harbinger of things to come.”

      I think “and” would be a better conjunction than “but” which implies some contradiction. Cuz ain’t noothin’ contradictory about planning for a desperate future.

      • 0 avatar

        I think in the 80s there was general optimism (at least after the 82 Recession). The turbo Ks were born of “shit the slant 6 doesn’t fit in a FWD application.”

        • 0 avatar
          MRF 95 T-Bird

          I always wondered if post 79 bailout or even before during the OPEC oil crisis when they were designing the K-Car they considered taking the Slant-6 and chopping off two cylinders as a “new” 4 banger. Unless they figured out that the long ram like intake would not work in a transverse FWD vehicle.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t think fitting it in would have been a problem so much as the weight.

            The slant 6 was a great engine in so many ways, but lightweight was not one of them!

            The 2.2 was also a great engine, very solid bottom end, designed for easy serviceability (oil filter, distributor, and other accessories were right there when you opened the hood), but smooth running was certainly never one of its positive attributes. Somebody mentioned the port injection vs TBI earlier today- but you have to consider how much that would have added to the new price of each vehicle.

  • avatar

    My parents owned a Plymouth Reliant. I always thought this car had an elegant touch to it. It was…Almost Aspirational.

  • avatar

    Have a soft spot for Chyrsler Turbos…

  • avatar

    IIRC, competitors were moving to optional V6s at the time, so this seemed to be ChryCo’s response of putting the turbo motor in everything.

    I had the non turbo version as a loaner car one time. Given the amount it understeered, the turbo would have been downright scary on a highway onramp.

    The turbo would have been fun though. I had a Dodge Shadow of the same year with the same engine (but a manual). IT could be fun in a straight line as well.

  • avatar

    This got me thinking. What is the K-Car of today? Is there a current equivalent?

    • 0 avatar

      Toyota K platform? It even has the same name!

      Used across their car/van/crossover lineup, kind of old but still perfectly well engineered. They’re finally leaving it behind with the ’18 Camry that shares a platform with the Gen IV Prius as I recall. Avalons/ES/Sienna/Highlander/RX/Solara/Venza all used some version of it at one point or another.

    • 0 avatar

      VW MQB platform is really the only one I can think of that’s as broad a use as the K-platform was.

  • avatar

    “Chrysler was King of the Whorehouse Red Car Interiors during this period, though Nissan was at least the Duke of Bordello Red Car Interiors.”

    I have nothing of note to say about Plymouth Caravelles. I would, however, like to be filled in on why every car with a red velour interior warrants some snarky mention of whorehouses and bordellos. I’ve never been in a whorehouse, so I don’t know: Are they really red inside? Why? And what and/or where is the velour?

  • avatar

    and to think, had they put that port injection system on the 2.2/2.5 across the board it would have had a much better reputation. instead they used that lousy TBI system.

  • avatar

    I just saw a Dodge Diplomat on the road yesterday in this same color. Wasn’t in much better condition than this car.

  • avatar

    I supposed this platform was successful because it saved Chrysler. But man, all these K-car variants weren’t even trying. Except for the plastic grille and the tail lamps, and maybe a vinyl roof, there was no difference between the Caravelle, the K-car, the New Yorker, the Aries K, the Reliant, the LeBaron, the E type and I’m sure I’m missing some. I remember being about eleven years old and my parents were looking at one of them. It had a digital dashboard and electronic stereo. It had a scratchy voice that indicated that the lights were on or the keys were in the ignition. It seemed like the future at the time. But man, did these things turn out to be garbage.

    • 0 avatar

      What time is it where you are? Can you still go play outside?

    • 0 avatar

      If you’d bother to do the research, you’d find that there was quite the difference between many of the models you named. And not just in little things like grilles and trim pieces, but in fundamental things like engine offerings and wheelbases.

      • 0 avatar
        Middle-Aged Miata Man

        I think his comment highlights that, although there was a lot of differentiation throughout the first generation of K-Cars, those changes didn’t necessarily result in many perceived differences. Even with a longer wheelbase, tufted leather, landau top, and a turbo engine, a 1984 New Yorker still looked and felt an awful lot like a 1984 Reliant.

        They did far better in this regard with the G-bodies, EEKs and, of course, the minivans.

  • avatar

    And here she is when she arrived at the junkyard, complete with the ticket under the wiper and skewed headlights:

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