Junkyard Find: 1987 Plymouth Caravelle Turbo SE Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

You’ll find one in every car. You’ll see.

One of the best-built, best-backed American cars!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Hifi Hifi on Mar 27, 2017

    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.

    • See 2 previous
    • @Drzhivago138 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.

  • Copcarguy Copcarguy on Mar 28, 2017

    And here she is when she arrived at the junkyard, complete with the ticket under the wiper and skewed headlights: https://row52.com/Vehicle/Index/1P3BJ46E6HC192356

  • Grg I am not sure that this would hold up in snow country. It used to be that people in snow country would not be caught dead in a white car. Now that white cars have become popular in the north, I can't tell you how many times I have seen white cars driving in the snow without lights. Almost all cars are less visible in a snow storm, or for that matter, rain storm, without lights. White ones become nearly invisible.
  • Douglas I have a 2018 BMW 740e PHEV, and love it. It has a modest electric only range compared to newer PHEV's (about 18 miles), but that gets me to the office and back each day. It has a small gas tank to make room for the battery, so only holds about 11 gallons. I easily go 600 or more miles per tank. I love it, and being able to take long road trips without having to plug in (it just operates like a regular Hybrid if you never plug it in). It charges in 75 minutes in my garage from a Level 2 charger I bought on Amazon for $350. Had an electrician add a dryer outlet beside the breaker box. It's the best of both worlds and I would definitely want a PHEV for my next car. 104,000 miles and ZERO problems with the powertrain components (so far).
  • Panther Platform I had a 98 Lincoln Mark VIII so I have a soft spot for this. The Mark VIII styling was not appreciated by all.
  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...