Junkyard Find: 1987 Dodge Caravan SE V6

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

Last year, we saw as early second-generation Dodge Grand Caravan in a Colorado junkyard in this series. Discarded examples of the first-generation Chrysler minivans have been much more difficult to find, but I ran across this '87 Caravan in Colorado Springs last week.

The K-platform-based Chrysler minivan first appeared as a 1984 model, as the Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. As if station wagons didn't need enough competition, AMC piled on by introducing the unibody Jeep XJ Cherokee at the same time. Those two vehicles put us on the path to the American automotive landscape we have today.

I always keep my eyes open for first-generation (1984-1990) Chrysler minivans during my junkyard travels, but they have become rare sights during the past decade.

*Editor's Note -- This was supposed to run Monday but the dreaded technical issues caused a postponement.

Some of these vans were built with manual transmissions and/or turbocharged engines. From the beginning through the middle of the 1987 model year, all had four-cylinder engines.

Oh, hey, this van has a build date of May 1987 and these badges!

Our friend Sajeev Mehta was with me at the Colorado Springs U-Pull-&-Pay that day, having traveled to the Centennial State to judge at the B.F.E. GP 24 Hours of Lemons race (as well as to visit Colorado's first Buc-ees), and his frighteningly nerdy impressively deep knowledge of automotive history included the fact that we were looking at one of the very first V6-powered Chrysler minivans ever built. I shot this photo on weird German microfilm in a 1940 New-York-built German camera, as one does.

The 3.0-liter Mitsubishi 6G72 V6 replaced the Mitsubishi Astron four-cylinder.

It was rated at 136 horsepower and 168 pound-feet, and came attached to a mandatory automatic transmission. For 1989 and 1990, Chrysler minivan buyers could get a turbocharged Chrysler 2.5 four-cylinder with 150 horses tearing up the front tires.

The final mileage total is impressive, far higher than what I see in most Chrysler products of this era (the ones with six-digit odometers, that is). My current Chrysler-built junkyard odometer record-holder is a 1992 Jeep Cherokee Laredo with 355,892 miles found in California, by the way.

I feel fairly certain that the original owner who put on most of those quarter-million miles and kept the van looking good for so many years wouldn't have fixed the headliner with cardboard and packaging tape.

And then the guys pulling the engine from the Caliber parked next door set a full oil filter to drain onto this Caravan's hood.

This van has the nice Infinity AM/FM/cassette deck with joystick fader/balance control and Dolby, which was necessary in order to do justice to the exquisite popular music of 1987 (I was listening to the Butthole Surfers on a cassette player yanked from a junkyard Datsun and installed in the glovebox of a Mercury Cyclone at the time and could only dream of an audio rig as nice as the one in this van).

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

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

1987 Dodge Caravan in Colorado junkyard

[Images: The Author]

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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.

More by Murilee Martin

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  • The Oracle The Oracle on Jun 29, 2024

    These laid amazing blankets of blue smoke once the valve guides wore out.

  • Wantahertzdonut Wantahertzdonut on Jul 02, 2024

    I smell these heaps before I see them. Burning oil in the left lane driving 5 under the speed limit. Shred them all!

  • Bd2 Probably too late to do anything about it for the launch, but Kia should plan on doing an extensive refresh of the front fascia (the earlier, the better) as the design looks really ungainly.
  • Namesakeone Since I include SUVs and minivans as trucks, I really cannot think of a brand that is truly truckless. MG maybe?
  • Sobhuza Trooper Subaru, they were almost there with the BRAT. --On a lighter note, where the hell is my Cooper Works Mini truck?
  • Mike Evs do suck, though. I mean, they really do.
  • Steve Biro I don’t care what brand but it needs to be a compact two-door with an ICE, traditional parallel hybrid or both. A manual transmission option would be nice but I don’t expect it - especially with a hybrid. Don’t show me an EV.
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