Part of my obligation as a Jalopnik writer is to help readers score the vehicles of their dreams. At least, that’s how I’ll justify writing this post about the perfect 1990 Chrysler minivan—a turbocharged manual Dodge Caravan with a red interior!
This Plymouth Voyager “needs a lot of love” according to its owner, who says on Facebook Marketplace that the 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four makes low oil pressure and powers the pulley of a broken power steering pump. In all likelihood, this Voyager needs a motor rebuild (or maybe a new oil pump or new oil pressure sender—who knows?) and a power steering pump. Plus that missing piece at the base of the windshield, and whatever the seller is referring to when he says “Needs some other things.” It’s a tall-ish order, sure, but the project seems manageable for a few grand.
With this van only costing $2,500 or best offer, you could end up with a nicely-running Voyager for only four large. Paint for the faded hood and roof would probably put you into the fives, but that’s okay. Remember, this is the “Holy Grail”—the vehicle that started the minivan craze that would sweep the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s. There’s a reason why you’ll find a van just like this one at The Henry Ford car museum near Detroit; it is a big deal.
Yes, I know I overuse that “Holy Grail” phrase, but surely I’m justified, here. This is a beautiful first-gen Chrysler minivan with the coveted 150 horsepower, 180 lb-ft turbocharged engine; amazing burgundy interior; and manual transmission (with its shifter that strangely sits lower than the front seat cushions). If all of that doesn’t sound grail-like to you, then I suggest you seek counseling from your pastor.
It amazes me that one could get such an awesome and soulful machine for so little money, especially in the Radwood Era that has brought so much love to cars from the ’80s and ’90s, but that’s just how the minivan market is. You might recall that borderline-immaculate 1986 model for sale for only $3,500 late last year. And then there was that almost-literally-mint 1989 formerly owned by a World War II aircraft mechanic—that one was up for just $5,500. My 1994 Voyager—a diesel manual model that passed Germany’s ridiculously strict inspection (with some work on my part, admittedly) only cost me $600!
Clearly, even the coolest old Chrysler minivans are cheap, but it makes sense. We’re probably all aware of how, for years, folks have been (mistakenly) claiming that vans are uncool because they’re made to transport families to soccer practice. It’s a stigma that may never go away, and it drives down prices. But on top of that is the fact that families tend to care a lot about safety, so buying a 15 year old minivan to transport children to school just isn’t acceptable for many. Add the fact that most minivans are a bit too small to act as effective work vans, they’re not particularly quick, they don’t handle well, and they can’t off-road, and it becomes obvious why even the coolest minivans of all time can be had for pennies. A child-hauler has a shelf life of only a couple of years.
This is actually a blessing, though. I mean, just look at this boxy beauty:
Now someone go and buy this thing, and enjoy driving an incredibly space-efficient, lightweight, airy and just downright charming piece of turbocharged, manual transmission, seven-passenger automotive history.
Correction: This article originally stated that the 2.5-liter turbocharged engine is intercooled. Despite Dodge’s own brochure saying so, this is false.