Today I bring you a revelation: Germany is chock-full of absurdly cheap Chrysler minivans equipped with two coveted features never offered in the U.S.: a manual transmission and a diesel engine. Yes, I’m talking about the torquey and fuel efficient glory of a compression engine bolted to fun-to-drive transmission, all encapsulated in an efficient minivan body. Just look at these deals.
Over the past couple of days, Jalopnik has been on a first-gen Chrysler minivan kick, specifically drooling over manual transmission models with red interiors. And can you blame us? You get all of the practicality associated with a unibody van, plus the joy of rowing through your own gears, all in a bright red, extremely 1980s cocoon—it’s awesome.
But the issue with minivans in the U.S. isn’t just that manual transmission models have always been supremely rare, it’s that such workhorses have pretty much only come with gas engines. The joy of a torquey turbodiesel motor built to handle huge loads while scoring great fuel economy has been relegated to other markets, including Germany, where I frequently visit and scour Craigslist (well, I use their equivalent, Mobile.de). Recently, I’ve found myself drooling over Plymouth Voyager minivans that I’ve otherwise never been interested in, and I feel a bit weird about it. So I figured I’d share this recent fetish with you, dear readers.
Among the apples of my eye is the third-generation “NS” Chrysler minivan—you know, the really round one that may have looked cool when it launched for the 1996 model year, but has not aged well at all. That’s one in the top photo there, and it’s for sale for only 350 Euro, or about $393. Sure, the engine fires up and immediately stalls, but that can be fixed, and you can find these things in similarly workable shape for well under $500 all day.
This blue one actually appears to be in decent shape:
Here’s a look at the three pedals and the shifter:
And here’s another one for sale for only 450 Euro, or about $500:
What’s that you say? You strongly prefer the 2001 to 2007 “RS” fourth- generation Chrysler minivan? Fear not, for those, too, were offered with diesels and stick shifts. This beauty right here costs only 450 Euro or about $500:
It honestly looks pretty damn clean, and the extremely brief description “motor getriebe top” seems to imply that the engine and transmission are in tip-top shape.
If you’re not feeling any of those overly-round minivans above, the good news is that the second-gen “AS” minivan was also available in Germany (fun fact: This generation could be had in the U.S. with a manual, though not a diesel), and this one costs under $700:
Someone replaced the shift knob with a strange looking one, and my god does that engine look oily and radiator fluid-y as hell:
If you want one in nicer shape, and you’re willing to drop $900, there’s this red second-gen that’s apparently in good mechanical condition, per the seller. It honestly looks great:
Many of the cars need some basic repairs to receive their “TUV” inspection, and it’s worth mentioning that the VM 2.5-liter turbodiesel, which makes about 120 horsepower and 190 lb-ft of torque, isn’t really known to be the most reliable engine ever.
Still, the sheer number of manual diesel Chrysler minivans—vehicles that simply do not exist in the U.S.—plus the fact that they’re so cheap has me extremely intrigued.
I’m not saying buying one of these would be a great idea, but the quirkiness-per-dollar ratio of these Graz, Austria-built vans is ridiculously high. And I just thought you all should know that.