Welcome to Used Car Face Off, where we find two similar or similarly priced used cars and ask you which one you would buy. Choose wisely!
This month marks the 30th anniversary of the Chrysler minivan, launched as the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Chrysler popularized a formula for the minivan that was never really beaten in terms of ease of use and space efficiency, despite the attempts of lots of other manufacturers to suggest they knew better. They didn't.
Still, it's not like they were all bad ideas or bad vehicles and today, these oddballs of people-hauler history make interesting buys. Here are a couple this weekend.
The Volkswagen Transporter was a key influence in the Chrysler minivan formula. But by the '80s, Volkswagen of America was unraveling and had no answer to the success of the Chrysler minivan. Sure, stuff like this '88 Vanagon GL was more commodious than a Caravan, but it was more expensive new, less flexible inside and not blessed with much power.
With 95 horsepower, you'd need to row those gears pretty feverishly trying to go up an incline with any sort of load. That's not going to put off many Jalops, though. That bus driver seating position isn't going to win any fans. But this is a bus, and it shows with the space inside. It may not have a stove and pop-up tent like the ludicrously expensive camper Vanagons, but this wins as a cheap airport shuttle.
For almost $7,000, though, it's a lot of money for a 25-year-old van that's racked up 150,000(ish) miles. It's definitely charming and a tough old thing, but does it really make a lot of sense when there are more practical, more powerful, less expensive alternatives?
Honda could've had a better formula for the first-generation Odyssey if they'd just stuck some sliding doors on it. A minivan with four doors might've been a novel concept in late 1994 when it was launched, but Chrysler would come out with a four-door minivan with sliding doors barely a year later. Which is too bad, since stuff like this '95 Odyssey EX proved long-lasting, if a slow-seller.
The Odyssey's biggest innovation, and the one Chrysler took a long time to get on board with, was that fold-in-floor third row. No more lifting out a Like Honda interiors of the time, it's proven able to withstand 286,000 miles of people-hauling abuse. That's right, this Odyssey's close to 300k. That explains the $2,500 price, though that's what rusty Caravans of similar vintage go for – and they don't have these miles.
The 2.2-liter four-cylinder in the Honda is barely bigger than the Vanagon's engine, but makes 45 more horses. Still, I've been in an Odyssey with five Boy Scouts and their stuff and progress up even a modest hill was slow and noisy. In some ways, though, Honda had it right with this not-too-big Odyssey and it definitely has a fan base. I appreciate it for what it gave the minivan world, but there's not enough quirk to it.
Yes, it's slow, old and slow. I'd like to have the Vanagon. You probably would too. But if you're trying to haul a lot of humans around, you're going to buy something that looks like Chrysler's idea of a minivan. Or Honda's idea of the three-row 4x4, but that's a separate story.