1984 Plymouth Voyager (Magic Wagon No. 1)
Date(s) of Construction
November 2, 1983
Original Owner and Use
Chrysler Corporation, ceremonial first “minivan”
Present Owner and Use
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, display and limited exhibition
Designer / Engineer / Builder
The first Chrysler minivan rolled off the production line on November 2nd, 1983 – exactly five years to the day after Lee Iacocca took the post as CEO of the then failing Detroit automaker. The “minivan” (Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan) was a new kind of family vehicle designed by Chrysler. It was taller than a full-size station wagon but lower than standard vans. It was fuel-efficient and built to drive like a car. It was easy to get in and out of and had room for seven adults. The minivan was a hit with suburban families and the transportation of choice for “soccer moms” everywhere until the late 1990s when SUVs became popular. It all started here – with this first Chrysler minivan.
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Frame: Unibody construction
Engine: 2.2 liter, inline 4-cylinder, carbureted, 101 HP
Trans: Automatic, three-speed, transaxle
Suspension: Front – independent, MacPherson strut
Rear – solid axle, leaf springs
Brakes: Front – disc, Rear – Drum (hydraulic/vacuum power assist)
Dimensions: Length – 175.9”/ Width – 68.9”/Height – 64.2”
Track: Front – 59.9”/Rear – 62.1”
Price: $8,500 (1984)
“And here’s where I go on record. I predict the Voyager and Caravan will be to the Eighties what the Mustang was to the Sixties – vehicles that create extraordinary excitement and buyer interest and force other manufacturers to come up with copycat versions.
As revolutionary as the Mustang? Now that’s a hellava strong statement. You know, the Mustang became both a sales legend and a classic car in its own time. But I feel that our minivan vehicles will do all of that, too – this design, frankly is more revolutionary than the Mustang was…”
—- Prepared Remarks by Lee A. Iacocca, Chairman of the Board, Chrysler Corporation, at the T-Wagon Rollout, Windsor, Ontario, November 2, 1983
The Chrysler minivan (Voyager, Caravan and Mini Ram Van) was launched in November of 1983 after Lee Iacocca gave the above speech and “Magic Wagon No. 1” rolled off the assembly line. Chrysler had teased the minivan for months leading up to its official release and it had already been a featured story in the May 1983 Car and Driver magazine where noted automotive writer, Brock Yates stated: “If we were Forbes instead of C/D, we would have one word of advice: buy Chrysler stock.” And Brock was right. Chrysler had successfully repaid its massive debts and was on the upswing after virtually collapsing by the late 1970s and the minivan helped ensure the future of Chrysler. The minivan sold out for years afterward and continues to dominate the segment as competitors flocked to the market. While there were plenty of compact, small, and even “mini” vans that came before the Caravan and Voyager, there did not exist a specific category around the format or the popularity until the release of the Chrysler front-wheel-drive version.
The Caravan and Voyager, known initially as the T-115 internally, was the result of years of development. Hal Sperlich, Chrysler President by 1983, had previously worked at Ford with Lee Iacocca where they conceived two different “garagable vans” but neither made it to production. When the pair ended up at Chrysler they were met with that company’s past work on the concept and combined with the K-car platform, produced a front-wheel-drive offering that was as easy to drive as a small car but featured more room than a station wagon and could easily fit in to a standard garage.
210,000 Caravans and Voyagers were sold by the end of 1984 – all that they were able to produce. Today over 13 million minivans have been sold despite the drop in popularity by approximately 2000 with the surge in SUV sales.