Junkyard Gem: 1992 Dodge Caravan With 5-Speed Manual Transmission
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Believe it or not, manual minivans once roamed America - not in large numbers, but there were. Many mid-engined Toyota Vans and early Previas came here with three pedals, and Ford sold Aerostars with manual transmissions until 1994 ... but Chrysler ruled the American world of shifter minivans, selling Caravans and Voyagers without a slushbox throughout the 1995 model year. I'm always on the lookout for vans like this when I visit car graveyards, and now here's this '92 caravan in a snowy yard in northeast Colorado.
Some minivan buyers may have opted for five-speed because they preferred to drive manually, but most of the time you have a caravan or Voyager that is equipped because you have the cheapest trim level and didn't want to pay the extra for an automatic. The base-model front-wheel drive '92 station wagon had an MSRP of $ 13,706 (about $ 25,960 in 2021), and if you wanted a three-speed automatic instead of the standard five-speed automatic, you had to add an additional 576 Pay US dollars ($ 1,090 today).
Air conditioning in the same van cost $ 857 ($ 1,625 today) as minivan owners were tougher in the early 1990s.
In fact, this van has expensive cooled air, so its original buyer may have just preferred the improved driving fun and fuel economy of a five-speed manual transmission to the inefficiency of a three-speed automatic.
Because these vans shared chassis, including shift linkages, with their first cousins the Dodge Shadow / Plymouth Sundance, the shift lever ended up further back (relative to the front seats) than in a normal car. This meant the driver had to go back a long way to get into gear, but it would get used to. Hey, if road racers in a Voyager Turbo can beat the BMW E30 with this setup, it worked well enough.
Better than 150,000 miles on the clock.
It seems to have served as a business vehicle at some point. Imagine today you want to find employees who are able to drive a manually equipped vehicle!
However, the difficulty of finding drivers willing and able to operate such a transmission has an impact on such a van when it comes to selling it. It could have gone well when the end came.
Maybe a dealer trade-in that couldn't be auctioned? We will never know.
The 1992 Grand Caravan was delivered with an automatic as basic equipment, although the air conditioning still costs extra. As far as I can tell, its Chrysler Town & Country sibling never had a manual transmission.
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