First-Year Game Changer: 1984 Plymouth Voyager LE

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I’ve been around long enough to witness the introduction of two rather revolutionary car categories. And both spearheaded by Lee Iacocca. The first was the Ford Mustang, the original pony car, which came out in 1964 when I was nine years old. Twenty years later, I had just started a family and needed four doors and room for playpens and high chairs when Chrysler introduced the first ever garage-friendly, car-like driving minivan. Trust me, the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager twins were a transportation game changer if you had kids and needed cargo space. And consumers thought so, too. Chrysler couldn’t build their popular new minivan fast enough and over 209,000 found garages and driveways in their first year of sales. Most of these minivans were “rode hard and put away wet” as they say, but here’s a low-mileage 1984 Plymouth Voyager LE that is remarkably preserved. It is located in Huntington Beach, California and is for sale here on craigslist for $8,000. A special shout out to our pal, numskal, for sending this tip our way.

Plymouth marketed their new Voyager as “the family vehicle of the future…the Magic Wagon. You’ve got to drive it to believe it.” And although most minivan buyers were young parents with several kids, some grandparents found the practicality and flexibility of this new occasional grandkids hauler appealing as well. Nothing is shared about this Voyager’s history, but I’m guessing it belonged to “an older demographic” who bought the luxury LE level, always kept it garaged, well maintained, and wasn’t taking a gaggle of kids to soccer, football, or baseball practice several days a week. The exterior looks great for a nearly 40-year-old people/cargo hauler. The Beige Metallic paint is shiny and I’m not spotting any body and rust issues. The faux wood trim on the sides and tailgate looks very good as does the shiny stuff, trim, glass and lenses. I don’t believe the added-on running boards came from the factory.

Inside, the well-preserved time capsule theme continues with the beige cloth interior looking to be in very good condition. The driver’s bucket seat has a little bit of wear in the form of stretched fabric and the rear bench seat (that when removed, offered 125 cubic feet of cargo space) hasn’t seen many fannies on it the past 40 years. The instrument panel, dash, and door panels look very good as well. The seller rates the interior a 9 out of 10, and it looks like it.

Chrysler’s new minivans were originally going to have four standard doors, but changed to dual sliding doors for easier parking lot access. But to reduce production costs and market the van for commercial use, a single left-side sliding door was offered on the ’84 Caravans and Voyagers. Other cost control measures included sharing the instrument panel, interior controls, and a number of trim items with Chrysler’s K cars.

The seller doesn’t include any photos of the Mitsubishi-sourced 2.6 liter 4-cylinder engine that is mated to a three-speed TorquFlite automatic transmission. It’s listed as having 84,700 miles on the clock with all service records having been kept since new. Mechanically, the Voyager has a new AC compressor and lines, a new battery, windshield washer pump, and blue tooth stereo. Under the “Newer” heading, the seller lists brakes, radiator, alternator, water pump, rack and pinion, headliner, and more. It also passed the California smog test less than 400 miles ago. It’s easy to poo-poo the uncoolness of the minivan 40 years after its introduction (which was seen at the time as a cool replacement for the uncool station wagon), but you can’t overlook its importance as a transportation game changer in the 1980’s. This one might be one of the nicest surviving first-year Plymouth Voyagers out there. Many didn’t look this nice and clean even when they were new!

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  1. Jim

    Most of these turned to a pile of rust. This one is surprisingly nice. The bad thing about the minivan is it led to the demise of the station wagon and the rise of the “softened” SUV, which is bow resulting in the demise of the automobile.

    Like 14
  2. Jimbosidecar

    I too had a 1984 Voyager. The Mitsu engine (optional) was bulletproof. Unfortunately my oldest daughter totalled it after 8 years and 100,000 miles.

    Like 4
  3. Tom

    We had one almost identical to this one, except that it was dark brown with the Chrysler 2.2. It could barely reach highway speeds, and there was no way it could maintain those speeds on even the slightest hill. What a piece of junk! Sold it after about 6 months

    Like 3
    • David Parker

      I had an ’86 used with about 1,000 miles on it. It came with the Mitsubishi 2.6 and automatic. It was the best car I had ever driven. Four kids, all our luggage, from Washington to LA and back, over the grapevine easily holding its own up the grades and across the blazing hot central valley with air conditioning running at 70+ and never a problem until the thermostat stuck a year later. When it overheated that ruined the wax-cylinder automatic choke which made it a little difficult to start on cold days after that, but I not been so stubborn and simply replace the thermostat, it would most likely still be running. Synthetic oil and changed it every time it got a little dark. I have had four Caravans and one Voyager since, all used. As I discovered later, the previous Voyager owner had destroyed the sliding door lock mechanism and door frame, but there was never a problem with any of them that was not attributable to negligence. The 3.8 was a particularly strong engine and economical, on long runs up I-5 it got 27 mpg.

      Like 1
  4. Al_Bundy Al_BundyMember

    I worked at Bob Caldwell Dodge here in Columbus OH where the 5 millionth minivan was sold, I believe it was 1996. The family that bought it was unaware that the van would be free to them and there would be a morning block party catered by McDonald’s and covered by CBS’s “Good Morning America”. I worked in the parts department and had to help set up the event at 5:00 AM. Of all things it was on my parents street where I grew up. Fun memory and I later owned one starting a young family a few years later. Only wish Lee Iacocoa was there so I could’ve met such a great American ! 5 million sold after 12 years is nothing to sneeze at…

    Like 20
    • Jim

      Great American????

      Like 2
      • TonyF

        Yeah actually he was. I started working for Chrysler in ‘81. It all turned around when Lee came and took over after working at Ford.We wouldn’t have the suv of today without his knowledge of what the public needed. He turned the company around and made it profitable, and repaid the loan back to the government in short order.So yeah I think he’s a great American too.

        Like 28
    • Jack

      I had an 88 with the 2.5 mopar 4. Bullet proof and decent acceleration. Was really a game changer as our family was growing. Car pools, road trips all in a comfortable and roomy space. I not too big and not too small.

      The early ones likely suffered from all the emission controls retrofitted to carburetors, while the newer ones had a throttle body EFI which really improved drivability and reliability.

      Lots of great memories

      Like 10
  5. Roland

    Say what you will, these vans rocked the world in the 80s. My girlfriends father had one just like this but in medium blue, we put a motorcycle in it (no mirrors), and he used it for work during the week and family hauling and long trips. It could swallow 12’ 2x12s and got really good mileage, all while hauling 1000 pounds of concrete. It is the only vehicle I have ever seen to get over 100k on brakes. It is a shame they became unpopular, SUVs are really no better looking and get much worse mileage.

    Like 13
  6. TonyF

    Yeah actually he was. I started working for Chrysler in ‘81. It all turned around when Lee came and took over after working at Ford.We wouldn’t have the suv of today without his knowledge of what the public needed. He turned the company around and made it profitable, and repaid the loan back to the government in short order.So yeah I think he’s a great American too.

    Like 11
  7. Russ

    Doesn’t say anything about headgasket.
    Had a 1987 a she smoked up a storm.people would tell my wife that her car was on fire.

    Like 1
  8. sparkster

    I still have my 1999 Dodge Grand caravan sport. Bought it used in 2008 for $2250. It now has 305,000 miles. Never has it left me stranded, unlike my 2011 Toyota Sienna which has three times. Transmission service every two years. Never have had the transmission removed / replaced. Now it hauls concrete and everything else to the dump.

    Like 12
  9. Nelson C

    Solid vehicles that created a market segment. Lots of scrambling from others to get something like it. The Aerostar and Astro was aimed at a similar yet different client. Tough as tanks and not rust buckets until the all new 1995 model. Lots of people had them with 2.2s and stick shifts who really liked the car. Of coarse anything bigger was a step in the right direction, especially the 3-litre V6 and the 2.5 turbo. Chrysler’s own 60° V6 wouldn’t appear until I believe 1990.

    Like 5
  10. FenderUnbender

    When these first came out they were in such high demand that it pushed the price way higher than sticker price. In 1984 I had just started working at a bodyshop and a coworker was fixing a loaded one that was hammered very hard in the side. Most any other vehicle would have never been fixed but these were so valuable and so hard to come by at that time that it was fixed. Seems crazy today that so much effort would go into saving a Caravan.

    Like 6
  11. Richard WilloughbyMember

    I’m a Great grandparent and my Grandkids and Great Grandkids ride in our 2006 Caravan. We transport rescue dogs in it too. We LOVE it. As long as we can find another one that’s not a rust bucket, we’ll have one. Thanks Lee. This and the Mustang were great ideas. (We’ve owned a few Mustangs too)

    Like 6
  12. Big C

    My one and only mini van was a 93 Aerostar 4wd. Loved that thing, but it loved gas and head gaskets. A buddy bought a Caravan in ’87. Had the 2 kids by then, and the wife was complaining about his Mustang GT. He showed up at a bachelor party in the Dodge, and parked a block away. Too embarrassed to park in front of the house, I guess.

    Like 6
  13. JWK

    The write up says due to cost controls, the new minivan would only have a LEFT side sliding door. Apparently, the author can’t tell the difference of the right side or left side, as this van clearly has a RIGHT side sliding door.

    Like 1
  14. Driveinstile DriveinstileMember

    I was thinking about that too at first but then realized that if youre looking at it from the front……. it IS on the left……. just a thought…..

    Like 2
    • JWK

      In the automotive world, the view isn’t from the outside front, its from the driver’s seat. That is the standard. In the USA, what side of the street do you drive on? That would be the RIGHT… as in the view from the driver seat. You steer the car from the LEFT side of the automobile. When you order a front fender for a car, or any left or right part, it is always the view from the driver seat.

      Like 6
      • Driveinstile DriveinstileMember

        Thats a good point. You would order a right front fender ( passenger side) etc.

        Like 2
  15. Steve Marten

    My dad bought a new Caravan in 1984, with a four on the floor! Fun to drive.

    Like 3
  16. Al_Bundy Al_BundyMember

    I would recommend to anyone, especially those not familiar with Lee Iacocca to read and/or watch a documentary about him. Not only was he responsible for the Mustang and Minivan, his story as a self made man of humble beginnings and his life achievements is impressive. If there were a ‘Mount Rushmore’ of the US auto industry, he would be carved in rock !

    Like 5
  17. Clay Harvey

    My brother had an 84 model in 1992 with a manual transmission, the only one I ever saw. We went from Tyler Texas to El Paso Texas and back in it. It stayed up with traffic just fine and had no problems on the near 2000 mile trip. The a/c had problems keeping the back area cooled so he mounted a fan to help out.

    Like 1
  18. Norman Phillips

    Postng deleted by author.

    Like 0

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