Rare 5-Speed: 1984 Dodge Cargo Van

Finding a clean first-generation Caravan isn’t easy days; finding a preserved Cargo Van of the same generation with a manual transmission is downright impossible. This example appears to be as good as it’s described, with a clean body and no signs of a hard life on the job site. These workman-friendly versions of the Caravan are in short supply, and this 5-speed manual example here on craigslist for $2,800 looks like the one to buy if you’ve been hunting. 

Obviously, the cosmetic differences between this and a regular Caravan are obvious, with the deleted rear side windows and the smaller glass in the sliding door. These were intended to be used for contractors or tradesmen who needed to haul supplies and may have wanted some extra privacy. The fact that this Cargo Van variant isn’t dented and scratched to hell may indicate it lead a quiet life as part of a fleet of vehicles, or lived with a very careful contractor.

I only say this because 98% of the cargo vans I see used in this capacity look like they sat under a pile of concrete before entering the interstate for the morning commute. Dented panels, mismatched paint, doors that don’t fully latch – these vehicles are not treated to gentle lives. This Cargo Van, on the other hand, still has a minty fresh interior with no frills to worry about breaking, and that manual transmission is rare beyond belief considering how few of these still exist.

The appeal of this Cargo Van extends beyond just those that work in the trades for a living. This would be a perfect weekend runabout if you need to haul gardening supplies or some junkyard motors and transmissions. With a flat loading floor, those items won’t slide around, either. The price is cheap and the upkeep will be as well, given the simple mechanical bits under the hood and zero power options to fix in the cabin. Find another one!

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  1. Moparman Member

    Back in November, there was a Craigslisting for an 89 Voyager TURBO 5 speed passenger van! The unicorns are coming out!! :-)

    • JR

      Is the add still up?


  2. RoughDiamond Member

    I’d love to find a unicorn like that. I never knew MOPAR produced such a beast.

  3. Howard A

    It’s rare alright, even more rare would be the cargo van with barn doors. They probably sold 100 vans with automatic to 1 stick. Of all the vans I’ve come in contact with, only 1 was a stick. These were driven hard, and it’s amazing one still exists. 99g’s? I doubt it, more like 199 or 299, they were just that good. Certainly not collectible, yet, but you need a cheap cargo mover, can go wrong. Parts all over, great mileage and probably the simplest vehicle I’ve ever worked on. This a good deal, I think.

    • Howard A

      Can’t,,go wrong ( we need edit on early access)

    • Hudacko Charles

      And fun as heck to drive! We had an 89 but sold it to get a 85 Glht.

  4. Capriest Member

    WOW!!!! I rode in one of these once when I was like 12. Same thing only tan. The 5 speed is the only reason I remember it as it seemed an odd combo to me even back then which was about 93. Of course it’s gone quick! This thing is very useful and I’m willing to bet someone snatched it up to use at it was intended.

  5. Bob

    I’ve worked at one Chrysler dealer for 36 years and sold the very first minivan at our dealership in the fall of ’83. It was an LE model(top of the line) with the required,at the time, wood grain panels.Another customer bought a Caravan with a 2.2L 4cyl and manual transmission…..he had a traveling saw and knife sharpening business and last I heard many years ago, the vehicle had over 500,000 miles on it. I tried to take a picture and wanted to share with Chrysler, but he would have no part of it,

  6. Kenneth Carney

    If I had the cash capriest, that someone
    would be me. Something like this is ideal
    for use as a wheelchair van. I’d have to
    teach Mom and my neice how to drive a
    stickshift, but I see no real problems there–especially when I tell Mom that
    she could get 30 MPG as opposed to her
    Buick LeSabre that gets 26-28 MPG in
    town. Who needs a hulking SUV when
    you’d have something that would never
    run out of uses. Talk about total independence! Well, here it is. Wished
    I could afford it. I sure could use it!

    • Capriest Member

      No doubt. It has the cargo room, low deck height, drives like a mid size car. Would be perfect for that. Somebody that couldn’t afford a transit-connect snatched this up I’m willing to bet. There’s not many options out there like it that is fo sho. Definitely an automotive unicorn.

  7. Joe B.

    I had a ’90 Voyager 4cyl 5spd. Loved it. Easy to drive and great gas mileage. Wish I still had it.

  8. Brad

    Back in the late 80’s when my VW Rabbit left me stranded on the side of the road, a guy stopped to give me a lift. It was a newer Caravan, but not the cargo van version, complete with a turbo engine & a five speed. Inside was nice, and it even had the fake wood grain on the outside. To this day, it remains the only Caravan I’ve seen in the flesh that had a 5-speed.

  9. CanuckCarGuy

    There’s an odd cool factor to this van, but I can’t quite understand why. With the turbo mill, this could be a nice sleeper…figuratively and literally!

  10. Icee3

    I have had 3 of the cargo vans and one Turbo passenger van.
    The cargo vans were bullet proof. I did have to install 3/4 ton springs in the rear to carry all the service equipment and parts. The family’s turbo caravan was a different story. After the 3rd transmission in as many years it was time for it to go to a new home.

  11. Tin Box

    I used to work at a general repair shop and had two clients w manual caravans, and the other unicorn we saw was a Ford Taurus wagon, full load with all the toys and fake wood…and a four cylinder manual drivetrain? Had to think some one screwed up on the order form on that one.
    Our powder coated has a turbo five speed cargo caravan, loves surprising people with it.

  12. Roger Taylor

    I had an 89 short wheel base caravan cargo van, 3.0 liter v6, bullet proof van, the tin worm finally got it in northeast Ohio, but still ran great with 300K on it, that side cargo door window is aftermarket add on by the way, if they had a window in them, they were as large as front door windows

  13. David Ulrey

    I am aware of what vehicles go for. I also like this van. However it would appear that I am the only one of the opinion that the price is/was a grand too high.

  14. boxdin

    Mother Mopar would not sell the 2.2 5sp combo in high altitude New Mexico, we only got the 2.6 AT. The 2.2 was slow, but I later owned a 93 Voyager w 2.5 5sp and it was pretty quick.

  15. charlie

    Bought an ’84 with the 2.2 and 5 speed stick in late ’83 from the catalogue at the dealer’s before he had one to show for real. It was in theory what we wanted. Traded in a ’67 Pontiac Bonneville wagon. From 400 cu in, 400 hp 12 mpg around town to the opposite with more interior room. Fortunately we lived in the flat lands, since any real hill required a down shift, with a load, required downshifts on the Maine turnpike to keep it at 65. 4th and 5th fell out one day at 220,000 miles, got it home in 3rd, got that fixed but was the beginning of the end, had 4 used or new ones after that, all with V6, all with plenty of guts, had one or another for 30 years, told my kids (then in their 30’s) that if they did not reproduce I was going to buy a 2 seater, they didn’t, I bought my Allante. One did, now has a Toyota minivan.

  16. J.R. Fortenberry

    The white “Woodie” in the video was mine and I’m looking for another one preferably in Arizona. Be sure to read about the race before watching the video and turn up the volume!


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