Time Capsule: 1988 Dodge Grand Caravan

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There are serious van camper conversions, usually built from full-sized vans, with little kitchens (galleys), sleeping accommodations, and some even have bathrooms. Then there are weekender-type van conversions, such as this time capsule 1988 Dodge Grand Caravan high-top by L.E.R. Industries. The seller has it listed here on eBay in Chester, New York, the current bid is $6,000, but the reserve isn’t met.

Volkswagen made a variety of configurations over the decades as far as either full-blown camping vans or weekender vans, those with seats that convert to beds but don’t have kitchen areas or much else in the way of camping gear. These work great for the casual traveler and this one appears to be as close to new as possible.

Edwardsburg, Michigan was home to L.E.R. Conversions and conversion vans are big business. I love the ladder on the back, although having some goofball climb up there when you’re stopped overnight in the big-box store parking lot at 2:30 am wouldn’t be fun. The van itself is a 1988 Dodge Grand Caravan and we’ve seen quite a few here – usually when something unusual is involved, like having a manual transmission or a turbo. In this case, this van looks almost like new and it has this nice conversion.

As if the beautiful exterior, rock-solid underside, and details, like the door bottoms, weren’t nice enough, we get to the interior. The classic 1980s velour seats look great as does pretty much everything else inside. This one has a three-speed TorqueFlite column-shifted automatic transmission, but the real star of the interior is the rear seating area. This is where you’ll be sleeping when you pull into a town along your way and find a cozy spot between two big motorhomes in an approved overnight parking lot, fold down the back seats into a bed, pull the shades over the windows, and get some shuteye.

Several hundred gold stars go to the seller for providing an engine photo. As expected, it looks as nice and clean as the rest of this beautiful van does. It should be a Mitsubishi 6G72, a 3.0-liter SOHC V6, which had 136 horsepower and 168 lb-ft of torque when new. As expected, everything works as it should, even the air conditioning, which is ice-cold. This looks like a great one, have any of you done a road trip in a van like this?

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  1. HoA Howard AMember

    It figures something like this would catch the authors eye. It’s a nice one, and you won’t hear a word of guff from me on this. I’m going to continue Scottys accolades, with what a great vehicle the Chrysler minivan itself was, and a schmaltzy one, such as this, all the better. Most minivans lived a plebian existence, relegated to daily mom chores, often unwashed, unmaintained, but vital to the families action packed lifestyle of the 80s/90s, and nothing was better than a minivan. Before SUVs, it was the single moms answer. I was partial to Chrysler, but they all did basically the same thing. It’s the one area the Asians weren’t quite able to match, concentrating on SUVs.
    I had a van very similar to this, sans the roof, an ’88 Grand Caravan in the late 90s. Get this, my old man had a mechanic friend, who had 2 minivans customers bailed on. A very nice Grand Caravan like this with a blown motor, and a real basic Plymouth that the previous owner spent a fortune on replacing parts. Shocks, brakes, tires, the whole magila, then the trans puked, and they bailed. I bought BOTH for $200 bucks, put the basic V6 motor in the Grand Caravan, and drove the heck out of it, PLUS, I had all the extra parts. I used that van for a parcel delivery job, my kids learned to drive on it, and yes, I did take it camping once. It remains the most comfy seats and dependable vehicles I ever owned.
    I don’t know about the authors reference to someone climbing up the ladder, not sure what would be the motive there, and not made for “Big Mama”, that’s for sure, but a(nother) great find. I’m sure it cruises a lot better than the Ford Focus( or equivalent) I’m about to make a CC trip with.

    Like 16
    • PaulG

      Howard, you mentioned how comfortable the van seats are; bad news, the Ford Focus our Town had for an employee trip vehicle had the worse seats I’ve ever experienced in my life…good for about 25 miles.

      Like 5
      • HoA Howard AMember

        Hi Paul, I’m on it( literally). I’ve been shopping around for an old farts cushion, you know the kind, FIFTY BUCKS,,,sigh, you know, the worst ever seats I’ve experienced, were in a friends Kia Sorento. Actually painful.

        Like 3
  2. CadmanlsMember

    Wow what a time capsule, the previous owner took great care of this van. Would be a great van to travel in, would be my choice over an SUV for a road trip any day.

    Like 8
  3. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    Good write-up Scotty. Like you said, a great time capsule. Looks to have had excellent care. Someone will get a clean, eye-catching, and useful vehicle for not much money.

    I’ll admit I have a soft spot for conversion vans, non-full-sized ones specifically. We had a 1991 Aerostar conversion van back in the day. It was quite the looker with its three-tone (silver/gray/black) paint, not unlike the multiple blues on this example. Had the typical upgraded interior, but not a bed. It worked well for us; we needed a van and at the time I just couldn’t see myself in a mundane minivan (this was even before they acquired their soccer mom label).

    The Chrysler mini-van has appropriately earned its place as a ground-breaking vehicle.

    Like 12
  4. Wayne

    I took pics about 8 years ago of a Blue one sitting in a salvage yard in southern Oklahoma. I had never known they made high tops for that body style until I saw the one I’m referring to. It’s long gone now tho cause the salvage yard had everything crushed a cpl of years ago and now everything is sadly gone. I had bought many parts thru them for almost 30 years for my 1960’s and 1970’s vehicles…no more tho cause it’s all gone.

    Like 3
  5. Rumpledoorskin

    I bought one of these long ago, flat top Dodge Grand Caravan Sport from 1993. I got in 2010 for 1200 bucks and loved driving it. My family hated it, but I could haul anything in it without worrying about ruining anything since the rockers had rusted away long ago. It was dependable and comfortable with good fuel economy from a 3.3 V6. I always thought we’d be able to get another for cheap, but I was wrong, as they’re almost all gone now.

    Like 5
  6. Maggy

    The 3.0 Mitsu was a good little engine in it’s day.Do your timing belt maint. as scheduled and change the oil and filters regularly. That’s all they needed.

    Like 9
    • HoA Howard AMember

      Good advice there, pal. While I tout the pluses of these, it’s the timing belt. I’ll never own a vehicle with one again. It’s a non-interference motor, and an easy fix, heck, I changed one in a truckstop one afternoon. When they break, there’s little, if any warning, and shuts ‘er down in a hurry. In all my years, I never had gears strip or a chain break. It’s partially why I will never own another Harley with a belt drive either.

      Like 4
      • maggy

        Timing belts for the most part but not always will fail upon a cold start especially in a cold climate when the oil is thick..At least thats what I saw working on cars for over 3 decades.Thats when the most stress is put on a Tbelt.

        Like 1
  7. MarveH

    I have many trip wires out there for unusual vehicles. My holy grail in Chrysler minivans would be the 5-speed turbo models, very rare. Saw one on the web a few years ago, nice shape but 200k miles.
    Second to the turbo would be a 5-speed cargo version. There was on with 90k miles on our local criags list for months for $1200. I’m kicking myself for not buying it, I would have used the crap out of it. I thought about buying it and putting in a 2.4 and manual transmission out of a PT Bruiser. Fifty more horses and almost no MPG penalty.

    Like 4
  8. PRA4SNW

    I have a feeling that the seller is going to value this vehicle a lot higher than anyone is willing to pay.

    It looks nice, but there is no big love for the Caravan base, even though they were great vehicles. My parents owned several of them and never had any issues.

    Like 3
  9. C Force

    A reserve price?….whatever.the current bid of $6k sounds like overpaying already!

    Like 2
    • John

      Sold for basically 10k. As nice as it is. It’s a dated USED CAR. And that’s all it will ever be. I can see paying for a true collector type of vehicle. But come on people. Anything over mid 70s was\is basic disposable cheap transportation.
      I need to put my bridge in Brooklyn back up for sale HhhhaaAa

      Like 0
  10. Vair Nut

    Nice van. Love it. As others have pointed out, I have a feeling that the selling price might be higher than expected. My uncle is a car guy and lives about 20 minutes from where this van lives. I am sure he could give it a good inspection if needed.

    Like 1
  11. George

    The V6 had a four speed automatic with overdrive. Not greatly reliable. I bought a 91 from a friend and the transmission had already been replaced at 25K, the new one went 100K. Another friend had hers replaced four times while it was under warranty. A reliable transmission was the luck of the draw.

    Like 0
  12. Scotty GilbertsonAuthor

    Auction update: this one ended at $9,988 and no sale.

    Like 1

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