When I scour car graveyards for interesting facets of automotive history, I'm always on the lookout for manual transmissions in unexpected vehicles. Say, a Mercury Mystique, or a Dodge Caliber, or a Chevy HHR, to name a few. If you really want to stump the competitors at a car-trivia contest, though, ask them to name the final Detroit minivan that could be purchased new with three pedals. The answer? The 1995 Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager! Here's one of those all-too-rare vans, found in a Denver boneyard with barely six figures on the odometer and a five-speed shifter between the front seats.
The Chrysler minivans of the 1984 through 1995 model years were based on modified versions of Lee Iacocca's original K-platform chassis, which meant that these vans could receive any engine/transmission combination that went into any K-derived cars. For the early 1990s, that meant the Dodge Shadow/Plymouth Sundance. Because the Sundance's shifter lived a fixed distance behind the transmission, its linkage pushed the gearshift lever way back in the Voyager, in an awkward location that required the driver to reach down and to the rear to grab a gear.
The overwhelming majority of Chrysler minivan buyers paid extra for an automatic transmission, but if you wanted the cheapest possible version of the Voyager… well, it wasn't enough to just get the manual windows and single-speaker AM radio. You had to take the base 2.5-liter engine and manual transmission as well, because the three-speed automatic added a staggering $601 (that's about $1,070 today) to the $14,073 MSRP. If you wanted the four-speed slushbox, you had to forget about the base Voyager completely.
This van has the look of a vehicle whose final owner didn't plan to keep it long, if we are to judge by the LED strip lights and application of spray paint to various features. With a quarter-century-old minivan equipped with a transmission few can operate, resale value must have been just about scrap level.