Sunday, November 1, 2009

History of the Lucas minivans

Except for the last six months or so, since 1988 or so we have always had a minivan. Our first one was a burgundy Dodge Caravan.

Back then, minivans were a new thing. They were innovative, extremely practical, and really were fairly "mini." By today's standards though, they were fairly primitive, with a single sliding door and a requirement for two reasonably fit people to remove the seats.

One great thing about these is that they do very well in snow. Put chains on the front and you can go almost anywhere.

In '96 we decided to upgrade to one of the newer, more fancy minivans. Plus, the old van was giving us a variety of nagging issues (which was a constant theme with both the Caravan and the Grand Voyager we replaced it with).

We got a 1996 Plymouth Grand Voyager. It was still called a minivan, but this thing was not very mini. One of its coolest features was having a sliding door on both sides. (One of its non-coolest features was that you could not easily access the third row from the drivers side though.)

Even with all the seats installed, you could haul a lot of cargo. The seats were still a pain to remove, but once you removed them, you could get a lot of stuff in this van. (When we moved to our current house, we had this minivan and my Ford Ranger pickup with a shell on to haul stuff. Mrs Notthat could get nearly twice as much stuff in the minivan as I could in my truck.)

At the time we bought the Grand Voyager, Chrysler was still way ahead in minivan-ology - they owned the segment and the others were struggling to catch up. But as innovative and clever as Chrysler was with these, they were also disappointing in quality and reliability. We had numerous issues with both of these vans, especially the Grand Voyager. If I hadn't been willing to work on this thing, we would have spent a LOT of money getting a wide variety of issues fixed. Plus there were issues that nobody seemed able to fix. Like the wipers randomly turning on (which is something it did from early on - the dealer refused to care about this unless they could see it happen to them, but this was so intermittent we finally gave up).

When The Boy got his Jeep, we had to get rid of a vehicle, so we got rid of the minivan. Over the course of the summer though, we often found ourselves missing having a way to haul a group of people (or just us with the grandkids in the child seats). So this week we traded in the Camry for a used 2008 Toyota Sienna.

The color is "Silver Pine Mica." No, I did not make that up. It is a bit smaller than the Grand Voyager, but is light years more innovative. We went for the 8 passenger seating option. It has a power sliding door on the passenger side, but what's really clever is that you can actually roll down the windows in the sliding doors. And you can fold the third row seat flat.

Which thrills Idiot Dog Teddy - this gives him a lot of room to ride in when going out for walks.

We've got high hopes that this will be a reliable vehicle for many years to come. Even if we never do find a silver pine tree this color.

That's it - move along...


WHM said...

I really enjoyed this post! and no not just because I'm avoiding a 9 page essay while I'm reading it.

It was cool to take a trip down memory lane, I can't believe you didn't mention with the burgundy van the whole a/c dying while driving through death valley, and having one little tiny black fan in the back to circulate the air. ugh that was awful!

I remember how amazing the grand voyager was, with 2 sliding doors!! as a passenger I was VERY VERY happy with the upgrade, and I can't wait to see the newest installation in the minivan history of the Lucas'.

notthatlucas said...

I forgot the AC issue on that trip. Which reminds of a few other issues we had with that van. Wow - this new one would have to REALLY be a dog to top those two previous ones.

mary ann said...

I enjoyed this post too. How is the gas mileage with this new one that the dog already loves?

notthatlucas said...

The gas mileage is not great in the new van, maybe 21 MPG or so combined city/highway, but this should be a huge improvement over the old Grand Voyager which got maybe 15 MPG combined.

Minivans don't get the bad rap that SUVs get with respect to bad MPGs, but they probably should. I think the difference is that most people with SUVs drive them (often alone) as a style choice while nobody would choose to drive a minivan as a style choice - they are much more of a functional choice.

But minivans block my view just as effectively as an SUV when I'm driving the Race Car. (Actually, so does a Corolla.)

DAK said...

I just found this old post in a spam folder of mine -- must have come in while we were in NYC. I love the picture of IDT in the trunk of the latest car -- that's really cool to have photos of your old cars and see how you've traded one thing for another thing. Teddy looks confused.