The Grand Caravan‘s Grandfather



Dodge helped to invent the minivan category in 1984 with the groundbreaking Caravan, and Dodge continues to offer the industry’s leading minivan today with the 2013 Grand Caravan. But if you look back a little further in Dodge history, you can find a vehicle that foreshadows the Caravan concept: the A100 Sportsman, a compact van offered from 1964 through 1970. It was just a little ahead of its time, that’s all.


The A100 was built on a compact chassis with a wheelbase of just 90 inches, and a few years later there was also a slightly longer A108 model with a 108-inch wheelbase (shown above). In either size, the Sportsman’s basic design philosophy was identical to that of the 1984 Caravan: a compact form factor with a minimal footprint on the ground, but with maximum interior volume and convenience features.


Buyers could select multiple seating options to accommodate from two to nine passengers, or remove the bolt-in seats and utilize the flat cargo floor and 220 cubic feet of cabin volume. This basic setup was highly effective for hauling people or cargo—if not nearly as convenient or flexible as the Super Stow ’n Go system offered on current-model Grand Caravans. Also, the side doors on the Sportsman opened on conventional hinges, where today’s Grand Caravans boast one-touch sliding side doors.


Another key difference between the Sportsman and modern minivans is in their drivetrains. Available engines back in the day included 170- and 225-cubic-inch Slant Sixes, as well as 273- and 318-cubic-inch V8s, coupled to manual or automatic three-speed transmissions and traditional rear wheel drive. The 1984 Caravan took advantage of the newer transverse drivetrain layout, which offered more efficient packaging and the all-weather benefits of front wheel drive. It was this critical advance, the industry experts say, that created the modern minivan as we know it today. To see the very latest in industry-leading minivan technology, visit



  • ReformSchool
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Addressing “the all-weather benefits of front-wheel drive” referenced above, before I owned my 1986 Plymouth Voyager (powered by a 2.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine driving the front wheels by a Fail-O-Matic transmission) my 1966 A100 ‘Compact Truck’ (powered by a 2.9-liter inline six-cylinder driving the rear wheels by a 3.91:1 locked-differential axle through a 3-speed manual transmission) could climb ski slopes, without a whimper, that its ‘grandson’ dared not even dream about driving beyond their parking lots. Relative reliability, durability and longevity is so favorable to the forerunner there is no comparison. Suspecting the ascension of Ford Motor Company’s Lee I-a-caca to Chrysler Corporation was far more beneficial to its stockholders than its customers is not beyond reason.

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