1988 Dodge Caravan SRT-4 Engine Swap

Though it may be hard to imagine a time when minivans were ever considered cool, that was certainly the case in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In the era before SUVs and Crossovers, minivans were the hottest thing on the market. Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca and his friend Hal Sperlich had imagined a vehicle that would hold seven passengers, have removable seats for extra cargo space, and get better gas mileage than a full-size van. Their dream became a reality in 1983, and the new Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Horizon minivans sold like hotcakes with sales topping 200,000 units in the first year alone. For the next 25 years, no one sold more minivans in America than Chrysler.

But somewhere along the way, minivans became uncool. The SUV boom of the 2000s and the Crossover Craze yielded vehicles that offered much of the same functionality without the “soccer mom” stigma of a sliding door.

At a recent car show in Scottsdale, I saw a first-generation Dodge Caravan that really caught my eye. For starters, this was a car show that featured primarily European exotic and high-end supercars such as Ferraris and Lamborghinis. A 1988 Caravan with peeling paint definitely didn’t fit in with this crowd.

But as you might have guessed, this is no ordinary Caravan. This one has seen the original 2.5L 4-cylinder engine swapped out with a much more modern 2.4L turbocharged 4-cylinder from a 2004 Dodge SRT-4. Whereas the original engine made 100 horsepower, the new one puts out 230 horsepower in stock trim – but this one’s not stock.

With an AGP Zeta dual ball-bearing turbocharger, an air-to-water intercooler, upgraded fuel injectors, a MegaSquirt fuel management system, and a 3.5″ exhaust with Magnaflow muffler, this beast is putting down 305 horsepower and 365 lb-ft of torque at the wheels! Wow!

A spec sheet on the vehicle says it has run 12.6 in the quarter mile @ 111 mph on E85, 25 lbs of boost, and slicks. With a fast reaction time, that puts it on par with a base model C6 Corvette – for a lot less dough. It’s also been converted to 4-wheel disc brakes, with the front brakes and suspension from a 1995 Grand Caravan and the rear disc brakes from a 1993 Dodge Daytona R/T.

Part of why I love this van is because it pulls off the “sleeper” look quite well. The peeling paint and OEM-style wheels do not give any indication that this vehicle is actually quite fast, and the “Turbo” and “SRT” badges may be dismissed as purely ironic – until the turbo spools up and it blows your doors off.

The other reason why I love this van is that a long time ago, our family had a blue 1994 Caravan which I remember fondly. This was the era before dual sliding doors, power liftgates, and fold-flat seating. These old vans are super primitive by today’s standards, but the boxy design reminds me of my childhood.

I didn’t get to talk to the owner, but if you are reading this Mr. Caravan Owner, congrats on the awesome build.

2016 Ford Shelby GT-H Mustang

2016-ford-shelby-hertz-gth-mustang-frontWhen you hear the words “rental car,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a gutless econobox with a hard plastic interior that you rented at the airport in some other city? Well folks, this is no ordinary rental car. It’s a 2016 Shelby GT-H, and it’s a fresh take on an old idea: a race car that you can rent for a day. Continue reading

1989-1991 Chrysler TC by Maserati

The 1980s were a wild time for the Chrysler Corporation. After narrowly avoiding bankruptcy and getting a bailout from Uncle Sam in 1979, Chrysler was looking to regain its footing in the market and return to financial stability. Lee Iacocca took over as CEO and pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in the history of American business, but the road to recovery was undeniably a rocky one. We’ll get to the TC in a moment, but first, some background information is necessary.

In 1981, Chrysler revived the “Imperial” brand as a personal luxury coupe to try and compete with Lincoln. Based on the much cheaper Cordoba, the Imperial was expensive and produced a pathetic 140 horsepower from its 318 cubic inch V8 engine. While technically advanced, it was a commercial flop and Chrysler threw in the towel after just 3 years and 12,385 units produced. Continue reading

Just Hop On The 101

While digging around the comment areas of various Facebook groups I have determined that the driver was likely not drunk, just trying to show off, with some of the other cars being ‘spotters’ and not civilian traffic. While it’s still incredibly dangerous it’s somewhat relieving to know that at least few precautions were taken. I’m not sure the benefit/risk ratio would have made it worth my while though.

2003 Chevrolet AstroLanche Custom Van

astrolanche1Have you ever dreamed of having the comfort of a full-size van with the cargo capacity of a short-bed truck? Have we got the vehicle for you! Meet the Chevrolet AstroLanche.

This amazing vehicle began life as a run-of-the-mill 2003 Chevrolet Astro Van. At some point, it was converted to have a shortened pickup bed, similar to the Hummer H3T.

astrolanche2The bed uses the Astro van’s “Dutch doors” as a tailgate, while the rear hatch has been moved forward to just behind the second row of seats. Below the rear glass, there appears to be nothing separating the bed from the passenger area – which is great for hauling lumber or perhaps a full-size ladder.

For all the custom work that has gone into this truck-van hybrid, I think my favorite thing about it has to be the name “AstroLanche.”

1970s Dodge Ram Custom Van

dodge-van-custom-dual-tandem-axleThe 1970s are remembered today as a decade of excess, and nothing embodies that mindset greater than the cars that people were driving. This was the era that gave us the Dukes of Hazzard, Smokey and the Bandit, and the original “Gone in 60 Seconds.”

There was another craze during the 1970s: custom vans. People would take full-size vans from Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge and trick them out with shag carpet, a stereo system, custom paint and wheels, custom interior, CB radio, and even accessories like mini fridges!

“Vanning” exploded in popularity and was featured in movies and songs of the era. Like vinyl records and most things from the 1970s, “street vans” fell out of fashion to fade into obscurity, only to see a small revival today.

This 1970s-era Dodge Ram van may be a relic of that era. It looks to have been converted to a camper/motorhome at one point, and is now languishing on a side street. The interesting thing about this van is its dual rear axle setup – something I have not seen before and can find very little about on the Internet. I suspect it may have been a custom modification.

Hyundai Genesis Coupe with LS2 V8 Swap

hyundai-genesis-coupe-ls2-frontWe’re kicking off “engine swap week” with this Hyundai Genesis Coupe that I spotted at Cars and Coffee in Scottsdale. Someone has taken this South Korean coupe and stuffed a big ol’ American V8 under the hood!

Swapping a 6.0L LS2 engine into your Hyundai is a sure-fire way to attract haters, especially when it’s covered with stickers, a huge wing, and a missing rear bumper. But this car is over-the-top in so many ways that I’ve decided it must have been done ironically.

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