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.

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

1988 Chrysler Conquest TSI with Chevy LS1 V8 Swap

1988-chrysler-conquest-tsi-ls1-v8-sideWhen you take an ordinary car and do an engine swap, it transforms the car into something cool. When you take a car that’s already cool and do an engine swap, that makes it badass!

At SEMA 2014, I saw this Chrysler Conquest TSI lined up for the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational. It belongs to John Lazorack of Lazorack Motorsports. As you can tell, this is no ordinary Conquest – this one is powered by an LS1 engine from a 2002 Corvette!

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1966 Chrysler Imperial “The Tyrant”

Automobile manufacturers typically build two types of cars: regular passenger vehicles and wild, tire-squealing, high-revving performance vehicles. The latter is usually done by a company’s in-house performance division.

Mercedes’ in-house performance division is AMG. BMW has their M division. Over at Chrysler, they have the Street and Racing Technology (SRT) team, which grew out of the original “Team Viper” group that was formed in 1989.

Since its inception 25 years ago, SRT has created high performance versions of many Chrysler vehicles including the Neon SRT-4, the Chrysler 300 SRT8 sedan, and the Ram SRT-10 Pickup. But what if SRT had existed back in the 1960s? What kind of cars would they have built? The guys at HPI Customs in Manitoba, Canada decided to try and answer that question.

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1986 Plymouth Horizon 2.5L Turbo Swap

The 1973 OPEC oil crisis had a dramatic effect on the American automobile industry. An embargo with oil-exporting countries of the middle east caused a shortage of crude oil which is refined into gasoline. The shortage in turn caused gasoline prices to skyrocket and rationing to go into effect.

In response to customer demand and new Federal Emissions Standards, the “Big Three” automakers went to work building a new generation of cars that were smaller and more fuel efficient. Chevrolet introduced the Monza and Citation, while Ford debuted the Pinto and the Fiesta. Not to be outdone, Chrysler introduced their new compact, front-wheel drive model in 1978: the Dodge Omni (and its badge-engineered cousin, the Plymouth Horizon).

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1989 Dodge Shelby CSX-VNT

When you hear the name “Shelby”, you probably think of either a Mustang or an AC Cobra (or a replica of one, anyways), but that’s because your brain is probably blocking out that bizarre time period in the 80’s when sporting a car with a Shelby logo on it meant driving a Chrysler product.

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