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.

1986 Dodge Omni GLH Turbo

While Carroll Shelby is most famous for his work with Ford vehicles, he spent much of the 1980s working his magic for Chrysler. Mike featured the Shelby CSX in a previous post, which is definitely worth checking out if you missed it.

In addition to the CSX, Shelby and Chrysler created a high-performance compact car based on the Dodge Omni. Shelby called it the “GLH” for “Goes Like Hell” and it was available in three different levels: a non-turbo base model, a turbocharged model, and the top-of-the-line GLHS model (for Goes Like Hell S’More).

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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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Welcome To My Nightmare

This year, for the two year anniversary of Generation-High Output, I want to do something special. I am going to tell you a story about me and my car that happened not too long ago.

It all started with a dream I had about walking out of Metrocenter and having trouble finding my car in the parking lot. Just as I was starting to panic- fearful that someone had stolen it, a hand reached out from behind me and held an ether-soaked rag over my mouth.

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1989 Pontiac TTA

We all know about the GNX’s, T-type Buicks and Grand Nationals. They “brake for Corvettes”, right? The 3.8L Buick mill is a well known OHV V6, that starting in the 1980s, decided to pack heat wherever it went. Well, what you may not know (unless you’re a third generation f-body or Buick T-type buff) is that in 1989 you could have yourself a turbocharged 3.8L Buick-powered Pontiac Trans Am. Continue reading

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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2013 Chevrolet Malibu Performance Concept

Just because you have a family doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to the bland world of Accords and Camrys. That was the message Chevy was sending with the 2013 Malibu Performance Concept car – a souped up version of Chevrolet’s bread-and-butter volume seller.

Sporting a turbocharged engine, aggressive wheels and styling, and a matte blue finish, the 2013 Malibu Concept is a big middle finger aimed right at Honda and Toyota.

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