Getting Behind the Wheel Of Cars Built Before I Was Born (some of them, anyway).
I was recently invited to join Chrysler and Dodge executives, enthusiasts and journalists to drive a fleet of vintage Dodges at the former Dodge Estate outside Detroit. It was an exciting day, even for non-car enthusiasts: it was like getting up close and hands on with precious museum pieces. We were treated to a look at the company and had the chance to look at many of the company’s concept cars.
The Dodge 100th Birthday Fleet
26 vintage models that lined the courtyard were there for us to drive. This is what the courtyard of Meadow Brook Hall looked (and sounded) like:
Here are some of the cars I saw, drove and liked the most, starting with a 1920’s era Dodge; this one requires double clutching, so I had to re-learn the technique.
The 1973 Challenger with a white interior makes you feel so ‘Grace Kelly.’
The ’73 Challenger’s steering wheel and dash.
The Challenger, then (the mirror) and now (the Centennial edition in the mirror); it’s almost hard to tell the difference, until you slip into the car, that is. Then, it’s clear.
The 2014 Centennial edition Challenger, the flagship of Dodge’s muscle car lineup, was designed to evoke the original design with vintage details.
Vintage details include a gas cap similar to the original model.
And chrome pedals with rubber nubs so your feet don’t slip off, you know, while you’re racing.
Perhaps the car that made my heart beat fastest, though, was the 2003 Dodge Viper.
I loved it partly because it has a natural spot for my handbag.
But I also loved how it looks against the road ahead. The roar of its engine didn’t hurt, either. It was a ton of fun to drive.
Back to reality: Here is the car that saved Chrysler from disaster 30 years ago: The Dodge Caravan minivan, the original model and the 30th anniversary edition.
We had a chance to drive the 2014 model, and it’s such a luxury we are disappointed that Chrysler is discontinuing it, leaving the Town & Country as the only minivan left in the lineup. Which makes this a great opportunity to get one of the last of its kind while they are still available. The 2014 30th anniversary edition is nicely appointed with all the standard stuff: leather seating, a DVD system, plenty of charge ports, push button sliding side doors, power liftgate and more. The model we drove was elegantly tailored in black on black, making it the ideal car for taking clients around town or chauffeuring a group who demands a more sophisticated environment, all for about $30,000.
We drove the Caravan from Michigan to Connecticut in a single day; about a 10 hour drive, the van’s comfortable seats (and it’s the way they are positioned, not just the materials that are used to make the seats) and spacious cabin make a long time in the car a quality time in the car. Even after such a long day, when we got home and unloaded our luggage, we decided to hop back in and drive another 20 miles to Stew Leonard’s for groceries and dinner, and to pick up our dog, who we knew would be happy to see us. It’s a rare car that you want to get right back in to after a 600 mile drive.
Most cars cringe at a week’s worth of family luggage; the Carvavan just shrugs. It all fits easily, and we could have added three more passengers and their luggage too, and still been able to see out the windows.
Disclosure: I was Chrysler’s guest at the Centennial celebration for Dodge; the company provided my accommodations and the Caravan for me to drive to Connecticut from Michigan. Opinions expressed here are all my own.