Happy Birthday to the People-Mover: The Minivan Turns 35

The Minivan Turns 35 - Happy Birthday To The People Mover

A Girls Guide To Cars | Happy Birthday To The People-Mover: The Minivan Turns 35 - 64326156 2419833688106647 8394115123031048192 NHow do you get better looking every year???

Chrysler introduced the minivan in 1984 when they rolled out the Plymouth Voyager and the Dodge Caravan as the solution to families who need to haul more people and more stuff. The minivan changed mobility for everyone–families, businesses, even taxis and ride share drivers. Other automakers followed suit with their versions of the minivan and 35 years later, they’re standard issue for families everywhere. Can you believe it’s been 35 years? Yep, that’s right. The minivan turns 35 this year.

Related: Minivan vs. SUV: How do you decide???

The Minivan Turns 35 - Happy Birthday To The People Mover

Things have changed a little bit over the past 35 years, haven’t they? Photo: Scotty Reiss

Minivans are everywhere…but that wasn’t always the case

Do you ever wonder about the minivan’s history? Maybe you don’t because they’ve been around long that we assume they’ve always been here, but that’s not so. The minivan was the brainchild of Lee Iacocca, who came up with the idea while working for Ford. When Iacocca left Ford to join Chrysler (which was in a state of financial ruin at the time) he was allowed to take the rights to his “minivan project” with him. The first evolution of the minivan – the Plymouth Voyager – rolled out of the factory in Ontario in 1983. Yep, the first minivan was actually Canadian although she quickly became a transportation staple in the U.S.A.

“My parents bought a first-edition minivan,” shares Scotty Reiss, founder and owner of A Girl’s Guide to Cars. “My brother crashed the family station wagon; it was totaled and they needed a new car. They had heard about Lee Iacocca and the minivan and how it was supposed to save Chrysler from bankruptcy. Lee Iacocca was a bit of a celebrity, so they were curious. But when they looked at the way the minivan re-thought the best attributes of the station wagon, they were sold.”

“They went to the Chrysler dealership and put a deposit on a minivan, ready to purchase it sight unseen,” Reiss continues. “They got a call a few days later that there was a minivan that had just been delivered that they could have. It was brown and they could not pick out any features or options, it came as is. They took it. We called it Bear. Bear was their first minivan but not their last. They still own a Dodge Caravan and have had several others. They drive them until they are completely exhausted, then buy a new one.”

Related: Why a minivan is the perfect car for the travel junky… and why it affords you more travel

A Girls Guide To Cars | Happy Birthday To The People-Mover: The Minivan Turns 35 - The Minivan Turns 36 A Girls Guide To Cars Scottys Dad

Scotty’s dad and their current minivan. Photo: Scotty Reiss

My induction into the club

I remember the day I got my minivan. My husband and I had recently moved to Texas with our two four-year-old sons and our 21 year-old daughter…and yes, I know that’s a really big age gap between kids. We needed a car that would comfortably seat all five of us and got decent gas mileage. We also needed something that had room for mega Costco runs and the soccer wagon. So many suburban cliches there, right? We needed something that our little guys could get in and out of easily and, while not a need, a strong want as an entertainment system that would keep them occupied on road trips.

Long story short, we decided a minivan was what we needed.

I mourned the loss of my hipness when we bought our van. I walked out and looked in my driveway the day after we brought her home just to make sure I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. Nope, she was still there.

But you know what? I was never all that hip to begin with and I quickly realized we’d made the right decision for our family.

Related Post: The Honda Odyssey is one of the best-selling minivans

The Minivan Turns 35 - Happy Birthday To The People Mover

The minivan’s sliding doors have been making it easier for parents to load their kids in the car for 35 years. Photo: Jill Robbins

Who really needs cool, anyway?

I have increased the distance between myself and my kids in a minivan, which is a good thing. I love them dearly, which should go without saying, but their nine-year-old potty jokes and the constant “he’s touching me/looking at me/killing my cows in Minecraft” are distracting for a driver. The DVD system with built-in headphones (standard issue for most minivans today) helps keep them entertained and quiet (ish) on long trips.

The sliding doors (also standard issue for minivans since the OG rolled out 35 years ago) make it easy for kids to load in and out. If you’ve got kids in car seats or booster seats, you can buckle them in without folding your body in half or stooping. Getting your kids out the door is probably never easy for moms but the minivan makes getting in the car less of an ordeal. My minivan has made my life easier in countless little ways, and I’ll take that over cool any day.

The Minivan Turns 35 - Happy Birthday To The People Mover

You’ve come a long way, baby. The OG Dodge Caravan…remember this one? Photo: Scotty Reiss

The minivan is a mom cliche (and for a good reason!)

You know what they say about cliches. They’re cliches because they’re usually true. Yoga pants. Messy Bun. Minivan. Those things all might be mom stereotypes or cliches but the truth is, minivans are popular with moms because they solve the pain points that moms experience. We need an accessible rear space that holds groceries (to include multiple pallets of water and large bags of dog food) sports equipment, backpacks, hiking gear, suitcases, snacks for the team…you get the idea. A minivan delivers.

Lots of charging ports and electrical outlets? Entertainment systems to keep kids amused on the go? Oodles of storage space? Room for five kids? Cliche or not, these are things families with more than two kids need.

Also? The under floor storage space is really awesome. I totally used it to hide Christmas presents every year.

Related Post: The Chrysler Pacifica -another best-selling minivan

The Minivan Turns 35 - Happy Birthday To The People Mover

Older kids might not “need” the built-in DVD player that most minivans now have but the built-in entertainment comes in handy on road trips…when the scenery isn’t this cool, that is. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Most people don’t call you a hottie, but 35 looks good on you

The minivan has certainly come a long way over the years. People who refer to the minivan as a “hot car” are…well, nonexistent, but there are things more important than a pretty face.

Truthfully? We don’t buy minivans because they’re sexy or because we want strangers to stop in their tracks and stare at us in admiration. We buy them because they’re functional and because they suit our lifestyle.

And just maybe there’s something a little bit sexy about functional. Happy Birthday, minivan. Here’s looking forward to the next 35.The Minivan Turns 35

Jill is the oldest mom with the youngest kids pretty much everywhere she goes. She has a 29-year-old daughter... More about Jill Robbins