The minivan hit the automotive market in 1984 and answered the question nobody had ever asked before: what will replace the station wagon?
The station wagon was a family-hauler and shouted out to the world that your days as a single person with no kids were over and you needed practical transportation.
Lee Iacocca was the visionary behind the Mustang during his days with Ford.
He later became Chrysler’s top dog and was the man behind the front wheel drive minivan; the family vehicle that pushed the station wagon out of the way in the Eighties.
Mopar even coined the phrase “magic wagon” for the minivan in their marketing campaign and championed the vehicle as the new answer for family transportation. The early minivan looked like it was designed by a guy with a ruler because it was a giant box on wheels.
The design offered plenty of interior room to haul kids and groceries under the same roof in the minivan. The minivan also offered extra ride height and plenty of windows, so the driver enjoyed good visibility behind the wheel.
Iacocca designed the minivan on the famous K-car platform that saved Chrysler in the early Eighties. The modestly-powered front wheel drive compact cars were a hit with consumers because they offered an affordable car with good mileage.
The legendary Hemi-powered Mopars were a distant memory from the past when the K-cars and minivans debuted in the Eighties, but these vehicles ensured Chrysler would live to fight another day in the automotive wars. The return of the Mopar muscle car era would have to wait until the Nineties debut of the Viper.
The success of the minivan meant an entire generation of people spent their childhood riding in these vehicles. The vans eventually became associated with family life and the drivers were labeled “soccer moms” or “hockey dads”, depending upon which sport required them to load up the minivans with kids and drive them to games.
Future collectibles are typically driven by an emotional connection to a vehicle and the strongest connection are the memories from childhood. Sometimes car guys end up missing what they hated when they were kids and the unloved vehicles were a big part of their daily lives.
Those of us from an earlier generation had a love/hate relationship with the station wagon. We hated the station wagon when we were kids because they were the least cool vehicles on the planet in our young minds.
However, we looked at station wagons from our childhood in a completely different light after we got older, wiser and decidedly more nostalgic. Vintage station wagons have largely disappeared from the road and now the sight of an old wagon at a car show will create plenty of excitement.
We at MSCC predict the early minivans will eventually find their way to lovable status in the car hobby. Most early minivans are already gone- crushed and recycled back into brand new minivans- so there are few 80s survivors left on the road in the 21st century.
The kids that rode around in the early minivans are now well into adulthood and bordering on the middle age nostalgia phase of life. Many of their childhood memories likely took place riding in a minivan and some will want to re-connect with those memories with a first-gen minivan purchase.
We call it station wagon nostalgia syndrome at MSCC.
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