Courtesy Chrysler LLC - 10/2/08
he year was 1983. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States of America. Lech Walesa was the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. The Internet was created, and the first mobile phones were introduced to the public. U.S. astronauts completed the first space shuttle spacewalk; Michael Jackson performed the “moonwalk.” The Baltimore Orioles won the World Series...and Chrysler hit a home run with the introduction of the first minivan.
The Chrysler Corporation (as it was known then) was first to market with the minivan in 1983. However, the development of the minivan began even earlier than that, in 1977, as a response to new customer needs identified in the marketplace.
In the late 1970s, U.S. "baby boomers" were starting families in large numbers and were looking for an economical alternative to automotive transportation. Traditional sedans andwagons continued to get smaller due to pollution and fuel economy concerns, and full-sized vans were being customized as passenger vehicles—but the combination of poor ride comfort, large size and rear-wheel-drive design did not make them ideal for family hauling. Chrysler designers and engineers understood the shortcomings of the full-sized van and began early development studies on a vehicle that would fulfill the needs of new families. Chrysler pinpointed a potential vehicle market that needed to deliver a few simple premises: fuel-efficient, easy to step into, family friendly and smaller than the Dodge Ram Van.
After numerous concepts and proposals, Chrysler product planners unanimously agreed on a platform theme that utilized a flat-load floor with the entire powertrain in front of the passenger compartment. Utilizing a front-engine, front-wheel-drive chassis design, Chrysler engineers created a platform with chair-high command-of-the-road seating that provided easy entry and exit. A rear-wheel-drive chassis design would have required a taller floor design, or a center-raised tunnel traveling the length of the vehicle to provide drivetrain clearance. Chrysler engineers also determined that a rear-wheel-drive design would require owners to climb up into the vehicle, rather than conveniently step into it.