Plymouth Voyager is a nameplate applied to two different vans manufactured by Chrysler Corporation (later DaimlerChrysler AG) and sold under its Plymouth brand. From 1974–1983 the Voyager was a rebadged variant of the Dodge Sportsman full size van. In 1984, the Voyager name was applied to Plymouth's variant of a totally new kind of vehicle released by the Chrysler Corporation. This vehicle was the minivan. The Plymouth Grand Voyager was introduced in 1987 as a long-wheelbase (LWB) variant of the Voyager minivan, and was sold alongside the short-wheelbase (SWB) model.
The first Plymouth Voyager was manufactured from 1974-1983 as a rebadged Dodge Sportsman with 12–15-passenger capacity. The Voyager was Plymouth's first truck-bodied vehicle since 1942. The second one was the Plymouth Trail Duster, which came out a year later. These vehicles were early relatives (in name mostly) of what would become the "minivan" known as The Plymouth Voyager, Dodge Caravan, & Chrysler Town & Country. These affordable, reliable, efficient, long lasting, easy to maintain vehicles could haul cargo & passengers in all types of weather conditions very well and changed transportation starting in 1984.
Lee Iaccoca and Hal Sperlich had conceived their idea for a modern minivan during their earlier tenure at Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford II had rejected Iaccoca's and Sperlich's idea (and a prototype) of a minivan in 1974, then rumored to carry the name "Maxivan". Iaccoca followed Sperlich to Chrysler Corporation, and together they created the T115 minivan — a prototype that was to become the Caravan and Voyager, known colloquially as the "Magic-wagons" (a term used in advertising).
The Chrysler minivans launched a few months ahead of the Renault Espace (the first MPV/minivan in Europe, initially presented to executives as a Talbot in 1979, but not launched until 1984), making them the first of their kind — effectively creating the modern minivan segment in the US.
Generation I (1984–1990)
In 1984, the Voyager name was applied to Plymouth's variant of Chrysler's all new minivan. This Voyager used the Chrysler S platform, which was derived from the K-platform (Plymouth Reliant and Dodge Aries). In addition to using a derived platform, the Voyager shared many components with the K-cars, most notably the interior materials. The Reliant's instrument cluster and dashboard controls combined with its front-wheel drive layout and low floor for easy access gave the Voyager a much more car-like ambiance when compared to traditional full-sized vans. The Voyager was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1985.
For 1987 the Voyager received minor cosmetic updates as well as the introduction of the Grand Voyager, which was built on a longer wheelbase adding more cargo room. It was available only with SE or LE trim.
First-generation Voyager minivans were offered in three distinct trim levels (which were also borrowed from the Reliant): an unnamed base model, mid-grade SE, and high-end LE, the latter bearing woodgrain-imprinted vinyl on the sides. A sportier LX model was added in 1989, sharing much of its components with the Caravan ES.
Safety features were typical of vans of the era, and consisted of 3-point seat belts for the front two passengers, with simple lap belts for rear passengers. Standard on all Voyagers were legally mandated side-impact reinforcements for all seating front and rear outboard positions. Safety features such as airbags or ABS were not available.
Original commercials for the 1984 Voyager featured magician Doug Henning as a spokesperson to promote the Voyager "Magic Wagon's" versatility, cargo space, low step-in height, passenger volume, and maneuverability. Later commercials in 1989 featured rock singer Tina Turner. Canadian commercials in 1990 featured pop singer Celine Dion.
1984-1986 Voyagers could be equipped with five-, six-, seven-, or eight-passenger seating arrangements. Five-passenger seating was standard on all three models. The five-passenger arrangement consisted of two front bucket seats and an intermediate three-passenger bench seat. On base and SE models, the front buckets could be replaced by a 40/60 split three-passenger bench seat, bringing the total number of occupants to six. Seven-passenger seating was an option on SEs and LEs, with dual front buckets, an intermediate two-passenger bench, and a rear three-passenger bench. Eight-passenger seating was available on SE models only, with both the additional middle two-passenger bench and three-passenger front bench. So, depending on configuration, the base model could seat up to six, the SE could seat up to eight, and the LE could seat up to seven.
The two bench seats in the rear were independently removable, and the large three-seat bench could also be installed in the 2nd row location via a second set of attachment points on the van's floor, ordinarily hidden with snap-in plastic covers. This configuration allowed for conventional five-passenger seating with a sizable cargo area in the rear. The latching mechanisms for the benches were very intuitive and easy to operate.
On base models, the front buckets were low-back items, upholstered with plain cloth or vinyl. On SEs, the buyer could choose between low-back buckets with deluxe cloth or high-back buckets in upgraded vinyl. LEs came standard with high-back front buckets, upholstered in either luxury cloth or luxury vinyl.
For 1987 the six- and eight-passenger options were withdrawn, leaving seating for five standard and for seven optional on the base and SE, and seating for seven with high-back front buckets standard on the LE, Grand SE, and Grand LE. Deluxe cloth upholstery was now standard on base and all SE models, with the luxury vinyl optional on SEs. On LEs, luxury cloth came standard and for the first time, leather seats were available on the LE models.
For the first 3 years of production, only 2 engines were offered in the Voyager, both were inline-4 engines with 2 barrel carburetors. The base 2.2L was borrowed from the Chrysler K-cars, and produced 96 hp (72 kW) horsepower. The higher performance fuel injected version of the 2.2L engine later offered in the Chrysler K-cars was never offered in the Voyager, and the 2-bbl version would remain the base powerplant until mid-1987. Alongside the 2.2L, an optional Mitsubishi 2.6L engine was available producing 104 hp (78 kW) horsepower, which did a better job motivating the van.
At launch, the Voyager's low horsepower to weight ratio had not been much of a concern. Its main competitors were the Toyota Van and the Volkswagen Vanagon, both of which had similarly sluggish performance. However, by 1986, new competition from Ford's Aerostar and Chevrolet's Astro had highlighted how underpowered the Caravan was. Therefore in mid-1987, the base 2.2L I4 was replaced with a fuel-injected 2.5L I4, which produced a respectable 100 hp (75 kW), while the Mitsubishi G54B I4 was replaced with the new fuel-injected 3.0L Mitsubishi V-6 producing 136 hp (101 kW), which was a popular upgrade. This gave the base Voyager noteworthy performance among its (mostly heavier, rear wheel drive) peers.
Shortly thereafter in 1989, an even more powerful engine became an option, with a turbocharged version of the base 2.5L producing 150 hp (112 kW). This engine would not prove popular though. Also in 1989, revisions to the Mitsubishi V-6 upped its output to 142 hp (106 kW), In 1990, a new 150 hp (110 kW) 3.3L V-6 was added to the option list. Sales of the 2.5 turbo dwindled to nothing, and it was quietly dropped at the end of the year.
- 1984–1987 2.2 L K I4, 96 hp (72 kW), 119 lb·ft (161 N·m)
- 1984–1987 2.6 L Mitsubishi G54B I4, 104 hp (78 kW), 142 lb·ft (193 N·m)
- 1987½–1990 2.5 L K I4, 100 hp (75 kW), 135 lb·ft (183 N·m)
- 1987½–1988 3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6, 136 hp (101 kW), 168 lb·ft (228 N·m)
- 1989–1990 2.5 L Turbo I4, 150 hp (110 kW), 180 lb·ft (240 N·m)
- 1989-1990 3.0 L Mitsubishi 6G72 V6, 142 hp (106 kW), 173 lb·ft (235 N·m)
- 1990 3.3 L EGA V6, 150 hp (110 kW), 180 lb·ft (240 N·m)
Both a three-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission and a five-speed manual were available with all inline-4 engines, including the turbocharged 2.5 L (this was a rare combination). V-6 engines were only offered with the venerable fully hydraulically operated TorqueFlite, until the computer controlled Ultradrive 4-speed automatic became available in 1989. The Ultradrive offered much better fuel economy and responsiveness, particularly when paired with the inline-4 engine. However, it suffered from reliability problems, usually stemming from what is known as "gear hunt" or "shift busyness", resulting in premature wear of the internal clutches. It also required an uncommon type of automatic transmission fluid and was not clearly labeled as such, leading many owners to use the more common Dexron II rather than the specified "Mopar ATF+3", resulting in transmission damage and eventual failure.
Subsequent years would see many design changes to the Ultradrive to improve reliability, and many early model transmissions would eventually be retrofitted or replaced with the updated versions by dealers, under warranty. These efforts were mostly successful, and most 1st generation Voyagers/Grand Voyagers eventually got an updated transmission.