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1990 Chrysler Town and Country

Submitted by Car Lust reader and commenter Al Sapp

All my life, I’ve been a die-hard Chrysler fan, a genuine Mopar man. I’ve coveted damn near everything ChryCo has put on the market. So I’d like to share an interesting, little known piece of Chrysler history. Heck, I’m willing to bet my leather Pentastar key fob that, with the exception of its introduction, few have ever written, talked about, or really ever paid any attention to this article’s subject matter. Theres a very good reason for all of this. What might that be…… let me think… oh yes:

Everyone takes minivans for granted and completely writes them off without a second thought.

That’s actually pretty valid.  Most minivans are drab, boring, characterless vehicles which serve no purpose other than transporting kids around the suburbs. But as with most drab things in life, there are some exceptions. Dodge currently sells a Grand Caravan R/T, with performance suspension. Then there is a certain purple Plymouth which will definitetly be subject of a future post. And, of course, the subject of today's discussion.

Ladies & Gentlemen, if you please: The 1990 Chrysler Town and Country!       

Note the seats available in soft Corinthian leather.I can already hear you shaking with excitement. But don’t smirk just yet. This special, one year only van is a whole lot more interesting than you might think.

The wood-sided van first rolled off the St. Louis assembly plant line in 1989, badged as a ’90 model. This rare beast of a van was essentially a gussied up long wheelbase Grand Caravan, with every option Auburn Hills dared to throw at it. If (God forbid!) Imperial had ever made a minivan, this would be it.

...and cheap at twice the price!The Town and Country was visibly distinguished from its plebeian sibilings, Caravan and Voyager, by its chrome waterfall grille, wood paneling cut from the finest aged vinyl trees in the Upper Peninsula, a crystal pentastar hood ornament (standard on all Chryslers at the time), and slicked up 15” lace spoke aluminum rims. Chryslers’ damndest minivan was only ever available in Black or White clear coat, letting everyone know that this was a very formal, executive van.

Luxurious interior appointments? Check. We’re talking leather seats and trim panels, front and rear air conditioning, power windows, power locks, and an Infinity sound system so the inevitable Mom driving can be “Bumpin’”, whatever that means. (If it means what I think it does, then it doesn’t apply to your mom.) Beyond the killer audio system, the van had room for seven passengers, tilt wheel, cruise control, a luggage rack, tinted glass, and one of those “navacomputer” overhead consoles that told you the outside temperature and the direction that the crystal hood ornament was currently aimed at. All standard. And the price of all this luxury? $23,625 or $41,479.86 in 2012 Dollars. A fully loaded 2012 Town And Country comes in at $42,690 msrp. So as you can see, the 1990 Chrysler Town and Country was serious business, you’d would have been posh to have grown up with one of these.

"I know my own needs...."Power? You better believe it, with your choice of either a Mitsubishi sourced, 142 HP 3 liter V6, or a 470 horsepower 6.4 liter Hemi V8 3.3 liter V6 developing 150 HP, both mated to the slickest four-speed column-shifted automatic ever shipped out of the Kokomo transmission plant. And if you wanna go fast in the corners, the Town & Country sports 205/70s mounted on the aforementioned 15” alloys, and power front disk brakes.

The 1990 model year was the last of the wildly popular first generation minivans which had been running since 1983. Chrysler only shipped somewhere just south of 10,000 units for the 1990 T & C, rendering this as somewhat of a rarity as far as Chrysler minivans go. In 1991, Chrysler rolled out the sleeker, less boxy second gen minivans, which, thankfully, were still available with wood trim. After the less boxy-box Town and Countrys were replaced in 1996, some of the magic was lost. The post ’96 vans were still great in there own right, but the best of the breed, for me at least, were still the 1990 T&Cs.

Chrysler still makes a Town and Country of course, but it has been confirmed that it will be replaced with a luxury crossover. Pity. The Grand Caravan will still be here. But hats off to the mac daddy, A-number-one, king of the hill, top of the heap, the first true luxury van: the 1990 Chrysler Town and Country!

But why do I love it so much? What would posses me to write an article about such a seemingly unremarkable vehicle? It has a certain spark about it. Something Jeremy Clarkson Calls “Something you just can’t put your finger on.” Something that makes it special. Its that spark that ignites the passion that we have for all the cars we love, not just the wood grained minivans. It’s that spark that all the Car Lust readers and writers share. This van, this front wheel drive, wood-grained, roof-racked, hood-ornamented minivan, the sort of car we take for granted everyday, sparks car lust for me. And I’d double down my leather pentastar key fob, and bet that nobody has ever said that about the 1990 Chrysler Town and Country before.

-Al Sapp

Photo Credits: The white van (shockingly priced at just $3,400!) is from The brochure is from, and the shabby interior shot from


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Although I can’t share your passion for Chrysler minivans (even though they brilliantly invented the segment) I do sympathize with anyone who has such passion for a vehicle. In fact, I blogged about my unreasonable love for my 97 Chevy Astro van at
I have my own memories of these Town and Country minivans. In the early 1990’s I worked at a resort/corporate retreat in the mountains of Pennsylvania. The resort was rather swanky and was featured on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous twice. It was working there where I drove my first limousine. Aside from the stretched Lincolns the resort fleet consisted mostly of Range Rovers and two Town and Country minivans. The vans were bought initially to ferry guests around the property but unfortunately the transmission slipped so badly on one that it was relegated to cargo mule. It was in that role where I, as the audio visual manager, would do my part in destroying the leather interior by hauling all manner of audio equipment in it. My crew hated driving it so much because of the slipping transmission that they would rev it to the moon and drop it into first gear trying to kill it off. Unfortunately this tactic worked which meant for the remainder of my time there I had to try to get huge speaker systems and lighting trusses in and out of the doors of a stretch limo. The other T&C just disappeared one day, maybe saved from the same fate as its brother by some anonymous minivan fan.

I am not a fan of vans (I drive a Park Ave.), but my wife is. She is a potter, and we display her wares at art fairs and farmers markets (I am the serf/helper). One of our neighbors has a more recent Chrysler Town and Country, which he let her borrow for a weekend. It was very good. The two main display surfaces are 30" by 8' tables which fit into the back of the van nicely. It has the stow 'n go option, and the console between the front seats is removable. When her current van (a Pontiac Montana) wears out, I would definitely consider the Chrysler.

Had an '89 Grand Caravan, with the vinyl-wood sides, through most of the 1990s. Replaced/rebuilt the transmission. FOUR TIMES. Chrysler paid for the first two but I had to pick up the tab after that. Oh, and the clearcoat peeled off so I had to repaint. Don't know if the '90 models were any better, but mine was a POS--

I had an '89 Caravan C/V (short wheelbase). Since this was the cargo version panel van, mine had the woodgrain on the inside - installed by me. :-) Was a fun project.

First transmission failure was at 58K miles, just after I bought it (used) and was covered by warranty (less $100 deductible I believe, and a small warranty transfer fee since I was second owner and was entitled to a one-time transfer of the Chrysler 7/70). I had to pay for the second transmission rebuild myself though.

Overall, I liked the car. Was a good size.

Somebody once told me there were some redeeming qualities about Mopar minivans, but I can't remember what they were. Aside from the antics of people like Gus Mahon, and the creation of a steady stream of cheap, crappy, disposable used people haulers I can't think of any reason why you would buy one of these compared to the fairly superior Astro or the somewhat above mediocre Aerostar.

I've got a 2011 Odyssey, and every time I fly the family to a far-off destination, I'm forced to rent a Dodge Caravan. The Honda makes the Caravan look like a literal turd on wheels by comparison, in pretty much every objective and subjective category you care to define.

Oh, and for the record, Chrysler "invented" the mini-van about as much as Al Gore invented the internet. IMNSHO it was Ben Pon who created the category when he came up with the bright idea of putting a van body on a VW chassis, way back in 1947. Hmmm...let's use the running gear of a popular compact sedan and stick it at one end of a box that we can then fill with several people, a dog, and all their assorted belongings. And we'll call it the "(diminutive adjective)(big vehicle)"!

VW "invented" the minivan about as much as the Mercedes S-Class was the 1st car to have ABS.

You can claim anyone invented the minivan, the Stout Scarab, the DKW Schnellaster. The Astro and Aerostar are still Truck based, which, in my opinion renders them as vans, not minivans.

Yes, the Astro and Aerostar were rear-drive and completely different types of vehicles. Not really comparable at all with the Chrysler products.

The GM "dustbuster" minivans in 1990, and the '95 Ford Windstar were the first direct domestic competitors and were inferior products.

Ford and GM have both since exited the minivan market entirely.

The Ford C-Max is an interesting and promising new product which harkens back to the Mitsubishi Expo LRV.

The VW van is a category all its own, but the Corvair Greenbrier was really the first minivan. Unlike the VW or the early Econoline, it's low enough to fit in any garage. The overall package dimensions are not too far off a Caravan/Voyager. There were other concept minivans or minivan-like vehicles shown by multiple manufacturers from the late 50's through the 70's (the GM L'Universelle being the most distinctive). So no, Lido did not invent the idea of the minivan, but he was definitely the first to build one that was a commercial success.

With the e-brake on in my 2001 clunker Caravan I'm pretty sure I could still do that. The V-6 in it really does have a fair bit of power, and my tires squawk quite readily as it is. But I cannot imagine a reason for doing it. Just because you can ride a wheelie on a 1937 Harley doesn't mean you do it! Some things just shouldn't be done...

Nothing beats a Ford S-max for fun driving, although it's way smaller.
Shame you don't have in the US.

I have an itch to trick out a T&C into a cross-country 1- or 2-person camper. I might do it some day, but I haven't had a vacation since 2006 and I already have two cars and a truck.

I had a friend with a mid to late 90's one. Went through a transmission every 60k average. Not a good vehicle. A Toyota Odyssey will outlast these big time. Also they are just hodge podge in the design dept. the inside was bulky to take apart, not well laid out. Only redeeming quality is they were less expensive than better, more well though out competitors.

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