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Minivans: Crunk or Junk?

When is a car worth saving, and when is it just a pile (no pun intended) of metal? It’s a question constantly under debate at IMG Headquarters. Submitted for your deciding votes this time is one that has everyone around here throwing in the micro fiber towel in stalemate. So, readers, what’s the verdict on minivans? Crunk or Junk?

One problem with minivans is that, all too often, manufacturers tried to make them something they were not in order to increase appeal. Plymouth and Dodge offered “Sport” trim levels in their Voyager/Caravan lines that put snazzy painted wheels, a spoiler, and some nifty-looking pink or purple pinstripes on the exterior. Mercury tried offering the “Nautica Edition” Villager to appeal to, uh… (who exactly were they going for?), and lest we forget to throw poor Pontiac under the bus. When the Transport came out, they were innovative and unique but they looked like a dust buster on wheels. To round out this group, I’ll throw in the Ford Aerostar. Based on a truck platform, it rode high and tall, looked like a child’s wooden block car, and had several reliability issues.

Fantasy land, or the stuff of nightmares?

On the other side, you have some minivans that seem to, dare I say, border on cool? I submit the Toyota Previa All Trac; a supercharged minivan with all wheel drive capabilities! Not only were they cool, they are known for reliability, often reaching 400k miles or more with little to no maintenance. The new generations of Sienna from Toyota, the Quest from Nissan and the Odyssey from Honda also exemplify what can be done to a minivan. They are jam- packed with the latest gadgets, gizmos, and storage options. So much that, when trimmed in leather, they have a very “executive jet” feel. And who can forget the iconic VW minibus? The ultimate hippie-surf-wagon-cool-bus could very well be considered a minivan. For good measure, I’ll also mention the Renault Espace, which became a mid-engine rocket ship when Williams fitted an F1 engine and tuned the ever-loving motor oil out of it. It was reported to be able to hit top speeds of 300kph! Though never a production model (obviously) it would have made for some interesting grocery getting moments!

The last side of the argument should fall to those who take it upon themselves to modify minivans. I’ve seen some very tasteful, good-looking mods such as mild lowering, spoilers, wheels, tint and the ever-popular DVD and leather upgrades. But then, I also admit to a very guilty pleasure in the Japanese tuner van scene, which pushes the boundaries in every direction with wild fiberglass work, wings only Batman could love, and airbrush paint jobs that are every carnival air brush t-shirt vendor’s dream. There are also the less experienced modifiers out there, armed with stick-on flames and faux-Buick portholes, proudly shining in the glimmer from spinner hubcaps!

I’ve presented the arguments… the choice is now yours!

15 Comments

  1. I would have to say minivans are near the top for vehicle versatility..

    Throw a Porsche engine in a VW camper and you’ve got it all: speed, space and living quarters complete with kitchen and loft.

    Crunk it is.

  2. By the way, I wrote this as I celebrate my daughter’s 7 month birthday and looked at the back seat of my ever shrinking Scion xA. Has the time come to cash in my chips and buy a swagger wagon? One of my first cars was a 1992 Plymouth Voyager that was anything but cool, however mini van-dom has come a long way…maybe… 🙂

    • Team suv for sure! I drive a Honda CR-V right now, and I kind of hope to get a newer version when the time comes to get me a new car.However, my mom did have a mini van for a while; a Windstar! Woo woo! When we moved to FL 10 years ago, she caehgnd over to SUV’s though. She drives a Lexus RX now…which I really like to drive every once in a while. Also, fun fact: apparently the Lexus RX is built on the same frame as a mini van…so it drives very similarly even though it doesn’t look like a mini van…score!

  3. I’m gonna have to vote Junk on this one.

    There certainly are some notable exceptions. Dustin, you’re right about the Japanese van scene definitely being crunk. And I’m not sure it’s fair to list the VW bus in with the products born of the early ’90s “minivan renaissance.”

    But when you boil it down, you aren’t left with a deep, rich glaze of automotive goodness, you’re left with a watery, flavorless, and straight up boring collection of people haulers. They’re good at what they do, but crunk that does not make.

  4. I’ve owned mini-vans since 1985, and they are the most practical vehicle ever produced. My 2001 Pontiac Montana (always maintained with Griot’s products) sits proudly in my garage next to my Callaway Corvette Convertible.

  5. A little of column A, and little of column B.

    Have you seen the turbo charged Caravans? They will easily turn 12 second quarters.

    But then again these vehicles are also notorious for various mechanical issues.

    And what no love for real vans? Mr. T is sad. 🙁

  6. My vote: Crunk

    Here’s why…
    Most minivans easily fall into the junk category, but the minivan platform itself is crunk… people just don’t get it. The utility of minivans far outweighs that of most SUVs, but people opt for big SUVs instead (probably for the same reason they opt for small, road-going-only SUVs over wagons – proud wagon owner here). If more minivans were built like VW and Honda build them, there wouldn’t be a question here. But, as Dustin said, car-makers that just don’t care have ruined the image of the minivan for all of us.

    So, coming from someone who will always be able to hang the “Never Owned a Minivan” sign in my garage, I say crunk. Just buy a VW or Honda.

  7. I have a 1991 Chevrolet Astro Van. When we go on road trips everyone wants to take the van, fun times including some of my boys high school dances!

  8. MadMerc says:

    Don’t forget the Kenny Brown Ford Windstar! People laugh until I leave them in the dust.

  9. I love that CRUNK is winning by two votes!

  10. They are fine for the period in your life when you have very young to early teenage kids. Then they serve little value unless you need the large amont of cubic feet to haul stuff for a living, hobby(read: a disease like collecting pinball machines) etc.

  11. I have to say junk.. Because they are just a means to an end. You have a lot of people to cart around get a van. There is no passion apparent in the design and execution.

  12. Keith Pomeraning says:

    Why is it when traffic is snarled, you see it’s either a minivan or a Prius in the left lane and they’re not passing anybody…

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