The Dodge Grand Caravan, first introduced in 1984 as the Caravan, is one of the longest-standing nameplates in the automotive industry. The minivan has been around for close to four decades under six different generations but was killed after the 2019 model year before being resurrected a few months later as an entry-level model.
Michael Santoro was part of the design team for the second generation Caravan introduced in 1991 at Chrysler Corporation. The Caravan line extension was one ofquirky ideas that became extremely popular, and so led to him becoming an expert on minivans according their company website.
Santoro was tasked with making an off-road Caravan concept at some point, and recalls that the biggest challenge was how to change the minivan's appearance without spending any money. All he had available were "tape, paint, wheels, and some off-the-shelf or newly designed accessories," so he had to get creative.
Initially, Santoro sketched a caravan that resembled an SUV with some off-road features like specialized grill bars and side steps. Management became interested in the project and asked for a full size replica to be made for testing purposes.
Unfortunately, it never made past the prototype stage. Despite strong internal support from employees, the project got canceled because some Jeep dealers saw it as a viable competitor.
"Everyone loved it except the Jeep dealers who felt it would jeopardize their sales," Santoro recalls. "The plug was pulled at the last moment before the Chicago Auto Show."