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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Beater Diaries: Joe’s 1996 Dodge Caravan

Although technically a minivan owner, Joe’s relationship with his 1996 Dodge Caravan brings to mind the Custom Van culture of the 1970’s. When I arrived at his apartment complex his pride and joy was parked in a bus stop on the street. 

Name: Joe
Vehicle: 1996 Dodge Caravan

The Interview 
(J=Joe, B=Brandon): 

B: I see your van is parked in a bus stop...

J: Yeah… so?

B: So what are the perks of driving a minivan? 

J: It’s discreet as far as getting pulled over. No one suspects the minivan. 

B: Why are there no back seats in yours?

J: Gas mileage and in case you need to lie down and go to bed you got the option. You got a little studio apartment waitin’ for ya. 

B: Have you ever invited a lady into..

J: (Cutting me off) Yes. 

B: How many? Do you have a tally going? 

J: No tally.

B: You prefer not to record those sorts of things?

J: I’m above that. 

B: Fair enough. As a desirable bachelor, if you suddenly had a wife and children, would you buy a sports car to be ironic?

J: I’d upgrade to the sport minivan. 

B: How fast do you think your current van can go?

J: 90mph. 

B: How would you describe the color of your van?

J: An off teal.

B: I was going to say sea foam. There’s usually several gas cans in your van, sometimes with gas in them, yet you still smoke cigarettes while driving. Comments? 

J: This is not true. There’s no gas in the gas tanks. 

B: So why are they in the van?

J: In case I run out of gas. 

B: What else is back there? 

INTERLUDE: Incomplete list of items I found in the back of Joe’s Caravan: 
-Dirty rags
-Unopened insurance bill 
-Various receipts 
-8 empty cigarette packets
-Packets of “Breathe Deep Yogi Tea”
-Vaporizer tube
-Empty plastic bottles/Fast food bags
-AC adaptor 
-Spare key to a boat
-Empty gas can
-Used kitty litter box
-Irish flute
-Dog leash 
-Guitar tuner
-Empty cardboard boxes
-Coat hangers
-Two beanies
-Single glove with fingers cut off
-Pair of dress shoes
-Tennis ball
-Empty Prescription bottle from the dentist 
-Two Frisbees 
-Two books of CD’s 
-Broken tape adapters
-Empty bottle of chloraseptic spray 
-Work truck keys
-Bottle of hand sanitizer
-Packet of hot sauce 
-Pizza Hut Parmesan packet (J: From my pizza delivery days)
-Empty prescription drug bottle made out to a woman who will remain anonymous
-Sun block/Spray Aloe 
-Set of Allen wrenches


B: Whenever we drive anywhere in your van, you demand we listen to Led Zeppelin. Is Zeppelin your driving music? 

J: No, Zeppelin’s my everything, my everything music. 

B: With all the mechanical troubles your van has been having lately, can you see yourself selling it?

J: I don’t think anyone would buy it. I think it’s unsellable. I’d have more satisfaction driving it into the ground myself then having someone else do it. 

B: Why do you love your van?

J: Because people look down on me for driving a minivan. They think I’m borrowing my mother’s car.. And then the look on their face when I say that (expletive) is in my name. 

B: You love your van.

J: I do, I love my van. I love that it’s not socially acceptable for a young single male to own and drive his own minivan. 

The Test Drive:

Joe says the tires are almost shot and the transmission is slipping badly. I didn’t notice these issues so much on a short jaunt to 7-11 for Twix, but we both agreed the heater makes a noise like a broken coffee maker. Despite the odds, for a ’96 Caravan with “200+” miles on it, I could see this van lasting another couple years on good luck and plenty of transmission fluid. 

"No one suspects the minivan."


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