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Size Wise. "Then" Vs. "Now"

I have a question that has been going through my mind for a while.
With the current crop of “Minivans” slowly getting bigger and bigger, how do the current Vans like the Chrysler Town and Country, or the Toyota Sienna compare size wise to the original Ford Econoline, the Chevy-van, and the Dodge A-100?
Is there much difference between what we now call a “Minivan”, and the “Full-Size” vans of the early 60s?
Just curious…

I would venture to guess the current gen of minivans are only slightly smaller then the first reg size Econolines with the flat front, the Chevy Greenbriars and whatever Dirge the Mopar guys called thier first vans, A series.

I have a friend with a dodge dakota, there were no more midsize trucks to tow his camper and boat, had to go to full size, the rationale from the dealer, they get almost as good gas mileage. There is a difference, between the vans, mileage and seating including fold down seats is better, I do not miss the gas hogs but do miss the ability to tow.

Two kids down the street are restoring an original minivan, complete with shag carpet and all the Woodstock trimmings. It is still larger than today’s minivans and very square, so lots of inside room, but terrible gas mileage. The long wheelbase versions are still made as Airport shuttle busses and rentals to trasport basketball teams.

It’s sort of dumb to hear manuafacturers claiming the have "the BIGGEST MINIVAN’. Today’s vans are huge compared with those sold in Asia and other developing countries. The Toyota HI-Ace seats 6, but it’s a cramped environment.

I’ve been to Europe, China and the Caribbean.
In other parts of the world vehicles come in a finely spaced spectrum of sizes, some quite amusing.
It’s not just minivans bloating.
Current Civics are bigger than my '81 and '85 Accords.

I don’t know but I believe the Econoline and the Greenbrier were compacts based on the Falcon and the Corvair respectively.

Minivans may not be longer or wider but they are more space efficient and offer more room for their overall size… This is because they are unibody constructed with fwd. The down size, as you are aware, is that framed vehicles offer different models as body styles and longer bodies can be more easily shuffled onto the running gear and frame without changing the basic drive line as unbody structure as found in a minivan is more restrictive. Framed vans are more easily customized too.

So, for it’s length, minivans are much more roomy, but body on frame has the potential for more ultimate, though less efficient room,if that makes sense.

Framed vans can often tow more and be used in 4 wd off road or rough road conditions as the van body rides higher on the frame…Handling is their down side to that advantage. So, both have their usage, but the minivan is still best in economy as they actually get more efficient while they get bigger.

“Slowly getting bigger” to accomodate our average increase in the size of our fat Astoroids is the primary reason for size increase ! Because of narrower roads and smaller butts with their better health care plans, this keeps European versions under control size wise. ;=() Actually, the use of high fructose corn syrup and aspartame drives the size of minivans. Maybe, perhaps, Europeans will adapt more to our MacDonalds fed culture. We will always have the advantage of more land and wider roads, they will have the advantage of living longer on their narrow polluted streets…who wins ?

There has been a gradual increase in size of foreign cars as well, and it has a lot to do with prosperity. Just recently saw an original VW Rabbit from the 70s. It’s tiny compard to today’s Rabbit. VW now has the tiny Polo as their entry car, mostly aimed at developing countries and as second cars in Europe.

The new Mini and VW Beetle are much larger than their original versions; again a matter of prosperity rather than the girth of Germans and Brits.

Another thing - those old vans were pretty much work vans, not the station wagon substitutes that moder minivans are. Those old vans were crude tin cans in comparison to either station wagons of the day, or, especially, modern minivans.

Full size vans were work vans many years ago. However manufacturers did make small versions of them, including small van-like bodies with pickup-type beds. Chevy, Dodge, and Ford all made them. Call them “cab-overs” if you’d like. VW was known for its small vans and campers in the '50s and '60s.

As a matter of fact, Chevy even made a Corvair pickup truck, called the “Rampside Pickup”.

While Chrysler successfully too credit for the “invention” of the “minivan”, in truth they simply revised and successfully marketed an old idea. VW and others made multipassenger small vans long before Chrysler took credit

While Chrysler successfully too credit for the "invention" of the "minivan", - See more at:

The FWD minivan was invented at Ford. But Ford didn’t think it would sell…so when Lee Iaccoca took over at Chryco…one of his first products was the mini-van.

I’ve owned 4 minivans–a 1990 Ford Aerostar extended Eddie Bauer, a 2000 Ford Windstar, a 2006 Chevrolet Uplander and presently own a 2011 Toyota Sienna. My favorite was the Aerostar. When I replaced the Aerostar, Ford no longer made this model. I did test drive a Ford E-150 and found that it was much larger. I finally settled on the Windstar because its size was more like that of the Aerostar. From having driven both the E-150 and the equivalent Chevrolet 1500 van from my institution back in the 1980s, I am certain that today’s minivans are smaller than these full size vans.
For me, the minivan is the right size for transporting musicians and instruments. Last night, I went to a rehearsal and had 4 people, 2 French horns and two string basses in the Sienna. A SUV wouldn’t be able to carry all this comfortably. Unfortunately, each time I have gone to purchase a replacement minivan, the manufacturer discontinued the minvan. When I was ready to replace the Aerostar, Ford dropped them so I bought a Windstar. When I was ready to replace the Windstar, Ford no longer made minivans, so I bought the Uplander. When I was ready for another minivan, GM no longer made minivans, hence the Sienna.
The same situtation now holds for small pickup trucks. My son wanted a small pickup. He is in the used vehicle economic brackeet. He did drive larger pickup trucks and at one time owned an F-150. However, he does light hauling and didn’t need the bulk of the larger pickup truck. He finally found a good used Chevrolet S-10 that fit his needs. For what he needs, the small truck fits the bill–better gas mileage, less expensive tires, easier to maneuver, etc. Now Chevrolet has dropped the Colorado, GMC the Canyon, Ford the Ranger and Dodge the Dakota. The market has now been left to Toyota and Nissan.

Lee Iaccoca was brilliant at marketing. There are other things that he credited Chrysler with “creating” that go way back with other cars, such as “cab forward” and “put the wheels way out to the corners of the car for better handling”. None of this stuff was new. Iaccoca was a genius.

As a matter of fact, little of what we see now is new. Transverse engines with transaxles and Mcphereson struts, moving the wheels way out to the corners, and other techniques used to get maximum cabin space with minimum footprint were all part of the original Mini design concept back in '59. The Mini even had the radiator tucked into the front corner of the engine compartment to save space.

Oddly, the two things that Chrysler really did create, retro styling and the “big truck look”, Chrysler never did seem to get the credit for.

“Oddly, the two things that Chrysler really did create, retro styling and the “big truck look”, Chrysler never did seem to get the credit for”.
@the same mountainbike–I’m not sure that these two things are worthy of credit. The original minis–the Morris 850 and the Austin 850 were really revolutionary designs. I remember test driving a Morris 850 back in 1960 and it was an amazing car compared to the other small cars available at the time. I didn’t have the money to buy one, but it did reflect my taste in cars–efficient, bare bones and economical on gas.

All true, but I meant to say that these things were not Chrysler’s “creations”. Perhaps I got too long winded and unclear.

The Minis were so good for their time that they even ended up with their own race classification.

Agree that the first minivans were the Volkswagen van (1950s) and the Chevy Corvair (60s). Ford’s Econoline vans were barebones commercial units, my brother in law had a frozen food business and had 4 of them. They were very noisy and uncomfortable, and would not have made a good personal vehicle without considerable modifications.

Agree that the British Mini was a real breakthrough (and inventor Alex Issigonis deserved to be knighted); a tiny car with good interior room. As for front wheel drive, Citroen of France had that since the thirties for all their cars with their “Traction Avant” system. If you watch a war movie set in France you’ll see enough of them. The American Cord was a low volume luxury car and its FWD system was complicated and expensive.

@Docnick “again, a matter of prosperity”

Thanks for straightening me out. I looked in my yearbook and thought the reason my car’s were smaller, VW and SAAB 96, was because my buttocks was small. As I aged, I still liked small cars because i didn’t think there was a need for anything bigger as I didn’t gain weight and my kids and wife were skinny.

Everyone around me seemed to get bigger in the buttocks and started driving bigger cars.
Little did I realize that it was really because I was a low paid teacher and the weight gainers were also in creasing the size of their bank acount. I call that discrimination. The heavier people all getting the better jobs, no justice !!!

The original Ford and Dodge vans had the engine between the front bucket seats under a box. And I seem to recall that they both had an I beam front axle. They were quite austere.

My '86 Toyota van had the engine between the seats under a “doghouse”. It provided a nice warm area to change my daughter’s diaper in the winter.

@dagosa. Bottom size has definitely increased as well over the years. Americans have the most obese persons and the largest bottoms. I started flying in 1958 and the economy seats in a DC4 & DC6 prop plane were quite narrow, and would be unacceptable today.

It was not until the jet age that decent size seats were put in economy class. Every now and then I have to fly a purely Asian local airline, and the seat size and pitch (legroom) leaves a lot to be desired, although I’m only 5-8 and weigh 175 lbs. I’m often the tallest person on the plane.