When considering a new vehicle purchase, it’s important to take into account what you’re going to be using the vehicle for – like when my dad purchased a six-seat truck in order to accommodate our growing family and the large instruments we played at weddings, Christmas parties, and the occasional historical re-enactment. There wasn’t enough room in a station wagon (only five seats), or a mini-van (enough seats but not room for a harp, a cello, and two violins). If we had been on the lookout for something a little smaller, or more comfortable, we probably would have gone with something like the Chrysler Town & Country, which was made for larger traveling groups who wanted to relax a little on their way to the next family reunion, or even just on their way to school.
The Chrysler Town & Country appeared on the automobile market before World War II, in the early 1940’s. While there weren’t any produced during the war, it was marketed again afterwards and became a popular staple for families in the 1950’s up until 2016, which, considering the longevity (or lack thereof) of most vehicle models, is something to be proud of, especially since it underwent a massive change in body type.
After World War II when the station wagon really took off, it was made entirely of steel. There were a few variants, with names like “New Yorker” and “Newport” and “Windsor”, but most prominently was featured as a luxury vehicle, complete with carpeting, woodgrain paneling, and chrome trim. There were even convertible models for a time, competing with the likes of Buick, Oldsmobile, Ford, AMC, and Mercury. It went through eight generations before disappearing for a few years, only to reappear in the 1990’s as the luxury family mini-van we know and love today.
One of the marks of a forward-thinking, pro-active company is the ability to adjust to the needs of the market. When it became clear that the station wagon needed an overhaul to meet the demands of a new audience, Chrysler rose to the challenge and went back to the drawing board. The result was quite pleasing to the eye (as far as a mini-van can be), while also appealing to those who still wanted some oomph and excitement with a family car. Its distant relatives, the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Plymouth Grand Voyager served as inspirations as they joined the Chrysler brand.
Lasting almost twenty years, the Chrysler Town & Country mini-van is responsible for a lot of firsts in the industry. It led the way in the matter of luxury family vehicles, and provided many with a chance to enjoy their journey toward vacations, errands, education and other short and long trips, not just anticipation of the arrival. While I have fond memories of road trips in my early days, I believe my brothers would have been much happier with their own bucket seats and some new technology to keep them occupied. Something to keep in mind when they’re old enough to start their own families, I’m sure.