Charger. Challenger. Barracuda. Duster. These names all belong to storied winners from the Chrysler Corporation. All have earned their place in automotive history, and regardless of what may come, they prove that Mopar doesn’t have to take a second seat to anyone. However, if you think about it, these cars, while awesome, really don’t represent some of Chrysler’s biggest successes. Neither in terms of numbers sold nor in terms of overall financial importance to the company do these “greats” really stake a major claim.
That honour would go to nameplates like Aries K, Neon, PT Cruiser and, perhaps the longest-lived and most highly-produced, perhaps even most revolutionary, name: Caravan.
Yup. Caravan. The first real minivan. The “garageable van” that stared it all, and that is still going in 2013, even after most of its competition has given up. The Caravan is the Chrysler that really, when you think of it, out-invented all the competition. It took the trend of front wheel drive and shrinking cars, and applied to the van, creating a whole new class of vehicle, as well as a whole new class of suburban parent (namely the soccer mom). Whether you think either the Caravan or the soccer mom is hot or better left forgotten is beside the point: the Caravan is, quite simply, one of the most important vehicles in automotive history.
Think about it; how many of us have ridden in or driven a Hemi ‘Cuda? A select, lucky few. How many more have had the (dis?)pleasure of driving or riding in the unibody-box known as Caravan? I’m willing to bet a whole heck of a lot more.
So why, then, are there so many kits of Chargers, Challengers and ‘Cudas, when so few were made and fewer still exist today? (This is rhetorical. We all know why. They’re awesome, and most of us can only afford the small plastic ones!) Why is the Caravan so overlooked in the modelling world (again, rhetorical)? Shouldn’t someone have stepped up and produced a kit of this most versatile, ubiquitous and ultimately society-changing throw-away mini-bus?
Yes, they should have, and yes, they did! The good folks at Lindberg have come to the rescue (Thanks?) with their offering of a 1/25 1996 Caravan! “What the…?” you ask! You read it right, the first of the “jellybean” Caravans was highly touted in the day, and Lindberg did indeed celebrate this milestone redesign with a kit. Let’s take a look, shall we? Don’t forget your comfortable driving sandals and a Raffi tape for the kids; you want this to be as real as possible, right?
Like most of the mid-late 1990’s Lindbergs, the box is really, really boring. You can see it’s a white box, with some very blocky red and yellow, and a picture of the none-too-inspiring real thing on the lid. The MASSIVE declaration of it being a “SUPER SNAP” kit should warn you right away that this is NOT going to be a kit that is long on parts. I find it interesting that the “super snap” is the big selling point. The fact it is a Caravan is kind of secondary. Hmm… is there a reason for this?
The box is about as sturdy as it is inspirational (seriously, they needed better art on here), which means not very. It is unfortunately a hinged box, which I think sucks. That means that it will be a lot more in the way when you try to work on the kit. Thankfully, scissors will fix this!
The box on this kit is a lot like the trim on a real Caravan; it really doesn’t matter compared to the plastic inside! On that note, flipping open the cover reveals a surprisingly packed box. Even with the interior bucket on the chassis, there’s barely room for everything. There’s a simple instruction booklet and the parts, and that’s about it. The parts are all in heavy bags, too, which is interesting. More interesting is the fact that on my copy, many were open ended!
Okay, I know you want to know what the kit is like. I mean, who wouldn’t.
First off, the kit, being a SUPER SNAP is quite simple. It is a curbsider, so no opening hood, doors, rear-gate, side slide-door or stow-n-go seating (this is before that anyway, I think). The kit is a shell, glass, interior bucket with a few seats and some wheels. That’s about it. However, that’s more of a plastic Caravan than I thought I’d ever see!
The kit is moulded in red, like the box on the box, so to speak. (You don’t need to paint it! Wait…) the tires are black and the wheels are chrome; all pretty standard stuff. There are some parts for the dash and steering wheel, but other than that and bumpers, this kit is almost done out of the box. This sucks, a bit, since it will be hard to paint the engine and the like from the bottom. Oh well, like any labour of love, it will be worth it, I’m sure.
The amazing thing is that the kit itself, especially the interior, is VERY well done. Like an MPC, there is full carpeting detail, and the industry-leading, trademark cup holders are reproduced very nicely in the rear armrests. In many ways, this kit is SUPERIOR to Tamiya’s curbsiders; the side windows on the front doors are rolled down, and there are backs for the seats! (Don’t get me started. Hollow seats is something that really irks me about Tamiyas…)
The tires are the normal black rubber, nothing special, but not glue-together halves, either. This whole kit looks to me like a promo model that was transformed into a model kit as an afterthought. I can’t tell if that’s the case or not, but it doesn’t really matter to me either. The fact is that the model is actually quite accurate. In fact, it’s accurate enough that I can tell you it is NOT what the box says it is.
The box says it is an LE-model Caravan. However, it is actually a base-model Grand Caravan. I know because I got out my brother’s 1996 Caravan sales literature and compared it to the kit. That means that only the bumpers and the door moulding are grey, not the entire lower half. You can tell, because there’s no LE moulded into the front fender, and the interior trimming is different on the different models. This kit depicts a base Caravan also sporting the base cloth interior; no leather here!
The instructions on this kit are pretty simple. There’s not a lot to it other than slapping in the seats and dash, popping in the windows and sticking it all together. Sure, you’ve got bumpers and wheels to do, but it’s right on par with a Tamiya curbsider. The instructions are very clear and easy to follow, but they aren’t very detailed.
On Tamiya curbsiders, you get a lot of painting callouts. On this kit; nada! You have to either use your imagination, or get a hold of the sales literature if you want accurate information. Of course, you can also search the internet for “for sale” examples. This is always a great way to get good, real-life shots of vehicles that might not have a rabid following.
There are some peel ‘n’ stick decals, including one for the dash. They look lame, of course, and I will eschew their use, except for the instrument cluster, which isn’t moulded in.
This is a simple kit, and it freewheels when done, according to the box. It’s a perfect kit for a beginner, because that’s its target audience. However, it’s such a boring subject that I can’t imagine any junior builder wanting to build it, even as a toy! Still, it will go together easily, it seems, so as a “mentor-student” exercise, it would work nice. It would also be a great kit for just trialling new car painting techniques. There’s a lot of sheet metal there, so if you want to practice your paint finishes, or say, rusting, then you can go to town.
All that having been said, I honestly feel this is a good kit for a serious modeller who wants to pay homage to a vehicle that really and truly helped to redefine motoring. While it’s not galmourous or overly complicated, this is a solid model of a solid, proven people-mover. Also, unlike the Model-T, which was similarly important, you can get this in more than just black!