Have you heard of "Linus's Law"? It's a saying that arose from the Free Software/Open Source programming movement, and it goes like this: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." At first glance that sounds awfully morbid, conjuring up images of bugs in "Supreme" shoes chewing their way through a mountain of disconnected eyeball. But it's really about software development, and you could best restate it as, "if you have enough people looking at the problem, somebody is going to find a quick solution."
We have a lot of eyeballs watching us here at R&T, so it's no surprise that when I called for the return of the Rampage pickup last week, there was a reader who was ready and willing with a better idea. His name is Ric, and what he wrote to me went something like this: "Already available, and still selling like hot cakes, is the Dodge Grand Caravan. It has paid for its development cost and could easily be converted to a pickup. Take out the back seats, put a divider behind the driver, remove the high sides and roof … Voila! You have a 1200-pound-payload truck."
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Ric's idea to make a pickup truck out of an old minivan is clearly both ridiculous and deranged. I decided to send him a very snarky e-mail back pointing out all the flaws in this idea. There was just one problem: no matter how long and hard I thought about it, I couldn't come up with any reasons why Ric's idea is ridiculous and deranged. When you really sit down and chew over the concept, a Grand Caravan pickup truck makes some serious sense.
Think about all the requirements you would have for a basic front-wheel-drive pickup truck. You'd want it to be cheap, right? The Grand Caravan has you covered. I've seen them sell for under 20 grand, brand-new. How much cheaper could it be if you replaced the expensive seats, sliding doors, and glass with a simple pickup bed?
You would want reasonable payload capacity, and we are fine here—the Grand Caravan easily carries five adults, all the above-described hardware, behind the front seats. It's really a half-ton truck disguised as a minivan. It wouldn't be the kind of truck you'd dump 2000 pounds of rocks into while a sweet guitar riff plays in the background, Chevy-Silverado-advertisement-style. But let's face it: Most people don't do that with their trucks anyway. Average American pickup-truck owners don't drop rocks into their beds from ten feet up. They probably don't even use the bed most days. I've had truck owners tell me "don't scratch the bedliner putting your bike in there!" I thought the purpose of a bedliner was to take a few scratches.
Our proposed "everyman pickup" should be quick enough to keep up with traffic and able to tow a little bit if necessary. Not a problem. With the Pentastar V6, the Grand Caravan is actually very sprightly. It can also tow 3600 pounds when properly equipped. That's enough for a utility trailer with a zero-degree-turn lawnmower on it.
There is a wide variety of interior trim and equipment available from existing suppliers for the front seat of our Grand Caravan pickup. Even if Dodge only offered it in base trim, somebody out there would put the interior of a 2016 Town & Country Limited in the thing, just for fun. But maybe there's a ready-made market for an upscale variant with leather seats and the nav system. You never know.
Our minivan-based pickup would do most things better than a current-generation Ram or F-150. It would be more economical, cheaper to operate, and easier to park. It couldn't pull a four-horse trailer or bring 3000 pounds of bricks to the job site, but those tasks are not performed as often as the advertisements would have you believe.
The future of the Grand Caravan is uncertain; I've heard rumors that it's done after the 2019 model year, maybe sooner. As a pickup truck, however, it could have a ten-year lifespan still ahead of it. The new generation Chrysler Pacifica might be more refined, but the old Grand Caravan is basically a Rolls-Royce Ghost compared to a body-on-frame truck when it comes to road noise, handling, and "head toss" over big bumps. People will like it, once they try it.
If this plan works, FCA could also keep making the original minivan version alongside the pickup. The much-touted economic recovery hasn't reached all of us. There are still families out there that appreciate, and will purchase, a low-priced minivan with room for seven. With all the tooling costs paid, a trimmed-down model lineup, and all the pricing benefits that continued large-scale production can bring, the immortal Grand Caravan in all of its available variants could be quite affordable. There's nothing glamorous or exciting about it, but not all of us require glamour or excitement in our family hauler or small-business work truck.
So, readers, what do you think of Ric's idea? A converted Caravan as an everyman pickup. It might steal some sales from the small commercial vans out there, but other than that I don't see any problem with the concept. Maybe Linus's Law will apply again, and a few of you will come up with ironclad reasons why the Caravan pickup wouldn't work. Or maybe you won't. Maybe the best possible truck out there really is an old minivan. Maybe, in the words of another group of van enthusiasts—the A-Team—"it's so crazy, it just might work."