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I Went Mudding in My Winter Beater Dodge Caravan

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author photo by Tyler Hoover January 2017

In Kansas, there's not much to talk about -- except the weather. We're fortunate to have all four seasons, and unfortunate in that we experience tornadoes, massive hail storms, flash floods and now even earthquakes. The talk of the town this week was an incoming ice storm expected to bring widespread power outages and extremely hazardous driving conditions.

While the entire city went into a panicked frenzy, buying generators and enough groceries to last five years before hunkering down in the toilet-paper forts they built in their living rooms, I was thrilled at prospect of some nasty weather. It meant I could finally test my newly completed winter beater project, the Mighty-Van.

My 1991 Dodge Caravan with only 49,000 miles and the rare all-wheel-drive system has been transformed into a formidable winter weather warrior. The first step in the transformation was fixing it. Being an aging Chrysler product from an era when quality control wasn't exactly a priority, the thing was leaking -- from everywhere. The radiator was the scariest part, as it was oozing coolant to the point that it looked the same crusty shade of green as the Statue of Liberty (although, miraculously, it still did the job). Hitting the garage floor was a cocktail of fluids coming from several leaky seals which could have failed at any moment -- sending this low-mileage van to the scrap heap.

After spending more than the van was worth in repairs, I decided it was time to make improvements. The biggest disappointment is that the suspension remains unmodified. A monster-truck-style lift kit is not possible because the CV axles on the all-wheel-drive system don't have enough flexibility to allow it. European rally fogs and the biggest mud terrain tires that would fit are the only modifications from stock -- but the final product looks glorious!

Winter Beater Muddin

Thousands of dollars were spent on a van worth hundreds of dollars, but with the local weathermen doing their best Game of Thrones "WINTER IS COMING" impersonation, I was prepared. Then it started raining, and it rained some more, and it didn't stop raining for 36 hours. No ice, no snow, nothing more than persistent precipitation at just above the freezing mark.

The weatherman lied to me. Once it finally quit raining, I was shocked to find fantastic weather for January. Instead of testing in ice and snow, I decided to try out the Mighty-Van in the mud -- and it was fantastic! I did my best in the video to break the rear end loose for some open-field donuts, but the tires had too much grip for the 150-horsepower engine.

Dodge Caravan in mud

With no prospects of any local winter weather on the horizon, I've decided to take my winter beater somewhere with some white stuff to play with. Stay tuned for my upcoming Colorado Rocky Mountain road trip!

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
I Went Mudding in My Winter Beater Dodge Caravan - Autotrader