The Last Van Standing
Chrysler is under siege in the minivan market it invented. It's firing back with a line that shatters the soccer-mom stigma.
Timothy Devine for Newsweek
When Chrysler designer Ralph Gilles first became a family man, he wasn't ready to drive a dowdy minivan. So he pimped out a '99 Dodge Caravan with big wheels, dual racing stripes and a monster engine. "I thought, 'If I'm going to have a minivan'," he says, " 'I'll have it my way'." Now Chrysler is letting him have his way with its entire minivan lineup, injecting some style into what is essentially this generation's station wagon. The Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Caravan that will be unveiled at this week's Detroit Auto Show sport the big rims, blinding chrome and massive grilles that are a hallmark of Gilles's designs. Far from egg-shaped eyesores, these minivans are direct descendants of his 300C sedan, a car so cool that 50 Cent drives one. "We asked ourselves, 'How can we sprinkle some of the magic bling dust from the 300C on the minivan?' " says Gilles.