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I am the owner of a Dodge Caravan which I...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I am the owner of a 1987 Dodge Caravan, which I bought new. The car is in
excellent shape with only 83,000 miles on it. The only problem, which has
been present ever since it was new, is the 2.6-liter four-cylinder engine.
The power output of this engine is dismal at best. As I heard you state
once on your radio show, Dodge made a seven-passenger vehicle to go with
this engine so that when you get to a hill, six people can get out and push!

I would like to keep the car, but upcoming travel will require us to get
into hilly driving more and more -- and I am tired of pushing! As I see it,
I have three choices. 1) I can soup up the four-banger to get more
horsepower out of it. 2) I can find a 3.0-liter V6 and have it installed in
my van. 3) I can spend $20,000 on a new Caravan, and get practically
nothing for a trade-in. What do you think I should do? -- Tom

RAY: Well, first of all, we need to issue a clarification for the benefit
of our lawyers and the lawyers at Chrysler Corporation. We never, ever said
that stuff about six people pushing any Chrysler product with a 2.6-liter
engine. NEVER! That's simply not true.

TOM: Right. It was the 2.2-liter engine we said that about. Let's get the
facts straight here, can we please?

RAY: Unfortunately, Tom, souping up the current engine is a very dumb idea.
You're not going to get enough power out of it to make a difference, and
you'll just end up sinking money into it and decreasing its life span by
overworking it.

TOM: Putting a used, 3.0-liter Mitsubishi-built V6 in your current van is
only slightly less dumb. You can do it, but it's an incredibly
time-consuming project. Or, an incredibly expensive project if you're
paying someone else to do it. You can't just find an engine in a wrecked
Caravan and drop it in there. You'd have to change the exhaust system, the
motor mounts, the radiator, and who knows what else. And when you're all
done, you've got a used engine, and you don't know what kind of shape it's
in.

RAY: So the only logical choice is a new Caravan. But it doesn't have to be
brand-new. We recently wrote a pamphlet called How To Buy a Great Used Car:
Things Detroit and Tokyo Don't Want You To Know (if you want a copy, send
$3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed No.10 envelope to Ruin No.1, PO
Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420 and start checking your mailbox next
Thanksgiving). And in it, we make a very strong case for why, financially,
you're always better off buying a 2- to 3-year-old car, and not a new one.
You'd be amazed at how much money you can save over the course of a
lifetime if you buy your cars that way.

TOM: The only catch is that you have to know HOW to find a good used car.
It involves doing your homework and having it thoroughly checked out before
you buy.

RAY: But that's the way I'd go, Tom. You may be surprised at what you'll
get for your '87 Caravan if you sell it privately. And then you can look
for a '94 or '95 Caravan with a 3.3- or 3.8-liter engine -- which will
drive like a hot rod compared to what you're used to. Well, a warm rod,
anyway.

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