Home » My 260,000 Mile Diesel Manual Chrysler Voyager Continues To Prove It Was The Best $600 I’ve Ever Spent

My 260,000 Mile Diesel Manual Chrysler Voyager Continues To Prove It Was The Best $600 I’ve Ever Spent

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It was the summer of 2020, and I was reaching a bit of a mental limit, of sorts. As a mysterious pandemic raged, I was stuck in a house in suburban Michigan, with no family anywhere nearby, a job that I’d fallen out of love with, and silly drama in my friend circle that I had far too much time to think about. To get out of this proverbial “divot,” I did what I’m good at: I turned to the almighty wrench. I purchased for 500 Euros a 1994 Chrysler Voyager, equipped with a turbodiesel engine and a five-speed manual transmission. This van was built in Graz, Austria, and never sold in the U.S. — a shame, because it’s an incredible engine-transmission combo. The van didn’t run, it had a bad wheel bearing, a bad axle shaft, worn out motor mounts, basically no shifter bushings at all, and on and on. But I fixed the vehicle in late summer of 2020; here’s how it’s doing three years later.

Named for the German slang word meaning “cool,” Project Krassler brought joy to hundreds of thousands of people stuck in their homes during lockdown (thank you all for reading my nerdy minivan tales). I’m fortunate enough to have a German passport, so going back to see my parents (and wrench on Krassler) that summer was relatively easy. I recall the plane being absurdly empty, and having to wear a mask throughout the flight and present COVID negative test before leaving the Munich airport (this required me to stay overnight at an airport hotel). The whole thing was just bizarre:

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Here’s my very first look at the van:

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Here’s what was wrong with the van:

Here’s me getting the van through Germany’s arduous inspection, TÜV:

I then took the van on its first trip, which ended up with me on the rooftop of an old socialist headquarters building in Ghent, Belgium:

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I then took the van to northern Sweden to meet a reader:

I even stopped by supercar company Koenigsegg:

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The following summer, I for whatever reason decided to drive from Nürnberg to Istanbul — a 1,300 mile, 22-hour slog that is really more like 36 hours once you factor in all the checkpoints between countries. Those checkpoints introduced me to the worst traffic I’d ever seen in my life:

I did get to hang out with hitchhiker, Adem, who sang for me and then listened to me freestyle some Eminem:

Anyway, I hadn’t actually changed the van’s oil since returning from Istanbul in the summer of 2021, so that was long overdue:

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A nice MANN filter and six liters of Mobil Delvac 15W-40 later, and the Italy-engineered VM Motori 2.5-liter turbodiesel was pumping amber lifeblood through its galleries and pushrods.

 

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A post shared by David Tracy (@davidntracy)

The VM 425 turbodiesel is actually known to be an unreliable piece of trash, with major cylinder head failures being quite common in Jeeps and Land Rovers. But my 1994 van has had its cylinder heads replaced (they’re dated 2009), it sees milder use-cases than the aforementioned off-road vehicles do, and its cooling capacity is more than enough thanks to a big radiator and significant front grille opening area.

With new heads and cool liquid flowing through it, my van has potential to last until the end of time. So far, it’s driven over 260,000 miles. I’ve driven 11,000 of those with zero issues. My latest trip took me from my parents’ house near Nürnberg to the mountains near Garmisch, where I lived when I was 11:

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I did lots of hiking:

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I drove my friend Andreas’s Autobianci:

 

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A post shared by David Tracy (@davidntracy)

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I hung out with my parents’ dog, Sammy:

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I met an amazing Jeep-collecting man named Hubert (more on him later):

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And I spent a night in the greatest hotel in human history, Motorworld. I can’t wait to tell you more about this, too!

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I also saw a Trabant pass a Beetle! East Germany meets West!:

 

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A post shared by The Autopian (@theautopian)


For now, let’s focus on the incredible endurance of this machine that I poured months of blood, sweat, tears, and Euros into in the summer of 2020. Three years, over 11,000 miles, and zero mechanical problems. The thing is an absolute tank:

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It gets 30 MPG, it carries seven people (or you can just remove the rear seats and sleep in it), it’s comfortable, it’s dirt cheap, it can roll coal, and it’s just unstoppable. It’s also quite quick! Sure, it only makes about 120 horsepower, but torque is about 195 lb-ft, and with a curb weight of just 3,500-ish pounds, the thing rips when the turbo hits. It truly is a case of a vehicle being equipped with the absolute perfect powertrain.

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I love Project Krassler.

 

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Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
10 months ago

Dammit, I don’t even have a new job, I have no idea if getting a new job is even possible, I’m stuck in what feels like Satan’s nutsack instead of fleeing to Nürburg as usual this time of year, and now I’m opening mobile.de’s stupid app anyway.

(No, this is not an invite to send me car ads. Please don’t. I just want to look at weird Dacias I can’t have.)

ADDvanced
ADDvanced
10 months ago

My brain is mush today but man it’s weird thinking these stories were posted on the other site. I could have sworn they were all posted here. Happy vannin! I wish my Astro had a diesel option, the 13mpg is a real drag.

Farty McSprinkles
Farty McSprinkles
10 months ago

“Greatest Van on Earth!”. Some day when you look up the word hyperbole in the dictionary, it will say “see David Tracy”.

Tony Bologna
Tony Bologna
10 months ago

But it’s the best hyperbole in the world! Hyperhyperbole!

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
10 months ago

Glad to see the old van is still kickin’ … your joy surrounding it (and other “rescue” cars) is one of the things I love seeing in your writing. Also, can we have more Sammy content, please? He seems like a good doggo.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
10 months ago

> Three years, over 11,000 miles, and zero mechanical problems.

That’s a low bar for a car that’s been thoroughly refurbished by one of the world’s most skilled wrenchers (you) and his friends, no?

Dave Garland
Dave Garland
10 months ago

The Instragram links don’t work for me. Maybe my browser, maybe that I don’t have an Instragram account, maybe AdBlock doesn’t like Instragram. Good story anyhow.

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
10 months ago

Please import this. Just to be the only one in America.

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
10 months ago

 it can roll coal

Probably just a throwaway line…but this is never cool.

Rust Buckets
Rust Buckets
10 months ago

Gotta disagree. It’s as cool as burnout smoke is, that being, not on public roads and in the context of horsepower and loud engine noises.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
10 months ago

I had a 1993 SWB Voyager with the 2.5/5-speed manual. It was in the top 5 of my favorite vehicles I’ve owned. But then I was moving to Vegas, and getting the A/C functional was gonna cost more than replacing the van with a car with working A/C, so I gave it to a friend in need.

David Smith
David Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

But it’s a dry heat?

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
10 months ago
Reply to  David Smith

In fact it is. 110F and 5% humidity is much more bearable than 90F and 90% humidity!

David Smith
David Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Eggsalad

I lived in Louisiana for two years as a dumb youngin’. I was in Baton Rouge, if I were a smart(er) youngin’ I would have wasted those two years in New Orleans. Summer swamp humidity sucks.

D Y
D Y
10 months ago

Just came back from two years in Europe. Loved my 1.6tdi wagon. Mileage was incredible (if speed was kept rationale) and so much low end torque, getting moving was a breeze.

Unfortunately diesel is basically dead going forward in western Europe, and manuals probably aren’t too far behind. 🙁

No clue how I could get that car for $16k (two years old, 36,000km, loaded with all sorts of goodies you won’t get on anything but a high end vehicle in the US) there when even if offered, you couldn’t touch it here for anything close to that price.

TriangleRAD
TriangleRAD
10 months ago

This generation of short wheelbase Chryco minivan is one of the best-packaged vehicles in history, IMHO. The practicality is unmatched, they are comfortable, gobble up miles and even handle decently for what they are, both on the road but especially in the low-speed maneuverability department. The LWB “Grand” versions sacrifice quite a bit of that last characteristic. I understand why these vans killed the traditional wagon, and became the default suburban family mover from the mid-’80s through the 00’s. I was always surprised that they weren’t more popular with small businesses. There was a semi-panel commercial version, but they weren’t seen that often. I can say from experience they made an excellent auto parts delivery vehicle.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
10 months ago
Reply to  TriangleRAD

It might depend on local and regional preferences WRT the panel versions. I lived in Indianapolis in the 90s and early 2000s and I saw them everywhere. Heck, plenty of small businesses bought regular ones and just left the back seats out, especially if all they used them for was deliveries.

Aaron Vienot
Aaron Vienot
10 months ago
Reply to  TriangleRAD

Saw them used commercially around the Colorado front range now and again, but the problem was that the weight capacity and interior height were not that great for trade use. Add to that Chrysler’s then-tendency to fit their products with automatic transmissions fabricated from soda glass and tracing paper, and they weren’t a great maintenance proposition when used for heavy haulage, either.

Chronometric
Chronometric
10 months ago

So have you guys made a conscious effort to mine the hell out of your former site? Considering how they treated people, I am just fine with that but what will you do when they go tits up and turn off all your links?

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
10 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

Yeah I think it’s time for this site to move on from this project, manual ZJ’s, all XJ stuff, air cooled VWs… at least for a period of time please.

They’ve all been fun to watch, it’s just getting a bit stale. Go buy some new junkers that aren’t the same models as done prevously and let the festivities start over again!

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
10 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Happy to hear about more on the horizon, and I did throughly enjoy reading about the Valiant, i3 (victory over BMW warranty), and the YJ!

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
10 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

I think it’s a classy move that you don’t mind linking to the competition when it’s relevant to what you’re writing. The alternative, pretending that it doesn’t exist or even that you didn’t spend time there, would feel petty and childish.

And it’s not like you’re linking to the garbage over there like the articles about how to get drunk at a racetrack, how you should drive around with your high beams on instead of replacing your burned-out headlights, or how it’s ok for the homeless to loot cargo trains because “times are tough” (all real articles from that site). You’re linking the good stuff that we might actually want to read.

Last edited 10 months ago by Duke of Kent
Chris Nolan
Chris Nolan
10 months ago

Couldn’t disagree more. New stuff, old stuff, its all good stuff!

Last edited 10 months ago by Chris Nolan
Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
10 months ago
Reply to  Chris Nolan

I enjoy the updates! My only note would be that sometimes it feels like getting to the new part requires a lot of scrolling past the background/previous stories.

Taxi maniac
Taxi maniac
10 months ago

I can’t get enough turbo diesel five speed stories myself.

I love everything about it. If I was rich I’d import one and make every one think I’m poor as I drove around town in it

I agree with previous commenter about roling coal being super lame but I can’t picture my hero ever actually doing that. Im gonna believe he was just pointing out the novelty of the possibility

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
10 months ago

All I can say is that I pray each day to the automotive gods that bio or synthetic diesel somehow becomes a viable carbon neutral product because diesel engines are just so ideal.

The energy density (diesel in particular), storage ease, and transportablity of liquid fuels are hard to beat.

I truly love the way diesels drive in almost all use cases. Range and mileage are excellent and the low revs when cruising make for supremely easy mile melting.

I share your love David.

Alex
Alex
10 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

Synthetic diesel is already starting to become viable. In Southern California there’s this product available called Renewable Diesel, or R99.

https://afdc.energy.gov/fuels/renewable_diesel.html

It’s available at the majority of the pumps near me, is based on bio feedstock. It burns significantly cleaner than regular #2, and I notice my engine also runs smoother with it. It’s honestly a really cool fuel, and I wish it was more popular.

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
10 months ago
Reply to  Alex

Cottage Life magazine here in Canada had an article about a guy who was running bio-diesel in his boat. Volvo was willing to warranty the engine, but the fuel ate the regular lines, so they wouldn’t cover those. Apparently it worked great, and the boater’s dog could lick up spills with no ill effect (though apparently you do not want to spill a large amount in the water).

It’s a nifty fuel, but unless someone pumps the brakes on electric cars, that where we are headed.

Last edited 10 months ago by Rollin Hand
Mike Smith
Mike Smith
10 months ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

Renewable diesel and bio diesel are not the same thing, even though they are both made from biological feedstock – so don’t feel bad about getting them confused.
“Biodiesel” is also known as FAME – fatty acid methyl ester, made by transesterification of vegetable oil or waste animal fats. It has lots of long chain molecules with oxygens on them, and can cause problems with injector deposits, pour point, seal compatibility (and old fuel lines…). “Renewable Diesel” is also known as HVO – hydrotreated vegetable oil, is made by (oversimplifying here) running the bio feedstock through a refinery and basically turning it into pure straight chain hydrocarbons – just like diesel, but cleaner. No aromatic compounds that cause soot, no sulphur content, and super high cetane rating (greater than 74 cetane – that’s as high as the test goes – where it only needs to be greater than 40 to be used as diesel).
Renewable diesel is a straight drop in fuel with none of the drawbacks of biodiesel, which is why you can run R99 in your diesel car or truck but are limited to B5 or B10 biodiesel blends.
The great thing about renewable diesel is that its carbon intensity score is 75-95% less than diesel – so damn near no net CO2 is released into the atmosphere from burning it. The only CO2 that comes from renewable diesel is from the energy used in the processing plant. As those plants switch to wind & solar power and/or the use of carbon capture technology, that sort of renewable fuel can get all the way down to zero net CO2, which is a pretty big win.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

It sounds to me like that if HVO could be made cost effective that it could be the answer. Grow veggie oil instead of corn (for ethanol) and use solar or wind to refine it. One can hope.

Thanks for the post.

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

If I wasn’t already a fan of diesel for a green future, I am now after reading your post. I wish more people knew about this, hopefully it’ll at least catch on in the trucking industry where diesel is still king and then trickle down into passenger vehicles when regular diesel is no longer widely available.

It’d also be nice if VW didn’t ruin the reputation of diesel cars in the eye of the public, because then it’d be a lot easier to get people on board with renewable diesel…

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
10 months ago
Reply to  Alex

Wait, for real? I’ve been growing increasingly interested in diesels at least from a technological standpoint, the only thing I don’t like about them is the whole coal-rolling thing. My state isn’t super far from California, but I’ve never seen that synthetic diesel here. If it was, I’d totally be on the lookout for an efficient diesel car to supplement my gas-guzzling T-bird.

Clark B
Clark B
10 months ago
Reply to  Crank Shaft

My ’14 Sportwagen is my first experience in owning a diesel car and after over three years of ownership I have to say I love it. 40+ mpg on the highway without even trying, easy to get 35 in town too, especially with the manual. I love the low end torque and I’m even growing to like the somewhat agricultural growl it makes. When the Dieselgate warranty expires next year I’m going to chip it and wake the thing up a bit, but otherwise it’s been a great car.

My friend in high school had a beat up ’85 Mercedes 300D that ran on used vegetable oil. Pretty neat, but it produced great stinking clouds of fast-food smelling smoke behind it at all times when running on vegetable oil. Diesel definitely burnt cleaner.

Last edited 10 months ago by Clark B
Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
10 months ago
Reply to  Clark B

I have a 2015 VW SW TDI DCT that I will only let go after I can wring no more life out of it. I regularly get 50+ mpg cruising 85+ mph and it drives so very well. MQB for me!

Dieselgate saved me $10k off of it, so I’m kinda happy about that whole thing. Yes, I am going to hell.

A. Barth
A. Barth
10 months ago

The genuinely scary part is that Project Krassler came along three years ago. :-O

Bomber
Bomber
10 months ago

David, following this was one of the highlights of the old place. I enjoyed following everything involved with your journey in getting it roadworthy and passing that insane inspection and all the traveling you did after. It’s awesome to hear that the old girl is still kicking ass.

Unclewolverine
Unclewolverine
10 months ago

It’s sad America really missed the boat on small diesels. They usually are not fast but the torque and the sound are soul cleansing in other ways. Our 84 300sd was still one of my favorite cars we ever owned.

Marathag
Marathag
10 months ago
Reply to  Unclewolverine

The early diesel Rabbits, Escorts and Chevettes killed the desire for Diesels for small cars where the lower HP is alright, and the Olds killed it for any diesel not in a truck

Outofstep
Outofstep
10 months ago

I love how project Krassler is still thriving. I hope you have a great time DT.

Unrelated but I haven’t been on the old lighting site since this site went live but did they change their colors to match The Autopian. Because that J looks pretty close to your colors or is that just a weird coincidence?

Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
10 months ago
Reply to  Outofstep

Even weirder… Word on the inside is that Spanfeller hated the orange and loves green, so he ordered the change.

Outofstep
Outofstep
10 months ago

That’s definitely weirder. Thanks for the inside scoop.

Mike
Mike
10 months ago

Thank you for the inside info! When they rebranded, I stuck around for a couple days looking for a “why we did this” announcement, but there was none. Green is clearly the most awesome color, but that was a STUPID change. I can’t think of a single time a company screwed with their brand identity where it really worked out. (maybe Phillip Morris –> Altria???) That site was once so great, but Tom McParland and Rob Emsile are no longer enough for me to even bother checking in.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
10 months ago
Reply to  Mike

I haven’t been back since Collin put me in the grays for calling him out on adding political BS to his posts. I hope he never comes over here.

David Smith
David Smith
10 months ago

Most herbs are green.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
10 months ago
Reply to  David Smith

I never warmed to the use of “herb” as a derogatory term over there. It always felt a little too “middle school playground” to me.

  • “What’s a(n) herb?”
  • “If you don’t know, then you’re a(n) herb!”

{No one seems to agree whether the “H” is silent.}

My conspiracy theory was that the villain boogeyman Jim Spanfeller didn’t even exist. It was remarkably convenient that all of the failings of the family of sites could be blamed on one guy who isn’t even in the public eye of the viewers. The writers could crank out low-value, low-effort listicle slideshows that aren’t even proofread, and any time anyone complained, the answer was always: “But herbs!” It endeared the writers to the readers in a “we’re all in this together stickin’ it to the man” sort of way.

Now I’m sure that it wasn’t a particularly great place to work — that would be the case for any company that changes hands multiple times in a row. And even if this ‘feller is a real person, do you think he minds that people are talking bad about him on an internet? Sticks and stones and all that. Plus, if they’re doing it on a website that HE owns (or runs, or whatever), then he’s laughing all the way to the bank because he’s making money on every click!

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
10 months ago

Curious, do you hold dual citizenship or just German? How do you handle insurance and stuff like that?
Glad to see your van just cruising along like it’s supposed to

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
10 months ago

Could be an Army brat thing. My Navy-brat wife was “bjorn” in Iceland, but she’s not Scandinavian.

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
10 months ago

You are an elite wrencher, and I just a dabbler. But small things give me such a sense of satisfaction- replacing an oxygen sensor to relieve a CEL and seeing it stay off for a month felt phenomenal. I can only imagine the satisfaction from getting an old van through such a tough inspection and seeing it reliably work. I’ll never be a talented at-home mechanic, but I can see how it must be absolutely intoxicating to have the skills to guide a machine into a state of functionality.

Nycbjr
Nycbjr
10 months ago

David how often do you need to go through inspection? I imagine that has to be a nail biter every time!

Doug Kingham
Doug Kingham
10 months ago
Reply to  Nycbjr

TÜV inspection is every two years.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Kingham

Did it go through inspection a second time without drama? Don’t remember reading about it.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago

Love this stuff! Keep it coming. BTW, the worst traffic jam I ever encountered was on the autobahn headed north out of Frankfurt enroute to Copenhagen on Easter Weekend. Worst road-trip decision ever.

Doug Kingham
Doug Kingham
10 months ago

Great to hear that it’s still chugging along. One more year and you’ll be able to register it as an Oldtimer. I’m not sure if that will give you a free pass to drive into Umweltzones, but at least the annual tax will be lower as well as insurance.

Last edited 10 months ago by Doug Kingham
Doug Kingham
Doug Kingham
10 months ago
Reply to  Doug Kingham

Just answered my own question: with a H-Zulassung, you can drive into the Umweltzones, but you still might have issues in cities with specific diesel restrictions (I think Stuttgart is one example). Also, having an H-Zulassung doesn’t reduce the need for or the frequency of the TÜV.

Last edited 10 months ago by Doug Kingham
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