When Hurricane Ian landed in Florida late last month, the storm pounded the state with 150-mile-per-hour winds. They were strong enough to topple trees, rip roofs off of homes, and take one billboard back nearly three decades. The winds peeled off years of ads to reveal “The New” 1996 Dodge Caravan with a friendly reminder to “See Your Gold Star Dodge Dealer” tagged underneath.
The 1996 Dodge Caravan was an important model for the company. It was the start of the model’s third generation, with the first one debuting in 1984 and changing the auto industry forever. It now had competitors, and it needed to stand out. This was the first year Dodge added the driver-side sliding door, an available option, and its Easy Out Roller Seats. The automaker designed the seats with wheels and a track system to make removing them and moving them around outside the van much more manageable.
The billboard shows off the van’s optional driver-side sliding door, revealing a clear passage through the vehicle. Dodge updated the van’s styling, rounding off the second-generation’s sharp-edged exterior design. The automaker also revamped the interior and dashboard. The billboard, located in Cape Coral, Florida, sits near the Cape Coral Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership. A look at the area on Google Maps reveals a law office ad on the billboard back in May.
Dodge ended Grand Caravan production in 2020, pushing those customers toward the Chrysler Voyager, the entry-level version of the Chrysler Pacifica minivan. While it’s been over two years since Grand Caravan production ceased, Dodge has sold 26 Caravans through the third quarter of 2022, one of several zombie cars from the brand. Dodge sold 89 Caravans through the same period in 2021.
Hurricane Ian has decimated several communities along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The storm surge has also led to thousands of flooded and destroyed vehicles. According to Cox Automotive, the storm damaged or destroyed as many as 50,000 cars. The death toll from the storm is over 100 people so far, with one county, Lee, accounting for nearly 60 of them.