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Car of the Month, August 2011: Chris Carpenter's 2000 Chrysler Town & Country
“When Practicality Overrules Sexiness”

Chris Carpenter's Town & Country

Like it or not, we are a culture of stereotypes. Putting aside whether it is morally "wrong" or "right" we are a species who judges- everyone must have a place. I have always firmly believed in the right to be unique- the right to not conform.

I'm a mid-20s American man who proudly drives a 2000 Chrysler Town & Country Limited. It's nowhere near the most technologically-advanced vehicle, and it's not a Formula-1 performance car. But it's an American car. Although more commonly found laden with half-empty juice boxes, Nabisco crackers and several lost homework assignments, not all Town & Countrys fell into the sticky fingers of America’s cherubs.Chris Carpenter with his Town & Country

Just ask Cuyler Black, a brilliant young artist and youth worker from southern Connecticut. With a heart of a compassion, Black has charmed and inspired many with his canvas creations, as well as through his delightfully comedic demeanor.

“I owned three different minivans and drove them all through my twenties, into my early thirties,” Black said. “The years when you figure most young, single guys want to be behind the wheel of a hot car. But I guess that just wasn’t my concern. I was well aware that as I sped down the highway and a cute girl in an Audi convertible looked over at me, she was thinking, ‘He’s married, with three kids’, but I guess practicality over-ruled sexiness for me.”

Chrysler Winged-Victory Badge

It was a car that defined a generation. It changed the way the modern American family moved and it became an indelible part of today’s twenty-something’s past. And although its hay day has come and gone in favor of sport utilities and crossovers, Chrysler’s revolutionary minivan segment forever changed the way we look at family transportation.

Built at the former Fenton/St. Louis, Missouri plant, it is one of the few remaining Chrysler minivans that saw final assembly right here in the United States. Under the hood is Chrysler’s bullet-proof 3.8 litre EGH push-rod V6, rated at 180 hp, mated to the 4-speed automatic 41TE transmission.Town & Country Engine

On the outside, the Town & Country Limited models were identical to LXi models with the exception of a body-color roof rack, chrome-clad aluminum wheels and chrome door pulls. The Limited also added a rear Chrysler wing-badge to the tailgate which would later become standard on fourth-generation models. It’s champagne pearl, a common color for many Chrysler’s of the model year and although it sports a white pinstripe around the windows, the light color of the gold paint makes it nearly impossible to see. Carpenter's Town & Country in Champagne Pearl

Affectionately named “Iago” after the testy character in Shakespeare’s “Othello,” the van has not been without problems - but the experiences and lessons learned as a result make it all worth it. To differentiate him from the multitude of his peers, I’ve made a handful of modifications to encourage “a van set apart.”

After a lot of research and fascinating discussion with the folks over at, I decided to take a risk and upgrade the exhaust system. The stock catalytic converter, muffler and resonator were all replaced with a Magnaflow High-Flow Catalytic Converter, Bosch Premium O2 sensors, and a Flowmaster 40 Series muffler. (Resonator deleted.)

After several hours of hard work, and welding on the obligatory exhaust pipe tip, it was time to start it up. I couldn’t have been happier with the results; the van cranked to life and filled the garage bay with a sound more commonly found on higher-end sports coupes. The van sounded deep, throaty and had a very nice growl to it both at idle and while under load, all without being obnoxious in the volume department. Inside the Town & Country's Engine

If you’ve ever looked under the hood of a 1996-2000 Chrysler minivan, you’ll immediately notice a rather large, bulky box mounted to the radiator wall above the air filter housing. This obnoxious disturbance of space is nothing more than a resonator/air box silencer that sits between the air filter and the throttle body assembly. I removed it and made a direct connection to the throttle body from the air filter assembly using cut-to-length plastic tubing and band clamps found at The Home Depot.Town & Country Engine with Airbox Modification

When it came time to do the plugs and wires, I replaced the OEM dual-platinum Champion spark plugs with a set of Bosch Iridium Fusion +4 plugs and Bosch Premium wire set. I upgraded the battery from a 550CCA (OEM) unit to a 800CCA battery and installed a re-useable K&N air filter. (The van’s stock air intake system is about as “cold” as you can get, so there was no functional need to opt for an alternatively-mounted cone filter.)

Town & Country RearThe van runs on Mobil 1 Fully-Synthetic 0W-40 motor oil only, and I keep to a 5,000 mile change interval. (It is not necessary to maintain such a short interval with synthetic oil, it’s just my own personal preference.) With regards to filters, I use the higher-capacity Motorcraft FL-1A oil filter which also has better anti-drain back valve construction (makes a noticeable difference in the “lifter tick” that these engines typically have).

The rear tail lamp housings were replaced with aftermarket Euro-Altezza style units with slightly better reflectors, making the lights appear brighter than stock. The center high-mounted stop lamp was converted over to LEDs.

I replaced the grille with a new unit, but decided to paint the grille slats jet black instead of the stock dark grey. The original head lamp, marker lamp and fog lamp housings were pretty weathered given their age and were all replaced.

The 1996-2000 Chrysler minivans (U.S.) came with two different head lamp housings. All model year Caravan, Voyager and ’96-’97 Town & Country models came with standard head lamp housings- which included a dual-filament (high/low beam) head lamp bulb and an outboard dual-filament (marker/turn signal) bulb.

The front fascia redesign of the Town & Country models for 1998 saw the introduction of the “quad” head lamp housings. The 1998-2000 Town & Country models had separate high and low beam bulbs in each head lamp housing, with the turn signal/marker lamp moved to separate housings located beneath the head lamps on the front fascia.Town & Country Headlights

I replaced the quad head lamp housings with black aftermarket Spyder units with halogen projectors and halo “angel eye” LED accents. Since these are also designed to fit the Caravan and Voyager models of the same generation, they include an additional outboard space for a turn signal/marker lamp bulb in addition to the traditional quad high and low beam bulbs. As I felt the head lamps looked unbalanced without the turn signal/marker lamp sections filled, I added a bulb to the head lamp housings and wired them to operate with the marker lamps, but only on the turn signal/flashing function. Otherwise they do not come on with the marker lights.Chrysler Town & Country

The marker lamp housings were replaced with OEM replacements, and the fog lamp housings were replaced with black halogen projector beam housings with halo “angel eye” LED accents to match the head lamp housings. Traditionally, 3rd generation vans equipped with fog lamps require the low-beam headlamps to be switched on in order for the fog lamps to be operational. I modified the wiring so that the fog lamps turn on with the marker lamps, thus breaking their dependence on the main headlamp operation. (This modification would become standard in the next-generation minivan.)

Other exterior modifications include the addition of a Class-III Hidden-Hitch trailer hitch (which completes the trailer tow package standard on the Town & Country Limited). I added the Thule Tracker II rack system and Thule Wind Fairing to allow for transport of skis/snowboards as well as a bike on the roof. The front and rear windshield wipers were upgraded to spineless Bosch Icon/Excel wipers.

Aside from a brand-new set of Monroe Sensa-Trac front struts and a set of rear-helper springs, the suspension has remained largely stock. The vehicle came equipped with the Nivomat load-leveling rear shocks and in collaboration with the Michelin X-Radial [215/65R16] tires- it still has one of the finest rides of any passenger vehicle I’ve been in.

Town & Country Roof Rack

The interior of the van has remained mostly stock as well. Town & Country Leather SeatsThe Town & Country Limited came with premium leather seating- dual power/heated front seats, suede interior paneling, wood grain accents, and “Limited” embroidered front floor mats. The 3rd row bench seat has a higher back than other models, matching the profile height of the 2nd row captain’s chairs and providing additional support. The bench also offers a center fold down leather arm rest for when the middle seating position is not in use. Along with the standard 10-speaker (in 8 locations) Infinity Acoustic 10 audio system, rear cabin heating and air conditioning, individual courtesy lamps and air vents at all outboard seating positions, the van is pretty well set in the interior department.

The largest modification I made inside is to the audio system. I installed an auxiliary port to allow the usage of MP3 and other devices, as well as a custom hands-free integration kit for my iPhone 4. The system allows me to dock my iPhone in a charging cradle that keeps it in a viewable/accessible spot while integrating fully with the sound system. It plays all audio (including phone call audio) through the van’s radio. I added an external microphone which is wired to the top of the steering column that picks up my voice for use during hands-free calling and voice command operation of the phone. Since the system plays all audio, live voice guidance from my GPS app also plays through the van as well.

It has an incredibly comfortable ride, the materials used throughout the interior are of superb quality and do not reflect the plague of decontenting that infected the industry. My Town & Country has all the features I want and none that I don’t. Town & Country ControlsThe controls are laid out logically and visibility is superb; making driving a pleasure every time. It gives me the experience of having a high-end luxury car, without being a high-end luxury car.

My Town & Country suits my life perfectly. It's able to tow/haul a large amount of cargo, it has the ability to transport seven passengers comfortably, it’s a rigid/versatile vehicle that stands up to a fast-paced life. In the event something malfunctions, the vehicle is a breeze to work on for the most part. Over 10 years old with and nearly 150k miles on it, it's seen most of the country in a wide range of weather, handling wonderfully. For me, this is the only vehicle I've found that combines utility, efficiency, versatility, style, performance and comfort in a way that is most practical for me.

My car came from an era where the auto industry knew how to make a genuine product, where their goal was to create a piece of art and to leave an impression.Carpenter's Town & Country

Town & Country Front Wheel

chris carpenter

chris van

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