Dodge currently markets two different vehicles that are frequently pressed into service as wheelchair vans. The Grand Caravan, a long wheelbase minivan and the Dodge Sprinter, a full-sized van, are both converted with some regularity. They’re both amenable to rear access configurations, as well.
Let’s examine rear access issues for the Grand Caravan, its defunct predecessor, the Caravan and the full-sized Sprinter van.
The Grand Caravan
The Grand Caravan can trace its roots back to the original Dodge Caravans of the early 1980s, which were the very first minivans. Dodge’s head start on the field had one somewhat surprising repercussion. Conversion manufacturers almost immediately began toying with it in hopes of converting it for wheelchair use. It was seen as a welcome alternative to full-sized vans for those dealing with a disability. It didn’t take long for those experts to devise multiple ways of improving access.
The shorter Caravan is gone, but the Grand Caravan survives. While most converted minivans become side entry wheelchair vans, a surprising number of Grand Caravans are outfitted with a ramp or lift.
Mobility Works produces a rear entry conversion that can use either an automatic or a manual ramp. Their effort also includes lowering the floor to increase clearance and to facilitate easier entry and exit. Viewpoint Mobility offers a similar conversion package. There’s no reason to modify the liftgate, which does open more than adequately.
The Caravan handicap accessible van has been out of production for some time. Nonetheless, Dodge sold so many of the over the years that many still grace the road. This shorter version of the Grand Caravan was most frequently modified for side entry, but many rear access variations were created.
Today, the remaining drivable Caravans are generally too old to consider for purchase. While a well-maintained wheelchair van may last several years, it makes little sense to invest in a mobility vehicle that’s well past its prime.
The Dodge Sprinter
Dodge is back in the full-sized wheelchair van game with the Sprinter, its answer to Ford’s venerable E-Series (which dates back to the rounded-off Econoline vans that hit the road fifty years ago). The Sprinter is a big van with a very high roof that is relatively easy to convert for wheelchair use. However, most Sprinters don’t become wheelchair vans. They’re used as transport vehicles and for commercial functions.
Rear access is popular on Sprinters. Many NMEDA mobility dealers offers a conversion package the features a Ricon lift and a rear entry assembly. The use of a lift makes perfect sense for these vehicles. The lift destroys any need to lower the van or to install a kneel system, both of which would be rather expensive affairs on a vehicle of this size.
Dodge accidentally changed the face of wheelchair vans forever upon introducing the original Caravan minivan. Since that time, it has always had at least one (and usually two) available choices for those who need a wheelchair van with rear access. Right now, those two choices are the Sprinter and the Grand Caravan, both of whom are amenable to rear access conversions.