If you want to be pedantic you can make this discussion endless -- some say the 1936 Stout Scarab is the first-ever minivan, others argue the 1949 DKW Schnellaster's cause, and then there's the Volkswagen Type 2 brigade, the Fiat Multipla fans, and loads more.
The fact remains the minivan really settled cosily into its niche and found an American suburban home on almost every driveway on every street, in every town and every state.
In our region we might prefer minivans with RTA logos or hotel insignia on them, but even these faithful shuttles got their start somewhere, and really, it all began with a pair of Chrysler siblings -- the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, released in November 1983 to forever influence the automotive industry.
Today everyone makes a minivan. Look at the 2 Series Gran Tourer -- even BMW's at it for crying out loud, and it has Chrysler to thank for habituating the consumer.
But it shouldn't. It should be thanking Ford, where it all may very well have started if only Dearborn management at the time didn't fumble everything up so badly.
Lee Iacocca, the Mustang's grand architect, headed Ford by 1970 and after putting a pony car within everyone's reach decided that his next big hit would be a minivan. By 1972 his concept was ready, called the Ford Carousel and pitched as a small car-based van (instead of a typical commercial vehicle already available then) with every luxury a family might need. There was nothing else like it, and the launch was planned for 1975, predating the eventual Chrysler minivans by almost a decade.
Unfortunately other Ford executives disagreed and foolishly shelved the project, fearing the Carousel would steal sales from Ford's station wagons. Not long after that Iacocca was fired. He simply went across town to Chrysler, where he is still remembered as, you guessed it, the man who gave the world the first-ever minivans. Unless, of course, you think that should be a 1961 Subaru Sambar.