Meet Ford’s first-ever minivan. A shining star if we ever did see one. Let us reminisce on the Ford Aerostar together in this used car spotlight.
A minivan wasn’t exactly on Ford’s list of things to do first. When you have a best-selling pickup, you don’t exactly put two and two together. But after years of successfully selling F-150s and Econolines, Ford was finally ready to create something that fit the growing-family mold.
Ford’s first minivan became the Aerostar and it would lead to several renditions of the model, as well as others within Ford’s lineup that we see today. While we revel in how wonderful Ford’s trucks are every day, we have decided to take a moment to rejoice in the Aerostar as many of us have ridden in one a time or two throughout our lives. It may be gone, but the Aerostar may never be forgotten.
The Aerostar was the first minivan put into production by Ford, but it wasn’t the first concept. The original plot to develop a smaller van came after realizing that the Econoline vans developed by Ford wouldn’t fit in a standard American garage. To make a “garageable” van, Ford began developing the Carousel. Built on an Econoline chassis, the roofline would be 12 inches lower than the Econoline design and feature redesigned A-pillars. Many other details were discussed, and well-liked by Ford executives, but money was running tight due to the energy crisis of 1973 and funds were eventually directed to other projects instead.
A sad turn for the development of minivans stopped there.
Soon after, the famous Lee Iaccoca left Ford to join Chrysler which led to Chrysler’s development of a minivan.
When it rains, it meteor showers, right?
Ford couldn’t stand for that so they began developing their own minivan in response, which would lead to the real star.
Too many star jokes, you say? Just you wait.
The energy crisis made the Ford Carousel design an immediate no-go as motor companies were tightening their belts and designs to manufacture cars with high fuel efficiency. Ford still wanted a “garageable” van and used the Carousel design as a jumping-off point but chose to forego using Econoline and full-size truck parts when building their concept. Instead, Ford’s minivan would implement the compact Ford Ranger’s powertrain. Ford’s minivan would have its own chassis, with model-specific rear and front suspensions, which set it apart from its competitors like Chrysler and GM. After replacing some of the van’s parts with lightweight materials like plastic and aluminum, the final concept of the minivan was ready. It came to be known as the Ford Aerostar.
Like its competitors, the Aerostar was manufactured with a combination of parts from other vehicles already being produced to keep costs as low as possible. In the end, the Aerostar shared the same chassis as the Ford Ranger and Bronco II with some reinforcements to meet the towing capacity of its competitors. The Aerostar had two engine options: a 2.3L 4-cylinder and a 2.8L V6 (which later became a 3.0L V6). By 1998, only the 3.0L V6 engine remained and the Aerostar became the only van in its spectrum to be powered only by V6s.
Eventually, the Aerostar would offer an electronic 4WD system, also known as E-4WD. Though never designed for off-roading, this allowed the minivan to know when 4WD was needed without the driver’s input.
With a name like Aerostar, your mind might wander to rockets and spaceships. You wouldn’t be far off as this minivan comes with a slope-nosed hood and sleek(ish) lines. On the outside, several plastic parts, the rear hatch and bumper, were used to keep the van’s weight light and aerodynamically fit. Later, Ford would extend the length of the Aerostar to compete with our longer minivans on the market, adding 14 inches to the rear end. Throughout its life, the Aerostar would see many changes in grille color, badging, headlights, and turning signals, but it would never be fully redesigned.
The interior, though not super exciting (I mean come on, it’s a minivan!), seats 7 passengers and two rows of removable seats. What’s most impressive is that the Aerostar could have up to 6 ashtrays and 2 cigar lighters. Is impressive the right word?
The van came in two trim levels, XL and XLT. For some extra cash, the XL trim upgrades included power windows, locks, privacy glass, and air conditioning. The XLT trim had options such as two-tone paint (wowza!), rear climate control, two different AM/FM stereo cassette players, and 14-inch aluminum wheels.
The first of its kind minivan marketed toward the luxurious, outdoorsy types, the Eddie Bauer Wagon was priced above the XLT trim level and offered all the conveniences of the XLT. The interior was outdoor-themed with the option for leather seats. The most coveted feature of the Eddie Bauer edition was the fold-flat seats that turned into a bed.
The Aerostar Sport wasn’t much of an upgrade, as it was purely based on aesthetics. For cool silver paint and pinstriping, as well as a different set of wheels, you could spend a little extra money to make your Aerostar stand out.
Even after receiving Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year Award in 1990, the Aerostar would see its final days in the early 90s. Ford began planning a new design to come after the Aerostar in 1988, which led to the production of the Windstar in 1994. At first, Ford was expecting to pull the Aerostar and only sell the Windstar starting in 1995, but that put a bad taste in the mouths of dealers. Ford decided to sell the Aerostar and Windstar together. They kept the Aerostar on the market for 2 more years before discontinuing the design. By the end of its career, the Aerostar managed to sell over 2 million vehicles in 12 years.
What do you think about the Ford Aerostar? Let us know in the comments below.
I love my 1995 XLT.. 4.0 and 229000 miles on her and still running strong…
This was the first car I ever drove. You could fit a dirt bike in the back, take it camping and sleep comfortably in it. If my wife would let me, I would buy one right now.
I have owned and driven my, two-tone blue and gray, 1994 Aerostar since 2003, when my kids were still little. Over the years, we have hauled many family and friends and have made many beach trips with our beloved van. The extended length was the way to go for all of the things we hauled around. The folding back seats that make a bed were great for outings and hauling. Unfortunately, time has taken its toll on the front seats, peeling bumper paint, and other “little” things; as well as the kids have grown. Sadly, I am now in the process of selling it with 235,000 miles on its 4.0L engine and original transmission. I love this van! It has served our family well. I’m sure I will cry when it is driven away.
Note: Ford has been good to me–still own my first car–1973 Mustang, which I bought at 17-years old. It needs a lot of work! And now that it’s just me tootling around, and I don’t need my big van. I bought a used 2004 (made it to this decade with the year) Ford Explorer Sport, which I am enjoying! I hope to take many beach trips in it as well!
I have 2 Aerostar vans. The one I currently drive is a 97 and I have a 96 in my garage for Parts because you’re not gonna find those anymore at least not easily. It has been my primary vehicle for the last 20 years. I have put a three-quarter inch galvanized pipe rack on my van and have been able to carry whatever I need get at Home Depot or Lowe’s on top of it with no problems whatsoever. And I am talking 20 sheets of half-inch plywood. My van has never left me stranded but I have owned one where the radiator fail it mixed transmission fluid with the coolant. No problem bro I trailered it home put a new radiator in it I was good to go! I am older now but I wish I could find a mint Preferably 97 Arrow star in somebody’s Garage but my guess is they might be one in Fords museum somewhere. They could’ve done better on this van but it’s figuring the times They did the best they could. I absolutely love Arrow star vans, they have performed flawlessly for me except for inspections of course. But as we all know check engine lights can be a pain in the you know what!
I have owned 4 Arrow stars and I’m pleased to say that I am I Aerostar cheerleader. Wish I could find a mint \97