History of the Aerostar
The Ford Aerostar was the first minivan manufactured and marketed by Ford in the United States and Canada. The Aerostar was built to compete with the Dodge Caravan which had created the profitable "mini-van" niche. Suddenly, there was great demand for a vehicle roomier than a station wagon, but smaller than a full-size van. The Aerostar sold for eleven years, from 1986 to the 1997 model year. Introduced shortly before the Ford Taurus, the vehicle derived its nameplate from its slope-nosed "Aerodynamic" exterior. Although over six feet tall, the body of the Aerostar retained a low coefficient of drag. For the 1995 model year, the front-wheel drive Ford Windstar was introduced to replace the Aerostar, but there was a residual demand for the old-school rear-drive format, especially for towing. Both minivans were sold concurrently through the 1997 model year. The windowless Aerostar cargo van was discontinued; leaving Ford without a solid-panel van until the Ford Transit Connect was introduced in 2010. Only one generation of the Aerostar was built, but over two million vehicles were produced from 1985 to 1997. All were built at the now-closed St. Louis Assembly Plant in Hazelwood, Missouri.
Our first Aerostar was a standard wheelbase wagon
Except for its new unibody frame, the early Aerostar shared most of its components with the Ford Ranger/Bronco II light trucks. The Aerostar was the only North American minivan sold with four-wheel coil-spring suspension. The Aerostar came with a standard 2.3 L four-cylinder engine that was used for the Ranger/Bronco II line, but our Aerostar had the larger electronic multi-port fuel injected 3.0 L Vulcan V6 that was shared from the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable line. It was mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
Our 1987 Aerostar
We bought our first Aerostar from in a private seller in 1994. Just four years earlier, I had bought a 1990 Nissan pickup. Soon after, our first child was born and there was no room on the bench seat behind the shifter for a car seat. We needed a family car. I bought a six-year-old Aerostar with about 90,000 miles on it. It was a one-owner vehicle in very good shape; especially compared to other vans being offered. Van carpeting and seats tend to take a lot of abuse and wear. Small children (or rather, parents with small children) do little to clean and maintain the interior of their vehicle. They tend to spill food and drink and wear hard on the interior. This Aerostar showed some light signs of age, but was very clean. The two-tone medium blue and silver paint was slightly faded, and the carpet was thinning, but it was very respectable compared to some of the totally trashed vans we looked at. The owner had installed running boards to help get in and out of the passenger's bench seats. The engine ran strong, gave good gas mileage, and the air conditioning blew cool enough to provide comfort from the Florida heat. The tinted windows were a big help keeping the sun at bay. It was a short-wheelbase van, with just enough room for our luggage behind the third seat. We filled the floor and the rear bench seat with Christmas presents on our treks home for the holidays.
The Aerostar had bench seating middle and rear
Where Is It Today?
Our first Aerostar hit by a biker
We drove our Aerostar daily for four years, with never an issue. Sometimes the motor would start with a whirring noise and have no power, but a quick restart would clear it up. I had just picked it up from having a new water pump installed when tragedy struck. I was hit by a motorcycle that raced out from a side street. It must have been a heavy bike; it crushed the grill, drove the radiator into the fan belt and snapped the steering tie rod in two. I had the van towed to a local Ford dealership where I sold it for $300.
Our 1994 Aerostar
The Eddie Bauer Edition had a long wheelbase and custom two-tone paint
On the lot at the Ford dealership was a dark blue Eddie Bauer extended wheelbase Aerostar. Although it was a previous-year model, it had less than a hundred miles on it. This new Aerostar was by far the most expensive vehicle we had ever considered purchasing. Coming in at over $21,000, it was $4000 more than the same-year base model Aerostar. The outdoor-themed Eddie Bauer brand trim package was targeted toward luxury car buyers. The Eddie Bauer trim combined the interior convenience features of the XLT trim package with two-tone exterior dark blue paint with gold as the accent color on the rocker panels and wheel trim. The tan interior had thicker carpet and upgraded seat materials with embroidered inserts. The extended wheelbase added nearly two feet of cargo space behind the third row seat, which folded flat to make a bed. Our van had the second-row reclining bucket seat captain's chairs.
Interior features for the driver of an Eddie Bauer Edition consisted of a leather-wrapped tilt steering wheel, cruise control, automatic headlamps, independent front and rear heating and air conditioning, and a combination AM/FM/cassette tape player with a graphic equalizer and six-speaker sound system. The engine package was a powerful 4.0L V6 driving the rear wheels through a four-speed automatic transmission.
The passengers were treated to amenities as well. Instead of the single bench seat for the rear passengers, the Eddie Bauer Edition had dual reclining Captain's chairs with armrests. For additional comfort, the left-side rear passenger could control the heat and air to the rear cabin. They could also change the radio station. For entertainment on long trips, there was a dealer-installed overhead DVD player with wireless headphones for two passengers.
Middle row passengers were treated to dual reclining Captain's chairs
The rear Captain's chairs and third-row bench had upgraded fabric6
Where Is It Today?
After driving the van for eight years, we sold it to a friend in a private sale. We used the proceeds to purchase our next family van, a 2004 Kia Sedona.