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A Star of a Van: The Ford Aerostar

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.

In A Ford Galaxie Far, Far Away…

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.

Ford Aerostar on Carsforsale.com
Ford Aerostar on Carsforsale.com

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.

Reaching for the (Aero) Stars

Ford Aerostar
Ford Aerostar on Twitter @itsvantime

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.

The Early Lightyears of the 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.

Jeep Fires Back with a V8 and PHEV
Aerostar on Instagram @AutomoBear

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.

A Rocket Van: Inside and Out

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?

Trim Levels

XL and XLT

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.

Eddie Bauer Wagon

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.

Aerostar Sport

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.

Every Star Burns 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.

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Erin Maxson

Erin loves nothing more than a good road trip. To her, getting behind the wheel is one of the biggest adventures you can take because it can lead to anywhere. Alongside her Toyota Tundra, you'll find her co-pilot pup, Rory, and a 1976 Airstream Argosy in tow. Her motto: Life is a scenic road, take your time and enjoy the ride.

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  1. Ekim January 14, 2020

    I love my 1995 XLT.. 4.0 and 229000 miles on her and still running strong…

    1. Carsforsale.com Team January 14, 2020

      Thanks for sharing! What color is it!?

  2. Steven April 28, 2020

    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.

    1. Carsforsale.com Team April 28, 2020

      That’s great! Thanks for sharing, Steven!

  3. Debbie June 6, 2020

    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!

    1. Carsforsale.com Team June 8, 2020

      Thanks for sharing, Debbie!

  4. Dennis in Texas June 19, 2020

    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!

    1. Carsforsale.com Team June 23, 2020

      We love them too! Thanks for sharing, Dennis!

  5. Dennis in tx June 19, 2020

    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

    1. Carsforsale.com Team June 22, 2020

      Thanks for sharing!

  6. JoshCC600 July 18, 2020

    I’ve still got my 95 aerostar my whole family took driving lessons in 20 years ago. Over 300k miles (when the odometer went out) and plenty of problems but still running strong. Just went on a 15 hour road trip camping. All my gear plus a 95lb German Shepard we just slept in the back with the seats out. People joke it makes me un-datable but man she’s so full of stories I can’t let her go.

    1. Carsforsale.com Team July 20, 2020

      That’s great, thanks for sharing!

  7. Paul Lee August 3, 2020

    I’m absolutely really impressed, with our aerostar that we had as we were growing up. We lived in Tennessee, where it’s hilly. It had a 3.0 engine. And our family van has lasted us from 1997 to 2011!!! Well over 200, 0000, daily miles! It was just our great family minivan, our best and our biggest vehicle, we ever owned. It was a nice 1995 maroon regular size aerostar van. I’m still impressed about these highly reliable minivans!! Fords, are really impressive, as I love large vehicles, that are seemingly super reliable, and roomy.
    But I will never get over ford aerostar vans, all. I do not like anything in the minivan realm, as it is nowadays. They’re smaller, too cramped. And not original!! Ford aerostar simply, put, is originally the best, most reliable: both engines, The Best minivan; ever built!! Thanks ford.

    1. Carsforsale.com Team August 3, 2020

      This is great, thanks for sharing, Paul!

  8. GEORGE ROBYN FINK September 15, 2020

    i just bought on craigslist a 1994 XLT aerostar 4wd and it was in excellent condition with 134,000 miles and one owner; i am amazed at the things i never knew about this van; i googled the TV commercial for it and my grandchildren think its awesome; we are planning to take it to classic car shows to win some trophys

    1. Carsforsale.com Team September 16, 2020

      That’s great! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Sue O'D January 7, 2021

    I owned 3 different aerstars and my husband owned 2. Many of my friends also had them. We do dog shows and training. I was able to fit 5 dog crates in and everything for 2 people for a week of dog shows.
    The AWD was the best. One time my husband got his 4 wheel drive truck stuck and I pulled it out with my aerostat.
    If they were ever to make anything like the aerostar again I would be first in line. I have plenty of dog friends that would be right behind me


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