Ford Aerostar

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Ford Aerostar
Ford Aerostar LWB 1992-97.jpg
1992–1996 Ford Aerostar
Manufacturer Ford
Production June 1985 – August 22, 1997
Model years 1986–1997
Assembly Hazelwood, Missouri (St. Louis Assembly)
Body and chassis
Class Minivan
Platform Ford VN1 platform
Engine 2.3 L Lima I4
2.8 L Cologne V6
3.0 L Vulcan V6
4.0 L Cologne V6
Transmission five-speed manual
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
Wheelbase 118.9 in (3,020 mm)
Length Standard-length:174.9 in (4,440 mm)
Extended-length:190.3 in (4,830 mm)
Width 71.7 in (1,820 mm)
Height 72.2–74.0 in (1,830–1,880 mm)

The Ford Aerostar is a range of passenger and cargo vans manufactured and marketed by Ford in the United States and Canada; a limited number were exported outside of North America. The first minivan sold by Ford, the Aerostar was sold in a single generation from the 1986 to 1997 model years. Introduced shortly before the Ford Taurus, the vehicle derives its nameplate from its slope-nosed "one-box" exterior (although over six feet tall, the body of the Aerostar retained a drag coefficient of Cd=0.37,[1] besting the Lincoln Mark.VII).

For the 1995 model year, the front-wheel drive Ford Windstar was introduced to replace the Aerostar; both minivans were sold concurently through the 1997 model year. In the Ford model line, the role of the Aerostar cargo van was left unfilled; the closest successor is the Ford Transit Connect, introduced in 2010.

A total of 2,029,577 Aerostars were produced from 1985 to 1997. All production was sourced from the now-closed St. Louis Assembly Plant in Hazelwood, Missouri.


Carousel: the garageable van[edit]

At Ford, development of a minivan began in the early 1970s as a companion model to the Econoline full-size van. As the company was readying the third-generation Econoline for a 1975 introduction, company product planners sought to develop the concept of a "garageable van" that could easily fit through a standard 7-foot-tall garage door opening. Dubbed Carousel, the vehicle was given a lower roofline and a rear body surrounded by glass (similar to the Chevrolet Nomad). Sharing its chassis with the standard-wheelbase van, the Carousel prototype was powered by a 460 cubic inches (7.5 L) V8 and an automatic transmission. In a key indication of its target market, the Carousel wore a rear tailgate with a drop-down rear window with simulated exterior woodgrain trim. Inside, it was fitted with two rear bench seats with interior trim similar to the Ford Country Squire and Mercury Colony Park.

While the Carousel received a positive response by many Ford executives for a potential 1976 introduction, it ultimately would not reach production. While financial constraints forced the company to divert funds towards critical projects (such as the Fox platform and Panther platform), the 1973 energy crisis played a major role as well. In 1978, Lee Iaccoca and Hal Sperlich left Ford and were hired by Chrysler, leading to the eventual development of the Chrysler minivans. While sharing the "garageable van" concept of the Ford Carousel, the 1984 Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager would become far different vehicles in terms of layout and engineering.

Aerostar: all-new design[edit]

During the early 1980s, as information became known about the development of the Chrysler minivans, Ford began development of its own minivan in response. The energy crises of the late 1970s made fuel economy a high priority of vehicle design; as such, simply downsizing the Econoline was not a competitive option for Ford. To lower weight, the new minivan would use plastic in the bumpers, fuel tank, rear door, and hood with aluminum used for the driveshafts, axles, and wheels.[2] While the new Ford minivan would be built on a dedicated chassis (unlike Chrysler or GM), the launch of the Ranger for 1983 allowed for the use of shared chassis, suspension, and powertrain components to cut development costs. The use of Ranger/Bronco II parts would also make for major fuel economy gains over a vehicle based upon the F-Series/E-Series trucks. Unique to the chassis was the rear suspension, a 3-link coil spring suspension with a live rear axle; it was designed specifically for the minivan (four-wheel coil springs were only seen in the Renault Espace at the time).[2]



1987 Ford Aerostar XLT

As with its Chrysler and General Motors minivan counterparts, the chassis of the Ford Aerostar derives a number of suspension and powertrain components from existing vehicles to lower development costs. Although it would become the first Ford truck to make use of a unibody chassis, the Aerostar shared most of its components with the Ford Ranger/Bronco II light trucks. To reinforce the chassis for towing and overall rigidity, the dedicated platform (codenamed VN1, the first alphanumeric designation for a Ford platform) was designed with full-length integrated frame rails. The addition provided the Aerostar with the same 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) tow rating as the Astro/Safari, 2½ times the capacity of the Chrysler minivans.[3][4]

The front suspension consisted of unequal length A-arms through its entire production. The lower A-arm was changed to accommodate the E-4WD option from 1990 onward. The Aerostar differed from all other Ford light trucks in its rear suspension configuration as well. To save space, the live rear axle was fitted with a three-link coil-sprung rear suspension (similar to the Panther-platform cars of the time). During its production run, the Ford Aerostar was the only North American-market minivan sold with four-wheel coil-spring suspension (the planned launch of the Renault Espace by AMC was stillborn).

While the planned four-cylinder diesel engine from the 1984 concept vehicle was dropped in the prototype phase,[3] the Aerostar was launched with two engines from the Ranger/Bronco II: a standard 2.3 L four-cylinder (shared with the Mustang) and a carburetor equipped 2.8 L Cologne V6 (from Ford of Europe) for the first few months of production. Shortly after the introduction, the 2.8L V6 was replaced with the newly introduced electronic multi-port fuel injected 3.0 L Vulcan V6 from the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable,[5] adding 30 hp. For 1988, the 2.3L engine was discontinued; the Aerostar became the first minivan powered exclusively by V6 engines. In 1990, coinciding with the introduction of the E4WD Aerostar, a 4.0 L version of the Cologne V6 was introduced; while standard with all-wheel drive versions, it became an option on rear-wheel drive XLT and Eddie Bauer trims as well.

Sharing its transmissions with the Ford light-truck line, the Aerostar was available with a five-speed manual until 1995 (nearly exclusively in cargo vans and XL trim); unlike the Chrysler minivans, the Aerostar was sold exclusively with overdrive automatic transmissions. In 1997, the 4.0 L V6 became paired with the first five-speed automatic transmission fitted in a US-market minivan.

Engine name Displacement Horsepower Years available Notes Transmissions
Lima inline-4 2.3 L (140 cu in) SOHC I4 100 hp (75 kW) 1986–1987 Shared with Ford Ranger, Ford Mustang/Mercury Capri, and Ford LTD.

Naturally aspirated version of engine in Ford Mustang SVO and Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.

5-speed manual
  • Mazda TK5 (1986-1987)
  • Mazda M5OD (1988-1995)

4-speed automatic

  • Ford A4LD (1986-1994)
  • Ford 4R44E (1995-1996; Vulcan V6)
  • Ford 4R55E (1995-1996; Cologne V6)

5-speed automatic

  • Ford 5R55E (1997; Cologne V6)
Cologne V6 2.8 L (170 cu in) OHV V6 115 hp (86 kW) 1986 Shared with the Ranger and Bronco II, this engine was used only for the first few months of 1986 production.[5] The Aerostar was the last North American Ford to use this variant of the Cologne V6.
Vulcan V6 3.0 L (182 cu in) OHV V6 145 hp (108 kW) 1986–1997 Shared with the Taurus/Sable and Tempo/Topaz, the Aerostar was the first rear-wheel drive application of the Vulcan V6.

The Vulcan V6 was the only engine for the 1988-1989 Ford Aerostar.

Cologne V6 4.0 L (245 cu in) OHV V6 160 hp (119 kW) 1990–1997 Shared with the Ranger and Explorer, the 4.0L Cologne V6 was optional in rear-wheel drive versions and standard in all-wheel drive examples.

All-wheel drive (E-4WD) Aerostar (1990–1997)[edit]

For 1990, Ford introduced an electronically-controlled four-wheel drive system as an option for the Aerostar. Called E-4WD (Electronic 4-Wheel Drive), the system was specifically an all-wheel drive system. Using a Dana TC28 transfer case with a center differential (regulated by an electronically controlled electro-magnetic clutch), all four wheels were given traction at all times. The system shifted traction to the front wheels as it detected rear wheel spin, with no driver input required. As E-4WD was not intended for off-road driving, the Aerostar was not provided with specific low-range gearing.

Sold from 1990 to 1997, the E-4WD option was available with XLT and Eddie Bauer trims and was paired exclusively with the 4.0L V6 and automatic transmission.


1989–1991 Aerostar XLT

Distinguished by its sloped-nosed design, the Ford Aerostar utilizes a "one-box" design similar to the Renault Espace and the Ford Transit; in contrast to its European counterparts, the Aerostar has much shorter overhangs with the wheels placed at the corners. In an effort to further improve its fuel efficiency and aerodynamics and lower its curb weight, several plastic body parts (bumpers, rear hatch) that were utilized in the 1984 concept car were adopted for production.

As a response to the Dodge Grand Caravan and Plymouth Grand Voyager, an (unnamed) extended-length version of the Ford Aerostar entered production for 1989. Sharing the 119-inch wheelbase with the standard-length version, the extended-length Aerostar added 14" to the rear body. During the 1990s, the extended-length Aerostar would become the most popular version of the vehicle.

While the Ford Aerostar would never see a full redesign over its 12-year production run, it would see a number of detail changes to bring it in line with other Ford trucks. For 1988, the nameplate badging was changed, moving it from each fender to the tailgate; it was changed from chrome to silver in color. In 1989, the chrome grille was replaced by a black-trim grille; the bracketed towing mirrors were replaced by integrated powered sideview mirrors. In 1992, an extensive facelift redesigned the grille, bumpers, wheels, and replaced the sealed-beam headlights with replaceable-bulb composite units (the amber turn signal lenses were changed to clear-lens units). As it was becoming a federal requirement, a center brake light was added for 1994. As the Aerostar had been slated for discontinuation after the 1994 model year, few visible changes were made afterwards. For 1997, the amber rear turn signal lenses were deleted; XLT models were given optional 14x6" seven-hole alloy wheels.


In contrast to its radical exterior design, the interior design of the Ford Aerostar adopted many industry-standard features. For example, the seven-passenger Aerostar was configured with the 2-2-3 seating layout popularized in both Chrysler and General Motors minivans. Borrowing features from full-size conversion vans, XLT-trim versions were available with second-row bucket seats; another option allowed both rear bench seats to fold down to make a bed; both rows of rear seats were removable.

However, the interior also featured several European-influenced designs: the Aerostar was fitted with a floor-mounted shifter for both automatic and manual transmissions and was equipped with a handbrake (which would become a feature in all US-market Ford minivans); in a fashion similar to the Volkswagen Vanagon, the second-row windows slid open. While cupholders were relegated to an optional armrest in the third-row seats, the Aerostar could be specified with up to six ashtrays and two cigar lighters; the interior may have been designed with a smoker in mind.

In 1992, coinciding with the exterior updates, the interior also saw a major upgrade. Along with the addition of a driver's side airbag and three-point seatbelts for all six outboard seats, the dashboard was redesigned with improved controls (many shared with the 1992 Econoline) and a new instrument panel. In 1993, integrated child safety seats were introduced as an option.


Along with a cargo van (distinguished by its available double rear doors and lack of side windows), the Aerostar passenger van (called the Wagon) came in two trim levels: base-trim XL and deluxe-trim XLT (in keeping with the Ford truck line). Many features standard on the XLT were available as extra-cost options on the XL, such as power windows, mirrors, and locks, air conditioning, and privacy glass.

XLT-trim Wagons also included the following features as extra-cost options:

  • Overhead trip computer with auto-dimming rearview mirror (featuring: Distance to Empty (English/Metric), Trip Mileage, Average Fuel Economy, Instant Fuel Economy, Average Speed (English/Metric), along with dual map lights)
  • Rear climate control
  • 2nd-row Captains chairs (quad seats)
  • Fold-flat second and third-row bench seatbacks
  • 8-speaker AM/FM stereo with cassette player
  • Premium AM/FM/cassette sound system with 7-band equalizer and rear-seat headphone jacks
  • Rear-wheel anti-lock brakes
  • Electronic four-wheel drive (see section)
  • Two-tone paint
  • 14" aluminum wheels

Eddie Bauer Wagon (1988–1996)[edit]

1989 Aerostar Eddie Bauer Wagon (standard-length)
1989 Aerostar Eddie Bauer

Introduced during the 1988 model year, the Aerostar was one of the first Ford vehicles to feature the Eddie Bauer brand in an outdoors-themed option package. Marketed above the XLT, the Aerostar Eddie Bauer was the first minivan marketed towards luxury buyers (at the time, Chrysler still produced the Chrysler Town & Country as a compact station wagon).

Eddie Bauer trim combined the interior convenience features of the XLT trim with two-tone exterior paint (tan as the accent color on the rocker panels and wheel trim) and a tan outdoors-themed interior. As on the XLT, cloth seating surfaces were standard; as part of the 1992 update, leather seats became an option. A standard feature of the trim package (an option on the XLT) was a feature allowing the second and third row bench seats to fold flat into a large bed across the rear half of the interior. However, a large number of Eddie Bauer Wagons were ordered with the optional second-row bucket seats/captain's chairs.

Following the introduction of the extended-length wagon in 1989, the Eddie Bauer trim was available in both body configurations. After 1989, the option package came with the 4.0L V6 standard, though buyers could choose between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive powertrains.

After the 1996 model year, the Eddie Bauer Wagon was discontinued as the Aerostar trim line was consolidated to the cargo van and the Aerostar XLT.

Aerostar Sport (1992–1996)[edit]

Aerostar XL Wagon with Sport option package
1992–1996 Ford Aerostar XL Sport

In 1992, the Aerostar Sport was introduced as an option package available for any non-Eddie Bauer Aerostar Wagon. Similar to its Chevrolet Astro RS/GMC Safari CS and Dodge Caravan ES counterparts, the Aerostar Sport was largely a cosmetic and appearance upgrade. Distinguished by their silver-accented paint and "Sport" pinstriping, the Sport featured integrated running boards with a color-matched front air dam and color-matched rear mud flaps. On darker colors, the front grille and chrome was painted body color.

The trim version of an Aerostar Sport is most easily identified by its wheels; XL Sport Wagons are equipped with full wheel covers while XLT Sport Wagons (less common) are equipped with aluminum wheels.

Concept vehicles[edit]

Ford Aerostar (1984)[edit]

The Aerostar name was first revealed as a concept vehicle was shown in 1984,[3] with Ford predicting up to 40 mpg in production versions with four-cylinder diesel engines.[3] With a drag coefficient of Cd=0.37, the Aerostar was one of the sleekest vehicles designed by Ford, besting the Ford Mustang SVO and the Lincoln Continental Mark VII.

Ford engineers chose the front-engine layout for a variety of reasons. In terms of safety and engine access (in comparison to German and Japanese imports), the company found that potential buyers preferred the configuration over rear and mid-engine vehicles.[3] Ford also chose a rear-wheel drive layout for the Aerostar; this provided it with a same 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) tow rating, 2½ times the capacity of the Chrysler vans.[3][4]

In the change from concept to production, very little of the exterior design would change, except for the window glass, headlights, and grille.

HFX Aerostar Ghia (1987)[edit]

Introduced at the 1987 Frankfurt Auto Show,[6] the HFX (High Feature Experimental) Aerostar Ghia was a prototype of future minivan design. Two running prototypes were built from the collaboration of Ford and Ghia;[7] both used the stock 3.0L Vulcan V6 and A4LD automatic transmission. The HFX concept borrowed some features used in other Ford vehicles, such as four-wheel air suspension and electronic climate control. From there, some of the technologies showcased in the HFX had never before been seen in a minivan; this included run-flat tires, adjustable pedals, power-sliding side doors, electric power steering, ABS, traction control, seatbelt pretensioners, and movable grille shutters.[7] On the rear, an LCD display was installed for the use of displaying 12 pre-programmed warning messages.[7]

Link to HFX Aerostar Ghia images.


The Aerostar was named Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year for 1990.[8]


1995 Ford Windstar
Ford Transit Connect Wagon, current-generation Ford minivan in North America

While the Ford Aerostar would go on to become a sales success[clarification needed] for Ford Motor Company during the 1980s, Ford would become one of many manufacturers seeking to develop a minivan to gain part of the significant market share held by Chrysler in the minivan segment in the late 1980s. To do so, Ford began work on a second-generation minivan in 1988, for a planned 1993 introduction. Shifting away from the rear-wheel drive configuration of the Aerostar, Ford followed the design lead of Chrysler, building its new minivan on a front-wheel drive car platform. Which became the Ford Windstar that would share its underpinnings with the 1996 Ford Taurus.

As the Ford Windstar was being readied for its 1995 model-year introduction, Ford had planned for 1994 to be the final year for the Aerostar. In a fashion similar to the reaction to the planned replacement of the Fox-body Mustang with a Mazda-engineered vehicle in the late 1980s (which ultimately became the Ford Probe) Ford Motor company received a negative reaction[clarification needed] from the public and from its dealers. Taking note of this, Ford relented and announced that it would sell the Aerostar alongside the Windstar for the upcoming future. After the planned 1994 cancellation date came and went, the Aerostar remained in production until the 1997 model year. On March 17, 1997, Ford announced the discontinuation of the Aerostar, alongside the Aspire, Thunderbird, Probe, and Mercury Cougar.[9]

After a 12-year production run, the Ford Aerostar was by far the oldest minivan sold in North America; a primary factor in its cancellation was an impending requirement for the addition of dual airbags, which would have required a complete (and costly) redesign of the front dashboard and front crash structure. As the Aerostar shared the St. Louis Assembly Plant with the Ford Explorer, Ford felt that each Aerostar produced was a missed opportunity to produce a Ford Explorer. As four-door sport-utility vehicles were rising in popularity as family and towing vehicles, the Explorer began to take the place of the Aerostar in the same way the latter had taken the place of the Ford Country Squire a decade before.

After being sold alongside the Windstar for three model years, the final Aerostar was assembled at St. Louis Assembly Plant on August 22, 1997; a total of 2,029,577 were produced over 12 years.[10] Although both the Windstar and the Freestar were produced in cargo van configurations, the first direct successor to the Aerostar Van in terms of size and capability is the 2010 Transit Connect though the Transit Connect is front-wheel drive rather than rear-wheel drive. In 2014, Ford began to sell the Transit Connect in North America in a seven-seat configuration, its first minivan since 2007.


  1. ^ Ford Motor Company (December 1985). "Age of Aerostar (Ford Advertisement)". Popular Mechanics (magazine). pp. 6–7. Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Stepler, Richard (February 1985). "New-generation mini-vans". Popular Science. pp. 74–76. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dunne, Jim (April 1984). "Ford's aero van". Popular Science. p. 54. Retrieved March 24, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Ford Motor Company (February 1986). "Age of Aerostar". Popular Mechanics. p. 9. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  5. ^ a b 5
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c "Google Translate". Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  8. ^ "Truck of the Year Winners". Motor Trend. Primedia, Inc. Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  9. ^ "Probe History". Archived from the original on 2001-12-07. 
  10. ^

External links[edit]