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 2.3L Lima I4
2.8L Cologne V6
3.0L Vulcan V6
4.0LCologne V6
Transmission 5-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 minivan that was manufactured and marketed by Ford for the 1986 to 1997 model years in the United States and Canada; a limited number were exported outside North America. The Aerostar was produced in both passenger and cargo van bodies in two body lengths and it was available with both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive powertrains.

For the 1995 model year, the passenger version was replaced by the Windstar; Ford sold both minivans until the Aerostar was discontinued after the 1997 model year. The role of the cargo version has been most directly replaced by the Transit Connect, sold since 2010.

Introduced shortly before the Ford Taurus, the name of the Aerostar was inspired by its distinctive slope-nosed design; in spite of being over six feet tall, its body had a drag coefficient of Cd=0.37,[1] making it one of the most aerodynamically sleek vehicles sold by the company at the time. For much of its later life, the Aerostar would be marketed as part of Ford's light-truck lineup.

A total of 2,029,577 Aerostars were produced from 1985 to 1997. All production was sourced from the St. Louis Assembly Plant in Hazelwood, Missouri; this facility was closed in 2006.


Carousel: the garageable van[edit]

Main article: Ford Carousel

At Ford, development of a minivan began life 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 inside 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 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/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 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 (4-wheel coil springs were only seen in the Renault Espace at the time).[2]



1987 Ford Aerostar XLT

In a number of ways, the Ford Aerostar follows the design of both of its Chrysler and General Motors competitors at the same time. The Aerostar shares a number of its suspension and powertrain components with the Ford Ranger and Ford Bronco II (as the Chevrolet/GMC minivans were derived from the GM light-truck line). As weight was a critical factor during the time of its design, the Aerostar was the first Ford truck to be designed with a unibody chassis. In the end, to reinforce the chassis for towing, the platform was designed with integrated full-length frame rails, providing the Aerostar with the same 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) tow rating as the Astro/Safari, 2½ times the capacity of the Chrysler vans.[3][4] While designed to share parts with the Ranger/Bronco II/Explorer/Navajo, the Aerostar rode on a model-specific chassis. While the front suspension was truck-based, the rear suspension was a 3-link coil spring rear suspension with a live rear axle, similar to the Fox and Panther-platform. During its production run, the Aerostar was the only US-market minivan with 4-wheel coil spring suspension (the launch of the Renault Espace by AMC was stillborn).

While the planned 4-cylinder diesel 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 2.8 L Cologne V6 (from Ford of Europe). In 1987, the 2.8L V6 was replaced with the newly introduced 3.0 L Vulcan V6 from the Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable, adding 30 hp. For 1988, the 2.3L engine was discontinued; all Aerostars were powered by V6 engines. In 1990, coinciding with the introduction of the E4WD Aerostar, a 4.0L version of the Cologne V6 was introduced; while standard with all-wheel drive versions, it is an option on rear-wheel drive XLT and Eddie Bauer trims as well.

Sharing its transmissions with light-truck line, the Aerostar was available with a 5-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 4.0L V6 became paired with the first 5-speed automatic transmission fitted in a US-market minivan.

Engine Name Displacement Horsepower Years Available Notes
Lima SOHC inline-4 2.3L 100 hp (75 kW) 1986–1987
Cologne OHV V6 2.8L 115 hp (86 kW) 1986 The Aerostar was the last North American Ford to use this variant of the Cologne V6.
Vulcan OHV V6 3.0L 145 hp (108 kW) 1987–1997 The Vulcan V6 was the only engine for 1988-1989.
Cologne OHV V6 4.0L 160 hp (119 kW) 1990–1997 This engine was mandatory with the E-4WD option.
Name Manufacturer Type Years Available Notes
TK5 Toyo-Kogyo (Mazda) 5-speed manual 1986–1987
M5OD Mazda 5-speed manual 1988–1995 The manual-transmission option for the Aerostar was dropped after 1995
A4LD Ford 4-speed automatic 1986–1995 Available with both engines.
4R44E Ford 4-speed automatic 1996–1997 Available with the Vulcan V6 only.
4R55E Ford 4-speed automatic 1996 Available with the Cologne V6 only; replaced in 1997 by the 5R55E
5R55E Ford 5-speed automatic 1997 Available only with the Cologne V6; this was the first 5-speed automatic in a minivan.

All-Wheel Drive (E-4WD) Aerostar (1990–1997)[edit]

Introduced in 1990 and offered until the end of production in 1997, Ford offered an electronically controlled four-wheel drive option on XLT and Eddie Bauer models. The option, called E-4WD, standing for Electronic 4-Wheel Drive, was more specifically an all-wheel drive system. With all-wheel drive, the 160 hp (119 kW) 4.0L Cologne V6 was standard equipment.

This system differed from other four-wheel-drive Ford vehicles of the time in that it engaged when it detected rear wheel spin, powering the front wheels automatically with no driver input required. Another difference is that the Aerostar's unique Dana TC28 transfer case employed a true center differential, though this center differential was regulated by an electronically controlled electro-magnetic clutch; this means that all four wheels are essentially powered at all times. As the system was not designed for off-road driving, there is no low-range gearing.


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 at the corners. During its development, to save weight and improve aerodynamics, Ford designers chose to use plastic bumpers and rear hatch in production. In 1989, to counter the popular Dodge Grand Caravan/Plymouth Grand Voyager, Ford introduced an extended-length version of the Aerostar. Sharing a common 119" wheelbase, the extended-length Aerostar was added 14" to the rear body.

While it never saw a full redesign in its production run, Ford made a number of detail changes. In 1988, the Aerostar badging was moved to the tailgate. In 1989, the chrome-trimmed grille was replaced by a black-trimmed grille; the Aerostar stopped sharing its bracketed sideview mirrors with the Ranger. 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 after then. For 1997, the amber rear turn signal lenses were deleted; XLT models were given optional 14x6" seven-hole alloy wheels.


Similar to the Chrysler and General Motors minivans, the Ford Aerostar adopted a 2-2-3 seating layout. The Aerostar also borrowed some features seen from full-size conversion vans as well. On XLT-trim models, the second row could be specified with bucket seats; additionally, the third row could fold down to make a bed as an option.

In contrast to its competitors, the Aerostar was designed with several European-influenced features; the Aerostar was fitted with a floor-mounted shifter for both automatic and manual transmissions and 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. As an option, the third-row seat folded flat to make a bed. 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 saw a major upgrade. Along with the addition of a drivers' side airbag, the dashboard was redesigned with improved controls (many shared with the 1992 Econoline) and a new instrument panel. In 1993, the Aerostar introduces integrated child safety seats as an option.


1997 Ford Aerostar in use as a police vehicle

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 4-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

The Aerostar was one of the first Fords (as of the 2016 model year, the only van) to be branded in Eddie Bauer trim. Introduced for the 1988 model year, the Aerostar Eddie Bauer was the first minivan marketed as a higher-end vehicle (at the time, the Chrysler Town & Country was marketed 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.

The Eddie Bauer was available in either body length; the extended-length version was far more popular.[citation needed] It was offered only with the largest engine, so only the 1988-1989 versions came with a 3.0L V6. Like the XLT, there was choice of rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, with the latter proving very popular.

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 for any non-Eddie Bauer Aerostar Wagon. Similar to the Chevrolet Astro RS/GMC Safari CS and Dodge Caravan ES, the Aerostar Sport was 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 are 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,[5] 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;[6] 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 4-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.[6] On the rear, an LCD display was installed for the use of displaying 12 pre-programmed warning messages.[6] Link to HFX Aerostar Ghia images.


The Aerostar was named Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year for 1990.[7]


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 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 commenced work on a second-generation minivan in 1988, planning to introduce it by 1993.

Following the lead of Chrysler, the new minivan was car-based (on what would become the 1996 Ford Taurus). Although lower in height than the Aerostar, due to its front-wheel drive platform, the new minivan would be a nearly a foot longer than the extended-length wagon and three inches wider. Adopting the Ford Windstar name in 1992, the new minivan was finalized for a 1994 introduction as a 1995 model; 1994 was initially planned as the last year for the Aerostar.

From 1992 to 1994, the initial plan to shelve the Aerostar was postponed. 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, Ford Motor company received a negative reaction 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.

In the end, as in the example of the Ford Mustang and the Ford Probe, the company gained a competitive advantage selling both the Aerostar and Windstar, two similar yet fundamentally different vehicles (for most of its production life, the Aerostar was marketed in the Ford light-truck lineup alongside the Econoline while the Windstar was marketed as a car). In addition, in 1992, Ford gained an additional minivan as the Lincoln-Mercury division gained the Mercury Villager (developed in a partnership with Nissan). While Chrysler sold one minivan across three nameplates in 1995, Ford sold three minivans across two nameplates; General Motors sold two across four brands.

After its 1994 cancellation came and went, the Aerostar remained in production until the 1997 model year. Ford announced that along with the Aspire, Thunderbird, and Probe, the Aerostar was to be discontinued at the end of the 1997 model year. After a 12-year production run, it 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 an 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 an Explorer. As 4-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 3 model years, the final Aerostar was assembled at St. Louis Assembly on August 22, 1997; a total of 2,029,577 were produced over 12 years.[8] 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 7-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.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "PS_April_84" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ a b Ford Motor Company (February 1986). "Age of Aerostar". Popular Mechanics. p. 9. Retrieved March 26, 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^ "Truck of the Year Winners". Motor Trend. Primedia, Inc. Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  8. ^

External links[edit]