Ford Carousel

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Ford Carousel
Also calledFord Carrousel
Production1973 (prototype only)
Model yearsN/A
DesignerDick Nesbitt
Body and chassis
  • Prototype
  • Concept car
Body style3-door minivan
LayoutFR layout
PlatformFord VN platform
RelatedFord Econoline (1975-1991)
Engine460 cubic inches (7.5 L) V8
Transmission3-speed Ford C6 automatic
Wheelbase124.0 inches (3,149.6 mm)

The Ford Carousel (also spelled Carrousel[1]) is a prototype vehicle that was developed by Ford in 1973.[2] While never produced outright, the vehicle explored a number of the concepts that the first American-market minivans (including the Ford Aerostar and the Chrysler minivans) put into production in the 1980s, becoming an alternative to both full-size station wagons and vans. Called a "garageable van",[3] the Carousel included two-box design (as opposed to the one-box configuration of the Volkswagen Microbus) and three-row forward-facing seating.

Designed and styled by Dick Nesbitt (designer of the Ford Mustang II[4]), the Carousel prototype was built for Ford by Carron & Company of Inkster, Michigan.[5]


In 1972, Ford truck designers had begun final design work on what would become the 1975 Ford Econoline/Club Wagon full-size van.[3] Codenamed "Nantucket", the redesign was to make for significant increases in front seat interior room. A key drawback to the redesign was its increased height for those who used the Econoline/Club Wagon as a personal vehicle. As most redesigned versions were to be nearly 7 feet tall, the new van would only have several inches of clearance through an average garage door opening.[citation needed]

In 1972, Ford President Lee Iaccoca approved the expansion of the Nantucket project to include a third vehicle alongside the Ford Econoline series and Ford Club Wagon. Codenamed "Carousel", the new variant was set out to be a "garageable van".[3][6][7] To meet the objective, the roof height was to be lowered nearly one foot, with its exterior footprint more closely matching the original matching that of the 1961 Econoline.[8] At approximately six feet in height, the Carousel was slightly lower than the 6'4" Volkswagen Microbus.

For its marketing, "Carousel" was intended for marketing to buyers of full-size station wagons and passenger vans[1][7]; a production Ford Carousel would have slotted between the Ford LTD Country Squire and the Ford Club Wagon in terms of size and cargo capacity.


The Ford Carousel derived its chassis from the third-generation Econoline/Club Wagon (then in development) with a 124-inch wheelbase length (the standard wheelbase length for the Econoline from 1975 to 1987). The Carousel was styled with its own body, distinguished by a lower roofline. Lowered to a height of approximately six feet, the Carousel was designed with a height lower than the 6'4" Volkswagen Microbus. The Carousel prototype shared its powertrain from the Econoline and the Country Squire, using a 460 V8 and 3-speed automatic transmission.[5]

The prototype Ford Carousel is a five-passenger vehicle; a flat-folding rear seat (to match the height of the load floor) was developed for the vehicle.[5] As part of its development, several interior configurations were designed, including two rear bench seats and side-facing perimeter seats.[2] To further attract buyers of station wagons, the roofline of the Carousel was styled with glass (in line with the mid-1950s Chevrolet Nomad); the exterior was fitted with simulated woodgrain siding. Similar to a station wagon, the rear door of the Carousel was equipped with a tailgate and retracting rear window.[4] In line with the Club Wagon, the Carousel was equipped with front "captain's chairs".

As a prototype, the Carousel adopted components from other Ford vehicles, including its dashboard from the Thunderbird, interior elements from the LTD Brougham (along with wheelcovers).[1][5]


In 1973, the Carousel had been fabricated into a running prototype ready for production approval, potentially for a 1975-1976 launch. Inside of the company, the Carousel had won a great deal of support, including that of Henry Ford II.[1] However, it faced internal opposition from other Ford executives, who feared such an unproven vehicle type would have potentially threatened sales of the (highly profitable) Ford LTD Country Squire and Mercury Colony Park.[5]

After the 1973 energy crisis and the recession of the mid 1970s, the company was forced to cut back on new vehicle development. As the Carousel was not a direct replacement for any existing Ford vehicle, it was shelved.[1]


In 1978, Lee Iacocca was fired from Ford; several months later, Director of Product Planning Hal Sperlich also left the company. Soon after, both executives were hired in similar roles at Chrysler Corporation. This would lead to the development of the Chrysler minivans for the 1984 model year. While the overall construction of the 1984 Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan would differ greatly from the Ford Carousel (in their basis upon the Chrysler K-car compact sedan), they would follow a similar two-box layout, marketed as family vehicles with smaller garage footprints than full-size station wagons.

At the same time Chrysler commenced minivan production, Ford revisited the idea of a garageable van for the first time. In 1984, the company revealed the Ford Aerostar for the first time; much like the Carousel, it was a prototype of an intended production vehicle. In mid-1985, the Aerostar commenced sales in production form.[citation needed]

While fuel economy had played a key role in the demise of the Carousel, it would become a major factor behind the design of the Aerostar. In place of the full-size van platform, the Aerostar shared many components with the Ford Ranger light pickup truck. Foregoing the previous two-box design, in a design similar to the European Ford Transit, the Aerostar used a one-box design with the hood and windshield sloped at a similar angle. After the 1997 model year, the Aerostar was discontinued; Ford had largely replaced by 1995 with the Ford Windstar and the Mercury Villager (the latter built in a joint venture with Nissan). The Windstar would largely follow the design set in place by Chrysler, adopting front-wheel drive and unit-body construction based on a car platform.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Ford Carousel Archives". VehicleVoice. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  2. ^ a b "Ford Carrousel Story Continues - Dick Nesbitt, Designer". VehicleVoice. 2007-07-07. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  3. ^ a b c "1972 Ford Carousel: The Chrysler Minivan's True Father?". The Truth About Cars. 2010-03-31. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  4. ^ a b "1972 Ford Carousel Minivan Concept Car". HowStuffWorks. 2007-11-12. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Yarn – Nobody Ever Talks About Ford's Carrousel Concept". Retrieved 28 November 2013.
  6. ^ "1972 Ford Carousel Minivan Concept Car". HowStuffWorks. 2007-11-12. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  7. ^ a b "1972 Ford Carousel: The Chrysler Minivan's True Father?". The Truth About Cars. 2010-03-31. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  8. ^ "1972 Ford Carousel Minivan Concept Car". HowStuffWorks. 2007-11-12. Retrieved 2019-07-03.