Ford Aerostar is First Produced
The Ford Aerostar was Ford's first minivan and was introduced in the summer of 1985 as a 1986 model.
It was available in passenger van (Wagon) and cargo van (Van) versions. In 1989, an extended-length model was introduced with an all-wheel drive option following in 1990. The Aerostar was produced only under the Ford brand, while Mercury's first minivan was the Mercury Villager which debuted for the 1993 model year.
The Aerostar was dropped after the 1997 model year after being replaced by the Windstar in the 1995 model year and being sold alongside it from 1995 to 1997. The 2010 Transit Connect is the closest replacement to the Aerostar cargo van.
The Ford Aerostar was Ford's first minivan, and was introduced as a 1986 model in summer 1985. The Aerostar was unique since it combined the trucklike rear-wheel drive and towing capacity of the Chevrolet Astro/GMC Safari with car-like user-friendliness of the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager. The Aerostar is often referred to as a "midivan" along with the RWD GM vans, due to its being larger than Chrysler's minvans but smaller than a traditional full-size van. Like Chrysler's minivans, the Aerostar was exported to Europe in small numbers, which is why the rear license surround is sized to accommodate European number plates in addition to American ones. The aerodynamic sloped-nosed styling resembled the Ford Taurus introduced alongside it for 1986. An early commercial ad campaign compared the side profile of the Aerostar to that of the NASA Space Shuttle. For much of its later life, the Aerostar would be marketed as part of Ford's light-truck lineup.
The Aerostar differed from other minivans of its time because it was built on a dedicated platform of its own. The official platform designation for the Aerostar is VN1, which was also the first American Ford to use an alphanumeric platform designation (as opposed to "Fox" or "Panther") This design was developed because the designers in Ford's truck office were unfamiliar and uncomfortable with unibody construction. As a result, the frame rails were integrated into the unibody (this construction was also used on the Chevrolet Astro/GMC Safari vans, the second-generation Jeep Cherokee), and today's Honda Ridgeline pickup. Unlike the front-wheel drive Chrysler minivans and their later clones, the Aerostar was designed as a rear-wheel drive vehicle. This compromised interior space somewhat (the interior floor was higher) but provided superior towing ability as well as increased traction when loaded.
Since the Aerostar used truck parts (the brake rotors, axle bearings, wheels, etc. were all interchangeable with the Ford Ranger, Bronco II, and Explorer), essentially any interchangeable truck option for power and suspension was available. Many Aerostar owners upgraded to 15- or 16-inch wheels from an Explorer or Ranger. One noted difference is that the Aerostar had a 3-link coil spring rear suspension with a live axle, similar to the Ford Crown Victoria and Fox-body Mustang.
At its launch, the Aerostar was available in a single body length and as a base-model cargo van, XL base-model wagon, and XLT deluxe-trim wagon. The base engine was a 2.3 L four-cylinder, while the 2.8 L Cologne V6 was optional. The Cologne V6 was replaced for 1987 with the 3.0 L Vulcan V6.
For 1988, the 4-cylinder engine was dropped. As the V6 was now standard, the V6 emblem on the front fenders was removed. Two-tone paint was dropped from the XLT model, and the Aerostar script was moved from the front fenders to the left side of the rear hatch; the box beneath it showing the trim level changed from a red background to a gray one.
The Eddie Bauer model was introduced as an upscale model for 1988. It shared most of its features with XLT models (most XLT options were included as standard equipment), but with unique outdoors-themed trim. Two-tone paint schemes were used, but instead of the side panel being an accent between the upper and lower body, the rocker panels and wheel well trim are painted tan as the accent. Aluminum wheels (of the same 14" diameter) were standard on the Eddie Bauer, but are available on XLT wagons as an option. Inside, 2nd-row "quad" bucket seats are an option on both Eddie Bauer and XLT trim.
For 1989, Ford made minor but noticeable detail changes to the exterior. The grille changed from a chrome egg-crate style to dark gray with 3 horizontal slats. An extended-length variant that added 14" to the cargo area was introduced for both van and wagon bodies. New wheel covers were introduced to differentiate the Aerostar's wheels from those on the Ranger/Bronco II. One style was shared with the Tempo, while the other (5 triangular holes, with slotted spokes) was unique to the Aerostar. Optional side mirrors integrated onto the door pillar replaced less-aerodynamic "trailer-towing mirrors" shared with the Ranger and Bronco II.
In 1990 the Aerostar overtook the Astro and Safari twins in sales to move from 3rd to 2nd behind Chrysler. The 4.0L Cologne V6 was added, and E-4WD (Electronic 4-Wheel Drive) all-wheel drive became an option. The Aerostar was Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year for 1990.
The Ford Aerostar was Ford's first attempt at building a minivan, and was introduced as a 1986 model in mid-1985. It was the first Ford program to use the automaker's present alphanumeric pre-production code name system, and was designated VN01.
Early models were available with Ford's "Lima" 2.3 L I4 engine, which at 88 hp was grossly underpowered for a van that could carry up to seven passengers and luggage. Available as an upgrade initially was Ford's also-underpowered 2.9 L V6; later models came with either the corporate 3.0 L V6 found in the Taurus and Ranger or the Explorer's 4.0 L V6.
The Aerostar was Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year for 1990.
The Aerostar was distinguished by using a modified pickup truck chassis integral to its unibody construction. This design was developed because the designers in the truck office were unfamiliar and uncomfortable with unibody construction, and essentially designed a frame into the unibody (this construction was also used on the Chevrolet/GMC G-Series vans and the second generation Jeep Cherokee). The aerodynamic styling was similar to the Ford Taurus, which was introduced at the same time. A commercial ad stated that the Aerostar's front nose resembled the NASA Space Shuttle; Ford often compared the Aerostar to the Space Shuttle in its advertising.
The Aerostar was a rear wheel drive vehicle, unlike the pioneering Chrysler minivans. This compromised interior space somewhat but provided superior towing ability.
Since the Aerostar used truck parts (the brake rotors, axle bearings et.al. interchanged with the Ford Ranger, Bronco II, and Explorer), essentially any interchangeable truck option for power and suspension was available. For example, the Eddie Bauer (Luxury) version was available with four wheel drive. One noted difference is that the Aerostar had a 4-link coil spring rear suspension with a live axle, similar to the Ford Crown Victoria and Fox-body Mustang.
The Aerostar received no major styling changes until 1992, when flush-mounted headlamps were fitted, and a new dashboard incorporated a driver's side airbag and a column-mounted gearshift, finally replacing the floor-mounted shifter that blocked access to the rear seats from the front.
The Aerostar was produced at Ford's St. Louis, Missouri assembly plant.
Ford eventually replaced the Aerostar with the Ford Windstar in 1995. The Aerostar was sold until 1997, after overlapping for 3 years.