On selecting a volume to dissect today I found myself in a quandary. Of course, from my perspective the Ford Aerostar is obviously worthy of discussion because I can count the number I’ve seen in the last five years on NO fingers. But then there’s every chance that you guys each have one in your backyard that you grow strawberries in.
And then I suddenly realised that this brochure is, depressingly, twenty years old, therefore elderly enough to be of minority interest, and the deal was done. Pro-tip: If you don’t want to read about the Ford Aerostar, and there are infinite reasons why you shouldn’t, please don’t take the jump.
“Our Ford Aerostar Wagon does so many things so well we call it the King of Capability”
I’ve always harboured a secret fondness for minivans, though definitely not enough of one to compel me to actually ever buy one. On my recent camping weekend, though, I did envy how the other couple we went with were able to just throw a seemingly endless array of mysterious items into the back of their Renault Megan Scenic without making the thing look particularly burdened, and still be able to drive around in some modicum of comfort. Meanwhile, with my Audi, once the boot is full (which takes a frustratingly small volume of stuff to achieve) everything overflows onto the back seat which ends up looking like a rummage sale. It also often means dirty laundry landing in our laps during heavy braking.
Of course, the Aerostar is Much Bigger than a Scenic, meaning that you probably don’t actually need to bother packing the tent away at the end of your trip, you just open the tailgate and slide the whole flimsy canvas assembly in. Especially in the gigantism-afflicted Extended Length models, whos’ additional 14″ in the overhand actually looks ridiculous and makes the standard model look quite sporty and pert by comparison. The phrase Minivan is surely being stretched to its elastic limit, here. This is a Van. Pure and simple.
“The aerodynamic body, shaped along air flow management principles, reduces wind resistance and contributes to handling”
When I first saw one of these it was at an Airshow at one of the local USAF bases of East Anglia. I remember seeing this big, multi-windowed van, smaller than a Transit, and thinking “Ford doesn’t build anything like that”. I was 7. To me, a Ford with a vertical front grille was a Cortina or a Capri, and this definitely wasn’t either of those. It was a few years later, reading a Daily Express book of Cars Of The World that I learnt of the Aerostar and it all fell into place. A little education can be a dangerous thing.
The name, Aerostar, conveys a half-truth. The severely swept windshield was certainly a step beyond Econoline levels of streamlining, but evidently Ford pursued the same course of aerodynamic fine-tuning on the lower front end as Isombard Kingdom Brunel employed when building the Clifton Suspension bridge.
“….Eddie Bauer may be the finest, most luxurious mini-van you can buy”
It was in 1990 that I first encountered this legendary name. It was while reading a Maxum sportsboat brochure. Maxum (from the same group of companies as Bayliner and SeaRay) offered a 19 foot runabout in Eddie Bauer trim, which meant nicer carpeting, teal gelcoat and a deluxe trailer with rally-style wheels. And it was shown accompanied by a Matching Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer.
I asked myself “Who on Earth is Eddie Bauer” and “why on Earth do companies want to be associated with him?”. Then, when I finally DID find out who he was, and realised that, as a person, he would have literally ZERO influence on my life, I suddenly didn’t care any more. In fact I felt a little disappointed, to the point that if I ever accidentally purchased an EB edition speedboat, minivan or SUV I would probably chisel-off the EB signatures lest people think my purchasing decision was in any way Eddie-conscious.
“Inside its roomy 7-passenger interior you’ll find deluxe appointments and an attractive list of comfort and convenience features”
I have to admit to being rather impressed by this side of the Aerostar and other such betrinketted people-haulers. When I was ten and I acquired my first brochure for Dodge Conversion Vans, I immediately wanted one, for their deep cushions and hideous overdone-ness. I’m OK now, don’t worry.
This isn’t a conversion van, thank God. The carpeting is restricted to the floor, there are no limo-lights or fibre-optic “night sky” lighting setups. But there does appear to be a good dose of luxury available if you tick the right boxes on the order form. There are headphone jacks in the back, so that Maisy and Daisy can listen to whatever hideous market-driven sonic pap they desire, while Mum and Dad can have a nice, uninterrupted argument up front.
“4WD Aerostar, not an off-road vehicle in the strict “utility” sense, is engineered to help you maintain control, on a paved or unpaved road, in wet or dry weather. And the system operates “full time” without your having to touch a single switch.”
To be honest I had never really even considered that something like this might exsist, and that it does makes perfect sense. There have been 4×4 minivans in Europe before, the Renault Espace Quadra was around for a while, and the VW Caravelle Syncro, so having the same setup in something a little more stout seems quite logical. The Aerostar with its big, untaxed, lazy V6s, seems a sensible candidate for having four wheels driven. A way to take the family up to the Ski-Lodge and home, safely to the Forest Cabin and back out again no matter what the weather, or maybe to haul their Maxum 1900SC edition up a damp slipway.
Of course, rival companies were doing it so Ford had no real excuse not to. In fact, speaking of that, I have seen several dozen more Astros and Safaris in this country than I have Aerostars. Do any of you have any horror stories about the quasi-aerodynamic blue-oval product that might explain their, er, exclusivity this side of the pond?
(Disclaimer:- This is the bit where I state that all photos are of genuine original manufacturer promotional material and that copyright remains their property, but I keep forgetting to put it in. No doubt lawyers the world over are queuing up to take me for every penny I have, which is about £5.13. First succesful suing gets it.)