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History of the Aerostar.


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November 11, 2005
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To start off this new forum, I wanted to thank Rick:salute:, and include a link with the history of the Aerostar. It has some useful information such as design changes, and which parts interchange with the Explorer, Bronco II, and Ranger. Note: It's only a brief description. More parts could interchange than what are listed. Here's the link: (Dead Link). Here's a reprint of the link:


The Ford Aerostar was Ford's first minivan, and was introduced as a 1986 model in the summer of 1985. Although intended to be a minivan, it was a mid-sized van, it was built on a truck platform.

Early models were available with Ford's 2.3 L Lima I4 engine, which at 100 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 115 horsepower 2.8 L Cologne V6 later models came with either the 145 horsepower corporate 3.0 L Vulcan V6 found in the Taurus and Ranger, or (starting in 1990) a 155 horsepower version of the Explorer/Ranger's 4.0 L Cologne V6.

The Aerostar differed from other minivans of its time, because instead of being built on a car platform, it was built on a truck platform. This design was developed because the designers in Ford's truck office were unfamiliar and uncomfortable with unibody construction, and essentially designed a frame into the unibody. 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 because of the aerodynamic styling.

Models ranged from the base (and most popular) XL to the luxury XLT. In some years an Eddie Bauer model was available, which had all XLT features and was only available with a tan interior and a tan exterior two-tone available with other select colors. One usually overlooked feature of the Eddie Bauer package is that the middle and rear bench seats would fold out flat converting the two bench seats into a bed, though some Eddie Bauer Aerostars were equipped with a pair of bucket seats instead of the middle bench seat. Also, a "Sport" option was an aesthetic upgrade to XL or XLT models and included a front air dam, running boards with an "AEROSTAR" logo, two-tone paint (usually with silver as the accent color) including the bumpers painted in the accent color (instead of dark grey like other models), and "Sport" badging. Major options included rear air, an extended length model in 1988-on, E-4WD (see below), etc. Most models included rear-seat controls for the audio and rear climate control if so equipped. Most models also came equipped with A/C, intermittent wipers, rear wiper, rear defogger, and so forth. In 1993, optional built-in child safety seats for middle bench seat became available. Rear-wheel ABS was standard in most years, as was the case with most Ford trucks. 4-wheel ABS was not an option, curiously enough.

The Aerostar was a rear-wheel drive vehicle, unlike the Chrysler minivans. This compromised interior space somewhat (although providing a level load floor unlike the deep-well like design of a front-wheel drive minivan) but provided superior towing ability as well as increased traction when loaded.

However, for those requiring more traction, Ford provided it. Starting in 1990 and on through 1997, an electronically controlled all-wheel drive option was available on any trim level. This was a different system than other four-wheel-drive Ford vehicles in that the system engaged when it detected rear wheel spin, powering the front wheels automatically with no driver imput requried. Unlike most four-wheel-drive vehicles the system used on the Aerostar is more precisely described as "All Wheel Drive". It is distinctly different from traditional four-wheel-drive systems and other modern-day versions. The difference is that the Aerostar's unique Dana TC28 transfercase employs a true center differential, though this center-differential is regulated by an electronically controlled electro-magnetic clutch, this means that all four wheels are essentially powered at all times.

All four-wheel-drive (called "E-4WD" by Ford, standing for Electronic 4 Wheel Drive) Aerostars used the 4.0 L Cologne V6 rated at 160 hp. The Aerostar was available with either a 5-speed manual (which was discontinued in 1995) or the 4-speed A4LD automatic. For 1996, both the 4-speed 4R44E (3.0 engine) and 4-speed automatic 4R55E (4.0 engine) transmissions became available, replacing the A4LD. For 1997 the 5R55E was standard for the 4.0 engine.

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. Two different 5-speed manual transmissions were used, both of which were shared with other Ford and Mazda truck products. The earlier unit used from 1985-1987 is the Toyo-Koygo (Mazda) transmission known as the TK-5. This unit was designed and built by Toyo-Koygo. The later transmission, used from 1988-95 is the Mazda M5OD-R1. It was designed by Ford, but built by Mazda and shares a similarity to (but not interchangability with) the Ford/Mazda M5OD-R2 transmission used in the fullsize Ford F-series and Ford Bronco trucks.

The Aerostar received no major styling changes (aside from relocation of the "AEROSTAR" logo from the front fenders to the rear liftgate in 1988). In 1989, the Aerostar got its second facelift by adding a short-wheelbase version. Its third facelift would happen in 1992, when flush-mounted headlamps were fitted, a new grille, and inside a redesigned dashboard that 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 Ford logo moved from the middle to the top of the grille. A "mini-console" replaced the floor shift (except in manual transmission models), and provided two cup holders and a coin holder. Standard instruments included a 90 mph speedometer, a digital odometer capable of reading up to 999,999.9 miles (instead of the old 5-digit style), oil pressure, fuel gauge, voltmeter, and temperature indicator. The speedometer was also now electronically controlled, replacing of the old, "shaky-needle" cable operated one of 1986-1991. This also makes replacing the instrument cluster easier.

The Aerostar optional electronic digital odometer, available 1986-91, would roll over to 100,000.0 miles after it registered 199,999.9 miles. This oddity continued for several years, but sometime before the 1993 model year this anomaly had been corrected. Since the the kilometer output would also roll over at the 200,000.0 mark, one needed to compare the two outputs using a little math to determine the true mileage on the odometer.

The Aerostar was produced at Ford's St. Louis, Missouri assembly plant, which built the Ford Explorer, Mercury Mountaineer, and Lincoln Aviator. This assembly plant is now closed.

Ford began to phase out the Aerostar with the Ford Windstar in 1995. The Aerostar was sold until 1997, after overlapping for 3 years. When Ford tried to discontinue the Aerostar after the 1994 model year, the Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan was bombarded with letters from the public and dealerships, insisting that the Aerostar continue production.

In 1997, to commemorate its last year, Ford fitted the Aerostar with unique monochromatic taillights (instead of the red/white/amber of 1986-1996). Also, all 1997 Aerostars were XLT models; no base model was available. The unique taillights are often a popular customizing choice of pre-1997 Aerostar owners who wish to make their Aerostar stand out a bit. Retrofitting them on to a pre-1997 Aerostar requires drilling an extra hole inside for the turn signal indicator.

Right up until production ended, 100,000+ Aerostars were sold each year, much better than competitors from GM or imports like Honda or Toyota at the time.

The Aerostar was Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year for 1990.

Year-to-Year Changes:

1989 Ford Aerostar: A new short-wheelbase version (174.9 in) became available.

1990 Ford Aerostar: A new optional electronically controlled all-wheel drive option was available on any trim level. A new 155 horsepower version of the Explorer/Ranger's 4.0 L Cologne V6 became available.

1991 Ford Aerostar: A new sport appearance package for regular-length XL and XLT included forged alloy wheels and silver-color body accents (including a front air dam and side running boards). A door ajar light was added for models with dual rear doors.

1992 Ford Aerostar: A driver-side airbag and front-end facelift came for '92. The new dashboard got redesigned headlamp and climate controls. The automatic-transmission shift lever moved from the floor to the steering column. High-back front buckets now were standard. Rear outboard seats got lap/shoulder belts. A new grille and flush aero headlamps were installed.

1993 Ford Aerostar: New optional integrated child safety seats became available, folding out from the middle bench.

1994 Ford Aerostar: A high-mounted third brake light was installed for '94. Aerostar's still came in XL, XL Plus, XLT, and Eddie Bauer trim.

1995 Ford Aerostar: Produced in regular or extended form, the Aerostar XLT complemented Ford's new front-drive Windstar minivan. Side-impact beams were added to both front doors and the sliding side door. Permanent 4-wheel drive remained available, only in extended-length models. No more manual-shift Aerostars went on sale.

1996 Ford Aerostar: A new 4-speed automatic transmission with electronic shift controls became available. Radios got larger buttons. Optional premium sound systems were upgraded to 24 watts. The optional auto-climate system was redesigned with new air conditioning controls.

1997 Ford Aerostar: A new 5-speed automatic transmission arrived for '97, which turned out to be Aerostar's final season. The 5-speed came only with the 4.0-liter engine, which was standard on E-4WD Aerostars. This minivan was discontinued at the end of the year.
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Another additon to a great website.

Thumbs Up !!!

Thanks for that, very interesting. We bought a 1987 XL, it had cloth captain's chairs and a 5 speed stick. Very hard to find in a manual, but we lived in CA then and found some in San Francisco where no one wanted a stick so got a great price on it. We had loads of fun in that Aerostar, with 3 young kids at the time. We traded it in with 138,000 miles in 1998. Other than routine maintenance we had only a few problems in that time, replaced a heat/AC door, a power steering pump, and wiper motor (my fault, turned them on with ice/snow).

Never even had to replace the clutch!

That's a great write-up. Congrats on the new forum! :thumbsup:

...:shifty_ey...Congrats on your efforts...:thumbsup:

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Awesome writeup Mike- I loved all of my Dad's Aerostar's- they were so easy to wash- no nooks and crannies! :)

Glad there is an Aeroforum too, great addition!


Keep the Aerostar forum going. I got a 93 with 240000 and doing good. This explorer forum is the best. USA is the greatest.:usa::salute::thumbsup:

Aerostars are cool, I'll never forget their uncanny box shape. Unfortunately it seems that there aren't very many left, or at least I don't see very many of them. My school does have at least 2 or 3 still going, tho.

Years ago I had a brochure for the last model year they were made, but I don't have it anymore. :(

Awesome Glad to see there is another addition to the site good work Brooklyn! Thanks for that history. :)

The Aerostar was such a solid vehicle , esp. compared to a dodge caravan , etc . :thumbsup:

we had a 91m tranny went out with 260000 miles on it


The Aerostar was such a solid vehicle , esp. compared to a dodge caravan , etc . :thumbsup:

Was? My '92 is still solid, mechanically and body-wise. Just hit 200k recently. I don't have any reason to get rid of it. The two problems I have (a/c and front brakes), are typical and I will get them repaired, because that little van deserves it. It may be a truck but it rides like a luxury car, I know well.

My '86 lasted 13 years. I still have the original Factory Service Manual and the dealer brochure.

But the truth is I don't see many anymore, mine is the exception and I keep it in beautiful shape.

I also own two Jaguars, a 1984 XJ-6 and a 1965 'S' type, so now you know where I'm coming from, in the sense of preserving cars. The Aerostar is no exception, it deserves to be preserved.

I read the History of the Aerostar with great interest. Great article. Pictures would have been nice too. Thanks, I enjoyed it.

Jose A.


QUOTE: "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".

that's why it rides like a Crown Victoria and not like a truck.

Three other reasons I continue with the Aerostar are:

1) it is Rear Wheel Drive,
2) it has Shocks and not McPhearson Struts.
3) the engine is not mounted sideways.

I refuse to buy any Front Wheel Drive vehicle, any transverse-mounted engined vehicle, and any vehicle with McPhearson Struts.

I like real cars with real shocks, rear axle, and forward-mounted engines.


Jose A.

It's true I just can't see freestars, windstars, etc lasting anywhere near as long or being as good. Ford has always sucked at minivans..they should have kept the aerostar.

Ford Hummer

I saw a vehicle today that looks like a Hummer, but with a FORD logo bigger than the grille! :D

I suppose they wanted EVERYONE to KNOW it was a FORD.
because otherwise, nobody would even THINK it was a Ford? Identity crisis?

Seemed to have a chopped top. Very tacky design. Obsolescence-by-design. Or shall we just call it what it is? U G L Y.

(yawn...) as if the world needed another Hummer...

I had a burgundy 93 XLT. I really liked that van.

that was a great post. my first vehical was a 1989 cargo with a 3.0. it finally rested with 349,000 miles in it.

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i have and love my 90 cargo and it just hit 100,000 and shes still strong lol