The recent flurry of articles and comments about the GM “Dustbuster” minivans in their Oldsmobile and Chevrolet guises reflected a general consensus of these cars and their next-generation successors as failures in the domestic marketplace. A curious case of gaining in translation occurred when GM exported the 1997-2005 generation to Europe, however, as GM shuffled names and found itself for once competing successfully against the Chrysler minivans that dominated the market in both North America and Europe. The model was the Chevrolet Trans Sport, a Pontiac Trans Sport rebadged as a Chevrolet.
The 1997-2005 GM minivans were a conventional design, with boxy conservative styling similar to that of the Chrysler minivans and a steel unibody in place of the wedge shape, space frame and plastic panels of the Dustbusters. In the U.S., Chevrolet sold it as the Venture, while Pontiac’s version continued the Trans Sport name in 1997-98 and became the Montana in 1999.
In Europe, GM sold the design through its European subsidiaries as the Opel Sintra and Vauxhall Sintra but also as the Chevrolet Trans Sport, as part of an effort to make Chevrolet a mainstream brand in Europe. The Chevrolet Trans Sport was simply the Pontiac Trans Sport with a Chevrolet badge on the front. It even retained Pontiac’s signature twin grilles, making its origin instantly recognizable. The Chevrolet Trans Sport sold well in Europe, particularly in Sweden where these photographs were taken. Considerable numbers of them appear on the streets, which may support the Wikipedia assertion that they outsold the Chrysler minivans in Sweden for several years.
The Dustbusters also were sold in Europe, where some remain on the streets two decades later, including this Pontiac Trans Sport in Stockholm. Their story is a separate one, though, which perhaps someone else can tackle.