Curbside Classics: Nissan Quest and Mercury Villager
This is bringing back great memories for sure.
My parents bought one of the first Mercury Villagers when they originally came out for 1993. It replaced a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera that was rapidly deteriorating and we needed a quick replacement. Being 9 years old at the time, I was fascinated by the Villager’s style and versatility, and convinced my father to go down to the dealership and take a look at one. Needless to say, he bought it the next day.
For the next 10 years, the Villager served as the family-mobile, carting me and numerous friends to sporting practices, movies, get-togethers, etc. It also traveled up and down the East Coast on many family vacations, and even served as my main mode of wheels during my first two years in college. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and when the transmission started slipping in early 2003, after 10.5 years and 141k miles, Dad decided it had to go and it was traded for a new Volvo.
the rest of them are plying the streets of nyc. this seems to be the preferred vehicle for one man delivery services here.
Makes sense I suppose. Van upright positioning and utility, but being among the shortest in length, easier to park.
Over time I imagine they’ll give way to boxy compact hatches like the HHR, xB, Element and Soul, but none of those are cheap enough yet to be disposable like these vans must currently be.
This brings back memories for me too!
In the mid 1990s, my parents were bit by the minivan bug that was popular then. My mom had her heart set on a purple Dodge Grand Caravan with remote keyless entry, a CD player, and rear bucket seats. After months of looking, they bought a white over gold Quest with a cassette deck, a middle bench seat, and no keyless entry. My dad always regretted buying that van, as both of my parents hated the automatic front seat belts and complained of its lackluster fuel economy.
With modern cars having years long production runs, salvage yards look different as it is possible to line up look alike vehicles in a manner similar to a new car dealer lot.
Odd (and sort of sad) to see the final line-up of siblings at the end of their life cycle.
Also, odd to think that you could probably piece together one or two decent vehicles from this line up.
Without seeing the front end I would bet these and most other Quest/Villagers wound up in salvage yards when the transmission died (prematurely?).
I actually liked the Q/Vs “right size”, and looked forward to seeing how Mercury and Nissan would continue to develop this platform.
Great memories for me…96 Villager Nautica edition, blue and white with the impossible-to-keep clean white wheels, and two tone gray leather. Even the 3rd row had real leather on it, not the leather-look vinyl most vehicles have now. Bought it in 98 to replace a 96 Windstar that was a gigantic POS. Aside from being too small, it served us well for several years. Lots of places on body stampings and mechanical parts with the Nissan logo, which made me feel good, given how poorly the Ford had performed.
I am told these are prone to underbody corrosion which is what kills a lot of them…they can look great on the outside, but the underside is rotten.
From the occasional second generation example I still do see on the road, it seems that most of them are also suffering from excessive rust and corrosion on the bottoms of their doors. So bad that portions of the metal have completely rusted away leaving holes.
When I lived in South Central Los Angeles in 2012 I was shocked by how many of these Minivans were driving around since I had never seen so many in one place. Wish I had taken some photographs since I have not seen large clusters of Villaquests before or since. My mechanic advised me against buying one of these in 2013 because he said parts are pricier and they are not as reliable so I got an 03 Caravan instead.
Too bad these had weak trannies .
All through the 1990’s there were Junk Yards in So. Cal. that had one or two rows of nothing but VW Vans , usually in passable shape .
Now they’re all gone and Van prices are stupid .
Was there a 90s/00s minivan that did NOT have a weak transmission? I wonder, it seems like every minivan did.
Let me put the question another way: was there a Toyota that ever had a weak automatic (or manual) transmission?
Also, the Chrysler minivans with the three-speed automatic were golden. And did the GM minivans really have much issues with their automatics?
I don’t know Paul… The Chrysler minivans had a bad reputation among the delivery drivers in Atlanta. In both issues, engine and transmission.
You’re probably thinking of the disastrous Ultramatic 4 speed automatic. The three speed Torqueflite really was golden in the FWD Chryslers.
I don’t think the Astro vans had problems with the transmissions behind the 4.3, did they?
I thought they were pretty good. There are a lot of old 4.3 combos rolling around here.
Same here really, the VW Sharan/Ford Galaxy (with a “y”) used the Golf/Passat engine and gearbox, for which the vans were too heavy. Predictable results.
The first generation was better than the second generation, My family had both a 93 Villager and an 01 Quest, the latter was a complete lemon. I still don’t know why my Dad saw fit to replace the Villager, let alone with another one – we weren’t exactly a big family (Mom, Dad, Me, Dog), and my Mom greatly resented that car, having only begrudgingly accepted the first Villager, she hated the mommymobile image of minivans, and moreover the heater took FOREVER to warm up in it due to the large cabin(a really underlooked aspect in the decline of minivans IMO).
The Quest though was just a problem from day one, the rear window latches didn’t latch properly, front window regulators constantly failed(both replaced in 8 years, both failed again before giving up), it had intermittent electrical faults that no one could ever diagnose(like all tail/bake lights not working, then, working), intermittent no start conditions, it ate CV shafts(both replaced twice in 8 years), it had rust quite literally up the ass and the sliding doors would freeze in the winter. I actually broke off the right side handle in my hand trying to pull it open on a fateful Christmas eve, that pretty much sealed it’s fate in all of our eyes. I hope that pile of crap is residing with the rest of these shitboxes somewhere, this is a rare junkyard image that actually brings me glee.
These vans were a ‘just right’ size to me, and have been popular with working class drivers for some time. But, can see now where age is getting to them and demand for parts would send some to bone yards. Last sold in 2003, so used market buyers can now afford 2008 era vans.
What will be its replacement ‘cockroach van’? Maybe the boxier 2008-15 Mopars?
I grew up in these. Grandma and Grandpa on mom’s side had a white ’92, and then a white ’97. Both were passed to cousins when they were “used cars”. The ’92 served as a first car to the oldest cousin, and the ’97 served as a first car for the youngest. I miss these things, honestly.
Looking at the positive side, this van has now reached Peak Junkyard. Which means, if you want to keep one on the road for cheap (in other words, you have more spare time than money), this is the van to own right now. Many new immigrants to our country do exactly this. I’ve helped friends maintain their 15-20 year old vehicles, and I love junkyard-hunting when I have a dozen or more suitable donors to select parts from.
Although, bang-for-the-buck value-wise, I’ve been recommending the 1997-2002 Siennas for my friends, and have actually helped purchase two of them in the past year (despite the sludging V6 issue). Even better, the 1997-2000 models have a NON-interference engine (2001+ models used the variable-valve timing motor, identified by “VVT-i” on the engine cover), so you can run the timing belt to failure w/o any engine damage (which is ideal for my cash-deficient acquaintances who omit preventive maintenance despite my recommendations).
These were surprisingly common here for a long time, and just in the past year or three, the numbers have finally dwindled.
Yeah. Something like…This year you still can see any of the models running as daily drivers, the next year the majority of them simply vanishes…
I’m driving a 1999 Quest as we speak. Good looking, great Interior and lots of power, though not great on fuel. The best $1000 ever spent
Good place for those steaming piles.
This photo would gladden the hearts of any mechanics that had to work on the cussed things…….nightmares on wheels!
I had a 1994 green Villager that I used to work in two delivery jobs. I used to change the transmission fluid every 15 K miles. Around 200k miles the gear that drives the timing belt broke and I had to retire the car. But the transmission was perfect.
All those hatch struts are still good?!?!?!
The picture was taken during warm weather. If the struts are still working during the winter, then those are keepers!
Villagers and Quests were allways rarities on our ground. Once I tried a used Villager. I have travelled 300 kms to view and try. Unfortunatelly I have refused to buy it. It was sadly in very overused poor condition. By the way the all red Quest tail lights are much looking better than the Villager’s amber-red ones. If I could have a Villager I would surly replace them to Quest’s… All in all both of THEM are proportiante, comfortable and aesthetic. I do not know anything about their reliabilty. Once I have read an article that these were so-so flammable… Was it true?
Oh…I almost forgot… The “Sauber” Car Tuning House marketed some limited numbers of Villagers in Europe…and sold as SAUBER VILLAGER. I saw only no more than one real example…
We had a ’96 Villager. I loved it, my wife was not a fan. We bought it used in ’98 for cheap and it started giving us problems in 2000, so we traded it for a Taurus Wagon. I wish I’d fixed it’s problems and kept it…that Taurus was a BIG mistake.
Nothing beats a mini-van for hauling kids and their various necessities around.
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