I’m cursed; I can’t go for a drive without checking out every white Astro. I’ve been looking for years for just the right one to pose with my Xb. But I’m very picky; it has to be a short body version, but with the later small-headlight front end. I’m sure I saw one once, and I’ve been looking ever since (I think I’ve deluded myself on this one). It’s a peculiar form of self-punishment, and I’d like it to be over. This mildly customized one (via google) is about as close as it’s going to get.
So the question is, did the designers of the 2000 Toyota bB have a Chevy Astro Van brochure laying around when they cleaved their creation out of a big rectangle of clay in fifteen minutes? Or maybe just the box the clay came in. We’ll never know for sure, but they couldn’t not have been aware of its existence. American vans have always held a special sway in a segment of the Japanese auto-psyche, with all those customized retro-vans that are so popular there.
We’ll look at them another time, because today is Astro Day, and I’ve assembled a collection of the finest examples man has ever lain hands and SawZalls to. The AstroVan may have been a modest minivan, but as a blank slate box, upon which to Express the pent-up creativity of Astro Boys, it was an Astronomic success.
For those that claim the AstroVan rides too tall, the solution is obvious.
This one is appropriately named the Astroghini. Mid-engined V12? Easy; just bolt two 4.3 L V6s back to back.
Tired of gray mouse fur?
The AstroVan can also show a very different side of its multiple-personality disorder, especially in its AWD mode.
Or more serious campers.
Even the Japanese customizers have discovered the charms of the Xb’s spiritual parent. Now they should make a kit to turn the Xb into an Astro clone; or vice-versa.
Chopping seems to be a particularly popular fetish with the Astro crowd. How about, chopped, sectioned, channeled and lowered?
Mustn’t forget the AstroVertible, the counterpart to the infamous TransVertible.
For the vanilla crowd, a mild-mannered conversion Astro.
And the grand finale! I’m just not sure of what label this one earns, but it’s Astroriffic.
I’ve been thinking about making something like that Westfalia-pop-up-style Astro for years. Of course, a VW Synchro would be better, but you can find parts for the Astro anywhere, even on the ground in remote forested areas. And body-on-frame construction means, I assume, that you can chop up all sorts of body panels and it’ll still drive alright.
Now, however, I have the same feelings about a Transit Connect or (first-gen) Xb just for the gas mileage. Putting a more modern engine in an Astro might raise its stakes just a bit…
Interesting you mention the Transit Connect. If the Astro may or not be a mini-van, what is the Transit Connect (or the gen 1 Xb for that matter)? I think these vehicles, like the original chrysler mini-vans, are beginning to address a question that no one thought existed, namely, what kind of non-pickup, non-truck based, non-minivan vehicle exists that gets great mileage and still allows me to carry a lot of stuff. A friend of mine who has an electrical business used to have a pick-up but now loves his Transit. I similary see many gen 1 Xbs with commerical licenses and business decals. The Transit and the gen 1 Xbs may just be today’s right-sized Astros.
Who would have thought that we would be studying Astronomy here on CC?
Paul, I don’t think the 95-up models came with the short body. I’m betting the one in the Sport Truck-captioned picture is someone’s grafting the newer front on the older model. I may be wrong here but I don’t remember ever seeing a short-bodied 95-up.
LEROOOY, having owned – and worked on – two Astro Vans I can tell you firsthand they are unit-bodied like their G-body sibling. The drivetrain sits in a subframe that can be unbolted from the bottom. That said, they’re so roomy underneath that strengthening the structure for the types of modifications shown above would be easy.
The home office has flown me to Tokyo on four occasions over the past eight years, and while there I was surprised to see multiple Astros cruising their highways. Perhaps they are more common in the rurual areas, but I spotted more Astros than any other GM product (the Cadillac Seville coming in a distant second).
I realize that is just the observation of one person, but someone posting to Wikipedia agrees:
“In addition to being sold in North America, the Chevrolet Astro was exported to Japan, where the van enjoys a cult following. In 2005, to celebrate the last year of Astro production, Chevrolet of Japan offered a limited edition run of the final production models. The Astro’s popularity in Japan comes even though it was only offered in left-hand drive.”
Sometimes, the truth is stranger than fiction.
Thanks for enlightening me on that. Who would’a thunk. I guess the bB/Xb wasn’t big enough for them.
Yes these made it to Japan and from there to NZ as used imports Ive seen Astro vans and I dont think they came here new but honestly alongside a Hiace or H1 they sit in the shade
I see the Astroghini made it over here. Like always, late to the party…
Re: Japanese Astros. This is the kind of thing I point out when people say American cars aren’t well designed or worthy. And particularly that the lowly ‘Stro influenced a whole new generation of vehicles.
Many folks forget that some American cars are a hit in other lands. I frequently get pix from my relatives in Germany, Austria and Croatia and am always amused at seeing so many Chrysler minivans in the background. I’m sure that other world travelers can chime in with other US market cars they’ve seen abroad…
In my experience, large numbers of Japanese are absolutely fascinated by American culture (cowboys and indians, wide-open spaces, baseball, etc.), and a certain number of Japanese consumers will buy an American car if it’s an expression of something uniquely American. I worked for Ford in Japan from ’93-’95, when they were importing a number of vehicles in addition to selling Mazda re-badges. The Mondeo was not a hit, I think because it was a pretty generic sedan, and if you wanted that you could get it from Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, or Mazda. Ford’s top sellers in that time were Mustangs and Explorers, both of which were brashly American. Not that we sold a whole lot of either one, just that they were the models that sold in any substantial numbers.
Of course then there were the gray-market Lincolns (Continentals and Town Cars) that sold to the yakuza trade…
The Astroghini was an odd coincidence…I didn’t see it over there until later in the day.
I have just found a perfect little 1985 astro van….. has only 64,000 miles on and zero rust.
I cannot find a service manual for it.
Anyone have any ideas where I could look for one?
Hi guys, how r u doin
is there cars like these for sale and where can I get one, in which state exactly are there available??