We’ve had our share of extremely well preserved vehicles destined to be crushed in short order that have had us crying out collectively “Why, oh why?”, but this 1992 Ford Aerostar from the middle of its 12-year run is by far the best condition Aerostar that I have come across anywhere in at least a decade, and likely longer. They aren’t rare (after all, they sold just over 2 million over those 12 model years) and they are still out there and getting junked but most examples look as one would expect them to, unlike this one.
1992 was the year that the Aerostar saw a number of cosmetic upgrades inside and out. 29 years later it appears that this particular one was also fairly lovingly attended to by its owner, and likely garaged as the paint is in generally excellent condition, with a nice shine still present on the Twilight Blue portions of the two-tone paintwork and the Oxford White areas looking quite good as well.
The Aerostar was of course Ford’s first attempt at a minivan, and like GM with its Astro/Safari twins they both went with a RWD setup, convinced that buyers sought towing capability above all else. Chrysler quickly proved that wrong and simply ran away with the sales crown but both the RWD competitors ended up living surprisingly long lives that can’t really be considered failures. However, individual models don’t exist in a vacuum so by dint of comparison these did suffer against the Chrysler products and both makers would eventually try to emulate them with FWDers of their own.
Ford originally started out with a single length and then added this longer version as an option in 1989 comprised of a 14″ longer body but the same 119″ wheelbase. There was no outward announcement of this though, it wasn’t suddenly the XL Aerostar or Grand Aerostar or whatever, just two different lengths of van named the same. The Aerostar also never gained a second sliding door, sticking with the single door on the passenger side it’s entire life. The front makes me think of a modernized ’69-’74 Econoline somehow, albeit with a slightly longer hood.
Starting in 1990 however it did offer a 4WD version, really it’s what’s commonly known as full time all wheel drive now. Even in the brochure they go to pains to not give the impression that it’s a Bronco Van or similar but rather more for on-pavement use and perhaps very light unpaved trail driving and handy in the snow. The system is constantly active with a 2/3rds rear, 1/3rd front split and if it detects that a wheel starts to slip, then that wheel is locked together with the other wheel on the same axle to control it from spinning freely. The system then releases the transfer case differential lock and checks to see if slippage is still occurring, if so it relocks and checks again and so forth. Rear-wheel ABS was part of the package as well.
Getting the AWD option required accepting the 4.0liter V6 producing 160hp, which was apparently plagued with head gasket issues and could well be the reason for the van taking a permanent visit here. The tag on the window auction sticker says that it “runs and drives” but that wouldn’t necessarily preclude that condition.
While it’s handy of Ford to include clearly marked caps for the fluids that need to be checked and/or filled, changing a head gasket in this engine compartment isn’t something I’d want to attempt. I don’t think I’d even attempt to write a check to someone more than once for that job either. One shot, then that’s it, although my ’79 Mazda 626 did go through two head gaskets while we owned it, but that was a relatively simple job to take care of.
Alloy wheels were an option which explains the replacement generic plastic hubcaps on the steelies here, but for 1992 there was a facelift that mainly seemed to affect the front end with a different grille, composite headlights finally replacing the sealed beams, the indicators gaining clear plastic, and the bumpers being redesigned. You’d have to be a bit of an Aerostar fanatic to be aware of this though, as the general look stayed very much the same. (I’m not a fanatic, I googled this).
The Aerostar always appeared a tad narrow relative to its height, the longer body helped a bit in that regard visually, but it does come in handy with the rear hatch that opens nice and high. The rear wiper here is missing but everything else looks basically brand new.
I’m frankly a bit surprised that Ford didn’t try to make a 9-passenger version by moving the rear bench back and fitting another two-seater bench in between, there is certainly the room for it. The cargo space back here instead is quite substantial, adding 14″ to the body helped a lot even with the floor not being as low as it could have been. While a unibody design there are twin integrated frame rails underneath as well to help give it the same 5,000 pound tow rating as the Astro/Safari and significantly more than the Chrysler vans. I do have to say that the view out seems exceptional on these, there is a lot of glass area.
Taking a short walk to the front lets us see the Crystal Blue interior in all of its persuasive splendor. The dash was redesigned as well to incorporate the elliptical theme that was gaining in popularity at Ford, the dash is sort of Mini-Econoline in appearance. I don’t recall the red and blue power window and seat switches, they’re a bit jarring. And there’s a LOT of blue here. The wheel though is nice, while ubiquitous in Ford-world, I find this to be one of their more attractive designs.
While the optional digital dash is in forever-dark mode now, the window sticker indicated that the mileage on the van was a quite low 123,128 miles. The column shifter controlled an overdrive 4-speed automatic (standard with the 4.0l, although a manual was available for other-engined Aerostars, but really only seen in XL trims and cargo versions.
A somewhat better view of the cockpit shows the cupholders and the driver-friendly dashboard that seems to brook no passenger input. HVAC controls are nice and high but you’re digging for the (missing) radio. Cruise control and rear defroster were standard in XLT along with a bunch of other niceties, other trims were the base XL, then an XL Plus and the top dog Eddie Bauer edition.
The keys are in it, but there’s no battery anymore.
The passenger has an even better view out and under their seat is a pull out storage compartment as well.
There’s a bit of a step up, but once there the benches look comfortable enough as long as you don’t anticipate requiring use of a head restraint. At least there are shoulder belts for the outboard seating positions. These benches have quick-release levers and are supposedly easily removable. Having removed bench seats from several other minivans these are probably a backbreaker and toe-snapper as well, I already see lots of heavy metal. There was also a fold-flat bed option that I don’t think this van has but the seat backs do apparently fold forward to load longer items on top of them.
I’d not realized that these wheels were 14″ers, which seems remarkable nowadays for something that tows 5,000 pounds and can hold seven people. Every Aerostar was built in Missouri at St. Louis Assembly in Hazelwood, which opened in 1948 and shut down for good in 2006, it was torn down in 2009.
Usually it’s the red interior vehicles that are the survivors, perhaps now I’ll come across a run of blue ones. Either way, it was a bit of a shame to see one this nice end up here. I’m not even a particular fan of these, but if I had to have one this one would probably fit the bill in all respects including (or especially) the color. Perhaps Ford should come on out and try to get it, it’d make a fitting counterpoint to the Dodge Caravan on display at the Henry Ford Museum (that’s never going to run again either).