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Small family fans were only a blip on the auto industry’s radar in the mid 1980’s. And, as consumers, we were just trying to figure out specifically what they were. Genetic analysis revealed they were part bus, part contractor and part limousine. They retained strong echoes of a work ethic attributed by the full sized vans from which they descended.

Video: 1986 Minivan Comparison Test Drive
 

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I definitely like the looks of the Chevy the best, the Toyota looked to Japanese, Ford was in their "droopy" styling phase with headlights and tallights to low giving their vehicles a droopy look. The Chrysler looked ok, but the Chevy looked the best to me. Of course, my opinion!
 

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Reminds me of my grandfather's '94 Aerostar extended length...they were so slab sided and had such mushy seats, old school all the way, yet with airbags. Also another '95 Astro AWD that my dad's boss bought and they used for work, I remember seeing as it was so cool in '95 even with the refreshed styling "cool it's AWD" and he liked the way it drove. Little did one remember you wished you didn't have legs or feet if you tried to sit in the tiny front end of one...

They were so different.
 

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Astros and Safaris were cool. Great for towing small to medium-sizes trailers. I'm 6feet 4 inches tall and never had a problem with comfort while driving it. I loved the rear Dutch doors on the lightly re-styled later models.
 

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Man, reading all the nostalgia over a GM's attempt to compete with the Chrysler Minivans with the Astro, just highlights the delusion thinking of some people. Can we accept reality that the vans were mediocre when released and stayed around so long that they were a joke when they finally exited GM's line up?

This "mediocre to industry joke" lifespan of their products was was par for the course for GM for decades and we shouldn't delude ourselves that the products that helped tarnish the GM brand to the point of bankruptcy are worthy of praise.

I say this as a 35+ year fan/follower of GM. Think on this, if GM were a football team, we wouldn't be happy if they had an even win/loss record. We wouldn't be happy if their new players were mediocre. We wouldn't be happy if they kept their players until they were well past their prime. We would demand they make the playoffs. We would want them to have a team that is capable of winning the Superbowl. We would expect them to replace mediocre talent with good/great talent. We could still be fans in losing years, but we would face reality that their past poor seasons/teams/players were nothing to crow about and we would expect/demand excellence from them at all times. That's how I approach my thinking to GM.

Delusional thinking that rationalizes mediocrity does not help GM.
 

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I think you're just being narrow minded and looking at it on what YOU want from a vehicle like this. As a fleet vehicle, while they were being produced, they were the best in their class. Fleet / service industry sales were why these stuck around so long. Truck-like v6 with ok power and gas mileage, compact size, rwd (or awd, I've had both), excellent cargo space for its size and extremely reliable. I've had 3 of them as a service truck, two I owned. They ran forever. This **** they're peddling now from Ford, Ram/Dodge and Chevy/Nissan is garbage.

Most companies have had to go to the Express/E-series but don't need something that large.

From a consumer standpoint, yeah, they were dated the last 10 years they were made, but I don't think they sold of ton for passenger use. Maybe in the 80's and 90's they were more competitive, I'm not sure. My pops loved his 1990 Astro, far more than the 94 Caravan that replaced it. Sadly, when changing the oil in the Astro he got called into the house and forgot to refill the oil, 50 miles later the engine seized up. Replaced it with a Caravan that couldn't tow a popup camper worth crap and went through 3 transmissions before 120k.
 

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My parents bought a Caravan when they came out. To this day, they claim it was the worst car they've ever owned.

What was Chrysler's reputation back then? Was it as bad as it is today? I'd have probably gotten the Toyota or the Chevy, not knowing about how those vans would eventually do in the offset crash tests 5-7 years later.

The Ford Aerostar may have been one of the ugliest vans until the GM dust busters came out.
 

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The Astro and Aerostar were anomalies. They fell flat with their target audience (families) but were so successful for commercial use that GM and Ford were compelled to keep producing them years longer than they ever envisioned.

The chassis for the Toyota was an odd choice. Essentially a big box on top of my Cressida. Probably built better than most luxury cars of the day; but too goofy to gain much traction.

The Chryslers were truly revolutionary, a real piece of automotive history but the first generation was notorious for blowing transmissions. They had by far the easiest engine bays to navigate of any minivan I've seen; true for this bodystyle as well as the '96-'07.

Watched the whole 17 minutes only to have the very end of the video--with the final verdict--cut off! Sounds like maybe they were about to pick the Astro though (?)
 

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The Astro and Aerostar were anomalies. They fell flat with their target audience (families) but were so successful for commercial use that GM and Ford were compelled to keep producing them years longer than they ever envisioned.
I worked for a delivery company in the 1990s. We had a mix of Aerostars, Geo Metros, and Ford Escorts. I would pick an Aerostar from the fleet, until there weren't any left. They handled quite well for a van.
 
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