By on July 19, 2016

'95-'97 Ford Windstar, Oak Vacation Resort Hotel, Image: By Bull-Doser (Own work.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Long-time TTAC readers will recall that I had a reputation for selling the un-sellable when I worked as a Ford salesman in the halcyon days of the First Clinton Administration. This was particularly true when it came to cars that were considered showroom poison simply because of their color. I delighted in selling pink Aspires to recovering alcoholics and Tauruses with pink interiors to color-blind customers.

In the spring of 1995, the new-car manager at my dealer decided to order 25 identical Windstars to take advantage of a particularly felicitous upcoming combination of Red Carpet Lease residuals and rates.

He’d been tipped off to the upcoming program by his dealer rep about 10 days early. At the time, dealers would receive a Windstar about three and a half weeks after they ordered one. So we’d have one week — and two full weekends on either side — to move these Windstars at $249/month on a two-year lease with $1,999 out-of-pocket. After that, the program would change and it would be anybody’s guess what could happen.

I happened to be rolling my ’86 Ninja 600 up to the front door right as Tony, the aforementioned manager, was filling out the order form. As usual, the moron had let his affection for Medium Willow Green, which verged on the erotic, get the better of him. Twenty of the vans were Medium Willow Green, two were silver, and three were champagne.

“Hey, Tony, why don’t you order some actual colors? Like… the pink, and the aqua? If you order one of each, I guarantee I’ll move ’em before all the Medium Willow Greens are gone.”

Tony squinted at me. We were not exactly friends. Just the week before, I’d slapped him across the face with the service manual for the pre-facelift Tempo during our one-on-one feedback meeting. It had taken an intervention by the general manager to keep him from having me arrested.

“Hmm … you got it, buddy. One pink, one aqua. And if my vans sell before yours … clear out your desk.”

The aqua van was no problem at all. I sold it on Day One of our newspaper promotion to a very nice man and his picture-perfect two-child family. He had a doctorate in some esoteric subject. He liked the idea of being a little different. But as the following week rolled to a close, that pink Windstar was still ominously occupying a space in the back of the lot. Tony was ecstatic. Surely this was how he was going to fire me without incurring the general manager’s wrath. I managed to sell seven of the thirteen green Windstars we’d moved during the promo, bringing my total to eight vans in just seven days, but none of my green-van buyers were even remotely interested in switching to a pink one. And then I saw … her.

I knew her personally. She’d been a co-worker of my wife’s two years before. She was pretty in that mousy, ephemeral Midwestern fashion. Columbus, Ohio was the “big city” to her; she’d fled her rural hometown as soon as she’d graduated high school. I happened to know that she’d had 18 sexual partners during her high school years, thanks to my gossipy spouse. About a year ago, she’d married a big, bluff-faced idiot from another small Ohio town. He was one of these human nonentities who seemed destined for success from the moment of their birth. We were all 24 years old but this dude was already a unit manager at a Fortune 500 company, earning three dollars for every one I could get on my best months. Every time we met socially he lectured me on how important he was.

I was embarrassingly envious of his success and his money. But there was also this: I knew that his wife found him personally repulsive. On the night before their wedding, she had visited the hotel room of their best man, a charming, vicious fellow. She had stripped and gotten on her knees before him; said that he could have her without rules or reservations until midnight. It was a gift she’d set aside for herself, to make the future years of marriage bearable. For reasons that I still don’t quite understand, I was simultaneously in love with that woman and disgusted by her very presence.

“Jack!” she squealed. “I’m pregnant!” This came as a great surprise to me; knowing her history, I assumed that getting her pregnant would be tougher than getting a bulls-eye on a womp-rat from a T-16 skyhopper. “I’m here for a minivan!”

“Where’s your husband?” I asked.

“He said he doesn’t care what I get, he can afford anything.” I smiled. She smiled. The 44-year-old Jack would have dragged her into the ladies’ room and cheerfully assumed the status of her 20th bedpost notch, but the 24-year-old Jack was in danger of not paying the rent next week. No time for love, Dr. Jones.

“Listen, I have a really special minivan. One I’ve been saving for somebody like you. Just sit tight.” I flat ran to the pink Windstar. Pulled it around. “Wait until you take this one-of-a-kind Windstar out for a spin! It’s the only one like it in the city.”

“The only one?” Her eyes gleamed.

“The only one,” I confirmed, and we were off on the test drive. At the time, the Windstar was what we’d call a “class killer.” It was basically a minivan ’86 Taurus, but compared to the Chrysler minivans of the day, which were minivan ’81 Reliants, it was a Range Rover. It had the Essex 3.8 engine and it wasn’t slow. The seats were good. In “LX” form, with quad leather buckets and two-tone paint, it was nearly a Lincoln, but even the “GL” felt prosperous and cheerful. My wife’s friend loved it. She’d been driving a used Cavalier.

“Let me go home and get my husband,” she said.

“No need for that,” I replied. “You have enough credit to do it today, and I’m afraid someone else will sell the van out from under us. Just call and ask him.” Which she did. As I suspected, she didn’t mention the color to him, because she wasn’t the kind of girl who could hold a bunch of things in her head at once. He magnanimously agreed to $1,999 down and $249/month. An hour later, she was sold and rolled. On the way out, she gave me this long, sinuous hug and I understood why the boys in her high school had been willing to wait in line.

My desk phone rang that afternoon. “This is Jack, how many I help you!”

“YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE! YOU SOLD MY WIFE A PINK VAN!” I had to hold the phone away from me so I could dry-heave from laughter.

“Sir, I believe it is called ‘Coral Mist’.”

“WE’RE BRINGING IT BACK RIGHT NOW! I OUGHTA KICK THE SHIT OUT OF YOU!”

“Sir,” I replied, all business now, “I know you’re experienced in financial matters so you’ll understand when I tell you that legally we would have to treat that as a used-car trade-in.” There was more ranting and raving, but at the end he had to admit that he didn’t have any options.

Two weeks later, the pink Windstar started having transmission problems. That was the Windstar’s Achilles’ heel that would eventually drum Ford out of the minivan market, you know. About once a month for the next year, I’d find myself face to face with the furious husband, who had been forced to drive the pink van to the dealer for service. I cherished those moments and made sure I was always on hand for them.

Two decades passed. I got divorced. Last year, I was offered a contract working for a Fortune 500 company. I looked at the job and realized that this fellow would be a full four management levels above me at the gig. He was a vice president. Glassdoor said that he was earning $350,000/year. He’d matured into a classically handsome, grey-haired version of himself, clear C-suite material. Facebook said that he was still married to that girl. She’d become the 43-year-old Walmartian that was always waiting to burst from her 20-something chrysalis. You could easily imagine her sitting on a tractor. They attend a lot of charity events. He looks uncomfortable. She squints at the camera through avoirdupois-induced epicanthic folds, spilling out of inappropriate dresses. They’re part of the big-city society. They made it.

Alas, dear reader, they can probably buy and sell me, but this is what I have on them: I know that everything they have, from their social status to the uneasy truce of their marriage, is built on sand. And this is what they have on me: it’s that way for all of us, whether we recognize it or not.

[Image: By Bull-Doser (Own work.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

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114 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Ford Windstar and the Social Strivers...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    …like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    Just a note before any of you get too wound up — that’s not the color of the van I sold. I think that one is Iris, not Coral. I never saw another pink Windstar on the road, EVER.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      I assume it is the same color as the Coral Mist Metallic Probe I found from a quick google search.

      In which case I completely understand why the husband hated it, and why you have never seen another pink Windstar on the road.

      • 0 avatar
        James2

        My cousin’s ex had that Probe and I believe it was Orchid something or other. She worked at a Ford dealer that couldn’t move it, so maybe she got a good deal.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      And yet because of your popularity, your picture is now the 15th result in the Google search for “Ford Windstar Coral Mist”.

      https://www.google.com/search?q=Ford+windstar+coral+mist&biw=1920&bih=969&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiT3efs_f_NAhVo44MKHbLsCpMQ_AUIBygC#imgrc=_

      Note that of the first 14, 13 aren’t even Windstars. And the one that is, is not Coral Mist.

      Now, thanks to you, people will confuse Iris and Coral Mist Windstars. You monster.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Having looked up the color, I have seen one or two of those coral vans on the road. Of course, Ford was using really thin paint and clear-coat at the time (though not as thin as GM’s 90s paint), so they were a bit sun-faded.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      This?

      http://www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Summer-of-Twelve-230.jpg

      edit: Eh, I guess that (used to be) champagne?

      Or this:
      http://www.moibbk.com/images/ford-windstar-red-1.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      I remember that metallic pale pink color — but not from Windstars; from Escorts.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      We all would like to think we’re special and destined for greatness. That we are with or will find our true soul mate. That our works will live on forever and leave a measurable footnote in history – much like a white headstone in a national cemetery… or in this case a footnote left by DuPont’s Deep Iris clear coat… making critically flawed pieces of corrosion prone sh1t ‘marketable’ since 1993.

      M6709 Clear Coat combined with M6494 Med Iris Metallic. Literally lipstick on a pig.

      Youth was the marketeer of your social striver to her destiny.

      All we can hope for in life is tinted clear. We are all pigs. Great writing, Jack.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Holy crap, I had a supervisor that owned a Contour at one point in that colour. It was hideous in person. Looked like someone threw up Pepto-Bismol.

    • 0 avatar

      There’s not a single Coral Mist Windstar in Google’s Index. It is unGoogleable.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    ” I happened to know that she’d had 18 sexual partners during her high school years, thanks to my gossipy spouse.”

    which is probably 17 or 18 more than the actual number, given my experience how utterly evil teenagers can be towards each other.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    A Star Wars AND Temple of Doom reference… My inner child is delighted.

  • avatar

    I read it, I enjoyed it, good one

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    As Stewie Griffin would say: ” So at this point would it be like throwing a hotdog down a hallway?”

    I woul also note two other things. My Uncle Tim (a lifelong GM man) bought a first year Windstar GL in the aforementioned Willow Green. He kept it many years but replaced so many transmissions and had so many niggling issues that it took him until last year to even consider another Ford product. He bought a Flex.

    2nd point would be: Living well is the best revenge. :-)

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    I was selling Fords in the Summer of 1995…and I thought this color was Sunrise Red? We also saw a similar pink metallic on Cougars that year…

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      It is. Jack said in an earlier comment that this isn’t Coral Mist Metallic; but this is:

      http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y203/Kramnagol/IMG_0944.jpg

  • avatar
    ajla

    My family had a Windstar growing up. It was so, so terrible and let us down so many times. In comparison my father’s Caprice was a W126. My mother still brings it up and I don’t think she’d take a Ford today even if they gave her one.

    Also, Jack’s stories about the weirdness of Ohio high-society types makes me realize that the actual strippers and prostitutes I know are only slightly less well-adjusted.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      LOLOL

      I love your Florida references.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      From Jack’s stories I’m beginning to think that all of central Ohio suffered mass lead poisoning at some point, and that the people there account for his sometimes benighted views on gender matters. (And this isn’t just the out-of-touch coastal elite in me talking. I have family in Texas and Kansas and they’re not like the people Jack describes.)

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        I spent a lot of time in Ohio. My family and my in-laws each have an Ohio branch. I can say that things just seem to … happen … in Ohio, in a way that they don’t in other states. Or maybe they just don’t talk about them in the other states. Either way, 90% of the crazy stories I can tell involve Ohio in one way or another.

        In other words, it is like … the Florida of the north.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Had a few family friends with these growing up, one with an Aqua ’95 that they bought new and owned it right until the rusty end some 13+ years later, and another with a green ’98 that crapped its transmission climbing a long hill significantly earlier on in life (2004ish?)

    Our ’89 MPV at the time seemed so taut and carefully crafted compared to the amorphous amoeba/blob styling inside and out that Ford was following at the time. The Windstars were fantastically comfortable inside however, that much was undeniable. Our friends with the ’95 took a joint road trip with us in our MPV down to the NC Outer Banks, it’s fun to look at the old photos. That trip kind of sums up my very positive memories of my childhood in the 1990s: Minivans, super soakers, camping.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    Too funny.

    Wow. You didn’t get fired for smacking the sales manager?
    His bosses must have thought he was a prick too.

    My brother got in sh!t once for calling his new manager a f..king idiot. It went to a hearing and the boss said he’d withdraw his complaint if he apologized. My brother said, “Okay. I’m sorry that you are a k..king idiot.” Fortunately for him he was the best field operations manager in his division. A few months latter they fired his manager.

  • avatar
    tsoden

    Great story Jack! I couldn’t stop reading!

  • avatar
    ericb91

    Holy crap.

    As a 25-year old who has been selling cars for three years, I gotta say- some things have changed and some have remained the same.

    Thanks for the fascinating tale, Jack. I’d love to sit with you over a meal and listen to some of your best stories from the biz.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Exactly. Color and options choices are as narrow as they ever were. In the 90s, it was green Explorers with beige cladding and the Eddie Bauer package.

      Now, it’s Explorers in grey, black or white. Or crew-cab F-150s.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        Red Explorer Sports too.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        Color breadth is only limited by facility. Marketing runs into this dilemma all the time. Technically speaking, you are correct as the manufacturing footprint for each OEM is probably 1/2 as what it was in the nineties. But what if I told you we had 13 colors available where I work?

        I have yet to see a sandalwood primed caribou enameled truck anywhere. Bronze fire and blue jeans are about as rare as they come on the streets. You can blame the dealer.

        I don’t even think our blue jean system has been active in two weeks.

  • avatar

    I laughed and laughed and laughed my way through this story. Probably my best laugh of the month. Thanks Jack.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “She was pretty in that mousy, ephemeral Midwestern fashion.” Bring it.

    The *other* Achilles heel of the Windstar: the rusty rear axle beam which could fail catastrophically. Ford ‘totalled’ my friend’s Windstar because of this problem; their car was so bad Ford said they couldn’t restore it to roadworthiness.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      And the rusty front cradles and the ugly fix for those.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      They were such pieces of crap. Ford bought a lot of them in the early 2010s after they issued some recalls. Windbag. Crapstar.

      The Windstar was so bad that they had to change the name and now a decade later, Ford still doesn’t market a minivan. It’s going to take a generation for a Ford minivan not to be absolute sales poison.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “Ford bought a lot of them in the early 2010s after they issued the some recalls”

        Mostly for the rear beam axle corrosion issue. 13 year old vans were crawling from their graves in exchange for 150% book value.

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          Even the ones they fixed should have been put down. Ratty Windstars with 10 years of deferred maintenance and axle corrosion should have to pull through the Ford service bay directly into a crusher.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Someone’s still driving a quite rusty Windstar to work here every day! (Or at least in winter, I haven’t parked up there in a while to see if it’s still there).

            It’s a Northwoods Edition, so I think it’s super rare and fancy and worth keeping.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        They had an active recall was still chugging along in 2014 when I visited the Ford Six Sigma center as a supplier. They had a corner of their floor with rusty subframes from Windstars/whatever they were called. The Ford FCSD techs laughed when they caught me inspecting them.

        It looks like they were welded together by junior high school shop class on oxy-acetylene torches. Maybe this was another issue?

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          Axle and subframe were the big recalls. The Windstars are still trickling in. Or being dragged in and, like danio said, getting 150% of book value.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Yep, the front subframe corrosion recall had come out not long after the rear beam axle when I worked for FCSD. Then there was the torque converter recall. Triple whammy.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          about a couple of years before that, I was seeing those rear axles start to come in. the biggest occupiers were pallets of Powerstroke turbos.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Transmission trouble after two weeks? Dang. At least the THM200 in my mom’s ’78 Malibu (305 2-barrel) waited about a year (~10,000 miles) before it started exhibiting weird shifting issues. Conversion to a rebuilt THM350 before 40,000 miles fixed that.

    I knew a few people that had Windstars. A boss had a ’95 that went through two rebuilt 3.8s and a couple of transmissions before it hit 90,000 miles. He managed to unload it for $4k shortly thereafter.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    By percentage, how much worse was the Windstar than the Aerostar?

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Windstar – imagine the Taurus chassis overburdened with several hundred more pounds. Pleasant to drive.

      Areostar – BOF Ranger chassis which can handle the extra weight and stress. Drives like a damn truck.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        “imagine the Taurus chassis overburdened with several hundred more pounds.”

        So it’s an Enclave!

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          For what it’s worth, the Enclave moves out of its own way reasonably quickly. But the styling is bloated.

          I do hear of frequent transmission issues on the GM Lambdas, though, since they are burdened like minivans from a weight standpoint.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I think the gen 1.5 of the Enclave was a styling improvement for sure. Saw an original version a couple days ago and realized how derpy those headlamps looked at the front.

            Overall I think with those underpinnings on the Lambdas – they’re headed for a worn out, early grave.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Nothing BOF Ranger about the Aerostar. Standard Unibody construction and a unique front and rear suspension. The only thing shared chassis wise between the two were some brake pieces and wheels.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

          The Aerostar was both, it was a unibody welded to a frame. A “hybrid” if you will. The XJ Cherokee was similar.

          That’s why Aerostar had impressive payload and towing abilities. It is far more durable than Windstar, though the earlier A4LD trans could be trouble. It was A LOT less labor to r&r an Aerostar trans. It was longitudinal and one can access the top transmission bolts by removing the interior dog house.

          I owned a 1997 3.0 Windstar. I’ve had several Aerostars.

          Put it this way: if I were Ford, I would buy up every Windstar, Freestar, and Monterey and crush them. Give the current owners 50% off a new Flex or Taurus.

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            No the Aerostar is pure standard unibody design. Don’t listen to those Jeep fans who claim that the Cherokee’s unibody is something special. Frame rail sections that are made out of stamped sheet metal go way way back and are the norm rather than the exception in unibody construction.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Agreed with Scoutdude.

            To varying degrees of sturdiness/size, unibody cars oftentimes have two “longerons” running part or all of the length of the body. My fiance’s Camry has surprisingly robust and large looking ones extending from the front subframe. My old MPV likewise had some very substantial looking longerons that ran the full length of the vehicle. Conversely my ’12 Civic there are just very meek looking stampings extending rearwards from the front subframe.

          • 0 avatar
            KixStart

            “Give the current owners 50% off a new Flex or Taurus.”

            They would probably refuse. Many would likely refuse a free Ford product.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      Threeve.

      seriously, the Aerostar was RWD, so it had a decent transmission, and used the 3.0 Vulcan and 4.0 Cologne engines, which were gutless but relatively robust. The Windstar brought the 3.8 Essex V6 which lunched head gaskets, usually sending coolant into the oil. And the less said about the AXOD/AX4S transaxle, the better.

      • 0 avatar
        Adam Tonge

        Jim has the right answer. The Aerostar was so much better.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        JimZ: “seriously, the Aerostar was RWD, so it had a decent transmission, and used the 3.0 Vulcan”

        Not from my experience. We had a later Aerosore with the 3.0L engine. It needed 3 transmission rebuilds in a little over 2 years and, amongh other problems, tended to develop oil leaks that made it look like the Torrey Canyon had run aground in our garage.

        Note, I’m not saying the Windstar was any better. The people I know who bought them regretted it.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Aerostar: durable, but like a Ranger with hundreds of extra pounds.

      Windstar: it’s a race between the trans and the head gasket to see which will fail first, but like a Taurus with hundreds of extra pounds.

      Both have legendarily poor ’80s-’90s Ford assembly and component quality.

      (Which I’m not sure is over. The radiator fan on my C-Max — at just 1700 miles on it — is a bit squeaky as it slows down and will need warranty service if it gets any worse.)

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s interesting in the context of the times to consider how much effort Ford had to put into the Villager – having an entirely separate model for the same relative class of customer.

        I wonder how close the prices were.

        I’m finishing up the ESPN OJ documentary which recently came out, and it felt very dated to see him being driven home from the jail to his house after he was acquitted in a LWB Aerostar.

        On closing statements day, Marcia Clark was driven to the court house in an Olds Eighty-Eight.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          The Villager was a Nissan Quest.

          “Marcia Clark was driven to the court house in an Olds Eighty-Eight.”

          Legroom from a GM sedan? Those were the times baby!

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I know what the Villager was, suckah!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Theres sumtin ya’ll don’t kno suckah:

            “Although the VG30E used in other Nissan models were interference engines, the VG30Es in Quests and Villagers were non-interference”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_Villager

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Pity, I had figured the 3.0 in there was a VQ.

          • 0 avatar
            Adam Tonge

            The Villager/Quest was a joint project, but Nissan certainly had more to do with it. It had a Nissan engine and transmission. It was built in a Ford plant in Ohio though.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            The Villager/Quest are so much more durable vehicles than the Windstar, Mercury really lucked out IMO. Hispanic immigrants REALLY like these old Quests/Villagers, they just keep chugging along. Of course my preference in early vans ultimately goes to the nigh-indestructible and more rust resistant Previa, or the gen 1 MPVs that my family has owned two of. The old MPVs are likewise very popular in the low income immigrant community, the solid rear axle RWD/longitudinal engine layout benefits both durability and ease of maintenance. Owing to the north-south layout, timing belts on the non-interference V6 are a piece of cake. Suspensions last and last and again are easy to work on. A basic set of 10/12/14mm sockets will take most of the car apart. Rust related issues is ultimately what does them in.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, add me to the chorus: the Aerostar was actually a pretty good van. My folks owned three of them while I was growing up, and they were all surprisingly bullet-proof and put the family through tons of roadtrips and hauling. I was never a fan of the outward visibility, but the vans as a whole were just terrifically solid. One of them was sitting in my parents’ yard doing nothing after years of service, and on a whim Dad decided to sell it. It sold the first day he slapped a sticker on it.

      They had a deserved rep as solid haulers, particularly with the larger engine options.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    By the way, I much enjoyed this ’85 minivan comparison from MW, which was surprisingly comprehensive for that show. The horsepower figures are just comical.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tfKnDsB0YM

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Thanks, that was enjoyable.

      More comical than the horsepower figures to me were the braking tests and what was considered “not much brake dive” at the time. Also: holy payload and tow ratings! 5,000 lbs for the Aerostar, 2,000 lbs for the Voyager.

  • avatar

    We have a ’95 Windstar at the university I work at. It came from a GSA auction and is a cargo version I suspect was only sold to government agencies – vinyl seats in front, no back seats or trim.

    It’s got like 26,000 miles on it. The last couple thousand very hard miles put on by students who had a habit of hitting the side of it against the corner of the building where our offices used to be. Still runs, sort of.

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      Chances are that GovStar is one of the fleet-only “3.0L” Vulcan-powered versions.

      If it had the Essex like the consumer versions it would have already lunched a head gasket.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Probably, Winstar was D186 and according to wiki was offered with a 3.0 Vulcan.

        “1996: Introduced in October 1995, a new 3.0 L 150 hp (112 kW) Vulcan V6 became standard on base LX models, while the larger 3.8 L V6’s horsepower was increased to 200. The driver’s seat gained an available tilt/slide feature for access to the rear from the driver’s side. 1996 Windstars can be distinguished from 1995 models by a contrasting metal strip inside the side rub stripe; solid plastic was used for the 1995 model year.”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Windstar

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          I didn’t realize the Vulcan was available in any of them other than the fleet special. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Vulcan in a consumer version.

          • 0 avatar
            greaseyknight

            My family had one in a ’99 Windstar, the 3.0 that is. We bought is to avoid the head gasket issue. Until the transmission catastrophically failed, leaving only reverse. We had bought it used from a dealer only a little while before and they where good enough to put another one in for the cost of the transmission.

            That transmission had an issue with the parking pawl, in that every time you parked on the slightest incline, it would make a slamming noise and shake the vehicle when coming out of park.

            We got alot of use out of it, but it was a piece of junk. No more minivans.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    We all have ways to get our digs in. They say living well is the best way, but I like this method.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    “A category killer”? Surely you jest. After 4 years I traded an acquired new 92 Grand Caravan ES for a new 96 Caravan Sport 9(special order). Waiting for its arrival, for 3 weeks, I was stuck driving a nearly new (less than 3,00kms) Windstar. Later I gave away a 93 Caravan (short box) and got a 97 Pontiac Montana.

    Compared to the Windstar the Montana was screwed together like an ‘S’ Class.

    Compared to the Windstar the Grand Caravan was as quiet and comfortable as an ‘S’ class.

    Compared to the Windstar the Caravan Sport felt like I was driving a Miata.

    Every minute driving the Windstar felt like I was piloting a WWI u-boat. It creaked. It groaned. The interior boomed like an echo chamber. It sort of went where you pointed it. And when it eventually came to a stop it took minutes for the suspension to settle underneath it. A truly contemptible vehicle.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Also, Windbags were probably one of the worst piles of excrement to plop out of Ford. They continue to haunt Ford well into this decade with numerous expensive recalls.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      I’m glad you still come around once in awhile to remind everyone of the pure $hittiness of the Ford Windstar. It needs to be done.

      Nothing like having a vehicle Ford last made in 2003 (or 2007 depending if taking Freestar into account) costing them cash in 2016.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        The Freestar even haunted the assembly plant until 2012. The body shop was a time capsule / monument to horrible planning as even the overheads had assembled and partially assembled bodies. The new Edge body shop had to first bulldoze robots still mid motion assembling the only vehicle Oakville ever wanted to build.

  • avatar

    You simply cannot mention the Ford Windstar without hearing an ode to it from the late, great Wesley Willis.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS13ioci9FU
    Rock over London, Rock over Chicago.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Two words crystallize the Windstar’s terribleness: King Door.

    This abomination of an idea was in response to Ford’s focus groups saying that no one would use a driver’s sliding door. When the new 1996 Caravans and T&Cs exploded due to the dual sliders, Ford’s response was to make the driver’s door GIGANTIC so kids could exit from the back like they were in a coupe.

    Also, great piece Jack.

    articles.chicagotribune.com/1996-02-25/travel/9602250113_1_mini-van-ford-division-general-manager-slide

    “While Roberts won’t comment, reportedly Ford will offer a “super” or “king” door on its 1997 Windstar, an extended-length driver’s door teamed with a driver’s seat that will tilt and move forward to allow easier access to the back seat. The super door is an interim action until Ford can come up with a regular sliding door a couple years later.”

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      http://www.curbsideclassic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ford-windstar_wagon_lx_1998.jpg

      I have never noticed a Windstar with an uneven length driver’s door. But I am sure now gonna look for one.

  • avatar
    deanst

    “She squints at the camera through avoirdupois-induced epicanthic folds, spilling out of inappropriate dresses.”

    What is a sexist take on a Dan Neil column, Alex?

  • avatar
    windnsea00

    This takes me right back to my middle school days when my mother would get a new Ford/GM demo car once a year. 1995 rolled around and the Windstar was the hot minivan, we had a GL model in Green but the darker hue. I distinctly remember the transmission being clunky shifting in/out of 1st gear around town.

    That was followed by a 1996 Explorer Eddie Bauer 4WD with Red on Tan…I filled out the order sheet myself, little did I know at the age of 10 the 4.0 was gutless and sucked fuel, should have checked the box for the V8 and AWD.

    We did eventually have one more Windstar, the rather rare 1998 Limited model in a Gold/Champagne color with self-leveling rear suspension and fake wood interior trim.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    This screed says much more about you and what you perceive as your shortcomings than theirs. 44 year old you needs to re-evaluate honestly – without the prism of sarcasm. You got a buzz out of fooling someone who wasn’t there? Pyrrhic at best, no matter how much of an asshole he was. Stick to your strengths, not these juvenile dick-measuring laments.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    A friend of mine was just talking about the Ford Escort he used to have. He said he’d still be driving it if his pretentious wife didn’t tell him it was embarrassing her parked in the driveway of their grand home, necessitating his begrudging acquisition of a Golf. He recently had to buy her a Sienna to replace her 4Runner, which she made him sell below market to someone she was trying to impress with her benevolence. I told him that I had no problem with someone driving a 1994 Ford Escort, but I found it undignified for him to drive a pink 1994 Escort. He insisted it was maroon, which it certainly wasn’t. I suggested it was fuchsia, which he conceded was possible. Then it hit me. I said I thought maybe the color was magenta, at which point he said that for about the last decade he owned it, it was indeed listed as magenta in the database of the company that he worked for, a shop, his insurance company, and maybe even the DMV. That’s when I recalled that maybe I was the one that processed his car into the system where we worked together over a decade ago. He knew it all along, which makes me wonder when the other shoe is going to fall.

  • avatar

    So how did Chrysler minivans survive the notorious 604 transmission? Our ’91 SWB Caravan AWD had the trans replaced three times, the second just weeks after the first. To their credit, Chrysler covered everything but the labor on the last one, and it was past warranty at that point.

    Good car, bad transmission.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    My workplace has a real life version of Frank Grimes, and after the latest kerfuffle in his family, he lost access to his mother’s truck and his wife lost her job in the same week. He needed something to get to work and transport his brood of illegitimate and orphaned grand children and ended up in a Windstar (though it’s possibly a Freestar, I’m going to have to look next time I’m at the office). I groaned inwardly when he showed it to me, and right off the bat he had transmission problems.

    His plights with sad vehicles reminds me, is Crabspirits still round? I’d love to see him and Baruth team up and indulge in some epic Schadenfreude.

  • avatar
    GeneralMalaise

    We bought a new ’97… a very short model run before they introduced the ’98. Dark blue with a camel color interior. A comfortable long distance driver for our family – it replaced a Dodge Caravan – no transmission troubles, but the head gasket started going at around 100k miles. Ford knew about the propensity to lose these, but they never ‘fessed up, nor would they recommend a repair. The temp needle went all over the gauge, but it never overheated. Got rid of it and bought a new – at the time – 2001 Highlander, which we still own.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I can’t say Jack’s Dealer stories are unusual ~ .
    .
    Very well written of course but honesty , integrity , any of that was nowhere to be found when I worked for one .
    .
    I love the stories best of all .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    DownUnder2014

    I laughed so hard reading this article! That was so funny!

    As for the Windstar, they were never sold here so I don’t know what they were like. But the impressions doesn’t seem positive…

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Great article.

    Oh, Ford…

    Transmission problems inside two weeks? Color me surprised.

    At about the same time, we went to a Ford dealer seeking to unload an Aerosore (see comment above) that had been nothing but trouble. I was stunned to find that every vehicle in the showroom was purple, except for the Mustang, which was lavender. Luckily, the Ford dealer was not at all interested in a generous trade for our Aerosore, so we avoided the Windstar. Anyway, those two colors were not to be found at any other brand dealership we visited. WTH, Ford?

    And I’m not sure if it was the “Windstar” or the “Freestar” involved in this bit of Ford genius but, at some point, Ford didn’t have a sliding door on the left while Chrysler did offer this feature (perhaps it was even standard) and I suppose it was killing sales. Ford’s solution was to lengthen the driver’s door, so people could squeeze in and out of the second row on the left side. Of course, one of the advantages of the sliding second-row doors is that your kids can’t smack the next car over with them, where a principal disadvantage of a lengthened hinged door is that it becomes nearly impossible for anybody exiting there NOT to smack the next car over with it.

  • avatar
    gasser

    We had one of those “new” Windstars in 1995.
    Went to the dealer after our ’87 Sable (3 transmissions and one head gasket) blew it’s alternator and fuse link. They had 3 green ones, and we bought the GL (bottom trim line at the time). 3.8 Essex was standard. The high back buckets were the most comfortable seats of ANY I’ve tried. The A/C, with the two zone extra cost, was the BEST I’ve ever seen; you could hang meat in the back seat in the summer. In 100 degree weather it was cold everywhere in the car. The cup holder fit big gulps. I never had even a hiccough with the transmission in 75K miles and seven years. The gas tank held 25 gallons (factory auxillary)….who cared what the mileage was.
    Now for the bad news: the brakes were way too small and 7K miles for a set of pads was average for city driving; the car wouldn”t stay in alignment and ate tires, even Michelin and Pirellis. By seven years the door locks, plastic bits and belt pulleys were giving up. When I thought a wheel bearing was bad, my mechanic told me the half shaft was shot. I had it repaired and drove it for a trade in.

  • avatar
    April S

    Was all the sex talk really necessary? Plus obsessing about someone’s sexual history comes off as unseemly plus it does not seem pertinent to the subject of selling cars.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      “Was all the sex talk really necessary? It really didn’t seem pertinent to the subject of selling cars.”.
      .
      Yes, of course it is April ~
      .
      This is primarily a Forum for Men….
      .
      -Nate


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