No Fixed Abode: Ford Windstar and the Social Strivers

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
no fixed abode ford windstar and the social strivers

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’.”


“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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3 of 114 comments
  • Gasser Gasser on Jul 20, 2016

    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.

  • April S April S on Jul 22, 2016

    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.

    • -Nate -Nate on Jul 22, 2016

      "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

  • Philip This raises two questions for me:[list=1][*]What happens to all of the chargepoint that we have installed at our homes? Do those all have to be replaced?[/*][*]What happens to all of the billions of dollars from the federal government being spent on non-tesla ports at wal-marts and pilot service centers? [/*][/list=1]
  • FreedMike I didn't know the 318 was made in anything but that ugly hatchback style.
  • Jkross22 Good for the seller selling at the right time. I don't see 7 grand here for a 30 year old 318i, but as the late John Candy said, "You don't make any calls, you don't make any sales."
  • Analoggrotto For Tesla owns the entire universe, General Motors is allowed to have part of the heavens on earth, but only true Tesla owners, the first and true followers of Elon Musk will see the purest of Elysium.
  • Probert The only extra port I see happening is a V2G outlet. I don't think the Tesla port supports this. To have both CCS and Tesla would involve masses of cabling and expense that would be absurd in a game of nickels and dimes.