Rare Rides: The 1990 Chevrolet Astro RS, Maximum Sports Van
Rare Rides has featured a Chevy Astro van once before, in Provan Tiger GT guise where it had all-wheel drive and an onboard bathroom.
Today’s Astro version does not have a bathroom but instead focuses on the tinsel important to sports van driving enthusiasts of the Eighties and Nineties.
The Chevrolet Astro and its twin the GMC Safari were van staples at General Motors for 21 years. Initially an attempt to compete with the instant success of Chrysler’s minivan offerings, the Astro and Safari were later trumped in GM’s lineup by more consumer-friendly front-drive vans like the Oldsmobile Silhouette. But they remained popular enough with customers and commercial users alike, who hauled cargo, made them conversion vans, and RVs as seen above.
The first generation Astro twins were around for 10 full model years, from introduction in 1985 through 1994. Vans were available in two different lengths, both based on the same 111-inch wheelbase. Shorter (STD) vans were 176.8 inches long, and EXT versions had an additional 10 inches. There were cargo versions available in both lengths, and overall height varied a bit depending on the model year and configuration. In passenger Astros, seating configurations for five, seven, and eight people were available.
Along with size and function flexibility, rear-wheel drive was supplemented by an optional all-wheel-drive system for 1990, which was a first for an American van. There were three engines available in the first-gen Astro: the 2.5-liter Iron Duke from the Celebrity, and two different versions of the 4.3-liter V6 mill donated by the S-10. Initially manual and automatic transmissions were available, though by 1993 a four-speed auto became the only choice.
Among the obscure variations of Astro and Safari lost to time is the GT Sport Package. Called RS on Astro and GT on Safari, it was an option coded by GM as BYP. The RS/GT upgrade changed the personality of the van for its enthusiast buyers. BYP added a front air dam, integrated fog lamps, a sport-tuned suspension, color-match front and rear bumpers, black side window moldings, lower trim with a red stripe, a unique red-striped grille, and a sports steering wheel. In 1990 the package was available only in white, silver, blue, gold, or red paint, and only with two-tone. The secondary color was always black. Interiors could be blue, red, brown, or gray, and there were two wheel options in the package. The more often selected rally wheels could be color-matched as well.
The BYP option was available through at least 1992 on the Astro and Safari, though your author can’t find any evidence it extended beyond that point. There’s no press photo of an RS or GT, so the brown van with rally-wheels above is as close as we get. Today’s Rare Ride is white and black and in need of some care. Located in Missouri, Astro RS asks $2,650.
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Rented one of these--not an RS-- to take my daughter and her stuff to college, liked it more than I expected. One of my in-laws had one for hauling his 4 kids around, he got at least 10 years out of it. Just a solid little hauler.
One of my brother's had a Safari and then an Astro for years. His Safari lasted until someone ran a traffic light and totaled it and then he bought a used an Astro. It was good for hauling things and for picking up his kids at the airport. These vans were very reliable and handled well for a van.