Rare Rides: The 1990 Chevrolet Astro RS, Maximum Sports Van

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
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.

[Image: GM]

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  • Russycle Russycle on Feb 09, 2021

    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.

  • Jeff S Jeff S on Feb 10, 2021

    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.

  • SPPPP Aggression is pretty much the reason that racing exists, so I am going to call this an unsolvable problem. It's a contrived scenario in which you take risks to get rewards. You may be able to improve it ... but never eliminate it.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is now our fourth 20th Anniversary GTI, and the third of those four that had major structural modifications for purely aesthetic reasons. I didn't picture Tim as the type to want to join the STANCE YO crowd, but here we are?
  • JMII This is why I don't watch NASCAR, it just a crash fest. Normally due the nature of open-wheel cars you don't see such risky behavior during Indy car events. You can't trade paint and bump draft with an Indy car. I thought it was a sad ending for a 500. While everyone wants a green flag finish at some point (3 laps? 5 laps?) red flagging it is just tempting people too much like a reset button in a game.The overall problem is the 500 is not a "normal" race. Many one-off competitors enter it and for almost every driver they are willing to throw away the entire season championship just to win the "500". It sure pays way more then winning the championship. This would be like making a regular season NFL game worth more then the Super Bowl. This encourages risky behavior.I am not sure what the fix is, but Indy's restart procedures have been a mess for years. If I was in charge the rule would be pit speed limiter until the green flag drops at a certain place on the track - like NASCARs restart "zone". Currently the leader can pace the field however they wish and accelerate whenever they choose. This leads to multiple false and jumped starts with no penalty for the behavior. Officals rarely wave off such restarts, but that did happened once on Sunday so they tried to make driver behave. The situation almost didn't happen as there were two strategies in the end with some conserving fuel and running old tires, driving slower with others racing ahead. However the last caution put everyone on even terms so nobody had advantage. It always gets crazy in the last few laps but bunching up the field with a yellow or red flag is just asking for trouble.
  • Tim Healey Lol it's simply that VWVortex is fertile ground for interesting used cars!
  • Jalop1991 I say, install gun racks.Let the games begin!