Automotive

At $3,900, Could This 1997 Ford Aerostar XLT AWD Have You Saying “Yes We Van?”

It’s unlikely that any 7-passenger minivan is going to be the wind-cheating champ, and yet Ford named its ‘80s people-carrier the Aerostar. Today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe XLT sports a long back end and four-wheel drive. Could those enticements make its price a star too?

This past Tuesday was election day here in the States, an important event since there’s little in life more powerful than one’s ability to vote. Possibly coming in a close second in terms of power prospects was yesterday’s 1999 Chevy Corvette Coupé. That car rocked a built and turbo-imbued V8 that was claimed good for 650 horsepower off the crank. The rest of the car needed a couple of minor fixes but overall looked pretty good. Apparently its $13,500 price tag looked just as good, hauling in a narrow but solid 56 percent Nice Price win.

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I have an important question for you. It’s not a hard one—after all, it’s Friday, and almost eat-everything day around here, so I promise not to tax you too much.

The question is this: what’s your favorite van?

See, easy. Or maybe not. Some people may never have even realized they have a favorite van, even though it’s a given. I think it’s even in our DNA.

Well, if you’re having trouble formalizing your opinion please allow me to help. Here we have a van that, at a bare minimum, should be somewhere on everybody’s list. This 1997 Ford Aerostar XLT AWD not only looks to be a well-kept family hauler, but it’s representative of a pretty unique vehicle in Ford’s long pantheon of products.

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The Aerostar was so named because with a coefficient of drag of just 0.37 it was appreciably slippery. That was something Ford was really into back in the ‘80s when the Aerostar was introduced. The Aerostar’s slick appearance isn’t its only unique aspect either.

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When Ford was designing the model, they naturally sourced as many parts and subsystems from other, existing models in the effort to shave off costs and development time. That meant that the van used a lot of parts from the Ranger pickup and Explorer SUV, including the drivetrain and some of the steering and suspension bits.

Both of those small trucks were body-on-frame, however, and Ford felt that form factor would limit available interior space so in the Aerostar the parts were bolted to a proprietary uni-body structure. Frame rails were welded below to aid in distributing towing loads across the undercarriage. As designed, the Aerostar could tow up to 5,000 pounds. This unique chassis carried the Aerostar through more than a decade of production across just a single iteration.

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Now, that’s not to say that the Aerostar’s design was stagnant over that time. It did receive tweaks now and again to keep it reasonably fresh and competitive. This XLT is a ’97, the last year of production, and embodies all of those updates, including the optional AWD and a 15-inch extended rear end.

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On the flip side, this is an old school van. It lacks things like USB plugs at every seat or even a fancy built-in vacuum like some of the current Chryslers. Hell, it doesn’t even have a sliding door on the left side. You know what, I doubt you’d miss any of those very much.

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The engine here is Ford’s 160 horsepower 4.0 V6, and that has an interesting backstory as well. This was the largest displacement edition of Ford’s European-sourced pushrod V6, and though built in Cologne, Germany, it was only ever officially used in the American Aerostar, Ranger, and Explorer as well as the latter’s Mazda counterparts. This one is said to sport a mere 105,000 miles and to have been lovingly maintained. The engine enjoys new belts and what the seller says is a new cooling system. Along with those apparently are new brakes and shocks and a service for the four-speed 4R55E automatic transmission.

Full-time AWD is made possible by a Dana transfer case and electrically-controlled center diff. Everything here is said to work as it should. The van also looks pretty nice, with decent white paint outside and a blue cloth interior. For something that is claimed to have been a family hauler, the seating surfaces and carpet are amazingly clean and seem to evidence little wear.

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There are a few signs of age and use here. The paint on the sliding door handle is wearing off, and there are different wheels on the van front and rear. That odd presentation is somewhat offset by the van rocking white stripe tires, which are fancy. The seller also notes a couple of body blemishes, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to notice them if you weren’t seeking them out.

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Overall this looks like a solid family car for one of those big families that you see at the grocery store or in a cheap restaurant where think to yourself, “thank god that’s not me.” That’s not you, is it?

Obviously coming out to so sweet a ride as this old Aerostar would cheer up anybody, and we’re about to decide if buying it would be an equally cheery proposition. The asking price is $3,900 and it should be noted that for that price it comes with its service records and a clear title. That’s a lot to love, but you now need to decide just how much of that love the price will get.

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What do you think, is this extended and AWD Van worth that $3,900 price? Or, for that much, does this Aerostar blow it?

You decide!

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San Francisco Bay Area, CA Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Ryan in MD for the hookup!

Help me out with NPOCP. Hit me up at rob@jalopnik.com and send me a fixed-price tip. Remember to include your Kinja handle.

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