Ford Windstar

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Ford Windstar
2001-2003 Ford Windstar Limited.jpg
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Also called Mercury Monterey (see below)
Production January 27, 1994 – July 25, 2003 (Ford Windstar)
2003 – December 29, 2006 (Ford Freestar)
2003 – August 25, 2006 (Mercury Monterey)
Body and chassis
Class Full-size Minivan
Layout FF layout
Successor Ford Transit
Ford Transit Connect
Ford Flex

The Ford Windstar is a minivan produced and sold by Ford from the 1995 to 2003 model years. The second minivan designed by the company, it marked the transition from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive layouts popularized by the Chrysler minivans. Serving as a replacement for the Ford Aerostar, the two minivans were sold for three model years until the 1997 discontinuation of the Aerostar. For the 2004 model year, the Windstar was renamed the Ford Freestar.

Although sold as part of the Ford car lineup, the Windstar followed a tradition set by the Aerostar by not having a Lincoln-Mercury counterpart, being completely unrelated to the Mercury Villager. The success of the Windstar led to the first Ford-developed Mercury minivan, the Mercury Monterey.

All Windstars, Freestars, and Monterey minivans were assembled in Oakville, Ontario, Canada at the Oakville Assembly Plant.


In 1985, Ford launched the Aerostar minivan with some degree of success; while it outsold the Chevrolet Astro/GMC Safari, Volkswagen Vanagon, and its Japanese competition, it consistently remained in second place in terms of sales in the minivan segment. To better compete with Chrysler, Ford decided its next minivan would adopt the same front-wheel drive layout popularized by Chrysler.

Codenamed "WIN88", development of the front-wheel drive minivan commenced in 1988 with a projected 1993 introduction (for the 1994 model year). By 1989, design work was well underway, with a concept design theme being settled on by December 1989. In 1990, the WIN88 exterior design by Camilo Pardo was frozen for scheduled 1993 production, with prototypes being tested from early 1991. Trademarks were filed for the Windstar name at the USPTO on April 13, 1992, with development ending in late 1993.[1][2]

First generation (1994–1998)[edit]

First generation
1st Ford Windstar.jpg
Production January 27, 1994 – June 1998[3][4]
Designer Camilo Pardo, Jack Telnack (1990)
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door minivan
Platform Ford D186 platform (WIN88)
Related Ford Taurus[5][6][7]
Lincoln Continental
Mercury Sable
Engine 3.0 L Vulcan V6
3.8 L Essex V6
Transmission 4-speed AXOD automatic
Wheelbase 120.7 in (3,066 mm)
Length 201.2 in (5,110 mm)
Width 1995–96: 75.4 in (1,915 mm)
1997–98: 75.8 in (1,925 mm)
Height 1995–96: 68.0 in (1,727 mm)
1997–98 Cargo: 68.5 in (1,740 mm)
1997–98: 65.6 in (1,666 mm)
Curb weight 3,800 lb (1,724 kg)
Ford Windstar (Europe)

The all-new Windstar was released in March 1994 as a 1995 model. Its sleek design, front-wheel drive layout, and better car-like handling made it more competitive with similar offerings from Chrysler and GM. The Windstar had beaten the third-generation Chrysler minivans to the market by over a year, which played a crucial role in Ford taking significant market share in the minivan market.

For its first year on the market, the Windstar was priced above both the Aerostar and the Mercury Villager. By 1997, however, the Villager's base price had surpassed the Windstar's by several hundred dollars, and top-of-the-line Villager Nautica models were priced some $6,000 USD higher.

Standard features on the Windstar were anti-lock brakes, dual airbags, seven-passenger seating, and a 3.8 L V6 engine, borrowed from the Taurus/Sable. This engine produced 155 hp (116 kW) and 220 lb⋅ft (298 N⋅m) of torque. For its inaugural year, the Windstar was available in base GL and high-end LX trim, as well as a cargo version called Cargo Van.

Notably, the LX Trim offered many options to the market that made the Windstar stand-out. Quad Command bucket seating was available with leather interior also was rear audio and climate controls. A digital instrument display with trip computer, automatic dimming rearview mirror and automatic headlamps were part of the technology package, a JBL audio system with subwoofer and 7 speakers and fog lights. The driver security package offered an alarm system, keyless driver access via door code, heated exterior mirrors and traction control (96-97 MY). Also, there was a tow package available with a damper controlled automatic load-leveling rear air suspension system with class three tow hitch.

Year-by-year changes[edit]

1998 Ford Windstar
  • 1995: Introduced in March 1994, the Windstar is available as GL, LX, and cargo van models. 3.8L V6 is only engine available.
  • 1996: Introduced in October 1995, a new 3.0 L 150 hp (112 kW) Vulcan V6 became standard on base GL models, while the larger 3.8 L V6's horsepower was increased to 200. Also added was the all-speed traction control on GL and LX models. Quad command seating was now made available on the higher line GL models as well. In efforts to cut costs, the LX seat trim was changed as well.
  • 1997: A bare-bones unnamed base model called the 3.0l was now available. A CD player was an option. Short model year ran from October 1996 to January 1997, due to the updated model.
  • 1998: In January 1997, the Windstar underwent light cosmetic changes. The front featured a new grille, hood and headlights for a more streamlined appearance. In the rear, the blue-oval Ford logo on the rear liftgate was now centered above the license plate; previously, it was located in the lower right corner. The bodyside moldings were also revised and the rear power vent window switches were moved to the drivers door. A Limited model was new. It included leather seating and faux wood interior trim body colored mirrors and chrome wheels. Second-generation airbags that deployed with less force were also new for 1998. Headrests were added to middle and third-row bench seats. The driver's seat gained an available tilt/slide feature for access to the rear from the driver's side with a 6 inch longer drivers door. A "Northwoods" edition was also available on GL and LX Models which featured Leather Seating (LX) and Unique Cloth Seats with Vinyl Trim (GL), Gold Painted wheels (LX) and Gold Wheel Pockets (GL), gold painted luggage rack and a unique two-tone color combination. The cargo area door lock button was also deleted.

To compensate for the lack of a driver's side sliding door, the edge of the driver's door was extended rearward six inches (152 mm); it was not possible to create a driver's side sliding door with the current body shell as the entire safety structure of the Windstar was designed as it being a 3 door vehicle. When the Windstar was being designed in the early 1990s, Ford claimed that a driver's side sliding door was not noted as a key feature indicated by focus groups; also at that time, minivans with that feature had sold very poorly.

Trim levels[edit]

In a break from the Aerostar and Econoline tradition of using the traditional Ford truck XL/XLT trim nomenclature, the Windstar adopted the model hierarchy seen in the majority of the Ford car lineup. For retail sales, base trim Wagons were GL models while high-end models were given LX badging.

  • Cargo Van (1995–1998)
  • base (1996–1998)
  • GL (1995–1998) Included: 3.8L V6 engine, all-season tires with 15" hubcaps or optional 15" alloy wheels, manual driver's seat, speed/tilt control steering wheel, and an AM/FM radio with cassette player with four speakers.
  • LX (1995–1998)
  • 3.0L (1998) Included: 7 passenger seating, cloth bucket front seats, all-season tires with 15" hubcaps, air conditioning, power locks, power windows with automatic drivers side window, power mirrors, and an AM/FM radio with four speakers.
  • Limited (1998)


1998 United States Postal Service Ford Windstar, showing the larger driver's side door

During and after its production, this generation of the Windstar would become known for several notable reliability issues. The 3.8 L V6 Essex engine in 1995 models was susceptible to headgasket failure, as it was its Taurus and Sable stablemates. However, the Windstar's problem was exacerbated by a tighter engine bay and higher loads, the van being 700 pounds heavier. In response, Ford extended the warranty on the headgasket to 100,000 miles on most Windstars with this engine. The 3.0 L V6 Vulcan engine was not susceptible to headgasket failure, as it was a completely different engine design.

The Windstar was paired with an AX4S transaxle, which was prone to internal failure. The transmission suffered from cracked forward and reverse clutch pistons. These transmission failures were most susceptible with the 3.8L engine, as the transmission could not handle the extra torque and the extra vehicle weight.

The Windstar was also plagued with various suspension woes. The front springs were prone to breaking in specific markets where extreme cold and heavy salt use in winter months occurred.

IIHS crash test results[edit]

The 1995–1998 Ford Windstar, which was tested as a 1995 model received a "Good" (5-stars)[8] rating from the IIHS in all marks, in which the driver survives the accident without any injuries.

Second generation (1998–2003)[edit]

Second generation
99-00 Ford Windstar LX.jpg
Ford Windstar LX (1999–2000)
Production July 1998–July 25, 2003
Model years 1999–2003
Assembly Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Designer Moray Callum (1996)
Body and chassis
Body style 3-door minivan
4-door minivan
Platform Ford V platform (WIN126)
Engine 3.0 L Vulcan V6
3.8 L Essex V6
Transmission 4-speed AX4S automatic
4-speed AX4N automatic
Wheelbase 120.7 in (3,066 mm)
Length 200.9 in (5,103 mm)
2001–03 Base/LX/SE/SEL/Limited: 201.5 in (5,118 mm)
Width 76.6 in (1,946 mm)
2001–03 Cargo: 75.2 in (1,910 mm)
Height 66.1 in (1,679 mm)
Cargo: 68.0 in (1,727 mm)
1999–2000 SE/SEL: 65.8 in (1,671 mm)

Released in the summer of 1998 as an early 1999 model, the Ford Windstar was given a complete redesign. As one of the first Ford vehicles in North America to adopt the New Edge styling language, the redesign also was distinguished by the addition of a driver's side sliding door. While its powertrains remained common with the Taurus/Sable, the Windstar was now built on the Ford V platform, shifting to a dedicated chassis. Several major features made their debut, including front seat-mounted side airbags, dual power-sliding doors, and rear reverse sensors.

Ford Windstar (Europe)

Year-by-year changes[edit]

  • 2000: The Limited model returned as the most luxurious model. A VCR-based rear-seat entertainment system featuring a flip-down LCD screen was a new option on SE, SEL, and Limited models.
  • 2001: Slight cosmetic changes were made to front and rear fascias for '01. LX became the base model, and a new SE Sport model joined the lineup. The smaller 3.0 L was gone, leaving the 3.8 L as the sole engine choice. Models with 2nd row bucket seats now got their own center console. Front-seat side airbags became standard on Limiteds. The chrome grille on the SE and SEL models was redesigned. The steering wheel was updated to a more modern style, with the blue Ford Logo placed in the center. The transmission was updated to the 4F50N.
  • 2002: Dual sliding doors became standard on all models.

The 2002 Windstar was the most dependable minivan on the market in the JD Powers dependability survey at three years in service in the 2005 survey. The Windstar beat out the Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey for these honors.[9]

  • 2003: The last year of the Windstar; no major changes were made in anticipation of a 2004 redesign. In a new marketing strategy, the upcoming third-generation Windstar was rebranded as the Ford Freestar. The last Ford Windstar was produced on July 25, 2003.

Trim levels[edit]

2001–2003 Ford Windstar SE Sport

In 1999, Ford began a shift in trim levels that would be seen in many of its American-market sedans through the 2000s. In place of the GL, the LX was the new base model, with the SE and SEL making their debut as the highest trim levels, respectively.

Although all versions of the Windstar wagon were sold with 7-passenger seating, LX-trim Windstars are equipped with 2nd-row bench seats; SE and SEL-trim examples are equipped with 2nd-row bucket seats.

  • Cargo Van (1999–2003)
  • base (1999–2000)
  • LX (1999–2003)
  • SE (1999–2003)
  • SE Sport (2001–2003)
  • SEL (1999–2003)
  • Limited (2000–2003)


Rear Axle:

In August 2010, Ford issued a voluntary recall of 575,000 Windstar minivans for rear axle problems. This recall followed an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration which had begun in May 2010. The NHTSA preliminary evaluation stated the design of the rear axle beam, an inverted "U" channel design, appeared to provide a collection point for road slurry. In states which used lots of road salt, corrosion progressively weakened the axle until it fractured.[10] The states covered by the recall were Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as Washington D.C.[11] In May 2012, 27,000 of the minivans from Virginia were added to the axle recall, bringing the overall total to more than 600,000 vehicles between the U.S. and Canada.[12]

A class action lawsuit was filed against Ford Motor Company in May 2010 proceeding Ford's recall.[13] This lawsuit was filed by Plaintiff Aaron Martin against Defendant Ford Motor Company. In this lawsuit, documents were introduced which showed Ford's testing of the Benteler Axle in March 1998 resulted in failure of two out of the eleven axles tested. In August 1998, Ford determined the cause of this failure was improper heat treating. In September 1998, the axle manufacturer Bentley Automotive agreed with Ford's findings. In October 1999, Ford's internal documents show lab testing proved the axle life could be doubled by heat treating, but would require initial retooling cost and result in $3.45 piece cost increase. No changes were made until March 2003.[13]

Subframe Corrosion:

In March 2011 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Ford announced another Ford Windstar recall over corrosion concerns. 425,288 of the model year 1999–2003 Windstar vans originally sold or currently registered in some cold weather states are part of the recall. The problem involves rusting of the subframe. Most of the corrosion occurs on the passenger side of the subframe. If the subframe collapses while driving, the vehicle could potentially lose all steering control and end up in an accident. According to the NHTSA action #PE10026, some Ford Windstar owners had their drive axle detach from the transmission. Ford is offering alternative transportation to owners if their vehicle is unsafe to drive. If the minivan can't be repaired, Ford will repurchase the vehicle.[14]

IIHS crash test results[edit]

The 1999–2003 Ford Windstar received an "Acceptable" rating by the IIHS for fair structural performance, moderate injuries to the left foot, and fair dummy control. Although most redesigned vehicles outperform their predecessors to cut down insurance costs and possible injuries to the driver, this generation Windstar did not perform as well as its first generation predecessor. The NHTSA graded the minivan an overall rating of 5 stars in both the frontal and side impact tests.

Yearly American sales[edit]

Calendar Year Total American sales
1995 222,147[15]
1996 209,033
1997 205,356
1998 190,173
1999[16] 213,844
2000 222,298
2001[17] 179,595
2002[18] 148,875
2003 113,465

Third generation (Ford Freestar; 2004–2007)[edit]

Ford Freestar
2004-2007 Ford Freestar.jpg
Ford Freestar (2004–2007)
Also called Mercury Monterey
Production 2003–December 29, 2006
Model years 2004–2007
Assembly Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Body and chassis
Body style 4-door minivan
Platform Ford V platform
Engine 3.9 L Essex V6
4.2 L Essex V6
Transmission 4-speed 4F50N automatic
Wheelbase 120.8 in (3,068 mm)
Length 201.0 in (5,105 mm)
Width 2006–07: 76.4 in (1,941 mm)
2006–07: 76.6 in (1,946 mm)
Height 68.8 in (1,748 mm)
2006–07 SE, SEL & Limited: 70.6 in (1,793 mm)
Predecessor Ford Windstar
Mercury Villager (for Monterey)
Successor Ford Flex
Ford Freestar

For the 2004 model year, the third-generation Ford Windstar was released; as part of a mid-2000s rebranding of the Ford car model line with nameplates starting with the letter "F", the Windstar was renamed the Ford Freestar.

Sharing the V platform with the 2000-2003 Ford Windstar, the primary initiative of the $600 million redesign focused on driveline reliability, an issue that had plagued the Windstar since its 1994 introduction. In its development, the Freestar saw the addition of heavier-duty drive axles, larger wheel bearings, and the standardization of four-wheel disc brakes. The 3.0L and 3.8L V6 engines were both retired, in favor of two new engines. In the United States (only), the Freestar was powered by a 193 hp 3.9L V6 (shared with the Ford Mustang) while an optional 201 hp 4.2L V6 (the base engine of the Ford E-150) was standard for Canada and export vans. The 3.9L and 4.2L V6 engines were both enlarged versions of the long-running 3.8L V6. As part of the initiative to improve driveline reliability, the 4-speed automatic transmission saw upgrades for improved shifting and reliability.

In the redesign, the Ford Freestar saw a minor exterior facelift. While retaining much of the roofline of the previous-generation Windstar, in a shift away from New Edge design language, the Freestar adopted styling elements from several Ford vehicles, including the Ford Explorer, Ford Freestyle, and Ford Five Hundred. Shifting from the trademark curved dashboard of the previous Ford Windstar, the Ford Freestar adopted a flat dashboard, sharing many design elements with the then-upcoming Ford Five Hundred. In line with a number of competitive minivans, the Ford Freestar introduced a third-row seat that folded flat into the floor.

Trim levels[edit]

The Freestar carried much of the trim lineup from the Windstar, with two exceptions. While the LX trim was dropped, the Sport trim became a separate trim from the SE.

  • base (2004–2007)
  • SE (2004–2007)
  • Sport (2004–2007)
  • SEL (2004–2007)
  • Limited (2004–2007)

IIHS crash test results[edit]

The 2004–2007 Ford Freestar received a "Good" rating in the offset frontal crash test from the IIHS and outperformed the 1999–2003 Ford Windstar, but resulted in moderate injuries only on the head and neck. In the side-impact tests, it received a "Poor" rating without the optional side airbags for poor structural performance, potential head and neck injuries, and high forces on the driver's torso, but fared better with the side airbags, earning an overall "Acceptable" rating, but resulted in a moderate head and neck injury to the driver.

Yearly American sales[edit]

Calendar Year Freestar Monterey
2003[18] 15,771 2,213
2004[19] 100,622 17,407
2005 77,585 8,166
2006[20] 50,125 4,467
2007 2,390 700


In 2009, the 2005 Freestar scored second place in J.D. Power's Vehicle Dependability Study, behind the Dodge Caravan.[21]

Mercury Monterey[edit]

For the 1950–1974 full-size car, see Mercury Monterey.

Mercury Monterey

For the 2004 model year, the Lincoln-Mercury division marketed a Ford-developed minivan for the first time. Replacing the discontinued Mercury Villager, the Mercury division revived the Mercury Monterey name (for the first time since 1974) to give the division its first competitor for the Chrysler Town & Country and the newly introduced Buick Terraza (replacing the Oldsmobile Silhouette). In Mercury tradition, the Monterey was priced slightly higher than the Ford Freestar, differentiated primarily by trim options; its sole engine was the 4.2L V6.

The Monterey was introduced in three trim levels: Convenience, Luxury, and Premier. Features such as power-sliding doors and a rear-seat DVD player were available on Luxury and Premier trim lines. Unique to the Premier was the option of heated and cooled front seats, a class exclusive at the time.

However, sales of the Monterey were very low as the design proved uncompetitive against stronger entries from other automakers, as well as an overall decline in the minivan market. Final sale numbers after a three-year run totaled 32,195.[citation needed]


After selling far under sales projections, Ford discontinued the Freestar and Monterey after the 2007 model year. In Mexico and export markets, the Freestar was largely replaced by the front-wheel drive version of the Ford Transit/Tourneo. In the United States and Canada, the Freestar's spot in the product line was left unfilled. The role of family vehicle in the Ford lineup would fall to the Taurus X, which was replaced by the Flex in 2009. Ironically, both vehicles functioned primarily as tall station wagons (although branded as crossover SUVs by Ford).

In 2010, Ford began imports of the Ford Transit Connect compact MPV. While also available in a passenger-van configuration, most sales were intended for cargo-van users. As part of a 2014 redesign, the Transit Connect gained a 7-passenger configuration. While it shares a nearly identical 120-inch wheelbase with the Windstar/Freestar/Monterey, most other dimensions of the 2014 Transit Connect LWB are closer in size to that of the extended-length Aerostar.

The last Mercury Monterey rolled off the assembly line on August 25, 2006.

The last Ford Freestar rolled off the assembly line on December 29, 2006.


  1. ^ "Ford To Replace Aerostar For 1994".
  2. ^ Magazines, Hearst (1 May 1991). "Popular Mechanics". Hearst Magazines – via Google Books.
  4. ^ "Pre-Owned Profile: 1995-1999 Ford Windstar - Autotrader".
  5. ^ Author: Bill Russ. "New Car Review 1995 FORD WINDSTAR GL MINIVAN". Publication: The Auto Channel. Date Retrieved 8/19/06. [1]
  6. ^ "Light trucks: the hottest segment – light truck market trends and new products for 1994 – Industry Overview". Archived from the original on 2004-12-06. Retrieved 2011-06-03.
  7. ^ "4-Wheel Drive / Offroading" on
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Not Found". Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-10-11. Retrieved 2010-12-24.
  10. ^ Jensen, Christopher (2010-08-27). "Ford Recalling 575,000 Windstar Minivans for Rear Axle Problem". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Jensen, Christopher (2010-12-15). "Death Preceded Safety Agency's Warning on Ford Windstar". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "Ford Windstar Rear Axle Recall Surpasses 600,000 Units » News". 9 May 2012.
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^ "1999–'03 Ford Windstar Minivans Recalled". Edmunds. 2011-01-28. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  16. ^ "Ford Motor Company Sets New Full Year U.S. Sales Record". Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  17. ^ "Ford Motor Company's December U.S. Sales Climb 8.2 Percent" (PDF). Ford Motor Company. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-04-30.
  18. ^ a b "Ford's F-Series Truck Caps 22nd Year in a Row as America's Best-Selling Vehicle With a December Sales Record". 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  19. ^ "Ford Achieves First Car Sales Increase Since 1999". 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  20. ^ "Ford Motor Company 2007 sales". January 3, 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12.
  21. ^ "J.D.Power and Associates – Press Release". 2009-03-19. Retrieved 2010-07-17.

External links[edit]

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