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Pre-Owned Profile: 1995-1999 Ford Windstar

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author photo by John Rettie December 1998

This great minivan has plenty of room and an abundance of safety features.

The Ford Windstar may have shown up to the minivan party a little late, but it certainly was a welcome guest when it joined the fray in 1994. Ford had a challenger for the Chrysler minivans on the market already -- the Mercury Villager, twin to the Nissan Quest -- but it lacked a truly grand alternative to the largest Plymouth, Dodge, and Chrysler front-drive vans.

The Windstar took to the streets in 1994 powered by a 3.8-liter V-6 engine, a single passenger-side sliding door, dual airbags, and plenty of interior room. Reviews often singled out its plush ride and acres of cabin space. However, unlike later versions of the Chryslers, the Windstar lacked a driver-side sliding door. (For 1999, Ford has revamped the Windstar, adding that fourth door, restyling the minivan and pushing it slightly upmarket.)

Still, the Windstar has proved to be an enormously popular venture for Ford. Upon its introduction, the Windstar quickly climbed into the top 20 in overall vehicle sales in the U.S. , where it has remained ever since. It also has achieved the only five-star crash rating in the minivan class, a factor that no doubt contributes to its strong sales. As many satisfied owners are anticipating the new 1999 model, the first-generation Windstars offer a promising pre-owned vehicle value.

What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1995 Ford Windstar

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of Intrepid

4. Review of Current Model

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Safety Information

8. Value Guide

9. Option Installment Rate

10. Sales History

11. Awards and Commendations Earned

12. Other Reviews

13. Recall Information

14. Price of Spare Parts

1. Pre-owned Vehicle Review (1995 Ford Windstar GL)

Likes: roominess, performance (with 3.8-liter engine), ride and handling, looks

Dislikes: lack of second sliding door, fuel economy

Competitors: Dodge Grand Caravan, Plymouth Grand Voyager, Chrysler Town & Country, Ford Aerostar, Toyota Previa and Sienna

Miles: 28,000

Condition: B+

Price (new): $19,865

Estimated 1998 value: $14,115

Although the Windstar first appeared in 1994, it still looks as sleek as any minivan. In fact, some people reckon it is still the best looking minivan on the road today. The particular model I tested was purchased in May 1994. According to the VIN it was number 17,848 off the production line, making it a very early model.

Owned by a family of four, the vehicle is a low-mileage example with only 28,000 miles on the odometer. One would expect an average four-year old vehicle to have traveled about 48,000 miles. It is a dark green GL model with the preferred option package which includes A/C, remote locks and a radio/cassette player. The owner replaced the stock steel wheels with a nice set of 16-inch Borbet alloy wheels one would expect to see on European sports sedans. They are shod with low-profile 225/60R16 Michelin tires in front and Pirelli tires in back. The front tires were slightly worn while the rear tires will be in need of replacing fairly soon. The owner said the front tires tended to wear really quickly and this was the second set on the front but the original ones on the rear.

The overall effect of the low profile tires and wide alloy wheels is good. It makes the vehicle look more sporting. An added benefit is the improvement in the handling. In a brief drive I noticed that the steering felt more responsive than a stock Windstar and it definitely gripped the road better in corners.

The bodywork was in fair shape. There were no signs of serious bodywork repair. The rear bumper had obviously been hit in several places although it had returned to the original shape as a 5-mph bumper should. The original paintwork had peeled off and the owner had touched up the blemished spots. It appears that the underlying plastic cover on the bumpers is much more resilient at withstanding minor knocks than the paint.

Inside, the vehicle was in excellent condition with only a few small stains from spilled drinks or melted candy. There were no signs of rips or tears in the seats or paneling. Everything worked correctly although the windshield washers were slow to operate at times. The shift lever proved reluctant to move out of park at times. The owner said it had been repaired two years ago (under warranty). According to records supplied with the vehicle it had received regular oil changes. A major check up was performed at 22,000 miles when it was three years old. But the owner stated it did not have a 36-month major service as the dealership said it was not necessary the mileage being so low at the time. The owner said the transmission was rebuilt under warranty in 1997 just as the vehicle passed its third birthday. There was only a hint of an occasional squeak or rattle in the body. Overall, the vehicle felt as solid as a new one.

2. Summing It Up -Owners Views


"Roominess, ride height in traffic, power (for a minivan), comfortable seats."


"Poor gas mileage, big to park, poor visibility backing up at night."


"I like the Windstar a lot for what I need it for -- hauling kids and cargo around. It's easy to drive and there's a good view from every seat."

3. History of Windstar

Ford introduced the Windstar in spring 1994 as a 1995 model. It was Ford's second front-wheel-drive minivan -- the smaller Mercury Villager came first -- aimed directly at Chrysler's trio of minivans which had dominated the market for the previous decade. Ford's rear-drive Aerostar was still on the market, but as the Chryslers proved, a clear majority of minivan buyers had shown they liked a minivan built on a car platform rather than a truck platform. However, Ford made one major mistake on the Windstar. Before it made its debut, the company said its research showed that minivan owners did not want vans with a sliding passenger door on the driver's side. So, like almost all other minivans on the market, the Windstar was only offered with one sliding door. When Chrysler introduced the all-new versions of its minivans in 1996 they included an optional second sliding door. The extra door was an instant success, surprising even Chrysler officials. Today, some three-quarters of all Chrysler minivans (and GM minivans offered with the option) are ordered with double sliding doors.

As Ford could not economically redesign the current Windstar to add a second sliding door, it opted for a stop-gap measure by making the driver's door much wider for 1998. An optional driver's seat sliding mechanism allows the seat to slide forward so that passengers can get to the rear from the driver's door through the gap behind the driver's seat. Access to the rear seats on these models is about the same as getting into the rear of a two-door coupe. Apart from these changes there is not much difference between a 1998 Windstar and the original 1995 model. It remained a well-regarded minivan, with the only shortcoming being the lack of an optional driver's side sliding passenger door.

Ford addressed this defiicency with the 1999 Windstar which went one better than Chrysler by offering dual electrically operated side doors, a feature only available on GM models previously. (Honda also added the same feature to its 1999 Odyssey).

The 1999 Windstar is built on the same platform as the previous model and is offered with the same engines albeit with some slight improvement in power output. The exterior retains the same lines but the nose is more steeply raked with a blunter but more classic design, bearing some resemblance to the Ford Expedition's nose.

Like Ford models in other segments the Windstar has the most loyal owners in the minivan segment. With a new model on the market this should make for an increase in the number of pre-owned Windstars appearing on the market in 1999.

4. Review of Current Windstar

When I first drove the new Windstar in 1994 it felt much better overall than the Chrysler minivan, especially in terms of handling and performance. Then Chrysler introduced its all-new model the following year and upped the ante. Despite this the Windstar still gave the newer Chrysler models a run for their money. The vast majority of Windstars are sold with the 3.8-liter engine, which made it the most powerful minivan on the market until the Honda Odyssey appeared for 1999. The original Windstar I tested managed to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just over ten seconds which is as fast as many sedans on the market.

In reality it would be hard for Ford to improve on the ride and handling of the Windstar so I guess it was no surprise to find the '99 very similar to the previous model. With the 3.8-liter engine, it still has better performance than all other minivans bar the new Honda. It still has a smooth ride, yet it's suspension is stiff enough to make the vehicle stable through corners.

Once inside, access to the front and rear seats (if the optional console is not installed) is easy, as the walkway between the front seats is quite wide. The dashboard sweeps around in front of the driver in a pleasant fashion and the instruments, radio and climate controls are better positioned. The top of the vast dashboard is finished in an improved quality plastic. The gearshift lever is on the steering column while the parking brake lever is mounted on the floor beside the driver's seat. The rear bench seat can be folded down and, in all but the base models, it can also slide forward to provide more rear luggage space. It can now be removed more easily as Ford has added rollers, although it still weighs a hefty 100 lbs.

The biggest improvement for 1999 is the adoption of a second sliding door on the driver's side. Both doors can be electrically operated. There is something very snazzy and convenient about being able to open the doors remotely. If you're loaded with groceries or its pouring with rain it can be a godsend. Safety is taken care of as the door will backtrack if it encounters an obstacle in its travels.

The other safety feature, which is a first on a minivan, is a reversing alarm system. A warning beep sounds if the vehicle comes too close to an object while backing up. The beeping gets faster as the vehicle gets closer to the object. I found it quite effective. The other first-ever safety item on a minivan is the option of side airbags.

All in all, the Windstar is still a very good minivan. Its interior carrying capacity is only marginally less than that of the extended-wheelbase Chrysler minivans and is much greater than that of other minivans on the market. The Windstar is only available in one size -- there is no short-wheelbase version. I still rate it highly as a people mover and it's improved 1999 version keeps Ford near the front, if not in the lead.

5. Basic Facts: 1995 -- 1998 Ford Windstar

Vehicle type: compact van (minivan)

Number of passengers: up to seven

Origin of assembly: Ontario, Canada

Engine (standard): 3.0-liter 150-hp V-6

(optional): 3.8-liter 200-hp V-6

Transmission: four-speed automatic

Length: 201 inches

Wheelbase: 121 inches

Width: 74 inches

Height: 68 inches

Curb weight: 3800 pounds

Cargo volume: 144 cubic feet

Fuel tank capacity: 20 gallons

Fuel economy (EPA city/highway): 17/25 (3.0-liter), 17/23 (3.8-liter)

6. Changes in the Ford Windstar Line 1995 - 1999

1995 Model Year

Windstar first introduced in March 1994 as a 1995 model year vehicle.

1996 Model Year

New lower-cost base model with 150-hp 3.0-liter V-6 engine introduced.

Traction control available as option.

1997 Model Year

Traction control standard on LX model.

Four-wheel disc brakes added as option.

1998 Model Year

Depowered airbags replace original airbags.

Front nose redesigned and a wider driver's door added to allow access to the rear seats from the driver's side.

Middle-row backrest now reclines on all Windstar models except those equipped with the seat bed option.

A cargo van version was added with only two seats and few amenities.

1999 Model Year

New version of Windstar adds second sliding door and makes them (optionally) electrically operated.

New version based on same floorpan and drivetrain but has a different nose and is a couple of inches wider.

Back up alarm system warns when vehicle gets too close to an object.

Rear seat on rollers for easier removal

Redesigned dashboard with improved location of controls.

Side airbags offered as first-ever option on a minivan

7. Safety Notes

NHTSA Crash rating (1995 model year): Driver 5; Passenger 5 (5 is best)

The Windstar is the only minivan with a five-star rating in government frontal crash tests.

Anti-lock brakes, dual airbags, side-impact intrusion beams, a sliding door child safety lock, knee bolsters, five-mph bumpers, and an energy-absorbing front-end design are just a few of the safety features standard in every Windstar. From the outset it was designed to meet all 1997 safety standards for a car even though it is technically a truck. In the 1998 model the dual front airbags were depowered and head restraints added for every outboard seating position.

Traction control (introduced in 1997) is available on all Windstars except the 3.0-liter.

A new and so far exclusive Windstar safety feature is a fold-down "conversation" mirror that provides the driver with a wide-angle view of what's going on in middle and rear seats.

Side airbags offered as first-ever option on a minivan (1999 on)

8. Value Guide

Prices listed are for base models. Options can add considerably to the lowest price listed as these are usually "stripped" models. In many cases, very few vehicles are ever sold at the lowest price listed. Source: Kelley Blue Book

1995 Model Year (first year of model)

New: $18,070 to $23,861

1996 Model Year

New: $18,305 to $25,306

1997 Model Year

New: $17,643 to $25,245

1998 Model Year

New: $18,557 to $27,255

9. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1995 Model Year

Installment Rate


3.0-liter V-6 <1%

3.8-liter V-8 99%

Power Windows 94%

Cruise Control 93%

1996 Model Year

Installment Rate


3.0-liter V-6 7%

3.8-liter V-8 93%

Power Windows 95%

Cruise Control 95%

Leather Seats 5%

Keyless/remote Entry 6%

1997 Model Year

Installment Rate


3.0-liter V-6 15%

3.8-liter V-8 85%

Power Windows 100%

Cruise Control 95%

Leather Seats 3%

Keyless/remote Entry 4%

10. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally, a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced, it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers

1995 Model Year

Production run: Feb. 1994 through Sept. 1995

Total number produced: 364,215

Total no. sold in U.S.: 308,495

1996 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1995 through Sept. 1996

Total number produced: 276,325

Total no. sold in U.S.: 198,456

1997 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1996 through Jan. 1997

Total number produced: 46,113

Total no. sold in U.S.: 209,717 (mostly 1998 MY)

1998 Model Year

Production run: Jan. 1997 through June 1998

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 195,983

11. Awards and Commendations


"All-Stars" - Automobile

"Best Values Awards" Home Mechanix

"America's Best Loved Cars and Trucks Award" - Strategic Vision

"Driver's Choice Award" - MotorWeek (TV Show)


"Minivan shoppers will find the Windstar an unequivocal alternative to the ubiquitous Chrysler design." -- Road & Track, March 1994

"Finally it's here. It took something like 12 years, but finally there's a competitor that goes head-to-toe with Chrysler's minivans. The Ford Windstar has all the crucial attributes that made Chrysler's original a smash, with fresh style, a little more headroom than caravan/Voyager and better noise, vibration and harshness control." -- AutoWeek

13. Recalls (Only major recalls listed)

ID Number: 94V222000

Component: Electrical

Year: 1995

Year of recall: '94

Potential number of units affected: 72,000

Summary: The wiring harness insulation can abrade on a brace that runs from the instrument panel to the cowl.

ID Number: 94V223000

Component: Electrical

Year: 1995

Year of recall: '94

Potential number of units affected: 112,000

Summary: The alternator output wire was not connected tightly to the power distribution box.

ID Number: 95E006002

Component: Interior systems: passive restraint: air bag: passenger

Year: 1995

Year of recall: '95

Potential number of units affected: 8600

Summary: The passenger side air bag has an inflator body that cracked during forming of the curl that retains the igniter plug in the end of the inflator. Also the igniter end cap can separate from the inflator.

ID Number: 97V180000

Component: Structure: hood assembly

Year: 1995

Year of recall: '97

Potential number of units affected: 769,000

Summary: Tearing of the bond between the inner and outer hood panels during minor front end collisions can result in a gap at the leading edge of the hood. Air forced between the inner and outer panels can produce enough pressure to force the outer panel upward. This condition can result in total separation of the outer hood panel.

14. Cost of Parts and Service (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $131 (average)

Side marker lamp: $40 (average)

Door (left front): $425 (average)

Fender (left front): $169 (average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1995 model. Prices are current as of mid-1998 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision

The Rettie Report and Pre-owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

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Used 1999 Ford F150 Lightning
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Pre-Owned Profile: 1995-1999 Ford Windstar - Autotrader