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These Are the Lost American Minivans You Probably Don't Remember

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author photo by Doug DeMuro September 2016

There was a time before the recent SUV explosion when the minivan was popular. Really popular. Insanely popular. So popular that every automaker thought every single brand should have a minivan, even if that minivan didn't fit into that brand's long-term strategy and was being sold by three other carmakers under three different names. It didn't matter. At this point, I believe the motto over at General Motors was, "Why don't you already have one of our minivans?"

Of course, the minivan has kind of died off over the last decade or so, and this overexpansion of vans resulted in many models only being offered for one single generation -- or in some cases, just a few model years -- before being entirely canceled. And since very few car enthusiasts pay attention to minivans, and since these lasted for such a short time, I suspect many of you don't remember any of these models. They are the Lost American Minivans, ranked in order from most memorable to most forgettable. Here goes.

Oldsmobile Silhouette

Oldsmobile Silhouette

Although the Oldsmobile Silhouette is largely forgotten, it's fondly remembered by some car enthusiasts because it debuted back when General Motors was making its "dustbuster vans." No, this is not some sort of in-crowd car-enthusiast lingo relying on General Motors model code -- the vans actually looked like dustbusters.

The Silhouette is also remembered because it was sold longer than the other vans on this list: from 1990 to 2004, in two generations, as something of a luxury alternative to the Chevy Lumina APV and later the Chevy Venture. Unfortunately for minivan lovers (all three of you), when Oldsmobile died, the Silhouette died with it. However, there are 129 left on Autotrader if you really want to live the Silhouette life.

Ford Freestar

Ford Freestar

You probably remember the Ford Windstar and maybe even the Ford Freestyle -- but what about the Ford Freestar? Unfortunately, this was not a combination of the Windstar and the Freestyle, both of which were pretty good. Instead, the Freestar was just its own mediocre van, and it was pretty bad.

It was only offered from 2004 to 2007, before former Ford CEO Alan Mulally stepped in and said, "Maybe we should stop selling this dull minivan with a parking brake inexplicably sticking out of the floor." So they did. But if you want some Freestar in your life, you can get it: There are currently 401 for sale on Autotrader.

Saturn Relay

Saturn Relay

Although you've probably forgotten the Saturn Relay, I distinctly remember it, largely because I used to sell Saturns at a Saturn dealership. Now, I admit that I never sold Saturns when the Relay was a new model. Rather, I remember it because people used to come into the dealership and complain about how unreliable their Relay was.

The van's platform was based on the Chevy Uplander, which replaced the Chevy Venture. The Relay wasn't the most forgettable van of that ilk (we'll get to the Buick Terraza in a moment), but it was quite forgettable -- unless you owned one, in which case you could never forget all the scary moments you spent hoping it would start. In the end, the Relay was sold for just 3 years -- 2005, 2006 and 2007 -- before succumbing to cancellation a couple of years before the entire Saturn brand was axed. Nonetheless, there are still 63 examples listed for sale on Autotrader.

Mercury Monterey

Mercury Monterey

The Mercury Monterey was the luxury version of the Ford Freestar we discussed above. While the luxury model is usually the most enduring, exciting and well-remembered half of any group of automotive twins, that wasn't the case here. Instead, Ford took a forgettable van, gave it to the forgettable Mercury brand, and added a forgettable name that they had used throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

Nobody remembers the Mercury Monterey. If you call up the Ford dealer and ask them to service your Mercury Monterey, they'll ask you how to spell it. Nonetheless, you can buy a Monterey right now if you so desire: There are currently 75 examples listed for sale on Autotrader.

Buick Terraza

Buick Terraza

There's no doubt that the Buick Terraza is the most forgettable minivan in history. I say this because you, the reader, have no idea what the Buick Terraza is. You've never seen one. You're thinking maybe it was only sold in China. You think I am making it up. You think it's not real.

Sorry, pal: It's real. The Terraza was the replacement for the Oldsmobile Silhouette, which was based on the Chevy Uplander and Saturn Relay and sold from 2005 to 2007. It was purchased by approximately 254 sets of grandparents who wanted both a Buick and a minivan to cart around the kids. After its quick cancellation, Buick never returned to the minivan market -- although you could bring back fond memories if you wanted to drive by a Buick dealership after buying one. And, interestingly, you should have no trouble buying one: There are currently 127 listed on Autotrader, which means that approximately half of those grandparents are unloading their Terrazas.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
These Are the Lost American Minivans You Probably Don't Remember - Autotrader