Ford Windstar

Ford Windstar
Manufacturer Ford
Also called Mercury Monterey (see below)
Production 1994–2004 as Ford Windstar
2004–2007 as Ford Freestar
Assembly Oakville, Ontario, Canada (Oakville Assembly)
Body and chassis
Class Minivan
Layout FF layout

The Ford Windstar is a minivan that was produced and sold by Ford from the 1994 to 2004 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 concurrently 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)

First generation
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. On cold mornings the engine will blow steam out of the slanted tailpipe. The engine also makes "bleh" sound. 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. The postal service uses these and they do not have hubcaps. They drive them hard and hit the gas hard lurching away from complete stops similar to what they do in their "Long Life Vehicles" (LLVs) for some reason. Why they can't use a steady foot rather than an "on and off" motion while on the gas to go between mailboxes is unclear.

Year-by-year changes

1998 Ford Windstar

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), as it was not possible to create a driver's side sliding door with the current body shell. When the Windstar was being designed in the early 1990s, Ford claimed that a drivers-side sliding door was not noted a key feature indicated by focus groups; also at that time, minivans with that feature had sold very poorly.

Trim levels

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.


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 an even 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. Windstars with the 3.0L engine could go far past 150,000 miles with regular maintenance.

IIHS Crash test results

The 1995–1998 Ford Windstar, which was tested as a 1996 model received a "Good" rating from the IIHS in all marks, in which the driver survives the accident without any injuries.

Second generation (1999–2003)

Second generation

Ford Windstar LX (1999–2000)
Production July 1998–July 2003
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-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

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.[8]

Trim levels

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.


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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]

A class action lawsuit was filed against Ford Motor Company in May 2010 proceeding Ford's recall.[12] 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.[12]

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.[13]

IIHS Crash test results

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

Calendar Year Total American sales
1995 222,147[14]
1996 209,033
1997 205,356
1998 190,173
1999[15] 213,844
2000 222,298
2001[16] 179,595
2002[17] 148,875
2003 113,465

Third generation (Ford Freestar; 2004–2007)

Ford Freestar

Ford Freestar (2004–2007)
Also called Mercury Monterey
Production 2003–2007
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)
Ford Freestar

For the 2004 model year, the Windstar was redesigned inside and out. As part of a controversial company initiative to rebrand its vehicles with nameplates starting with the letter F, the Windstar name was replaced by Ford Freestar. One argued the name was changed because the "Windstar" had so many problems giving it a negative reputation. As part of a $600 million redesign, Ford focused on driveline durability, adding larger wheel bearings and heavier-duty drive axles; four-wheel disc brakes were made standard. While the 4-speed transmission was carried over, it was upgraded for improved shifting and reliability. Replacing the 3.8L V6 were a 193 hp 3.9L V6 (for U.S. sales only) and a 201 hp 4.2L V6 engine. Following the Honda Odyssey, Mazda MPV, and Toyota Sienna, the Freestar now featured a 3rd-row seat that folded into the floor.

Trim levels

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.

IIHS Crash test results

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

Calendar Year Freestar Monterey
2003[17] 15,771 2,213
2004[18] 100,622 17,407
2005 77,585 8,166
2006[19] 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.[20]

Mercury Monterey

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

Mercury Monterey

In 2004, the Mercury division replaced the discontinued Villager with its own version of the Freestar. Reviving the dormant Monterey name, the minivan was sized to compete directly against the Chrysler Town and Country and the newly introduced Buick Terraza. Differentiated from the Freestar primarily in trim options, the Monterey also came exclusively with 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.


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


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ford Windstar.
  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.
  6. "Light trucks: the hottest segment – light truck market trends and new products for 1994 – Industry Overview". Retrieved 2011-06-03.
  7. "4-Wheel Drive / Offroading" on
  8. "Not Found" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-12-24.
  9. Jensen, Christopher (2010-08-27). "Ford Recalling 575,000 Windstar Minivans for Rear Axle Problem". The New York Times.
  10. Jensen, Christopher (2010-12-15). "Death Preceded Safety Agency's Warning on Ford Windstar". The New York Times.
  11. "Ford Windstar Rear Axle Recall Surpasses 600,000 Units » News". 9 May 2012.
  12. 1 2
  13. "1999–'03 Ford Windstar Minivans Recalled". Edmunds. 2011-01-28. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2013-12-07.
  15. "Ford Motor Company Sets New Full Year U.S. Sales Record". Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  16. "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.
  17. 1 2 "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.
  18. "Ford Achieves First Car Sales Increase Since 1999". 2004-11-17. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
  19. "Ford Motor Company 2007 sales". January 3, 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12.
  20. "J.D.Power and Associates – Press Release". 2009-03-19. Retrieved 2010-07-17.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ford Windstar.
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