The Ford Windstar is a minivan that was produced and sold by the Ford Motor Company from March 1994 (for the 1995 model year) to 2003. This front-wheel drive minivan would eventually replace Ford's aging rear-wheel drive Aerostar minivan. The two ran concurrently for three model years until the Aerostar's demise in 1997. For the 2004 model year, it was replaced by the Freestar. All Windstars were built in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. It was Ford's only minivan in North America to spawn two generations.
The all-new Windstar was released in March 1994, for the 1995 model year. While smaller than its predecessor, its sleek design, front-wheel drive, and better car-like handling made it more competitive with similar offerings from Chrysler and GM. The Windstar had beaten the third-generation Dodge Caravan to the market by over a year, which played a crucial role in Ford taking significant market share in the minivan market.
Though its size was between the smaller front-wheel drive Mercury Villager and the larger rear-wheel drive Ford Aerostar, for its first year, it was priced above both of them. 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 went for some $6,000 USD more.
Among standard features 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 horsepower (116 kW), but produced 220 ft·lbf 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.
Windstars was paired with an AXOD-E/AX4S transaxle, which was prone to internal failure. The AXOD transmission suffered from cracked forward and reverse clutch pistons. These transmission failures were more susceptible with the 3.8 engine, as the transmission could not handle the extra power and the extra weight from the vehicle itself. Windstars with the 3.0 engine could go far past 100k miles with regular maintenance.
Windstars also suffered from electrical wiring problems.
The Windstar was completely redesigned for the 1999 model year, now featuring dual-sliding doors. The 3.0 L and 3.8 L V6 engines were carried over from the previous generation. Among new features were front seat-mounted side airbags, dual power-sliding doors, and rear reverse sensors. From lowest to highest, 1999 Windstars were available in Cargo Van, base, LX, SE, and SEL. Dual sliding doors came standard on SE and SEL models, and were optional on the other models. SEs and SELs were equipped with 2nd row captain's chairs, while base and LX models came with a 2-passenger 2nd row bench seat.