1995 marked the introduction of Ford's first front-wheel drive minivan; the Ford Windstar was designed to update and replace their former rear-wheel drive Aerostar. However, unlike the other cars that were sold in the Ford car lineup, the Windstar did not have a Lincoln-Mercury counterpart. But its massive success in winning the market led to the first Ford-developed Mercury minivan; the Mercury Monterey.
Sleek and sexy: 1995-1998
The main selling point of the Ford Windstar when it debuted was its sleek design, and front-wheel drive layout. The car-like handling became more widely preferred than the minivan offerings from Chrysler and GM; it's main competitors back in the day. Even though its price range was a bit higher than the Ford Aerostar and the Mercury Villager, the first-generation Windstar continued to surpass the market sales of both cars for almost two years.
Anti-lock brakes, dual airbags, seven-passenger seating, and a 3.8L V6 engine was standard during the first release. The engine produced 155 horsepower, and 220 Nm of torque. A cargo version trim was also offered during its inaugural year.
In 1996, significant upgrades with the engine took place. A new 3.0L 150 hp Vulcan V6 became the standard for base models, to make way for the new and improved 3.8L 200hp V6 engine for high-end trims. In 1998, cosmetic changes were introduced; new grille, headlights, leather-seating, and faux-wood interiors were installed.
Major redesign: 1999-2003
The engine maintained its original configuration, but the second-generation Ford Windstar boasted several equipment upgrades. Dual sliding doors spearheaded the major styling revamp during the 1999 model year. Also, included in the new features were rear-reverse sensors, seat-mounted airbags, and adjustable head restraints.
New brand, same dependability
As a new marketing strategy, the third-generation Windstar was rebranded as the Ford Freestar in 2003. This is in line with Ford's effort to rename all their cars with "F" as the first letter. The last Ford Windstar to be manufactured came out of the assembly line on July 25, 2003; no significant changes were made in the anticipation of the 2004 model year.
Ford's decision to rename the Windstar to Freestar incited a fiasco that caused confusion for consumers. However, then-president of marketing, Joe Greenwell, remained steadfast in his belief that the rebranding would stimulate interest in the product. And indeed; a few months later, sales record for the Ford Freestar was back on track. The success however did not last long, as the Ford Freestar model was cancelled after the 2007 model year.