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The Many Faces Of The Minivan

The evolution of the minivan has progressed along in anything but a straight line. There have been rear-engine/rear-drive, front-engine/rear-drive, and front-engine/front-drive chassis topped with many different styles of bodies.

Take a look at this gallery of innovators, oddballs, and commercial failures.

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1936 Stout Scarab

William Stout stands out as a dynamic automotive designer and inventor of the early 20th Century. He helped conceived the design for the Ford Tri-Motor airplane and applied his knowledge to a minivan precursor, the Stout Scarab.

The spacious interior of the Scarab features a completely flat floor with balsa wood paneled sidewalls. A flathead Ford V8 powers the rear wheels. The body is lightweight aluminum.

If you're interested in the Stout Scarab, you may want to make a trip to Detroit to check one out for yourself. Just nine were ever made, and one of them will go on permanent display at the Detroit Historical Museum starting on August 29, 2015.

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Pontiac Trans Sport 1990

General Motors entered the minivan segment in 1990 with what would become a trio of models including the Pontiac Transport. The models never attained the popularity of the Chryslers, mostly because of the "Dust Buster vacuum" styling. While they looked odd, they were innovative and featured rust- and dent-proof polymer body panels. GM ceased production of minivans in 2008.
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Toyota Previa

Designed for the Japanese domestic market, the spaceship-like Toyota Previa (produced from 1991-97) featured a mid-engine design. American drivers didn't like the odd proportions or the large engine compartment in the center of the cabin.
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1961 Ford Econoline

Based on mechanicals from the compact Ford Falcon car, the Econoline E100 van is a body style classified as a forward-control or cab-forward. The Ford is a front-engine/rear-wheel-drive design powered by a small six-cylinder engine. Its compact dimensions made it a great urban delivery vehicle, but the appeal of full-size vans pushed the compact E100 out of production after 1967.
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1964 Volkswagen Bus

No, the VW Bus is not one of the worst cars ever designed. In fact, these days the old Vee Dub is a certified classic, with values steadily rising.

As cool as the VW Microbus may be, it was also extremely underpowered, and it offered zero creature comforts or safety features.

Volkswagen produced the Microbus T1 through 1967 in many different configurations including campers, pickups, panel vans, and the high-line Deluxe.

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1986 Ford Aerostar

Ford's first minivan was the Aerostar, but the manufacturer steered away from Chrysler's front-wheel-drive design in favor of a truck-based chassis with rear-wheel drive. The Aerostar boasted high towing and payload capacities, but minivan buyers wanted what Ford's second minivan (the Windstar) offered; a low step-in height to lots of interior room with plenty of cupholders.
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VW Caddy Racing Van

No, Volkswagen is not building Cadillacs, but they do build the Caddy, a compact delivery van that's widely used across Europe. This one-off racing edition uses a 2.0-liter diesel that is turbocharged to produce 260 horsepower and 377 pound-feet. of torque. Like the current VW Jetta, the Caddy uses clean-diesel technology that includes direct fuel injection.
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