There’s a lack of imagination behind today’s family haulers. The Toyota Sienna looks like the Volkswagen Routan. The Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country look like identical twins from their same corporate parent. The Honda Odyssey looks like an amalgam of the entire segment. Dwindling in popularity, it seems designers now treat minivans with indifference.
That hasn’t always been the case. No, minivans have never been pretty. In fact, they’ve pretty much always been ugly. But in the good old days, they dared to be ugly in an original skin.
Like garishly wonderful Christmas sweaters, we didn’t realize we had developed a fondness for the wood-paneled heinousness of minivan of yesteryear until we thought about them in relation to the current crop of milquetoast conformists. So it’s with an odd sense of appreciation that we present the ugliest minivans of all time:
Ford WindstarThe Windstar is about as glamorous as a UPS truck. But what puts it on our list of all-time ugliest minivans isn’t necessarily its exterior. It's ugly on the inside too.
Structurally speaking, it might be the most unreliable minivan of all time. Some Windstar drivers had their drive axles detach from the transmission thanks to corrosion caused by rusting in the subframe. Some Windstars were so unsafe that Ford agreed to repurchase vehicles to get them off the road.
Buick TerrazaDuring its unheralded, three-year run, the Terraza symbolized its fitful, chaotic upbringing. It was designed to be a luxury version of GM’s minivan lineup. When Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Saturn were scrapped, the low-selling Terraza went to the junkyard along with it.
Although the larger-sized Terazza looks disjointed, what with its mismatched-sized windows, this car deserves more credit than minivan historians might otherwise give it. It’s the precursor to the much-ballyhooed Buick Enclave.
Nissan QuestThe Quest has not aged gracefully. In terms of aging gracefully, this vehicle actually seems like it’s openly defiant.
Unlike other minivans on our list, the Quest has gotten more ugly in its most recent iterations. It started off as a collaboration with Ford and not surprisingly looked a little like the Windstar.
Off on its own, the Quest had something of a midlife crisis, went out on a bender and became the black sheep of its peer group. Charitably speaking, it looks like body parts from four different cars were welded together and set upon four undersized tires.
But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the inside is pretty nice. And to its credit, the current Quest does something unlike any of the other cars soulless cars on the market today. It forged an identity all its own.
Toyota VanThe Toyota Van, also known as the Toyota MasterAce, looks like a Japanese version of Volkswagen’s iconic microbus.
In fact, it was Toyota’s early answer to Chrysler’s minivan, with U.S. sales starting in 1983. Hilariously, certain trim levels were referred to as the “Wonder Wagon” in advertisements.
Sadly, a full-fledged minivan with only three doors is anything but.
Pontiac Trans SportLike its corporate siblings, the Oldsmobile Silhouette and Chevy Lumina APV, the Trans Sport is a notable piece of equipment in minivan history. It will be forever remembered as the dust-buster car for its fluid, bulbous figure.
It’s a shame that GM engineers didn’t stick with the original concept of the Trans Sport, sketched in the mid-1980s, which showed something like the panoramic sunroof that has become wildly popular in recent years. If they had stuck to it, this Pontiac could have been remembered for something far more interesting than its vacuum-like shape.