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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The Minivan. A Ford Idea
A brief history note about the Ford MiniMax and the Ford Carrousel

by SobeSVT


Ford can hardly take credit for the minivan. Although the concept was conceived and researched by Ford in the early to mid 1970s, it was Chrysler who took the risk of investing in its research and development for production, tooling, marketing and manufacturing. Of course we all know how well that investment payed for Chrysler and we all know who deserves all the credit for the minivan. Still the fact remains that it was an original Ford idea.

I thought that it would be interesting to discuss the MiniMax concept that Hall Sperlich developed while he was at Ford and that Henry Ford II hated since the minute he heard about it. Sperlich took the project with him when he was fired for being considered an Iacocca lieutenant, landing on Chrysler a few months before his boss with the MiniMax in his pocket.

So, I searched and researched on the internet (where else?) and found that the MiniMax while at Ford had a competing project, the Carrousel. While the MiniMax was to be based on a then non-existent FWD platform very much the way they ended up producing it at Chrysler, the Carrousel was based on a shortened Ford Econoline platform and was discarded without ever been showed since it was considered a threat to their cash cow the Country Sedan / Country Squire (that would have been one **** of a name for the Flex)

I couldn't find any pics of the MiniMax (if you have any, please post them) but there is this one pic of the Carrousel.





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Great Piece of History

Amazing now that Honda is the one milking this together with Toyota...
I do not blame em, they have exelent FWD plartforms. Though with the new Ford and GM plartforms being better in everyway, execution is all that remains between them and the imports
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Amazing now that Honda is the one milking this together with Toyota...
I do not blame em, they have exelent FWD plartforms. Though with the new Ford and GM plartforms being better in everyway, execution is all that remains between them and the imports
Its funny how the new Flex looks more like the offspring of a Carrousel than a descendant of a minivan.

The more things change the more they stay the same!!





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here's a little more about the Carousel < click for larger

from http://www.automotivechronicles.com/articles/2004/jul/03/index.php
Every Boy's Dream: The Life and Career of an Automotive Designer
By Dick Nesbitt

... when I was assigned to the Light Truck and Tractor studio, we received a product planning directive to develop a derivative of the upcoming new Ford Econoline Van, code named "Nantucket" and due for release in 1975. The derivative was code named "Carousel" and was intended to attract station wagon buyers with more car-like styling combined with the added appeal of van utility.

From hundreds of concept sketches created by staff designers in this studio during 1972, one of mine was selected by Hal Sperlich, Director of Product Planning, and Lee Iacocca as the approved design direction. I directed the construction of a full-size clay model, and the vehicle received a great deal of interest from Henry Ford II. Unfortunately, the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 halted further development after a drivable, fabricated metal prototype had been built.

The Carousel was specifically designed as a "Garagable Family Van" alternative to the traditional station wagon market segment. This concept later became one of the most successful and enduring product innovations ever created when Hal Sperlich and Lee Iacocca launched the Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Caravan in 1984.



The rest of the AutomotiveChronicles article goes into other vehicles Mr. Nesbitt worked on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
here's a little more about the Carousel < click for larger

from http://www.automotivechronicles.com/articles/2004/jul/03/index.php
Every Boy's Dream: The Life and Career of an Automotive Designer
By Dick Nesbitt

... when I was assigned to the Light Truck and Tractor studio, we received a product planning directive to develop a derivative of the upcoming new Ford Econoline Van, code named "Nantucket" and due for release in 1975. The derivative was code named "Carousel" and was intended to attract station wagon buyers with more car-like styling combined with the added appeal of van utility.

From hundreds of concept sketches created by staff designers in this studio during 1972, one of mine was selected by Hal Sperlich, Director of Product Planning, and Lee Iacocca as the approved design direction. I directed the construction of a full-size clay model, and the vehicle received a great deal of interest from Henry Ford II. Unfortunately, the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 halted further development after a drivable, fabricated metal prototype had been built.

The Carousel was specifically designed as a "Garagable Family Van" alternative to the traditional station wagon market segment. This concept later became one of the most successful and enduring product innovations ever created when Hal Sperlich and Lee Iacocca launched the Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Caravan in 1984.



The rest of the AutomotiveChronicles article goes into other vehicles Mr. Nesbitt worked on.
WOW!! Thanks for the find 2b2.

There seems to be some contradiction on Nesbitt's recollection and other more credible accounts on the subject.

While the Nantucket project was based on a full size RWD Econoline platform, the MiniMax was to be based on a FWD platform. It is the MiniMax that Sperlich took with him to Chrysler and ended up being the minivan.

This is what Lee Iacocca answered when asked in 1988 what was his personal car.

Q. What's your personal car these days?

A. I drive a minivan mostly. It's 24 years since we did the first Mini Max at Ford, and I love 'em. I have the last Woody convertible on Nantucket I have one Mustang I kept--a `64 1/2. But essentially I drive either a white Grand Cherokee or a Town and Country minivan and a Lincoln. Town Car for other occasions.


Who could blame Nesbitt for believing that his baby was the genesis of such an historical vehicle like the minivan. But the fact is that the Carousel has very little in common with what ended up being the minivan.

SOURCE



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here's a little more about the Carousel < click for larger

from http://www.automotivechronicles.com/articles/2004/jul/03/index.php
Every Boy's Dream: The Life and Career of an Automotive Designer
By Dick Nesbitt

... when I was assigned to the Light Truck and Tractor studio, we received a product planning directive to develop a derivative of the upcoming new Ford Econoline Van, code named "Nantucket" and due for release in 1975. The derivative was code named "Carousel" and was intended to attract station wagon buyers with more car-like styling combined with the added appeal of van utility.

From hundreds of concept sketches created by staff designers in this studio during 1972, one of mine was selected by Hal Sperlich, Director of Product Planning, and Lee Iacocca as the approved design direction. I directed the construction of a full-size clay model, and the vehicle received a great deal of interest from Henry Ford II. Unfortunately, the OPEC oil embargo of 1973 halted further development after a drivable, fabricated metal prototype had been built.

The Carousel was specifically designed as a "Garagable Family Van" alternative to the traditional station wagon market segment. This concept later became one of the most successful and enduring product innovations ever created when Hal Sperlich and Lee Iacocca launched the Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Caravan in 1984.



The rest of the AutomotiveChronicles article goes into other vehicles Mr. Nesbitt worked on.

Wow, it looks alot like the original Chrysler Minivan. I guess thats because when the Ford guys like Iacocca and Hal Sperlich went to Chrysler they had a basic design.
 

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Re: Ford MiniMax vs. Ford Carrousel: Ford lost, Chrysler won . . . big

The Carrousel significantly influenced the Chrysler Minivan success story,
-- Hal Sperlich and Lee Iacocca have often referred to the MiniMax as being the inspiration for the Voyager/Caravan--although it was a very small urban vehicle created as a possible solution to overcrowded city traffic problems.
The MiniMax concept was a four passenger front wheel drive commuter vehicle with almost no luggage storage capacity and no real future.
The significance of the Carrousel proposal was that it offered a dramatically improved alternative to the typical interior-space-restricted station wagons of the 1970's.
The key "Nantucket Family Van" variation design and marketing directive was to create a lower "garagable" overall height compared to the Econoline van range from which it was derived ,combined with more automotive-like styling.
The non-garagable height and truck-like styling of the Econoline Club Wagon series were seen as major obstacles to any kind of high volume sales characteristic of contemporary station wagons--but the interior room available in a van had obvious advantages.
--The Carrousel Family Van was intended to represent the best of both worlds,and was seen by Ford as a major marketing breakthrough opportunity.
Chrysler's Minivans were and are not really "Mini" at all--and achieved monumental success as a more space efficient "Family Van" alternative to contemporary station wagons combined with "garagable" height and automotive-like styling as a direct extension of the original Carrousel idea back in 1972.
-- It was an honor and a privilege to have been selected as the designer responsible for the Carrousel creative team.
--The April,1988 Volume 4 Number 6 issue of Collectible Automobile Magazine featured a very comprehensive and detailed story on the design development of the Carousel Program.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The Carrousel(Carousel?) significantly influenced the Chrysler Minivan success story,
-- Hal Sperlich and Lee Iacocca have often referred to the MiniMax as being the inspiration for the Voyager/Caravan--Although it was a very small urban vehicle created as a possible solution to overcrowded city traffic problems.
As I recall,the MiniMax was a four passenger front wheel drive commuter with almost no luggage storage capacity and no real future.
The significance of the Carrousel proposal was that it offered a dramatically improved alternative to the typical interior-space-restricted station wagons of the 1970's.
The key "Nantucket" design and marketing directive was to create a lower "garagable" overall height compared to the Econoline van range from which it was derived from combined with more automotive-like styling.
The non-garagable height and truck-like styling of the Econoline Club Wagon series were seen as major obstacles to any kind of high volume sales characteristic of contemporary station wagons--but the interior room available in a van had obvious advantages.
--The Carrousel was intended to represent the best of both worlds,and was seen by Ford as a major marketing breakthrough opportunity.
Chryslers Minivans were and are not really "Mini" at all--and achieved monumental success as a more space efficient alternative to contemporary station wagons combined with "garagable" height and automotive-like styling as a direct extension of the original Carrousel idea back in 1972.
-- It was an honor and a privilege to have been selected as the designer responsible for the Carrousel creative team.
--The April,1988 Volume 4 Number 6 issue of Collectible Automobile Magazine featured a very comprehensive and detailed story on the design development of the Carrousel Program.
Let me start by saying what a big honor it is for us here at FoMoCo News that you have joined our board. You were the first in a series of Ford designers that we plan to cover from E.T. (Bob) Gregory to J Mays, you can see your entry HERE and please feel free to comment and correct any inaccuracy that you may find there. We have many members here that have a great deal of interest in car design: Mr. Burns (I think he is from Canada) graces our site from time to time with sketches of his own, RG59061 and 2b2 have a great taste and eye for good design and finally FordRules has a very good hand for photochoping his ideas. After all its is through design that we first find interest for a particular car.

Now I would like to ask two questions about the the Carousel if you don't mind:

  1. How serious was Ford about the Carousel project and why was it finally cancelled? I was thinking that if Ford had green-lighted this project lets say for 1973 as a 1974 model, they would have been forced to downsize it around 1981. In that scenario the minivan would have been born within the Ford Motor Company as a downsized Carousel (in an stretched Escort platform) three years prior the date in which Chrysler ended up introducing them. The Flex today, would be a retro-van.
  2. I am very curious about the interior configuration of the Carousel. Did it have three forward facing rows of seats? or did it have a third rear facing row (as a child I thought that was the coolest thing in the universe)? How about side facing seats like in a subway car? Was buyer customization considered? How about the dashboard, was it standard Econoline or did you guys consider something less "commercial" oriented?

Thanks and welcome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Re: Ford MiniMax vs. Ford Carrousel: Ford lost, Chrysler won . . . big

WOW!! Thanks for the find 2b2.

There seems to be some contradiction on Nesbitt's recollection and other more credible accounts on the subject.

While the Nantucket project was based on a full size RWD Econoline platform, the MiniMax was to be based on a FWD platform. It is the MiniMax that Sperlich took with him to Chrysler and ended up being the minivan.

This is what Lee Iacocca answered when asked in 1988 what was his personal car.

Q. What's your personal car these days?

A. I drive a minivan mostly. It's 24 years since we did the first Mini Max at Ford, and I love 'em. I have the last Woody convertible on Nantucket I have one Mustang I kept--a `64 1/2. But essentially I drive either a white Grand Cherokee or a Town and Country minivan and a Lincoln. Town Car for other occasions.


Who could blame Nesbitt for believing that his baby was the genesis of such an historical vehicle like the minivan. But the fact is that the Carousel has very little in common with what ended up being the minivan.

SOURCE
Jesus!!! What a way to get my foot in my mouth . . . :eek: :eek:

I took Iaccoca's word as the only one and didn't consider that there are different recollections of the same events that may lead to different conclusions. I guess this will be a life long lesson (as well as a major embarrassment . . . well :eek:)
 

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Design Mah&#257;r&#257;ja
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Let me start by saying what a big honor it is for us here at FoMoCo News that you have joined our board. You were the first in a series of Ford designers that we plan to cover from E.T. (Bob) Gregory to J Mays, you can see your entry HERE and please feel free to comment and correct any inaccuracy that you may find there. We have many members here that have a great deal of interest in car design: Mr. Burns (I think he is from Canada) graces our site from time to time with sketches of his own, RG59061 and 2b2 have a great taste and eye for good design and finally FordRules has a very good hand for photochoping his ideas. After all its is through design that we first find interest for a particular car.

Now I would like to ask two questions about the the Carousel if you don't mind:

  1. How serious was Ford about the Carousel project and why was it finally cancelled? I was thinking that if Ford had green-lighted this project lets say for 1973 as a 1974 model, they would have been forced to downsize it around 1981. In that scenario the minivan would have been born within the Ford Motor Company as a downsized Carousel (in an stretched Escort platform) three years prior the date in which Chrysler ended up introducing them. The Flex today, would be a retro-van.
  2. I am very curious about the interior configuration of the Carousel. Did it have three forward facing rows of seats? or did it have a third rear facing row (as a child I thought that was the coolest thing in the universe)? How about side facing seats like in a subway car? Was buyer customization considered? How about the dashboard, was it standard Econoline or did you guys consider something less "commercial" oriented?

Thanks and welcome.
It is a real honor to be a member of your most impressive website and especially to be featured in your Ford designer profile series!
-- I am looking forward to the many designers you will be featuring in the future--this is a wonderful tribute to some very special people for whom recognition is long overdue........
Regarding the Carrousel project--During the time of it's creation and development,HF II himself thought it was going to be as significant and as successful as the Mustang was in 1964.
It was a top priority at the Ford Boca Raton New Product Strategy Review in 1973. --The launch date was planned for 1975.
The OPEC oil restrictions beginning in late 1973 brought about drastic changes dramatically effecting Ford's future product planning.
Henry Ford II was most enthusiastic about the modest development costs and market share increases the Carrousel would have achieved,but he pulled the plug on anything that wasn't a direct replacement for an existing product line during the deep recession of 1974.
Front wheel drive programs were cut as well as plans to downsize full-size car lines to compete with GM for 1977.
I was assigned to the Ford International Design Studio during 1974.
This studio co-ordinated design projects with Ford's newly acquired Ghia Design studios in Italy.
One of my assignments in this studio was to prepare a presentation for the future Fox Program (Fairmont-Zephyr),for which I developed a series of concept ideas incorporating transverse 4 and V-6 engines combined with front wheel drive.
Had this proposal been accepted by Henry Ford II,it would have provided an ideal platform for the second-generation "Carrousel II".
The interior plans for the Carrousel included everything from conventional front facing bench seats to some very unusual layouts.
One of the most interesting versions incorporated a combined rear and side facing "U" shaped rear seat proposal.
The instrument panel was all-new and specific to the Carrousel to further enhance it's unique character and the proposed upholstery trim levels were all very high grade materials similar to Ford's LTD Brougham in quality.
--I have additional design illustrations I did for the Carrousel and Mustang II Ford autoshow custom variations with other material I would be glad to share with your website--let me know how you want me to send them.......
--Dick Nesbitt
 

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I'd also like to extend a Welcome to you, Mr. Nesbitt


and if I may, invite you to post threads with any insights to the current state of the Auto industry.
Some of your comments about the 1970's time period sound eerily similar to the challenges the mfgs face today - CAFE & new 'fuels', inequality in exchange rates & import/export rules -
I sure hope Ford doesn't 'circle the wagons' in response...

I'm sure we'd all appreciate your perspective!


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"One Ford to rule them all, One Ford to find them, One Ford to bring them all, and the dk.Blueness bind them, in the Land of Dearborn, where the Mustangs ride"
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
It is a real honor to be a member of your most impressive website and especially to be featured in your Ford designer profile series!
-- I am looking forward to the many designers you will be featuring in the future--this is a wonderful tribute to some very special people for whom recognition is long overdue........
Regarding the Carrousel project--During the time of it's creation and development,HF II himself thought it was going to be as significant and as successful as the Mustang was in 1964.
It was top priority at the Ford Boca Raton new product Strategy meeting Review in 1973. --The launch date was planned for 1975.
The OPEC oil restrictions beginning in late 1973 brought about drastic changes dramatically affecting Fords future product planning.
Henry Ford II was most enthusiastic about the modest development costs and market share increases the Carrousel would have achieved,but he pulled the plug on anything that wasn't a direct replacement for an existing product line during the deep recession of 1974.
Front wheel drive programs were cut as well as plans to downsize full-size car lines to compete with GM for 1977.
I was assigned to the Ford International Design Studio during 1974.
This studio co-ordinated design projects with Ford's newly acquired Ghia Design studios in Italy.
One of my assignments in this studio was to prepare a presentation for the future Fox Program (Fairmont-Zephyr),for which I developed a series of concept ideas incorporating transverse 4 and V-6 engines combined with front wheel drive.
Had this proposal been accepted by Henry Ford II,it would have provided an ideal platform for the second-generation "Carrousel II".
The interior plans for the Carrousel included everything from conventional front facing bench seats to some very unusual layouts.
One of the most interesting versions incorporated a combined rear and side facing "U" shaped rear seat proposal.
The instrument panel was all-new and specific to the Carrousel to further enhance it's unique character and the proposed upholstery trim levels were all very high grade materials similar to Ford's LTD Brougham in quality.
--I have additional design illustrations I did for the Carrousel and Mustang II Ford autoshow custom variations with other material I Would be glad to share with your website--let me know how you want me to send them.......
--Dick Nesbitt
Thank you very much for your responses Mr. Nesbitt.

The Ford Carousel sounds like one of the biggest missed opportunities that Ford has ever let pass by them. It was conceived thought to be launched in the middle of one of the worse crisis that Ford has ever had, only comparable to what the company is living today (and which by the way, preceded one of the most prosperous times Ford has ever had).

I will email you about those carousel and Mustang II illustrations. I can hardly wait to see them . . .

Thanks again.
 

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Design Mah&#257;r&#257;ja
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I'd also like to extend a Welcome to you, Mr. Nesbitt


and if I may, invite you to post threads with any insights to the current state of the Auto industry.
Some of your comments about the 1970's time period sound eerily similar to the challenges the mfgs face today - CAFE & new 'fuels', inequality in exchange rates & import/export rules -
I sure hope Ford doesn't 'circle the wagons' in response...

I'm sure we'd all appreciate your perspective!


signature du jour:________________________________________
one world One BigBlueOval
"One Ford to rule them all, One Ford to find them, One Ford to bring them all, and the dk.Blueness bind them, in the Land of Dearborn, where the Mustangs ride"
Thank you for your welcome and consideration.
In my opinion,Ford has a far more relevant and sophisticated product line now as compared to the mid and late 70's,but overcapacity and massive import competition are overwhelming in today's market.
--I believe Lincoln and Mercury have lost their way,and need to get focused on the real-world international near-luxury and luxury automotive world they should be competing with.
It is interesting to note that the record high sales year of 1973 was directly followed by the disaster years of 1974 and 1975--in a similar way to Ford's current situation.
--Don Petersen,Lew Veraldi and Jack Telnack ,with many others,turned Ford around in the 1980's--and I am sure the right team can do it again.....Inspired leadership makes all the difference!
Dick Nesbitt
 

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Thank you for your welcome and consideration.
In my opinion,Ford has a far more relevant and sophisticated product line now as compared to the mid and late 70's,but overcapacity and massive import competition are overwhelming in today's market.
--I believe Lincoln and Mercury have lost their way,and need to get focused on the real-world international near-luxury and luxury automotive world they should be competing with.
It is interesting to note that the record high sales year of 1973 was directly followed by the disaster years of 1974 and 1975--in a similar way to Ford's current situation.
--Don Petersen,Lew Viraldi and Jack Telnack ,with many others,turned Ford around in the 1980's--and I am sure the right team can do it again.....Inspired leadership makes all the difference!
Dick Nesbitt
Hi Mr. Nesbitt! Its a honor to have you on this forum. I would like your opinion on Cadillac's Direction and if in your view, Lincoln should do something similar or chart its own path.
 

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Design Mah&#257;r&#257;ja
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Hi Mr. Nesbitt! Its a honor to have you on this forum. I would like your opinion on Cadillac's Direction and if in your view, Lincoln should do something similar or chart its own path.
--Cadillac seems to be finally getting on track after so many years of lacking appropriate direction.
The "Art and Science" design themes have established a strong and unique visual identity for Cadillac.
I am hopeful that many design features of the Lincoln MKR concept will influence Lincoln design in the very near future.
Dick Nesbitt
 

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picture fail... unless a corvette is now a minivan LOL
 
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