From 1985 until its demise in 2005, GM’s M-van platform mates Chevrolet Astro and GMC Safari served the mediocre van buyer reliably. This Motorweek review from the van’s new-for-’85 launch could just as easily have been produced anywhere along the van’s lifespan and remained the same, as very little changed about this thing.
Ostensibly a new entry to Chrysler’s invented mini-van segment, the M-chassis wasn’t really that much smaller than GM’s full sized vans, but it was shorter, which meant you could park it in your garage. That was a big deal in the mid-1980s, because the Astro could hold nearly as much cargo as the Vandura-sized vans. A great compromise between the two classes of van, then.
The styling of these monstrosities is even more striking now than I remember it being a decade ago. I haven’t seen these in any real number since I left the Midwest, which is probably where they were all sold, but it looks as old as it is. Older, perhaps.
The one they tested was big and brown, it was probably registered as a “station wagon” at the time, and it could be had with a manual. It’s the perfect Jalopnik-mobile. What’s not to like? Oh yeah, it’s an 80s Astro.
In his closing remarks about the van, Davis remarks, “Apparently designed to both work and play smart.” I’m positive I know exactly what kind of playing happens with an Astro van, as a ton of dudes on my high school football team had these to drive around. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with certified Automotive Dad John Davis talking about getting busy in the back of a van, but here we are.