If you’re like me, you spent much of your childhood watching the world roll by from the windows of a minivan. They offered a sort of magic you can’t find in today’s crossovers. And while the minivan may struggle for relevance today, there’s a van out there ready for you to relive your memories. This near-perfect 12,500-mile 1996 Pontiac Trans Sport on Craigslist is ready to be your plastic-bodied time machine.
The Jalopnik office has fond memories of these vans. My parents couldn’t get enough of vans during my formative years and as a result I got to ride in many of the latest minivans. Perhaps it’s why I enjoyed road-tripping an incredible beater of a Dodge Caravan. As a kid, two vans really stood out in the pack because they looked like spaceships. Those were the suppository-shaped Toyota Previa and GM’s dustbuster vans.
While this Trans Sport certainly looks its age, in its day it looked like it came straight out of the future. These hit the road when consumers expected vans to look like bricks with wheels, including the Chevrolet Astro.
Managing Editor Lalita remembers calling these rocket ships in middle school. Editor-In-Chief Rory recalls a friend’s dad calling one Starship Transport. I thought of them, especially in white, as space shuttles.
Of course, it was also a product of the time when GM printed out a bunch of “badge-engineered” cars that vaguely represented their brand identities. The Pontiac was the sporty-looking sibling of the budget Chevrolet Lumina APV and the luxury Oldsmobile Silhouette. It got a front end and some dorky cladding to blend in with the rest of the Pontiac fleet.
Even though the vans were disappointing compared to their bold concept, they had the tech to back up their looks. They rode on a galvanized steel space frame and featured plastic bodies that didn’t rust. The vans had flexible seating and even a then innovative for the time power sliding door.
For kids, this was the future. Take a look inside of this thing.
The seller doesn’t say how the car has managed to have so few miles despite nearly 26 years and two owners, but the interior looks so clean that it doesn’t look like someone’s kid has farted in those back seats. There’s a cassette deck and a cigarette lighter; is there anything more ‘90s than a minivan with a cigarette lighter?
And like a proper classic minivan, there’s only a single sliding door and a real funky dashboard.
Power comes from GM’s 3400 V6 making 180 horsepower mated to an automatic. These weren’t meant to win races but to haul a family around, or a teenager with their band and gear.
We sometimes call nearly perfectly-clean cars museum pieces, but I’ve seen cars in worse shape inside of museums.
It’s so clean that the headlights are crystal clear and the edges of the doors don’t even have chips in their paint. I reached out to the seller to find out about this van’s history. Hopefully they can shed some light on things.
It’s hard not to imagine yourself sitting in back, being shuttled to wherever your parents or your friends’ parents are taking you. The price to take that trip down memory lane is $8,500 on Craigslist in Minneapolis, Minnesota.