Could This Astro Van Be A Future Collectible?

This van may seem out of place here on Barn Finds but bear with me for a moment. When you look at as many cars as I do every day, you start to notice emerging trends. One blip that just showed up on my radar was the all-wheel-drive Astro van. Take a look at this 64k mile example here on eBay and then let me know if you think these vans could become collectible someday.

Station wagons were gaining for a while, old trucks are on their way up, but who would have thought there would ever be any interest in Astro vans? Laugh if you will, but there’s definitely something brewing here. We aren’t talking about plain-jane Astro vans though. It looks like the AWD models are the ones to get!

Heavy-duty AWD work vans can get expensive, so maybe this has become the next best thing? This van may not be as tough, but it can still haul a van load of people over slick or rough terrain with ease. So, the interest here could have more to do with utility than collectibility. This isn’t the only Astro van getting attention on eBay though. It is the only one with a low starting bid and no reserve.

So, it’ll be interesting to see what this one ends up going for. Perhaps in another 20 years, someone will relist this one and make a tidy profit? If that happens, remember that you heard it here first – AWD Astro vans are future collectibles! Well, at least we know you’ll be able to take your family anywhere while you wait for that unlikely day to come.

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Mmm, I don’t know about that, hard to tell what is collectible anymore. For now, I’d treat it as a great buy on what could easily be a daily driver in the mountains. These are very popular here in Colorado, where the passes can have chain or AWD warnings at any time, and the owners usually take good care of them. Although they rarely break, they are a pain to work on when they do, just because of all the extra hardware for AWD. Great find for someone and with 47 bids and still only $2,850, people aren’t spending a lot on these. It’s well known you pay for that AWD in poor fuel mileage, and pretty sure it’s full time, so can’t do much about it. It’s no rock climber, like the Jeep, but it will get you and your family home.

    Like 14
    • King Al

      Have a friend who has gone through a few of these, when well used, and available for rock bottom prices. He prefers the 2wd due to lack of complexity, and worse fuel economy as per Howard. An additional issue that he seems to encounter up north here, is these seem to suffer from corroded brake lines. Not much fun to replace, especially if it occurs in cold weather. Coil module failures and VATs issues can be less often unexpected issues. Otherwise my friend loves them for hauling stuff.

      Like 1
      • King Al

        Forgot to mention, another inconvenience with these is the intrusion of the front wheel wells into the driver and front passenger foot space, which is cramped and narrow to begin with.

        Like 1
      • Robert Hersey

        I had to replace all the brake lines and coil module on both my Astros. Still like them a lot more than those cheap looking transits and Nissan NV 200’s

  2. Art

    Since memories fade with time…try this:

    https://www.iihs.org/iihs/ratings/vehicle/v/chevrolet/astro-minivan

    The worst US vehicle ever tested. These vans should have been removed from the roads and scrapped. Fast forward 14 years and guess how many drivers now text and drive? Not worth the risk to your family unless used as an off road farm vehicle.

    Like 3
    • Greg

      Came here to say this – the Astro is criminally awful in a crash…..

      Like 5
      • Shawn

        ..and so are Ford Model A’s & 1960’s era Oldsmobile 442’s, Plymouth Roadrunners, but people still collect them nonetheless.

        Like 1
  3. Dave

    Finding one that has less than a gazillion miles on it is a challenge because people drive them, not look at them. Durable drivetrain, mid 20s highway gas mileage, all day comfort. Just what you need for a young family.

    Like 8
  4. Ljd

    I’m not sure on the collectible nature of these, but they were great cars. My grandad spent the best part of 45 years working at GM and would buy a new car every year or two. One summer I was working in Wi and my mom and sister were coming to visit. He bought the awd Astro that summer. What an awesome car. Carried six of us and luggage all over the Midwest the summer. I loved driving it. It handled like a car, was very comfortable and went through wi winters easily. Would happily buy another as a daily but not sure I’d ever consider it my collectible.

    Like 9
  5. Rock On

    I had the same power train in a 4 door Chevy Blazer. You definitely have to plan your passes. If you like to accelerate quickly you will certainly pay the penalty at the fuel pumps.

    Like 3
  6. Stevieg

    Not really a collectible but a great daily driver if gas mileage isn’t priority #1. Not terrible, but not great either. I forgot about these actually. Might make a good enclosed motorcycle hauler for when I do go to Arizona again!

    Like 2
  7. Mike

    There’s a guy not far from me that built a highly modified VW Vanagon Syncro with custom everything. A few years later, I learned he sold off his epic build and bought an AWD Astro van. I read that he stated it was easier to buy, work on, get parts for and modify. I own a Syncro and I think this guy is onto something here. The only thing I’m not fond of is that the styling is so plain vanilla.

    Like 6
  8. KEVINLEE

    I used to be co-manager of an auto auction. One perk I enjoyed was getting to drive something different every day. I drove a few Astros and found them to be very easy to drive, really good ride and handling, with plenty of power.

    Like 2
  9. Paris Trout

    OK.

    As I shat all over that Ford “Harley” “Custom” the other day, I feel I need to insert some positivity into the discussion.

    This is not a “Chevy is better than Ford” comparison either, so badge haters Exit.. Stage Left.

    I have absolutely no personal experience with these, unlike the E-series trucks, but I have always liked and been fascinated by them.

    First off, they have pretty common underpinnings with other GM products, and are easy to get parts for. This appeals to the practical side of me.

    However, I do seem to recall a whole lot of these in the Chicago area (not necessarily the 4×4’s), with rockers and fenders rusted completely away, like a foot up from the bottom of the panel on the outside skin, and baseball size holes on the inners.

    For a while about 10 years ago, these things were pretty much worthless and many were scrapped.

    However the 4×4’s were unique, in that I don’t believe percentage wise they sold that many compared to the non-4×4.

    Rarity, Lack of survival, cult following, BOOM, future classic, van or not.

    It is extremely hard to put your finger on exactly what a “Barn Find Car” is, and the definition is different for everyone, but I think these two vans are a good side-by-side of two unique and similar, but very different vehicles.

    Great pull.

    Like 4
    • Boatman Member

      That’s interesting, Paris. I live in upstate NY and have found these to hold up very well, rust-wise.

      Like 1
  10. Bob S

    I have a high mileage 2000 Astro AWD, and it is still running well with over 200,000 miles on the clock. I bought it used from a bricklayer that used it as his work truck, so it had not lived an easy life.
    I converted the van to synthetic fluids in all the running gear, and that improved the mileage. Other than running repairs to the brakes, and having to replace a fuel pump, it has been excellent transportation.
    I would buy another in a heartbeat, and I certainly like the van being advertised.
    My biggest beef with these vehicles, is that there is no way to open the rear doors mechanically. If something in the door mechanism fails, then a person is stuck having to remove all the trim on the inside to get at the latch mechanism.
    The problems I have had, with the rear door, have been both mechanical and electrical, and this time, I am going to make a handle that will at least allow me to open the door from the inside when necessary.
    That is really my only complaint with the car.
    I know these vans are plain, but I think they are highly functional, and when it comes to a utility vehicle, I like function over form.
    Bob

    Like 7
    • boxdin

      Its true door handles break off these all the time. I had a 1992 RS Astro w HO 4.3 AT and 4.11 rear gears w swaybars front and rear. Handled great was fast as can be and fun to boot. I wish my son hadn’t run it into the ground.

  11. DayDreamBeliever Member

    I had enough of one, a ’93 AWD model, that I finally had towed away for scrap.

    Bought it from the original owner with 19K on the clock. There were some quality control driving-based electronics issues which at the time just scared me more than any other vehicle I ever owned. Those appeared to have been resolved, but there were many other problems, some electrical disabling types, and other of a mechanical nature. One at a time, the torsion bars for the front suspension just quit, as in broke. One while driving, one while sitting in my driveway. Late during the van’s time with us, it lost the ability to back up, with reverse gear in the transmission packing it in. We never parked anywhere that backing up was needed, and got by for a while. But the coffin nail was when the inside-the-manifold port fuel injection spider quit spraying fuel for the fourth time, and I just could not find enough energy to replace it again. Oh, and yes it rusted like crazy, even though we kept is as clean as possible for a family vehicle. One other thing: of all the vehicles which I ever owned, it was finicky as hell about what fuel it was given. At the time, Ethanol was not in common use as a 10% additive in gasoline. But I could ALWAYS tell when I got some at a pump, within just ten miles or so. The van would begin running terrible, and continue to do so until non-alcohol gas became the major component of what was in the tank. Maybe GM figured out the problem by the time this one was made, but I sure would worry about why this version has so few miles. Maybe it runs terribly when filled with E-10 fuel, which these days is pretty much all you can get in most areas.

    Astro AWD? Nope. Never again!

    Like 1
  12. Ben T. Spanner

    Good for a young family? Terrible crash ratings when new; which was a long time ago. Here in SW Florida they are a favorite of unlicensed roofing contractors. True cockroaches of the road. Collectible? Only in a scrap drive.

  13. TJohnson

    Back in the 90s my mom thought she needed a minivan, because at that time for some reason everybody else did also. So out went the 91 Sedan De Ville for a 94 Astro. Everytime you turned the corner you heard plastic crinkle! Was reliable at the time, but like most American cars from that time period was very cheaply built. Will never be collectable!

  14. Jay E.

    Is it April 1st? No? Astro van and collectable in the same sentence. I had one for sale for over six months, running and driving, but was in need of head gasket repair. Not one offer, and it was listed for $250.00. Apparently the repair cost far exceeded the perceived value. It was the cleanest car I ever scrapped, pretty much looked like this one. At nearly 4600 lbs it did fetch a whopping $160.00 and $12.00 for the battery. I filled my tank and had lunch and almost broke even. Collectable… No.

    Like 1
  15. Howard

    I’ve owned 3 of this type of van, an 86 Safari, a 97 Safari and currently drive an 03 Astro AWD that a I wish someone would think was a collectible. It looks very much like this one, very clean but a dark green and has 177k miles. It gets all of 12.5 mpg which doesn’t upset me that much cause I only put 700 miles per year on it. The 86 was really fun to drive and never got stuck with it in MI winters. The 97 is still sitting in the driveway with the intake off to replace the intake gaskets. Plastic gaskets??? What rocket scientist thought of that? These are great vehicles, not as much fun to slide around in the snow and ice as the older shorter wheelbase vans. I missed the annual Christmas party, crank no start. There’s a problem with the distributor cap in damp weather and if you’re a chubby 72 year old man trying to stand on his head to get at that S.O.B. ….. And it cost me 55 bux at autozone. They are miserable to work on. I tried to hire someone to do the intake gaskets on the 97 and couldn’t find anyone…. well, unless I paid them more than I paid for the vehicle

    Like 2
  16. rod444

    Well, call me crazy but I always like the looks of these, especially when the competitor was the Ford Aerostar.

    But if a ‘normal’ Astro isn’t hot enough, I really love what a little bit of love can turn them into – a good looking, lightly modded cruiser courtesy of its Japanese owner:

    Like 3
    • Patrick

      That’s what I always thought.
      I often wondered why I’ve never seen one customized?
      If even mildly done so, like your photo.
      The concept of a compact mini-van is a good idea.
      I think Chevy should have continued the idea and updated them.
      Was there ever a utility version of them?
      Regular 4WD (that can be locked in or out) would be sensible. At least you could pass a gas station!

  17. rod444

    The other alternative is quite a bit more practical.
    The Astro Truck.

    Like 11
    • Patrick

      Was this a custom job?
      Never saw one of those on the roads before.
      Would be very practical in any form.
      Thanks for the pic.

      Anybody else got pics of custom Astro’s?

      • rod444

        Definitely custom. By someone with significant autobody skill by the look of it. Only one I’ve ever seen.

        Like 1
  18. Wayne

    Ok, collectable? Not likely. But desired, OH YES. Back in my commercial vehicle selling days. (1999 to 2016, now retired) I sold these (GMC Safari name plate) 10 to one over the RWD units. Many of them twice over. These were (and still are now) in very high demand in the AWD designation. The demand was so high that I started buying back the vans when the leases were up, refurbished what was needed, (normally only brakes, shocks and a windshield) along with any needed/required maintenance. The lease vehicles had approximately 125,000 miles on them. I had literally pages and pages of customers that had requested to be placed on the waiting list. (yellow legal pad) When one was ready all I had to do was make a phone call and it was sold. Now, I realize part of this is because of my location. (Northern Nevada which is the most mountainous state in the lower 48 states) and AWD and 4X4 are always worth more that 2WD by 4 times. But the other reason is because of the size. It is short and maneuverable. The other thing to remember that if the oil is changed religiously about every 3, to 5,000 miles (depending on usage) the 4.3 engine will give easily 300,000 miles with no internal problems (see internal notes below) The transmission and transfer case is the same one used on the 1500 GMC Savanna/1500 Chevrolet Express. So the less weight and less horsepower of the Safari/Astro does not stress the mechanicals. When ever I might have my drivers deliver one of each (Savanna/Safari) AWD to a far away location. The vans would get the exact same fuel economy. (Larger van with 5.3 V8 vs Smaller van with a 4.3 V6) So I never let economy enter into any of my customer’s minds. As some wanted the extra space without the fuel economy penalty. While others just wanted the size. Even today I have people searching me out in my retirement looking for either a Safari/Astro or AWD Savanna/Express. I did run across a Safari cargo van back in December for a good price and went over it to make sure that it was safe and reliable. I had it sold before I was done with it.
    Besides shocks (mainly the rear ones) and brakes through normal wear and tear. The two items to watch for (remember internal note above) that are due to age not mileage, are the intake manifold gaskets (luckily only leak coolant externally if not ignored for a long time) and the engine oil cooler lines. Both of these items make a real mess. Couple that with having a real tight area to work with, make it a real PITA to repair!
    I still have old customers using AWD vans that I sold them 18 years ago and with way over 300,000 miles and still love them. These customers feel that GM turned their back on them as customers when the Astro/Safari was discontinued and later when the AWD Savanna/Express was discontinued. I understand the Astro/Safari discontinuation, with the Savanna/Express getting the same fuel economy (newer technology) and with the poor crash results. And GM has told me that the AWD was only 11% of the total sales of the van market. So since GM has been giving away the commercial business ( read no upgrading the almost 20 year old van design and cut GMC out of the low cab forward market along with the new 4500-5500 and I doubt that GMC will also get the new cargo van when that ever happens) They might as well cut out the lowest production vehicle (percentage wise) first. Go ahead GM, just keep ceasing production of vehicles that sell on a regular basis. (bread and butter) And keep chasing the quick dollar fads.

    Like 2
  19. Randy B

    I had a GMC Suffari, excellent van. It would go through PA snows like a hot knife in butter. We traded it in with 113,000 miles, (for a Ford F-150) bought it with 2 miles on it. It was a year old when purchased. Only major thing to go wrong was front bearing went out. Towed popup camper twice to Florida. Gas millage we good. Used it most for showing dogs. Take seats out you had room for supplies, and 6 dog crates. One of the best vehicles I ever owned. Wife wanted a larger towable camper, why the 150. The dealer said, this won’t last long, there is a following.

    Like 1
  20. Patrick

    Always like these myself.
    Often wondered why I’ve never seen any customized?
    When I was working (NYS Dept. Of Corrections) Our prison had a white AWD one. It was used to transport convicts around the state for their court visits, medical appt’s and funeral visits etc.
    All the transportation crews liked it and preferred it to other full size vans we had. (mostly because of the AWD)
    It ran like a top last I knew. Never heard of any major problems with it. When it was retired, I remember other prisons wanted to acquire it for their fleet. My neighbor had a red one (burgundy colored). Had thoughts of buying it off him and customizing it. But, he moved and I didn’t really have a use for it anyway so that was it for that. Don’t know if it had AWD or not.

    Like 1
  21. Wayne

    Patrick, the one in the ad is stock. And yes they had cargo van versions. Which is what I was selling as a commercial vehicle sales person. Only available in AWD. Never in 4X4. I suppose a “manual” transfer case from an S10 Blazer could be transferred over. However with everything being so tight under there. There may not be room for shift linkage or a shift motor. (Just guessing)

    Like 1
  22. Tony Buford

    These were/are great for taxi/shuttle vehicles. I drove several for an airport taxi/shuttle. Gas mileage was not great when you buy your own gas {all were 2wd}, but reliability was much better than Windstars, but not as good as the smaller, carlike Chrysler minis. Taking airline crews to and from airport to hotels, these were great. Spacious enough for 4-5 crew and flight bags in back. Ones I drove had at least 150 to 250 thousand.

  23. Tony Buford

    But NO not collectible, Uncomfortable to drive for me with long legs, and knee cramps. I just don’t see these worth anything, I don’t want to see or drive another of these again.

  24. 2ManyCars1

    We’re still running a fleet of these where I work, mostly 2004-5 models now, all of them bought new and used over the road then retired to local driving. Most have over 200k with several over 300k. As long as you can keep the rust at bay (not too hard in Florida depending on where the vehicle was initially used) these things are infinitely serviceable. The main complaint I’ve ever had is lack of foot space in the front like most GM vans if the era. Ours have been practically the Energizer Rabbit of vans. As far as collectible goes, if anything gets rare enough and someone liked it, somebody else will want it.

    Like 2
  25. Tim

    Bought an AWD Astro new in 1993, absolute pos, I traded it in less than 2 years later for a new Crown Vic LX (great car) It was the last new GM product I ever bought ( I have a couple 60’s Oldsmobile’s that I love)

  26. David Ulrey

    I had one for awhile. Loved it. If it hadn’t been so darn rusty I would have kept it. It would have been a great winter beater if I lived in snow and salt country. It certainly wasn’t a Jeep Wrangler but it held its own offroad pretty well. Here in the Prescott Az area you still see them and there is a shop in a nearby town that has a couple that are built for some offroad adventures. Nothing too over the top but a moderate lift, a little bigger tire with mud tread, custom front bumpers with built in pushbars and winch mounts. Usually a utility rack on top too. Actually pretty darn cool. Collectable? I think they will be despite what the naysayers here think. Most people are dead now that never in their wildest dreams would have thought Vega’s (Vegas?) or Pintos or Mavericks or Hornets or Matadors or even…..Yugos would be. Time and up and coming generations have proved people wrong more than once.

    • Pat

      You got that right Dave!

      Look at the station wagons being bought up now even.
      The AMC Pacer etc.
      Anything’s collectible now that time and the elements have caused it to be rare.

  27. Edward Brush

    Regarding the AWD setup, my brother had one of these for a few years. Swapped in a transfer case out of a Blazer, which bolted right up to the transmission and driveshafts with no mods at all. Replaced the electric actuator on the transfer case with a straight mechanical link, which ended up poking up through the floor right next to the seatbelt mount next to the drivers seat. Only tricky thing was breaking into the wiring harness to trick the computer into thinking the “4-low” switch was on – otherwise, it would bang though all four speeds and lock up the torque converter at 5mph. A toggle switch accomplished this.
    Thing was a tank in the rough. Hardly any overhand at the front and back meant excellent approach and departure angle.

  28. chrlsful

    “…AWD Astro vans are future collectibles…”
    only the 15 inch wheeled awd later year models.

    VW Vanagon Syncro is more FC cab & probably better awd (viscious cent diff?).

    This one looks like a LWB model – is it, did they make such a thing?

    Buddy, very short (mechanic, fabricator, race car drives/builder) has had a turtle top in the yrd for yrs. Not sure what to do w/it but it’s not the later (nicer) model.

  29. Karl

    An Astro van a collectible vehicle? My first thought was WHEN PIGS FLY, but then a fellow today told me that he collects Monopoly games, he claims to have hundreds of them. So with that nonsense said I can’t say that an Astro will never be considered collectible at least be somebody?

  30. Stan Millard

    My 1st new Astro was a ’88 I bought in late ’87 and I’m still driving them. Now have a semi custom ’04 Cargo and a ‘2000 LT made into an “El Camino” wanna be. Fun rides but the one I really wish I would have kept was my ’98 that I put a ’99 LS1 engine into. That was a hoot. 350 HP doesn’t make a hot rod these days but it sure wakes up a “mini” van.

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