Home » That Time Ford And Maytag Teamed Up To Cram A Kitchen And Laundry Room Into A Windstar

That Time Ford And Maytag Teamed Up To Cram A Kitchen And Laundry Room Into A Windstar

Windstar Solutions hatch open

Imagine this. You’re a kid in the early-2000s chilling in your parents’ Ford Windstar when boom, a timer in the cargo area goes off and pizza bagels are ready. If you don’t think that’s the tightest shit, get out of my face. While Ford never actually sold a production-spec Windstar with a built-in microwave, they did team up with Maytag Corporation in a brief moment of pre-9/11 optimism to make a fully decked-out minivan called the Windstar Solutions.

Windstar 01
Photo credit: Ford

According to the press release for the Windstar Solutions, this one-off vehicle was borne from Ford and Maytag research that delved into the lifestyle demands of busy parents. Record numbers of working mothers were a myopic fixation for project coordinators and as a result, the coolest Windstar of all time came with a similarly focused series of press shots. I’m not sure whether this photo set was meant to depict the freedom and responsibilities that come with single parenthood or the hectic schedule of a business dad that sees him working long hours away from the family, but hey.

Wind Mtg 06
Photo credit: Ford

Still, let’s take a minute to appreciate the sheer amount of things Ford and Maytag crammed into this Windstar. One refrigerator would be just too common, so they threw two refrigerated compartments in this swagger wagon, one in the cargo area and one between the rear seats. Also molded into the cargo area is a combination washer/dryer, a microwave, and a trash bin. How was water supplied to that washer/dryer? I have absolutely no idea and Ford didn’t say, although it’s not the only bit of hand-waving going on in this van.

N64 controllers and a CD-ROM. Hmmm
Photo credit: Ford

These N64 controllers are part of the Windstar Solutions’ entertainment package, which doesn’t actually sound like it included an N64. As per Ford, “Individuals can choose between viewing movies or playing CD-ROM interactive electronic games. Game controllers and CD storage are built in.” Now I don’t know about you, but I used to own a Nintendo 64 and it definitely didn’t use CD-ROMs. What sort of proprietary hellscape is going on in this thing? Honestly, it doesn’t really matter because any agents of chaos riding in the back, like eight-year-old me, would try and feed discs into the built-in trash compactor. I’m not kidding.

Yep, that's a trash compactor
Photo credit: Ford

Who on earth thought it was a bright idea to put a trash compactor within reach of children? I’ll admit, I was a particularly difficult child, but I couldn’t have been the only one who’d have fed by brother’s copy of Toy Story into the trash compactor should he whine one more time about me hogging all the AA batteries (do you know how power-hungry portable CD players can be?), using the interior light to read my latest car magazine or simply being on his side of the passenger compartment. Still, a trash compactor is a solid flex of Maytag’s appliance capabilities and maximizes the amount of stuff you can fit in the Windstar Solutions’ trash bin.

Windstar Solutions vacuum
Photo credit: Ford

Granted, for everything in the Windstar Solutions that didn’t make production, or indeed sense, there was a feature that would eventually be put in a car. The cooler in between the front seats came to production in the Pontiac Aztek, and what a brilliant bit of kit it was. Heated and cooled cup holders for keeping tea piping hot and Slurpees frigid ended up in Chryslers, Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs and other vehicles. Even the built-in vacuum made an appearance in the 2014 Honda Odyssey, although the Windstar Solutions had a leg up on the Honda with wet-vac capability. As for the Windstar Solutions’ tray tables, well they weren’t anything new. A long-wheelbase Jaguar XJ offered beautiful walnut picnic tables, although the Windstar Solutions’ durable plastic tables should’ve caught on in the minivan and SUV market. They’re honestly just so handy.

Windstar Solutions infotainment
Photo credit: Ford

Perhaps more important than all the appliances was the Windstar Solutions’ pioneering perspective on the Internet of Things. That’s right, welcome to hell, this van linked to your home. How exactly did that work? Well, voice-activated telematics could theoretically let Windstar Solutions drivers monitor their home’s fire alarms, check what’s in the pantry, and even pre-heat the oven. Let’s be honest, controlling your oven through voice commands in a notoriously janky vehicle sounds a bit like storing home security footage on reel-to-reel tape. Thanks, but no thanks. Besides, there are many reasons why the Internet of Things is terrible, from dead-end support to critical updates at bad times to surveillance capitalism. Hey, the future can’t be all unicorns and rainbows.

Wind Mtg 12
Photo credit: Ford

Strangely enough, the Windstar Solutions didn’t debut at an auto show, instead first appearing at the National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Chicago on April 7, 2000. While Ford Windstars can rarely be described as innovative, nifty and desirable, this one-off show car packed enough positive attributes to win a bronze Design Strategy award from the Industrial Designers Society of America. Honestly, there was no other time when the Windstar Solutions could be made. It needed optimism, futurism, a still reasonably successful minivan market and an absence of service apps to really take off. Nowadays, it works out cheaper in the long-run to order food than pay to have a microwave installed in a van, plus the repair costs on all of these appliances must’ve been tremendous. Still, I’m thankful that this slice of minivan weirdness existed, for it truly represents the sheer possibilities of a van.

Lead photo credit: Ford

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42 Responses

  1. Can you imagine how bad these vans would have eventually smelled if they made it to production? Between the burnt popcorn odors in the microwave, the emanations from poorly-sealed containers in the fridge, fetid garbage residue in the trash compactor, mildew in the washing machine and the sickeningly sweet whiff of dryer sheets; these things would have smelled worse than a college dorm room after the power was turned off for holiday break. Oh, to top it off, let’s REALLY bake in that bouquet after leaving it sit in a hot mall parking lot for a few hours.

    1. I am guessing this is correct. They were planing on bringing the N64DD to the US, as some development was started, but canceled it due to the poor performance in Japan.

      A developer prototype for the US N64DD was found a few years ago.

  2. When I lived in Houston and had an hour commute each way, a small oven or someting to cook with while driving would have prevented many Taco Cabana evenings. Not that there is anything wrong with Taco Cabana. I regularly miss their potato breakfast burritos, which when combined with a hot coffee are a very satisfying item if you’ve been up all night for work. It’s just that you could USE that commute time if you had a convection oven or something in there.

    1. I have an item called a car stove. It looks like a lunchbox and it heats up your food quite nice. It would take half an hour to an hour to heat up things but it does the job. I would keep my food in the cooler and when I knew I was going to start getting peckish, I would put my food in there (as long as it’s glass) or put it in an aluminum insert and by the time I got to my destination, my meal was ready.

  3. So rather than building the Windstar Solutions, they just continued to crank out Windstar Problems.

    I’ll see myself out. Tip your waitress.

    1. As a die-hard Ford guy, I approve.

      Although there’s not a whole lot Ford (or most anyone else for that matter) made in that era that I consider overly desirable, this is the worst by far.

      Same goes for GM’s FWD minivans, pure garbage. The Aerostar and Astro were no match for the Caravan/Voyager (especially as the Chrysler vans evolved and became more and more refined) but they were useful, durable and well-loved. Their FWD replacements were junk, pure and simple.

      1. Likewise a Ford man, I feel the exact way about the Windstar.

        The bad taste it left seems the main reason why now, nobody who doesn’t own a small business wants to buy a Transit Connect. Which is too bad.

        (But I have a sneaking love of the GM U-body vans b/c the styling…THE FUTURE IS HERE!!)

        1. Exactly why would you want a Transit Connect for non-commercial reasons? I’ve never driven one but I have drive NV200s and Promaster Cities, as well as full-sized Transits. They are undoubtably useful vehicles, but they have zero interior amenities unless you get a chubby for hard, black plastic.

          1. The passenger Transits I’ve been in have always seemed reasonably nice and durable/easy to maintain (if plain as you mention) for what they are – people movers. Seems there’d be a market for that.

            But in fairness, I guess I’m not the target market for minivans so I don’t really actually know…do people want more luxury in them? What’s the minivan market like these days, esp. with the SUV competition?

            1. They are very utilitarian compared to mainstream minivans, and Ford doesn’t really market them as a compeditor to Pacifica, Odyssey, etc.

            2. Minivans today can be quite luxurious, and are generally packed full of all kinds of interesting quality-of-life features designed for parents. They’re also way safer than cargo vans, more powerful, more efficient, with better seats, better NVH, *much* better tech, and more comfortable rides. Their problem is that they’re uncool, and looking like the same vehicle that your boiler technician drives isn’t going to help that.

              1. Well consider me schooled. I just figured with the rise of SUVs and their move toward being largely jack-up station wagons, the minivan target market might be moving toward the utilitarian cheapskate end of things. Like my friends who were in the Saturn cult back in the ’90s and still wax nostalgic about the basic functionality of those cars.

                Mind you, none of them own a Saturn NOW (does anyone?)

            3. Things that the TC misses over a consumer grade minivan:

              1) It’s a half size smaller so it’s either third row OR giant stroller storage, not both.
              2) Consumer minivans have power sliding doors that have safety reverse features.
              3) Power hatches are nice to have, especially with the safety reverse feature.
              4) Something about the HVAC vents in consumer minivans keep the third row cooler than a TC.
              5) Perceived lack of power out of that 2.5 compared to those in the consumer minivan class.
              6) Those 19 cupholders, lol.

  4. Ima say it, the trash compacter seems like the dumbest part of this. Everything else, if it could have been made to work, yeah, I could see people actually using all that. But, the compactor unit itself is already the size of a decent volume garbage bag, are you really away from a location where you can throw out a garbage bag for long enough that you need to compact and store like a week’s worth of garbage and drive it around with you?

    1. Think outside the box. After you wash, dry, and fold your clothes put them in the trash compactor and wala freshly pressed clothes.

        1. You make a very valid point. I was reading and writing this at a bar. Despite taking HS French I just didn’t remember the correct Voila. My auto correct didn’t come up with, I actually asked several people and noone came up with this spelling. TBH it is a small town in the middle of nowhere in Central western PA. I think I am the only resident of 600 people who didn’t grow up here.

  5. “Thanks, but no thanks. Besides, there are many reasons why the Internet of Things is terrible, from dead-end support to critical updates at bad times to surveillance capitalism. Hey, the future can’t be all unicorns and rainbows.”

    holy shit i thought i was the only one who didnt want stupid things like my attic fan controlled by a smartphone. Then again i dont even like my “smart” electric meter

    1. One has nothing to do with the other in terms of ‘cloud’ vs ‘smart controlled’. All of my stuff lives and dies locally. I can control all of my lights, heat/AC, front door lock, cameras, window blinds, garage door, garden irrigation, etc from my phone with all kinds of automation. Not a single one of them talks to any 3rd party or even leaves my house except via HomeAssistant, which runs locally in my own home.

  6. These kind of mini RVs were quite common over here in Denmark around 20 years ago, due to a tax loophole, that made it a lot cheaper to buy, compared to the regular seven seater minivan.
    So families with many children could afford one, if they hauled around the minimal kitchen and pop-top.
    Only the most hardcore tax loophole deniers actually went camping in them.

    1. Strange tax loophole vehicles might fill several articles here on The Autopian actually… Here’s two other danish examples, I think are REALLY stupid:

      1: In the 80ies 4WD boom, a pickup truck was taxed cheap, but a regular station wagon like the Land Cuiser was expensive. So someone found out to cut the roof off the back of the SWs and put it back on, and voila, you had a pickup with a “loose” hardtop. Naturally that helped it rust a lot easier, but people got themselves a cheaper 4WD.

      2: We have a lot of bicycle lanes everywhere, and thats clean and wonderful. Slow mopeds are also allowed in the bicycle lane, which is kind of annoying. But if you take a Piaggio Ape or Tuc-tuc kind of thing and make it a slow as a alow moped, you suddenly have a higly polluting fossil fuel powered commercial truck, that drives in the bicycle lane!

  7. “Granted, for everything in the Windstar Solutions that didn’t make production, or indeed sense…”

    Love your writing. Shades of Pratchett. Keep it up!

    1. Or too late, van life was definitely a thing in the ’70s, fad ended when the boomers had to settle down to raise all the kids they conceived in them

  8. A tiny, modular washer/dryer has a definite market in the baby hauling demographic. Somehow they can always tell when you’re an hour into a 4 hour trip to have a mega-blowout.

    I’m more interested in how they plumbed for the dryer than the washer, honestly. A washer that size can be self contained. The dryer needs a lot of power and air.

    1. Those combo units are usually ventless dryers. They don’t do as well, but they stay really self-contained.
      That said, I also think the whole thing is more marketing than engineering. They didn’t really make this work right, just look like it could.

    2. I’m guessing they solved the problem by just not doing it. If that appliance was fully functional I’ll eat somebody else’s hat.

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