Among Lee Iacocca's first tasks after he took over as Ford president in 1970 was the 1972 Ford Carousel minivan concept car development program. With vans bigger than ever, in popularity as well as size, Iacocca began wondering whether there might be a market for something smaller and less "trucky" -- in other words, a more maneuverable "carlike" van.
Suitably priced, it could have great appeal to "vannies" and smaller families for camping and other recreational uses, as well as a light-duty urban commercial. For some buyers, this "minivan" might even be a roomier, more versatile alternative to the traditional station wagon.
Accordingly, Iacocca approved development of what came to be called the Carousel. Conceived as a more compact "garageable van," it was planned around dimensions that harked back to the first Econoline, plus, at first, an all-new drivetrain.
But cost concerns soon prompted changing the concept to essentially a cut-down version of the just-completed Nantucket, with most of its innards but different outer sheetmetal and more carlike amenities.
The revised approach offered benefits apart from reducing development time and tooling costs, not to mention retail price. Cutting down Nantucket's inner body and ladder-type frame promised a very strong, rigid platform; the separate chassis, combined with a heavily insulated floorpan and thick bushings beneath driveline and body, promised a quiet vehicle without the unpleasant rough-road "drumming" that marred so many unit-construction cars.
Of course, front-wheel drive never figured in the equation. At the time, the configuration was not yet fashionable for Detroit cars, let alone trucks. Even today it's sometimes deemed undesirable compared to rear-drive because it tends to limit towing ability, an important consideration for many truck buyers. That benefit helps underpin the demand for sport-utility vehicles based on rear-drive truck chassis.
Learn about the Carousel's styling on the next page.