1972 Ford Carousel Minivan Concept Car

1972 Ford Carousel Minivan Concept Car Styling
This early sketch of the Carousel minivan concept car's roof shows the indentation to allow a roof rack.
This early sketch of the Carousel minivan concept car's roof shows the indentation to allow a roof rack.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Ford designer Dick Nesbitt was chiefly responsible for 1972 Ford Carousel minivan concept car styling. Nesbitt was also a principal in shaping the 1974 Ford Mustang II.

Striving to avoid the "school bus look" typical of contemporary big vans, he penned a glassy roofline not unlike that of Chevy's classic mid-1950s Nomad wagon, with slanted B-posts, thin C-pillars, and three windows per side: one for each front door and two behind. The rearmost panes curved slightly around the back to meet modest D-posts, matched by wrapped, tri-color vertical taillamps.

Ribbed appliqués in a dark charcoal color adorned lower body and tailgate to respectively lower and widen appearance, though they would have been omitted on the woody-look "Squire" version that Ford marketers wanted. The tailgate itself was a drop-down wagon-style affair with retracting window.

Some Carousel sketches furthered the Nomad look with a slight roof-panel "step-down" behind the B-posts; etched with slim longitudinal lines, it was the natural spot for an optional luggage rack. Up-front ideas involved variations on Ford's then-favored "power dome" hood theme, with four round headlights in separate square bezels astride big, mostly rectangular grilles.

Like Nantucket but not earlier Econolines, the Carousel had a definite, if stubby nose. This allowed the engine to sit farther forward, which opened up extra space and lessened noise inside.

Ford president Lee Iacocca, who spearheaded the Carousel effort, also wanted the protruding front sheetmetal as a "crumple zone" for absorbing energy in collisions -- a sales plus for the safety-minded (including, one presumes, the likes of Ralph Nader).

A Nesbitt rendering of the Carousel from November 1972
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

As was becoming de rigeur for vans, a sliding right-rear door provided access to Carousel's rear compartment, for which there was no shortage of ideas. Nesbitt later recalled that one of the more striking proposals was a U-shaped "lounge" formed by a rear-facing bench behind the front cabin and an inward-facing bench along each side wall. Individual "captain's chairs" seated driver and front passenger.

After weeks of what Nesbitt described as "frantic effort," the Carousel was ready for management review in November 1972: a full-size clay with Squire-type side trim and conventional front-facing second and third bench seats. Iacocca, product-planning whiz Hal Sperlich, and even chairman Henry Ford II were all impressed enough to approve construction of a running metal-bodied prototype for production engineering purposes.

To find out why the Carousel never made it to showrooms, keep reading on the next page.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out: