The Aerostar base configuration designed for sale to small business owners and fleets was equipped with a variable-ratio manual rack and pinion steering gear. Based on the concept developed by Arthur Bishop and manufactured by Jidosha-Kiki (JKC) in Japan, it was by far the most technologically advanced steering gear in the US when introduced. The gear provided excellent response and feedback on center as well as significantly reduced steering efforts near lock. Similar designs were being developed for cars in Europe by ZF but I don't know if any ever went into production. Unfortunately, Ford never promoted this feature and Aerostar went to 100% power steering in its third year of production. Only a small fraction of commercial van drivers who previously struggled with the high efforts of the Econoline manual steering gear ever got to enjoy the lighter steering efforts and responsive feel of the Aerostar.
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