The Chevrolet Lumina APV was a minivan produced by General Motors for the 1990 to 1996 model years. In 1994 the APV was dropped from the name to make the name more consistent with the cars, and it was simply known as Lumina or Lumina Minivan. It is similar to the Pontiac Trans Sport and Oldsmobile Silhouette. In the Chevrolet van lineup, it slotted between the rear-wheel drive entry-level Astro minivan and the Chevy Van.
General Motors' first attempt at producing a minivan to compete with the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, the Chevrolet Astro and its twin, the GMC Safari, failed to make a noticeable dent in Chrysler's almost total dominance of the minivan market in the late eighties, so this second attempt was made.
The Lumina APV was introduced as part of a proposed full line of Chevrolet Lumina vehicles that in the end, included The Lumina Coupe, Lumina Euro Coupe, Lumina Z34 Coupe, Lumina Sedan, Lumina Euro Sedan and Lumina APV Minivan. The "APV" designation stood for "All Purpose/Plastic Vehicle" and while the vehicle itself was certainly versatile and featured many innovative features, the unusual space age design failed to resonate with many potential minivan buyers. Consumers were ultimately confused by having two different vehicles share the same name as well, so the successor to the Lumina APV was the Chevrolet Venture.
The vehicle shared the unibody frame, and componentry with the GM A platform.
Technology and innovative features
Assembled in the now defunct North Tarrytown Assembly, these U-body vans consisted of a galvanized steel spaceframe wrapped in composite plastic body panels that were impervious to rust and minor dents and dings, a manufacturing technique developed on the Pontiac Fiero and used extensively on General Motors' Saturn line of vehicles.
The Lumina APV was available with seating for seven, with the five lightweight (34 lb/15 kg) rear seats being individually reconfigurable and removable. In 1994, built-in child seats were added to the option list, which provided the ability to switch two of the rear seats between adult and child seating with the pull of a seat-mounted tab.
The Lumina APV was the only version of the trio to offer a commercial vehicle model that featured a rubber-matted floor in lieu of carpeting, deletion of rear seating and painted plastic panels in place of the side rear glass. Though sharing an identical body, this version was simply known as "APV", with no "Lumina" badging on the exterior of the vehicle.
Included with the optional level ride package, which utilized a compressor and air-pressurized rear shock absorbers to maintain vehicle height regardless of load, was a control panel and air hose kit that allowed the vehicle to be used to inflate tires, air mattresses, sporting equipment and the like.
In 1995, a remote-controlled power sliding door feature was added, a General Motors innovation, which is now available in almost every other minivan today.
For the 1994 and 1995 model years, traction control was available with the 3.8 L V6.
Modest sales success
The design of these minivans was controversial. At the time that the Chevrolet Lumina APV and its siblings were conceived, no one had tried to market a stylish or sporty minivan, and GM felt that represented a potentially large market segment. They styled these minivans to be lower and sleeker than any of the competing brands on the market. The extremely large, long and sloped windshield and the resultant long distance to the base of the windshield when sitting in the drivers seat made for a disconcerting driving experience until a person could adjust to the "different" proportions. Automotive magazines christened the new minivans "dustbusters" after a household vacuum cleaning appliance that shared a similar side profile.
The first engine in these vans was a meager 3.1 L V6, that produced only 120 hp (89 kW), which was not up to the task of hauling these fairly heavy vehicles around with any authority.
In 1992, the Lumina APV and its siblings received the 170 hp 3.8 L 3800 Series I V6 as an option. The 3.8 L provided much better torque and acceleration for the vans, making them the most powerful minivans in production at the time, until Ford's 1996 Windstar 3.8 L debuted with 200 hp (150 kW).
In response to criticism (and relatively modest sales) attributable to the vehicles' avantgarde styling, feedback from potential customers, automotive publications, and even chiding in Chrysler Corporation's advertising, in 1994, the Trans Sport and Lumina APV received a facelift, shortening the nose by 3 inches (76 mm) and elimination of the black painted roof and a-pillar "canopy effect" to impart a more conventional look. Additionally a ridge was added to the interior dashboard to lessen the perceived distance to the base of the windshield.
Production of this generation of minivans ceased in 1996, at which time the Tarrytown plant which produced them and which had been in operation since 1900, was shuttered and scheduled for demolition.
The Lumina APV was replaced by the Chevrolet Venture which was a completely new vehicle, with conventional steel unibody construction and extremely conventional styling which purposely aped the class-leading Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager.