Well, after over 3 hours sitting at the dealership yesterday, I have a little bit of slightly hopeful news. They might be able to "do something" for us but are not making promises. The rear end noise was minimized, since they had talked to other dealerships who were more familiar with these vans than they were, and were told "Oh, yeah, those vans all have noisy rear ends." (insert favorite joke about noisy rear ends here) I told the guy that in the 15 years we've owned our '94 it has never had a grinding humming noise like that, but then we've never driven it with the wrong size tires, or driven it with a flat tire, or had it towed without being on a flat bed hauler. Also, the two other Safari's with AWD that my husband has driven never had this type of noise. One of them he put 230K miles on in 10 years for his job! We know what we are talking about, we know these vans. They sold us a pile of problems. End of story.
So we went for a ride and listened to the noise so the salesman could hear it. That was when he said he would see what he could do but is not making any promises.
Bottom line, we should have driven it more before we purchased it. We should have had a mechanic look it over real good. We should not have been so eager, but after looking for over a year and having several other vans sold before we could get back to drive it again, we thought we had to snap this one up quick. Expensive lesson learned.
I sure wish they still made these vans. Nothing beats them for cargo space and mileage and all the other stuff like towing a boat or a camper. All around great family vehicles.