It provided a backbone to Britain and, in doing so, has become as much a piece of daily life in the UK as a cup of tea or rained out barbecue.
It’s done pretty well worldwide too, notching up 50 years of sales success since the first Transit rolled off the line in August 1965, priced at £542.
Initially known as Project Redcap, and developed by an engineering team that included Sir Alex Trotman (who would go on to become Ford Motor Company’s worldwide chairman and chief executive officer,) here are 15 other facts you (probably) didn’t know about the Transit…
The Transit name
When Ford introduced its all-new European van, it could have been launched as the “V-Series”. Instead, a last-minute decision saw it adopt the Transit name, which had first appeared on the German FK van in 1960 when that model became known as the Taunus Transit.
How many people can you fit into a Transit?
Transit versatility even extended to carrying out maintenance work on Swiss railways. A local engineer identified that the distance between its front wheels would allow the Transit to be easily converted to run on the tracks; when its work was finished, it could then drive back to base along the road.
To demonstrate the durability of its new diesel engine, two Ford Transits drove flat-out for a week non-stop at the high-speed Monza race circuit in 1972, breaking three world endurance records, including 10,000 miles (16,000 km) at an average speed of 73.684 mph.
.The amazing Transit Supervan Mk1
The first Transit Supervan made its debut at Brands Hatch on Easter Monday, 1971. This hot property was based on a Ford GT40 sports racing car and powered by a 5.0-litre V8 engine. It could achieve a top speed of 149 mph.
Sporting a 1.5-metre diameter drinks can on its back, this promotional Transit was built in 1977. The spectacular exterior was matched by an equally special interior featuring a mirrored cocktail bar, luxurious seating and disco lighting.
Sent to work down the mine
Some vans have a really tough time. These Transits spend their entire working life down a salt mine in Cheshire, England, transporting people and explosives through miles of tunnels. To reach the mine workings, each Transit had to be cut in two to fit in the lift shaft, before being welded back together underground.
This Transit took to the air to become the world‘s first van to leap over 15 cars. Stuntman Steve Matthews undertook the challenge in 1985 to raise money for cancer research.
Buried in snow for six months
In October 1985, Juan Garcia was caught by a freak snowstorm 3,000m up a mountain pass. He abandoned his Transit Kombi, which was subsequently buried under five metres of snow. He returned six months later and was amazed to find that the Transit’s bodywork was only slightly damaged, and even more amazed when the van started first time.
Transit goes retro
The outrageous Transit Supervan story reached its third chapter in 1995 as the high-performance delivery machine gained a new-look bodyshell, along with one of Ford’s latest 650bhp 3.5-litre grand prix-racing engines. This vehicle survives, albeit now with a Cosworth 2.9-litre 24-valve engine, in the Ford Heritage Collection.
Ford World Rally Transit
This special one-off Rally Transit sported front and rear spoilers, a full competition interior with roll cage and carbon-fibre bucket seats, and a tuned 2.4-litre engine capable of 0-62 mph in less than 8 seconds and a maximum speed of 130 mph. A striking Ford Martini World Rally colour scheme finished things off.
A grand day out for charity
Transits get some pretty tough treatment, but none worse than Ford dishes out itself during development. The latest Transit was driven the equivalent of 11 million kilometres – or 275 round-the-world trips –and tackled extreme conditions in four continents, from arctic Finland to Death Valley in California.
Celebrating 50 years of loyal service to businesses around the world, this convoy of four golden Transits was touring the UK in the months leading up to the official Transit anniversary on 9 August 2015.
Latest posts by Phil Huff (see all)
- On the Rocks: Nissan Navara Tackles Extreme Iceland - 12 June 2020
- First Drive: Nissan Leaf e+ - 9 June 2020
- Driven: DS 3 Crossback - 7 June 2020