Transit celebrates half a century: 15 fast facts about Ford’s finest at fifty

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…

Ford Transit 50 2015 1960 Ford Taunus 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?Ford Transit 50 2015 1965 Transit minibus with 48 students

48 students from Barking College near London set a record by squeezing themselves into a Transit minibus in 1965.
Ford Transit 50 2015 Transit on Swiss railwayThe Transit that thinks it’s a train

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.
Ford Transit 50 2015 1972 Transits at MonzaRecord breakers

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.
.Ford Transit 50 2015 1971 SupervanThe 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.
Ford Transit 50 2015 1977 Pepsi TransitLipsmackin’ Transit

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.
Ford Transit 50 2015 Mining TransitsSent 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.
Ford Transit 50 2015 1985 Flying TransitFlying Transit

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.
Ford Transit 50 2015 1986 Buried under snowBuried 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.
Ford Transit 50 2015 Retro Transit not from 1927Transit goes retro

Although it looks like it comes from the 1920s, this retro-style van conversion is built on the mechanicals of a modern Transit.
Ford Transit 50 2015 1995 Supervan IIIEven faster deliveries with Transit Supervan III

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 Transit 50 2015 2001 World Rally VanFord 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.
Ford Transit 50 2015 2006 London MarathonA grand day out for charity

This inflatable Transit joined favourite film characters Wallace and Gromit to help raise money for a children’s charity at the 2006 London marathon.
Ford Transit 50 2015 2012 Driven to ExtremesDriven to extremes

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.
Ford Transit 50 2015 Golden ConvoyGolden celebration

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.

Phil Huff

Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, DAD.info and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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