The mighty Ford Transit is 50 years old. This humble van has been playing a major role in peoples lives since 1965 in more ways than you would realise, from groceries to robberies, where would we be without the Transit?
When the transit was launched it was not just another van, it was new and it was streets ahead of the competition. The aim was the same as any other van, as it still is today; be reliable, have a big load space and just do the job. But the Transit was different, it was modern, it performed well, is was actually designed to be comfortable and it was wider. Being comfortable may seem like something you would expect in all vehicles but the vans on the road in 1965 were anything but and the tradesmen of Britain had had enough.
Getting It Right
The First Transit was a revolution in comfort, handling, load space and even performance but it took a little time to get it right. Initially it was launched with a V4 engine which was very short, that allowed Ford to put it in the front rather than behind the driver, but the larger diesel engine didn’t fit. Ford enlarged the bonnet to squeeze it in only to find the diesel engine wasn’t very popular due to its lack of power; after some tinkering Ford put in another diesel engine and kept the longer bonnet to allow them to ditch the v4 in favour of a more flexible range of straight 4 engines. This extra space also meant they could squeeze in a 3.0 litre V6 for more performance tasks like Police work. By being able to handle everything from pots of paints to master criminals the Transit was already starting to show its massive flexibility.
Used By Everyone
The Transit wasn’t only used by tradesmen and the police; it was the staple choice for many other professions too. Musicians flocked to the transit for the same reasons everyone else did, it was more comfortable and had more space, but they also new it would not break down on the way to an important gig. In fact the Transit was so popular even criminals found it plenty of work to do. In 1972 Scotland Yard said that 95% of all bank raids were done using a Transit, this was due to the fact it performed like a car and could carry nearly 2 tonnes of loot and criminals so it made it the perfect get away vehicle.
Onwards and Upwards
The Transit went from strength to strength and with each new version came more new jobs. There have been mini buses, flat bed truck versions, tripper trucks, splitter vans and many more, some companies even offer 4×4 conversions for those really tricky deliveries. The point is, over its 50 years and multiple versions the success of the transit is down to the simple quality and massive flexibility, it will do anything you tell it to do.
The Transit has been providing Britain with so many things for so many years most people would not even take time to think about them. From making sure The Beatles got to their early gigs, to delivering goods to shops, food to homes and markets, letters and more. Most people’s houses would never have been built either without the mighty transit, and with so many builders and tradesmen still using the Transit today that’s not likely to change any time soon.
The only bad thing the Transit ever did was bring us the curse of the white van man. By launching the van in white in order to keep it cooler in the summer Ford accidentally created the stereotype. But it wasn’t the van’s fault, there were bad van drivers before there were white transits but hopefully there will be white transits long after the bad drivers finally start behaving.