Top 10: Things you didn't know about the Ford Transit
It may no longer be made in the UK, but the Ford Transit is still considered by many to be the backbone of Britain. To celebrate 55 years of the Transit, we've found some little-known facts about this much-loved icon.
How it got its name
Ford wanted to call its new van the V-series. Luckily, an astute intervention (and probably a few choice words) meant that the van got a proper name at its launch in 1965. But the UK development team can’t take all the credit for ‘Transit’ – they borrowed it from the 1960 German FK, which had become known as the Taunus Transit.
During development, high-speed durability testing of the Transit was carried out on UK public roads. In the last few months of the test programme, the local police became quite used to witnessing high-speed night time testing by Ford engineers and often stopped the drivers. But only to find out how things were going...
A record breaker
As the 1960s started to swing and The Beatles were making Rubber Soul, Ford’s marketing men were asking themselves a very important question in 1965: just how many people can you get into a Ford Transit? To find out, they enlisted the help of several students from Barking College near London. The answer? 48.
Packing a punch
Before Sir Henry Cooper was famous for packing a punch that could take down Muhammad Ali, he was working hard packing fruit and veg at his family’s green grocer’s shop in the 1960s. And yes, you guessed it - they ran a Transit pick-up. Here’s the proof.
The van that thinks it’s a train
When work needed to be carried out on the Swiss railways, the Transit came to the rescue. A local engineer twigged that the distance between the Ford’s front wheels would allow it to be easily converted to run on the rails. And when its work was done it could head straight back out on the road.
Day of the diesels
To demonstrate the durability of Ford's new diesel engine, two Transits drove flat-out for a week non-stop at the high-speed Monza race circuit in 1972. The load-luggers broke three world endurance records, including one for covering 10,000 miles. Their average speed? A whopping 73.684 mph – not bad for a 1970s oil burner.
Transit versus Sahara
According to Ford’s media office, this Mk2 Transit van tackled the sand and heat of the Sahara Desert as part of the 1982 Portuguese World Tour. However, they remain tight-lipped as to what this actually involved and whether or not the Transit made it home. If any Honest John readers remember this feat, we’d love to hear from you.
Sent to work down the mine
Some vans have a tough life. Spare a thought for this fleet of Transits, which spent their entire working life down a salt mine in Cheshire. Their job was to move people (and explosives) through miles of tunnels. Doesn’t sound so bad... until you realise that each van had to be cut in half to fit in the lift shaft before being welded back together underground. Does anyone know if the same applied when the vans finally left the mine?
Transit takes to the water
Our favourite Transit prank involved a bunch of students who managed to get an Austin Seven on top of the Senate House roof in Cambridge in 1958. Roll forward to 1985 and a gang of Ford apprentices from Dunton built a floating Transit to take part in the annual raft race at Southend, Essex. Sadly, the floating Transit didn’t make it to The Thames for the Boat Race.
The Amazing Flying Transit
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope. I’s stuntman Steve Matthews launching his Transit over 15 cars. All credit to Steve, he (and the van) made it and he raised a few quid for a cancer research charity at the same time. Rumour has it that Steve’s preparation for the jump merely involved removing the Transit's glass and gaffer-taping the bonnet shut. Legend.