The iconic Ford Transit marks its 45th anniversary this month and it is fitting that one of the most important vehicles in Britain is properly recognised.
The contribution this van has made to British industry cannot be overstated – either to Ford or the millions of bakers, builders and candlestick-makers that have relied on it to carry the tools of their trade.
Transits have been built as commercial cargo carriers, ambulances, minibuses, tipper trucks, fire appliances, police vans – you name it, a Transit has been built for it.
But I must be one of the very few lucky people to have had a ride in one of the most remarkable Transits of all, the amazing Supervan3.
This was an ultra-performance Transit built using the engine and rear suspension of an ex-Michael Schumacher Benetton F1 mated to a Ford C100 Le Mans-racer chassis on top of which sat a modified Transit bodyshell.
My test was at a damp Silverstone and the first time I saw it was one of the few times I have doubted my sanity. I mean, there was a thing which looked pretty much like a Transit, albeit one with a sporty paint job, but as it flashed past the pits the noise and the sheer speed of the thing made you pinch yourself to check you were awake and not dreaming.
I knew the bloke behind the wheel, racing driver Michael Vergers, from my own experience in single seater competition and so he had no hesitation in giving it the full works.
Even with the damping effect of a helmet the noise of a 650 bhp Ford Cosworth HB V8 in the back of the van rattled the brain and the kick in the back from the acceleration as we exited the pits and headed off towards Becketts was savage. I can’t recall the exact figures but I seem to remember 0 to 120 was in the order of five or six seconds.
Spearing down Hanger Straight we topped out at 168 mph – this with the track still plenty damp in patches – but what struck me at the time, and what I still remember today, is the utter incongruity of sitting at a normal Transit height, looking out of a normal Transit windscreen but with the scenery going past at pretty much Formula One speed.
A great experience, a great day and a great van – happy birthday, Transit.