The trusty Ford Transit van is now a grand 50 years old, yet doesn't show any signs of retiring just yet! Having been the UK's best-selling van each and every year since its launch back in 1965, 7 million Transits had been sold by 2013.
Used for everything from a police van to an ice cream van, the Transit now comes in shapes and sizes suitable for anything thrown at it, including the Transit Courier, Transit Connect, Transit Van, Transit Minibus, Transit Motorhome and Transit Chassis Cab.
To celebrate this classic van's golden jubilee, we take a look back at the evolution of the Transit over the last 50 years.
When the first Transit hit the UK it was a revelation. Space was one of the main advantages of the Transit, boasting more room than its competitors. The style displayed US design influences with its wide body and square shell, which seemed to make a great impact on UK customers. Buyers had a huge choice in the Transit offering, including pick-ups, minibuses, panel vans and crew-cab versions, with the choice of petrol or diesel engines.
In 1978 the upgraded Transit MK-2 was given a facelift, including a new nose and updated interior. The mechanics of the vehicle were also refreshed, introducing the Pinto engine from the Cortina. The first 'fast' Transit was also manufactured, utilising the Essex V6. An automatic transmission was also available for the first time.
For the third generation of the Transit, the appearance was totally modified. With a windscreen distinctively slanted to match the angle of the bonnet and a simple box-like design, it stood out on Britain's roads. The quality of ride and handling was improved by an independent front suspension system (only on short wheelbase models) and load space was increased. The accessibility and visibility were enhanced, while the engines stayed the same. However, the 'fast' Transit engine was replaced with a modern 2.9 fuel-injected Cologne unit.
This model had some new, distinct features compared to the MK-3. Aesthetically the same, although the front had slightly rounded headlamps. A fully independent suspension was introduced to the whole range and the long wheelbase models featured a single-wheel rear axle instead of a paired rear wheel set up, making more room in the already spacious van. This was also the first time Ford manufactured a turbocharged diesel in the Transit.
The fifth generation didn't introduce any dramatic changes to its features - after all, it had already had 30 years of success. Additional features instead added more comfort to the vehicle, including air conditioning, central locking, airbags, electric windows and electric mirrors, embracing the latest technology of the time. Combining both space and comfort, the Transit was not just seen as a commercial vehicle but also a handy and practical van for private use.
The MK-6 was available in either front or rear wheel drive, which was a first for a Transit. This enabled buyers to have the choice between a lower loading height and more space, or improved towing and load carrying capabilities. The Transit also received sharp styling that mirrored that featured on the Ford cars of that period, such as the Focus. It was a successful move, as in 2005 the five millionth Transit rolled off the production line.
Launched in 2006, the MK-7 Transit featured a whole host of upgrades and improvements. As well as a facelift, the interior was revamped to make it more comfortable and ergonomic. This was introduced as a Sport Van, with a sporty trim, racing stripes and large alloys, and made the Transit into a different animal. With new TDCi engines introduced, improving economy and emissions, the Transit was immensely admired amongst younger drivers.
The Transit range is now split into two, with the introduction of the Transit Custom, a one tonne vehicle which sits in between the smaller Transit Connect and the regular Transit in the range. Still available with a choice of two wheelbases and a variety of cab styles, the Custom takes its design cues from Ford's car range with an interior reminiscent of the Fiesta and Mondeo.
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