The Ford Transit is one of the most successful van models in Europe and has been the best-selling van in the United Kingdom for more than 40 years. For those who don't know, if that's even possible, the Ford Transit is a range of Light Commercial Vehicles that have been produced since the mid 20th century to help the professional working man get on with his daily business.
Although the first generation was launched in 1965, the birth of the Transit harks back to the 1950s when Ford Cologne, in Germany, released the Taunus Transit. It had a 1.3-litre engine (extended to 1.5-litre in 1955) and was very similar to the Volkswagen Transporter. It was the success of this platform that inspired Ford to build on the foundations and create the success story we see on the roads every day.
First Generation (1965 - 1986)Its success had to start somewhere, and when the first Transit hit the UK it was a revelation. Space was one of the main advantages of Transit, boasting more room than its competitors. The style was very American with its wide body and square shell, which seemed to make a great impact on UK customers. Buyers had so much choice in the Transit offering: pick-ups, minibuses, panel vans and crew-cab versions, with the choice of diesel or petrol engines.
The shape remained largely unaltered for 12 years until 1978, when the Transit was given a major facelift, which included a new nose and updated interior. The mechanics of the vehicle were also overhauled, with the Pinto engine being introduced from the Cortina. The first 'fast' Transit was also manufactured, utilising the Essex V6. An automatic transmission was also available for the first time.
Second Generation (1986 - 2000)The appearance was totally modified for the second generation of Transit. The windscreen was distinctively slanted to match the angle of the bonnet, and thanks to a simple box-like design, it stood on its own on Britain's roads.
Quality of ride and handling was improved by having an independent front suspension system (only on short wheel base models). The accessibility and visibility were improved, while the engines stayed the same. However, the 'fast' Transit engine was replaced with a modern 2.9-litre fuel-injected Cologne unit.
A welcome facelift came nine years after its introduction. The update didn't introduce any dramatic changes to its features, and after 30 years of success why would they want to change? The main aim was to introduce more comfort into the Transit.
Ford added options such as: air-conditioning, central locking, airbags, electric windows, and electric mirrors to embrace the updated technology at the time. With its spaciousness and comfort combined, the Transit was not just seen as a commercial vehicle, but as a handy and practical van for private use.
Third Generation (2000 - 2013)The third generation 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 features of the company's cars of that period, such as the Ford Focus. To gauge their success, in 2005 the five millionth Transit rolled off the production line.
Facelifted in 2006, the Transit featured a host of upgrades and improvements. As well as the exterior makeover, the interior was revamped to make it more comfortable and ergonomic.
This was introduced as a Sport Van, with the sporty trim, racing stripes and large alloys; it made the Transit a different animal. With the new TDCi engines introduced, improving economy and emissions, the Transit was immensely admired among younger working professionals.
Fourth Generation (2013 - Present)Ford created a double cab Transit model for this generation, with its main purpose being to carry up to seven people, while boasting up to 10.6 cubic metres of flexible load space. There is a choice of medium, long, and extended wheelbases to make sure professionals have access to a vehicle that best suits their needs and requirements, as well as having the option to get a taller vehicle.
This generation of Transit has split into two with the introduction of the Transit Custom, a one-ton vehicle, which sits between the little Transit Connect and the regular Transit in Ford's van range.
Still in 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. A passenger version has also been manufactured, named the Tourneo.
We have no doubt the Ford Transit will continue to be one of the most, if not the most, popular vans in the world for many years to come. Perhaps the most interesting thing is that Ford have developed a jack-of-all-trades van and then decided to focus its talents around specific markets, which can be seen in the smaller Connect and passenger transporting Tourneo.
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