Transit–A 40-year Story

Ford’s legendary Transit has become an icon. Famous since the mid-1960s, it sells more strongly with every passing year and the story gets ever more complicated, as sales carry on rising, while more and more varieties keep on appearing.

Ford Transit is a range of light commercial vehicles produced by Ford Motor Company since 1965. Sold primarily as a cargo van, Transit is also built as a passenger van, minibus, cutaway van chassis, and as a pickup truck. Over seven millions  Transits have been produced across four basic platform generations (first debuting in 1965, 1986, 2000, and 2013 respectively).

Transit was the first product of the merged Ford of Europe,  marketed through Western Europe and Australia. By the end of the 20th century, it was marketed nearly globally with the exception of North America. The Transit has been the best-selling light commercial vehicle in Europe for 40 years, and it is also the Britain’s best-loved van. While initially designed for Europe, Transit is now produced in Asia, North America, and Europe for worldwide buyers.

UK five decades of Ford Transit

First generation (1965–1978)

The first generation Transit was introduced in October 1965, taking over directly from the Thames 400E. The van was produced initially at Ford’s Langley facility in Berkshire, England (a former Second World War aircraft factory which had produced Hawker Hurricane fighters), but  the capability of the plant can’t meet the huge demand, and production was moved to Southampton.However in 2013, Ford closed the factory and moved the business to the Turkish factory.

1966 Rock And Rollers Brian Poole And The Transit 1st generation


Boxing champion, Henry Cooper, had a day job in the 1960s selling fruit and vegetables in his Transit flatbed


Throw them in the trunk: how many elephants can you fit in a Ford Transit?


Miss Transit poses in 1967


The Langley workforce produces the 100,000th British-built Transit, February 1968


In 1973 this Transit, complete with 49ft long dinosaur model, travelled from Kent to a natural history park in Scotland
Second generation (1978–1986)

In March 1978, Ford lunched a facelift version,  the Transit Mark II, debuted with a restyled nose section, with new interior, and the introduction of the Pinto engine from the Cortina. High-performance versions intended for police or ambulance used the 3.0 L V6 version of the Essex engine. 

The Mark II was available in 6 body styles: Van, Kombi, Chassis Cab, Parcel Van, Bus and Crewbus all available in short-wheelbase (2690 mm) and long-wheelbase (3000 mm) versions. Coming with 5 engines was available: 1.6-litre OHC Petrol, 1.6-litre OHV Petrol (Kent), 2.0-litre OHC Petrol, 2.0-litre OHC Petrol (Economy) and 2.4-litre Diesel.


A Transit arrives on the moon in 1979. No problems with gravity, either


Ford Transit vans have been used as police vehicles. With rather large sirens

Third generation (1986–2000)

The third generation Transit platform appeared in January 1986 and was notable for its all-new bodyshell which was called “one-box” design (the windscreen and bonnet are at the same angle), and the front suspension was changed to a fully independent configuration. The “one-box” design become a very popular style among the commercial van market.


3rd generation Transit


This was no ordinary white van man…


Celebrity chef Gary Rhodes used a Transit for his 1998 tour of the UK


In 2011, it took the accolade of being the world’s fastest ice cream van

Fourth generation (2000–2006)

The fourth generation Transit, lunched in July 2000, was the third all-new design, and borrowed styling cues from Ford’s “New Edge” designs like the Focus. Developed by Ford in the United States, the main innovation is that it is available in either front- or rear-wheel drive. This generation Transit appeared in Top Gear in 2005, where German race driver Sabine Schmitz attempted to drive it around the Nürburgring in under ten minutes, matching Jeremy Clarkson’s time in a turbo diesel Jaguar S-Type. Finally she was unsuccessful, but only by a few seconds.


4th generation Ford Transit


Sabine Schmitz was driving Transit on Nürburgring


Hammond was in the Transit

Fifth generation (2006–2013)

The fifth generation Transit was introduced in August 2006, with a facelift to the body, including new front and rear lights, a new front end and a new interior. Both interior and exterior was influenced by Ford’s new design language. Besides the styling changes, the powertrains were revised. The old petrol engine was replaced with one from the Ford Ranger, and all diesel engines gained high-pressure common rail (TDCi) systems.

July 2013, The Ford’s Transit van factory in Southampton closed as the car manufacturer moves its production to Turkey.


5th generation Ford Transit

Sixth generation(2013-)

The all-new Ford Transit takes the Transit family in a new design direction. With its advanced, streamlined design, the new vehicle embodies the same dynamic character as Ford’s kinetic design passenger cars, but without compromising its exceptional load-carrying ability that is a trademark of the Transit brand.

“The new Transit Custom looks like no Transit before, with a bold new design which has a distinctively modern and sporty feel,” said Paul Campbell, Commercial Vehicle Chief Designer, Ford of Europe. “Customers in this segment told us they want a vehicle that they are proud to have on their driveway, and we have given them exactly that.”


The brand new Ford Transit

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New Ford Transit concept sketches


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