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Retro drive: MkI Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.

Retro drive: MkI Ford Transit
To celebrate 45 years of Britain's best-selling and most loved van, we get behind the wheel of a 1965 MkI Ford Transit.

 



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| Retro drive | Solihull, England | 1965 Ford Transit MkI |

It's been 45 years since the first Transit van rolled off the production line in Ford's Southampton factory. Since then, six million have been built at 22 factories around the globe, and the Transit has been the market leader in Britain since the first version appeared in 1965. We Brits have bought two million of the things, so it's safe to say that it's our favourite van by a long way.

In the Metal

The Transit you see in the pictures is the oldest surviving original model and part of Ford's heritage collection. It was fully restored for the 30th anniversary in 1995 and features the liveries of the General Electric Company of the time.

The MkI is a simple, innocent looking thing, with its wide grille, chrome bumpers and miniature headlamps. It's world apart from today's Transit, not least because of its smaller proportions, but there's still acres of space in the rear.

Up front, there's a single, large speedometer dial, a skinny, dished steering wheel and an ash tray and that's about it. The soft, leather seats are very comfortable indeed, but don't expect any seat belts. The sliding doors can be left open while you're on the move, but that feels a bit daring when other traffic is overtaking you at close range.

What you get for your Money

You'd have parted with 542 for a Transit like this one in 1965. That equates to about 7,000 in today's money, which isn't unreasonable, especially when you consider that new Transits start at 17,155, but that's not exactly a fair comparison. It's difficult to put a value on a van like this, especially seeing as it won't ever be sold unless Ford decides to flog off its heritage collection. About 4,000 to 5,000 to a Transit fan is a reasonable estimate, but that's still a guess.

Driving it

If you're used to brakes then the MkI Transit will come as something of a shock. It does have them, but you need to be standing on the middle pedal very, very early in order to stop. Thankfully, there's quite a lot of engine braking, as the nominal, 63bhp 1,660cc V4 unit revs away like a sewing machine if you're travelling at any sort of speed.

Steering is courtesy of a re-circulating ball unit and it's actually quite light, apart from when you're parking, but there is more than a little play in its action. The gear stick is one of the tallest we've ever seen and it needs a good wiggle to find its way through the ratios. When it has, the shift is pretty firm and positive. Thankfully, the Transit is currently riding on radial tyres, rather than crossply, which, we're reliably informed, make things a little more interesting.

Worth Noting

Simple though it may be, there were actually 78 derivatives of the MkI Transit available when it was launched in 1965. Equally as jaw-dropping is the fact that there are now 600 different versions of the current model.

As part of the 45th birthday celebrations, Ford carried out some research on Transit owners and discovered that a surprisingly low three percent had copulated inside their van. Meanwhile, a high 71 percent consider themselves careful and considerate drivers and a white van man's favourite foods are curry and roast dinners.

Summary

Four and a half decades is a long time, and for a vehicle to remain a market leader for that period of time is truly astounding. We're not pretending that the 45 year-old van didn't feel its age from behind the wheel - it seriously did - but there's something really rather charming about driving such a well preserved piece of British history. It makes you go a bit misty-eyed, even if you're trundling along at 25mph and hanging on for dear life.

Jack Carfrae - 19 Aug 2010









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45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.

45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Ford.45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Ford.45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Ford.



45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.
 

45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.
 

45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.
 

45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.
 

45th anniversary of the Ford Transit. Image by Jamie Lipman.
 






 

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