Brief History of the Ford Transit

By MW Vehicle Contracts
12-09-2017

It’s difficult to underestimate the impact of the Ford Transit on the European market. The first incarnation hit the road in 1965 becoming a instant hit and transformed the way people moved “stuff” from that point to another for ever more. Loved for its car like drive together with its impressive load capacity and general do everything for everyone versatility. It was loved by everyone from corner shop owners to large industry, becoming the backbone of the British trades and a pioneer for the commercial vehicle market. 

The original mk1 Transit was born from collaboration between Ford of Britain and Ford of Germany and was actually built at the Langley factory previously used for producing spitfires during the second world war. The design allowed for more space than its competitors and styling reminiscent of some American vehicles with its wide body, slightly flared arches and square profile. Buyers of the Transit also benefited from a huge amount of choice. Panel van, minibus, crew van and even pickup variants all on offer. There was a face-lift model released in 1971 with continued success.

1978 saw the second generation Transit come to the market. Updated styling both outside and inside again proved popular. This was backed up by the improved Pinto engine shared with the Cortina, giving improved mechanical performance.

The Transit popularity continued all through the 80’s and early 90’s with the mark 3 and 4. Ford backing this up with a large scale sales program previously unheard of for a commercial vehicle. TV and newspapers of the era carried adverts for the new models all around the country and even more Transits were seen on the road.

Ford continued their clever marketing with the release of the mark 5 in 1994. Coming up with the idea of linking the Transit to other “cooler” markets other than just the trades and business. They recognised pop and rock bands used their vehicles to move equipment between gigs. The Hallmark Transit campaign was launched and the transit truly became a household name.

The new millennium and Ford's introduction of front wheel drive and all-wheel drive options reflected a serious move forward for the Transit. A move forward also shown in Fords new car range. This time also saw the introduction of new turbo diesel engines also found in the Mondeo and Jaguar X-type and the introduction of the Transit Connect variant offering a smaller van option.

2013 saw the unfortunate closure of the Southampton plant with the last UK built transit rolling of the production line in July. However Ford did keep a large foothold in the UK opening the £12 million distribution centre again in Southampton.

Fords continuous improvement of the various Transit variants together with its sale and marketing support mean despite being a commercial vehicle the Transit is Ford's third biggest seller. Only beaten by the Fiesta and Focus.

The Transit has always been a MW Vehicle Contracts favourite and to this day the Transit is the van of choice for so many. With a 35% market share there doesn’t seem to be any signs of its popularity fading.