The Ford Transit, consistently Ireland’s best selling van, turns 45 this month. The first Transit went into production on August 9 1965 and since then six million Transits have been sold across Europe.
Here in Ireland, almost 120,000 Transits have been sold and, down the years, they have played a significant part in this country’s economic development... covering more than five billion kilometres in the process!
The coming of the Transit coincided with TK Whittaker masterminding plans for Ireland’s economic expansion in the Department of Finance. Soon Transits were a familiar sight in building sites, town centres, and burgeoning industrial estates. They were also an unwelcome sight for thousands of children, as countless school buses bore the Transit badge. Some 1,745 Transits were built in Cork at this time.
There have been five distinctive styles of Transits, the second of which came after 13 years. With it came more fuel-efficient OHC engines and a new automatic transmission. A new model in 1995 saw more developments, like new security features, three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners and optional airbags.
The current Transit arrived in 2006, as the Celtic Tiger was in full roar, helping it to become one of the best-selling vehicles – car or van – on Irish roads. This latest model was voted International Van of the Year in 2006 by a panel of Europe’s most experienced commercial vehicle journalists. There are now over 140 configurations of the van available as standard.
The most recent version of this iconic vehicle is the new Transit ECOnetic which is based on the front wheel drive Transit T280 Van with short wheel base and 2.2-litre 115 PS Duratorq TDCi engine. As the greenest van on the road, the new Transit ECOnetic has target fuel economy of just 7.2 l/100 km (39.2 mpg ), while average CO2 emissions are 189 g/km and best in class. The Transit ECOnetic is the first Ford commercial vehicle to offer Stage V emission standards in its segment.
The Transit has also won accolades from Irish motoring journalists. It was twice the winner of the Semperit Irish Van of the Year crown. The Transit stable also spawned the Transit Connect, a sub1-tonne sibling. The Transit family’s payload now stretched from 768 to 2,200kg (enough for two baby elephants! ).
Almost every sizeable Irish company with a transport need must have used the Transit down the years. Eircom, An Post, Iarnroid Eireann, the Irish Army, the Health Boards, and an Garda Siochana are just some of the household names which adorn the side panels of Transit vans.
And then there are the countless one-man operators which are the mainstay of the Transit custom. The term “white van man” is often used negatively, but it does have some justification: over 90 per cent of Transits are delivered in white, although other colours are gaining in popularity.
“Ford has delivered a number of motoring icons, but I don’t think any can compare with Transit,” comments Eddie Murphy, chairman and managing director, Ford Ireland. “The Transit name is by far the most enduring on our books, and it’s a perennial best-seller in this country. Of course it’s not sentiment that keeps it at the top: it’s functionality, reliability, and low running costs.”