Celebrating 50 years of the Ford Transit Owners Club
Peter Lee, van enthusiast, expert and founder of the 50-year-old Ford Transit Owners Club, explains the joys of caring for classic vans.
There can hardly be a more iconic van than the Ford Transit. First hitting the streets in 1965, it brought the speed and handling of a family car to the delivery van.
The year 2015 marks 50 years of the Ford Transit and since its launch more than eight million vans have been sold across the world. It is also the most popular light commercial vehicle in Europe, a record it has held for four decades.
The history of the Ford Transit van
Back during the 1960s and 1970s, the Ford Transit was a tough but basic workhorse. It gained popularity thanks to its impressive load area and carrying capacity. This same simplicity also made the van incredibly versatile.
In the Ford Transit’s 50 years, the vehicle has been used as more than just a simple panel van. The short- and long-wheelbase models have been turned into everything from minibuses, pick-ups and crew-cabs. The range has also extended to being converted into ambulances, ice cream vans, campervans and much more.
As the van of choice for the emergency services, breakdown recovery companies, builders, plumbers, florists and almost every other business in between, it’s clear why Ford claim the Transit van is the ‘backbone of Britain’.
The very first Transit cost less than £600, with around 100,000 built in 1965. Now the Ford Transit is 50, more than 600,000 roll off the production line every year. And the most expensive models in the now expanded line-up (which includes the Ford Courier, Custom and Connect, along with the Transit) cost upwards of £30,000.
Taking care of classic vans
The Ford Transit is highly regarded and coveted amongst the ‘white van men’ in the UK. The perfect example of this is Peter Lee, founder of the Ford Transit Van Club. Lee was originally a worker on the production line at Ford’s plant in Langley, Berkshire. Now Lee has since become one of the country’s foremost experts on the Ford Transit.
Neil McIntee, Editor of Vans A2Z magazine, visited Peter to hear about his new book ‘Ford Transit: Fifty Years’ and what the owners club are doing this year to celebrate the van’s birthday.
As the founder of the Transit van owners club, Lee has also become something of a collector. Along with more than 10,000 items of paperwork and 15,000 Transit models, he also has a fleet of 13 Transit vans. This includes the one of three 1963 Mk 1 vans which remain in existence.
Along with many other members of the Ford Transit owners club, Lee has acknowledged the need to preserve some of the more classic vans. Many vans have been heavily used over the years, meaning older Transit vans are becoming increasingly rare.
Launched in 2005, the Ford Transit van owners club has grown to become an invaluable resource on the history of the Transit. It’s a place to find like-minded individuals full of technical information and advice for others looking to save Transit vans, both old and new.
The Transit van owners club also celebrated the vehicle’s 50th anniversary in style, with about 20 events taking place during 2015. This included a large event at the Heritage Motor Centre in Gaydon, the Dunton Technical Centre in Essex, the Beaulieu Motor Museum and the Classic Motor Show at Birmingham’s NEC.
Classic van insurance
Taking care of a classic van is a real labour of love and keeping a modern commercial van on the road is no less important, so finding the right van insurance remains key.